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But the teachings of Froebel are not limited to the kindergarten proper. His work for mothers has been as radical and far-reaching as the work with the babies. Before yet any book had been written urging right maternity and the beauty of motherhood, Freebel spoke and taught it. We are apt to forget that he was the first to introduce woman as the child's teacher, and by this one deed alone changed the whole movement of the school world. True, it needed not the kindergarten to bring Freebel to America; or ever he was born he was here, from the moment when the Declaration of Independence proclaimed “the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness to be the inalienable right of every citizen,” the kindergarten was a declared factor sooner or later among American institutions. Just as “waters know their own, and draw the brook that springs in yonder height,” so has the spirit of America drawn the spirit Freebel, its own unto itself.
It would seem as if a great thought-wave had suddenly struck the planet, and Freebel first caught the message, and applied it to education. He revived familiarity with the sights and sounds of Nature, teaching “ Deep love lieth under their meanings sublime.” He used the occupation of the parent as a means in developing the child.
He thus gave the impetus to two of the most important factors in modern education - natural science, and manual training. Very interesting it is to note in the evolution of both these studies, that as they change and modify they approach nearer to Freebel's thought, viz., that education is unfoldment from within, and is to be obtained only through personal experience and selfinvestigation, so that “learn to do by doing" may appropriately be termed the motto of each.
By making the child at once the beginning, the center, and the end of the instruction, he forever knocked on the head the European idea of trade schools, and the thought, which even good Pestalozzi admitted, of education as a means of bread-winning. That America is still discussing this question, only shows how firmly established the old idea was of children as the property of parents, who must be utilized, the sooner the better, to help earn a living. The very cry to limit our primary instruction to reading, writing and ciphering, has it not its roots in the same cess-pool? Let our school systems see to it they do not set a premium upon child-labor by supplying a cut-and-dried bill of fare whose raison d'etre is its multiplication of human machines.
Not inside the kindergarten, but outside of it, is one bext able to judge of the breadth and scope of the movement. Did Frobel's influence cease with the kindergarten, what a tempest in a teapot it would be! But because his thought and genius are as universal in quality as one of the old prophets, or as a master in literature, the divine fire in him burns its own way through the trackless forest of petty traditions, and the devious wilds of the schools. What Luther did for the church, what Washington did for the world, Freebel has done for the child, and through the child for all humanity.
To attempt to limit his teachings by pricking and sewing and weaviny, by net-work drawing, by painting on clay and deceiving into an imitation of nature, by an endless tawdriness of color and confused designing that is license to every barbaric thought, by the wasting of precious energy on the reproduction of the ugly and the grotesque, by permitting him to wander ad libitum through the rubbish of the past and the “l'embarras des riches” of the present, is sacrificing the spirit of Freebel to the letter. Such a course pursued in America, must end in the kindergartens falling from their high estate and degenerating, as they have done in many parts of Europe, into aimless play schools. No; the salvation of the kindergarten consists in recognizing that
" Through the years one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns." For American thought to fulfill American conditions, lays tribute upon the thinking of individuals in every age and clime. American people are canceling race experience at an increasingly stupendous rate. We represent the highest high-water mark of the world's development, and it is not necessary our children should wander through the endless labyrinths by which people less favored have traveled. Their results are here, and we are to use them as stepping-stones to higher things; by so doing we condense their experience into our own.
The kindergarten cannot afford to separate itself from any of the educational issues of the day, from the truths of science, from the principles of sound art instruction, from the best in music and song, from the influence of the technical school, and from sympathy with the latest in literature. It is ridiculous to suppose that the teachings of Wagner, Ruskin, Owen Jones, Paul Bert, Huxley, Fræbel, Emerson, or Delsarte, should contradict each other. Their command to us is, not to imitate them but to seek for truth, then will nomenclature and definition settle themselves. Now, for the first time in history, it is possible to present a fotality of truth, united and related from kindergarten to university; to present it with a difference of degree only, not of kind.
General education, though its acknowledgment may be tardy, has not ignored the message. Since Fræbel's time all instruction has become less abstract and more concrete. Modern instruction in home and foreign languages has been revolutionized; the conversation, the picture and the object, have supplemented dry technicalities of construction. Myth and fairy lore, story and legend now abound where was formerly empty reading. Geography has adopted the sand table. Drawing has transformed itself into a means of expression for form study and into an outlet for free conceptional work. The recognition given to domestic economy, kitchen garden, sewing, and handcraft of every kind; the introduction of calisthenics, and later still, the success of the Delsarte system; the cultivation of plants, and the desire to make the school-room attractive and pleasant; daily indulgence in music and song, -all prove that the development of the child through self-activity, through presentation of the pleasing and the agreeable, appealing to the within, instead of compelling from without, is of universal significance, and is the true keynote to the education of the future.
Which is greater — "the temple, or he that dwells in it”? Does the school system exist for the children, or the children for the system - which ? When as yet African slavery was practiced on American soil, Freebel spoke the truth and held to it, “The tenant is greater than the house.” Fathers and mothers, wake from your short-sighted policy, from your slavish supineness! What is your gold compared with your children? Think of a primary teacher with her sixty or seventy pupils, and lift this crying shame from off the shoulders of our young women; make possible to them freer, healthier conditions - then will the prophecy made in Germany find its fulfillment in America.
Is the Christ ideal exhausted ? Has man demonstrated his highest and best? Let the multitudes of beautiful, interesting, promising children, and the crowds of foolish, commonplace men and women, prisoners to the flesh and the earth, reply. Not until grown-up people are redeemed to the sweetness, trustfulness and the delight of living, will the kindergarten cease to uplift and react on the social whole.
But perhaps the greatest change of all may be observed in the teachers themselves. An absence of pedantry; a simpler manner; a more mixing in and out with the children as one of them; an eagerness to try new ways; a charming child-likeness, and a desire to hold themselves open to fresh truth, have supplanted much old stereotyped school-marmness that was as a stone wall to growth.
We are learning the child is nearest to the light of heaven; the old man too often clogs adult years.
“ Heaven lies about us in our infancy;
And fade into the light of common day." No wonder education in the old way has been unsatisfactory and attended by much waste. How can he who has lost the “vision splendid” undertake to guide the child who still is basking in the Divine radiance?
Oh! dear grown-up people, when shall we cease from our worldly wisdom and stilt-like lore, and listen to the voice of Froebel, “Come, let us live with the children.” Remember it is written, “A little child shall lead them.”
JOSEPHINE CARSON LOCKE,
Cook County Normal School.