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Friedrich Froebel
by [?]

I would say that a boy is a savage, but I do not care to give offense to fond mammas. To educate him in the line of his likes, as the race has been educated, seems sensible and right. How would Yellowstone Park answer for a National University, with Captain Jack Crawford, William Muldoon, John Burroughs, John Dewey, Stanley Hall and a mixture of men of these types, for a faculty?

Froebel thought his two years in the forest saved him from consumption, and perhaps from insanity, for it taught him to look out, not in, and to lend a hand. At times he was a little too sentimental, as it was, and a trifle more of morbidity and sensitiveness would have ruined his life, absolutely.

The woods and God’s great out-of-doors gave him balance and ballast, good digestion and sweet sleep o’ nights.

The two years past, he went to Jena, where he had an elder brother. This brother was a star scholar, and Friedrich looked up to him as a pleiad of pedagogy. He became a professor in a Jena preparatory school and then practised medicine; but he never had the misfortune to affront public opinion, and so oblivion lured and won him, and took him as her own.

At Jena poor Froebel did not make head. His preparatory work hadn’t prepared him. He floundered in studies too deep for one of his age, then followed some foolish advice and hired a tutor to help him along. Then he fell down, was plucked, got into debt, and also into the “carcer,” where he boarded for nine weeks at the expense of the State.

In the carcer he didn’t catch up with his studies, quite naturally, and the imprisonment almost broke his health. Had he been in the carcer for dueling, he would have emerged a hero. But debt meant that he had neither money nor friends. When he was given his release, as an economic move, he slipped away between two days and made his way to the Forestry Office, where he applied for a job as laborer. He got it. In a few days he was promoted to chief of apprentices.

Forestry meant a certain knowledge of surveying, and this Froebel soon acquired. Then came map-making, and that was only fun. From map-making to architecture is but a step, and Froebel quit the woods to work as assistant to an architect at ten pounds a year and found, it was confining work, and a trifle more exacting than he had expected–it required a deal of mathematics, and mathematics was Froebel’s short suit. Froebel was disappointed and so was his employer–when something happened. It usually does in books, and in life, always.

* * * * *

Genius has its prototype. Before Froebel comes Pestalozzi, the Swiss, who studied theology and law, and then abandoned them both as futile to human evolution, and turned his attention to teaching. Pestalozzi was inspired by Jean Jacques Rousseau, and read his “Emile” religiously. To teach by natural methods and mix work and study, and make both play, was his theme. Pestalozzi believed in teaching out of doors, because children are both barbaric and nomadic–they want to go somewhere. His was the Aristotle method, as opposed to those of the closet and the cloister. But he made the mistake of saying that teaching should be taken out of the hands and homes of the clergy, and then the clergy said a few things about him.

Pestalozzi at first met with very meager encouragement. Only poor and ignorant people entrusted their children to his care, and some of the parents were actually paid in money for the services of the children. The thought that the children were getting an education and being useful at the same time was quite beyond their comprehension.