Introduction to Pestalozzi's 'Method'
Every day the first period was devoted to reading the Bible. We began at the place where we had left off the day before until we had 'finished' the Bible. Then we immediately restarted at the first word of the first book of Genesis and continued through to the last word of the Revelation of John. Thus we went through the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament; not a single word was left out. We really achieved something, for in about eight months we had got through. That is good going. It can be explained, however, when one realizes that absolutely nothing was clarified, and that it was the 'done thing' to read away as quickly as possible without any expression or a single hesitation. For this reason we always looked forward to the Books of Chronicles, in which there were so many difficult names one after the other and one did not have to think. In fact in other places too one very rarely did because everything rushed past far too quickly. The pupils read in turn and during the period the Headmaster seldom said more than the word: 'Next!' when another pupil had to continue. At the most he corrected a word which had been pronounced wrongly or called to someone who had not been following, 'Next!' even though it was not.his turn. If he stumbled, he was struck a few times with the cane. For us the Bible was no more than a reader which was only of interest to us because with its help we could show how well and quickly we were able to read. The contents were mostly incomprehensible to us, especially to the
children who spoke dialect; moreover we did not pay much attention to the contents. Of course, we knew the Bible was God's word; but we did not really understand what that meant. For us the titlepage, the prefaces, and the chapter headings were equally God's word because they were in the Bible, and if the bookbinder had felt like binding another book in with the Bible we would not have doubted but that it was equally God's word. 1
The cruelty of the schoolmasters, the severity of the discipline have possibly been exaggerated as causes of Pestalozzi's attitude. Certainly he was completely opposed to all forms of inhumanity in the classroom, yet by no means all teachers would have depended on rule by force of the cane. Pestalozzi' s criticism was far more basic and universal than the maltreatment of pupils in certain schools, for he accused the whole system - both the methods and the content - of having become fettered by routine and tradition, to the point where teaching had degenerated into cramming and where school subjects had become no more than a particular selection of facts to be learnt by heart. Teaching methods had become so rigid that they took into account neither the capacities of a child to learn what was placed in front of him, nor the purpose for which he was expected to do so.