**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Friedrich Froebel
by [?]

These men were William Middendorf and Henry Langenthal. This trinity of brothers evolved a bond as beautiful as it is rare in the realm of friendship. Forty years after their first meeting, Middendorf gave an oration over the dead body of Froebel that lives as a classic, breathing the love and faith that endure.

And then Middendorf turned to his work, and dared prison and disgrace by upholding the Kindergarten System and the life and example of his dear, dead friend. The Kindergarten Idea would probably have been buried in the grave with Froebel–interred with his bones–were it not for Middendorf and Langenthal.

* * * * *

The first Kindergarten was established in Eighteen Hundred Thirty-six, at Blankenburg, a little village near Keilhau. Froebel was then fifty-four years old, happily married to a worthy woman who certainly did not hamper his work, even if she did not inspire it. He was childless, that all children might call him father.

The years had gone in struggles to found Normal Schools in Germany after the Pestalozzian and Gruner methods. But disappointment, misunderstanding and stupidity had followed Froebel. The set methods of the clergy, accusations of revolution and heresy, tilts with pious pedants as to the value of dead languages, all combined with his own lack of business shrewdness, had wrecked his various ventures.

Froebel’s argument that women were better natural teachers than men on account of the mother-instinct, brought forth a retort from a learned monk to the effect that it was indelicate if not sinful for an unmarried female, who was not a nun, to study the natures of children.

Parents with children old enough to go to school would not entrust their darlings with the teaching experimenter–this on the advice of their pastors.

Middendorf and Langenthal were still with him, partners in the disgrace or failure, for none was willing to give up the fight for education by the natural methods.

A great thought and a great word came to them, all at once–out on the mountain-side!

Begin with the children before the school age, and call it the Kindergarten!

Hurrah! They shouted for joy, and ran down the hill to tell Frau Froebel.

The schools they had started before had been called, “The Institution for Teaching According to the Pestalozzi Method and the Natural Activities of the Child,” “Institution for the Encouragement and Development of the Spontaneous Activities of the Pupil,” and “Friedrich Froebel’s School for the Growth of the Creative Instinct Which Makes for a Useful Character.”

A school with such names, of course, failed. No one could remember it long enough to send his child there–it meant nothing to the mind not prepared for it.

What’s in a name? Everything. Books sell or become dead stock on the name. Commodities the same. Railroads must have a name people are not afraid to pronounce.

The officers of the law came and asked to see Froebel’s license for manufacturing. Others asked as to the nature of his wares, and one dignitary called and asked, “Is Herr Pestalozzi in?”

The Kindergarten! The new name took. The children remembered it. Overworked mothers liked the word and were glad to let the little other-mothers take the children to the Kindergarten, certainly.

Froebel had grown used to disappointments–he was an optimist by nature. He saw the good side of everything, including failure.

He made the best of necessity. And now it was very clear to him that education must begin “a hundred years before the child is born.” He would reach the home and the mother through the children. “It will take three generations to prove the truth of the Kindergarten Idea,” he said.

And so the songs, the gifts, the games–all had to be invented, defended, tried and tried again. Pestalozzi had a plan for teaching the youth; now a plan had to be devised for teaching the child. Love was the keystone, and joy, unselfishness and unswerving faith in the Natural or Divine impulses of humanity crowned the structure.