Throughout history, different people have made important contributions in the field of education.
One of the most notable personalities is that of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, an influential Swiss pedagogue and educator. Based on the values of the Enlightenment, this researcher proposed that education can be used to improve the quality of life of society as a whole, also in terms of material living conditions.
Let’s take a look at the life of this wonderful Swiss educator and get to know better what his contributions in the field of pedagogy consisted of, through a biography of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi.
Brief biography of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, also known as Enrique Pestalozzi, was born in Zurich, the capital of Switzerland, in 1746. His father was a doctor and died when Pestalozzi was still very young (he was only 6 years old). when the tragic event took place). At the age of 15, he entered the Gymnasium, or Collegium Humanitatis, a prestigious center in which he received a full education. which included political, historical and linguistic skills such as Hebrew and Greek.
His maternal grandfather, who was a religious pastor, exerted a great influence on him. Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi he usually accompanied his grandfather to visit parishioners, and it was during these activities that he became aware of poverty., Its effects and its relation to education. He realized that children were abandoned by political and ecclesiastical powers and that it was common for them to start working very early.
At first, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi would also become a member of the clergy, just like his grandfather. But through his experiences and under the influence of the philosopher Rousseau, he finally decided to pursue his career in law and politics, with the horizon of achieving social change in childhood and education. He also began to relate to the world of masonry.
Youth and activism
Rousseau’s works were banned by the Swiss government, which feared that the population would begin to doubt the authority of political power or the Church, and an order was even issued to imprison this author. One of the former professors of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, along with another group of philosophers, founded the Swiss Society.. The objective was to defend the values of freedom which abandoned the work of Rousseau and to change the Constitution.
Pestalozzi got involved in this new group, writing for the newspaper Der Erinnerer, associated with this group. Through his articles, Johann Heinrich has publicized various cases of corruption and prevarication. He was accused of helping to escape one of the members of the Swiss Society, which earned him several days in prison. The newspaper was closed because it was considered radical and dangerous.
Thanks to these performances, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi began to gain enmities between very important personalities of the political scene, Which truncated his plans to pursue a career in the legal world. It made him come up with a new, totally different plan.
Creation of the farm
Pestalozzi decided to follow in the footsteps of a fellow member of the association and take over a seemingly worthless farm to work there as a farmer. The idea was to acquire barren land and follow the methodology that his friend Johann Rudolf Tschiffeli would teach him, to turn this land into fully operational farms. He got funding and started filming his shot.
He took advantage of his land to build a house, called Neuhof. Unfortunately, he soon realized that it was impossible to cultivate on these lands and he lost the funding. Alternatively, he thought it would be a good idea to breed sheep to get into the wool business. During this time, he also married Anna Schultthess, with whom he would have his only son, Jean-Jacques, who suffered from epilepsy.
Financial problems drowned Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and in this situation he had an idea that could solve both his situation and that of many children suffering from poverty. He transformed his property, Neuhof, into an industrial school. The project seemed to be off to a good start, even getting funding, but after a few years it had to be closed because it was economically impossible to continue.
Totally ruined, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi he continued to focus on his literary career. He began with a work of aphorisms entitled “The nocturnal hours of a hermit”, which he published anonymously in the journal Die Ephemerides, by his friend Isaak Iselin. It was not a great success initially. But then he thought of using all the knowledge about the life of the peasants he had met with his grandfather, and embodied it in a four-volume series of the work titled “Leonardo and Gertrudis”.
In these books, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi represents in four characters a teacher, a clergyman, a housewife and a politician, as representatives of society, And it’s about the moral values that the housewife instills in her children and how the rest of the characters try to emulate in their respective fields. The first volume had a big impact, which is not the case with the rest of the publications.
He continued in this direction, releasing “Christopher and Elizabeth”, a play in which these characters had a series of dialogues whose theme revolved around corruption. He also worked as an editor in a weekly, but unfortunately closed its doors shortly after the collaboration began.
As early as 1794, during a trip to Germany during which Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was going to visit his sister, he had the opportunity to relate to a number of prominent figures such as the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who saw great value in Pestalozzi’s ideas. regarding education and offered to write about it. This project took him three years and materialized in the book “My research”, on the course of nature in the development of humanity. It did not have a great diffusion and supposed the end of its literary race.
Career as an educator
After this new failure, the situation of poverty tormented Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and his family. But in 1798, an event will change the course of his destiny. The French Revolution spread its ideas throughout Europe, which led to the end of servitude in Switzerland. Accordingly, Pestalozzi decided to propose an educational project to the ministry, which after some time took the place of an educator in an orphanage in the town of Stans.
Stans had been invaded by France, and many children were orphans, the creation of this orphanage therefore became necessary and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi assumed his role as teacher. It was there that he was finally able to turn all his great ideas on education into a real project. His quick and satisfying results led Pestalozzi to a post as an educator of older children.
As his methodology was undoubtedly good, was seen able to open a new school, this time in Berthoud, Intended for children of middle class families. Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was standardizing a methodology that would be very successful. He took the opportunity to publish How Gertrudis Teaches Her Children, which was remarkably well received. His new work made him so popular that the institute was visited by people from all over the country.
Such was the success that the government itself took over the Berthoud school, providing Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and his employees with a salary paid by the state, and facilitating the publication of textbooks, which were translated into three new books. . However, the political changes which progressed across Europe thanks to Napoleon, endangered the school. He wrote a document to do to see to the emperor the importance of this institution, but it was in vain.
Transfer of the institute
The new government that settled down in Switzerland withdrew its right to him to use the castle of Berthoud where the institute was located, offering in exchange the use of a monastery to him in Münchenbuchsee. This news the institution would have a very short term, because Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi had a bad relationship from the beginning with the director assigned to the school, so he decided to move his institute.
The new location was in Yverdon. Here, he decided to create not one, but several schools, two of them to be able to separate the pupils according to the sex, another to be able to offer an education to deaf pupils and another one designed for poor children from families who could not pay. quality education. At this time, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was appointed president of the Swiss Society in which he was so active in his youth.
For this company, he writes his last two books, in which he summarizes the principles that have moved his educational system. In them he speaks of dealing with concrete concepts before the abstract, of working on the next one before the distant, starting with simple exercises before diving into the complexes or always working gradually. These are simple but extremely important principles and their importance is reaching today. Finally, Pestalozzi died in Brugg in February 1827.
Thanks to the immense work of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Switzerland practically succeeded in eradicating illiteracy by 1830, long before most of the developed world.
- Bowers, FB, Gehring, T. (2004). Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi: 18th century Swiss educator and correctional reformer. Correctional Education Journal.
- Silber, K. (1974). Pestalozzi: The man and his work. Schocken Books Inc.
- Tröhler, D. (2014). Pestalozzi and the education of the world. Octahedron.