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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Review by Victor H. Allemandy
Volume 12, no. 9, 1901, pgs. 887-890

The Hebartian Principles of Education

The subject under consideration this month is the Herbartian System of Education. Of late years the contributions to Herbartian literature have considerably increased, and the system inculcated by Herbart, the German psychologist and philosopher, is influencing more than ever the educational theories of to-day.

Herbart's Life

Johann Friedrich Herbart was born at Oldenburg in 1776, and at the age of eighteen went to the University of Jena to study law, but he devoted himself to philosophy instead of jurisprudence. He remained at the University for three years, leaving, however, before he had completed his course. He then became a private tutor to three boys in a Swiss family, and it was while thus employed he conceived some of the fundamental principles of his educational theories. Resigning his tutorship in 1799, Herbart spent two years at Bremen reading philosophy with a view to qualifying himself for a university professorship. In 1802 he went to Göttingen, where he lectured on ethics, philosophy and pedagogy. Between 1802 and 1806 several educational works were written by him, among which were, How Gertrude taught her Children, Pestalozzi's Ideas of an A.B.C. of Observation, General Pedagogics, Chief Points of Metaphysics, and Chief Points of Logic.

Herbart was called in 1809 to Könisgberg to occupy the chair of philosophy formerly held by Kant. While at Könisgberg he turned his attention more particularly to the study of psychology, which resulted in his System of Psychology, Text Book of Psychology, and Psychology as a Science, which appeared in 1824-25. "For exactness and penetration of thought," says Professor James Ward, of Cambridge, "Herbart is quite on a level with Hume and Kant. We are most indebted to him for the enormous advance psychology has been enabled to make." In 1833 he returned to Göttingen, where he published his Outlines of Pedagogical Lectures, and occupied the remainder of his time in preparing and giving lectures. He died in 1841, on the 9th of August, and was buried at Göttingen.

Herbart's System of Education

At the very outset Herbart definitely lays down that the one supreme aim of education is the "development of moral character." The Herbartian principles of education may be classified thus:—(1) Individuality, (2) Instruction and Interest, and (3) Discipline. Many Herbartians adopt the following classification:—(1) Selection of Subject-Matter, guided by Interest and the Theory of the Culture Epochs (2) Connexion of Studies based upon the Theory of Concentration, and finally (3) the Method of Imparting Knowledge, based upon the Theory of the Five Formal Steps of Instruction.

The Science of Education. Herbart. (Translated from the German by Henry M. and Emmie Felkin.)

The title of this book is further expanded into Its General Principles Deduced from its Aim and The Aesthetic Revelation of the World. Readers will find the succinct summary of Herbart's life given above considerably amplified in the Biographical Introduction supplied by Mr. and Mrs. Felkin, who also give a brief summary of his "Philosophy and Principles of Education," and two analyses, one of "The Aesthetic Revelation of the World," and the other of the "Science of Education." These interesting and valuable introductions occupy fifty-six pages, and are a great aid to the understanding of Herbart's psychological and ethical views and of his educational theories. In addition to a translation of the Science of Education we are also given a translation of The Aesthetic Revelation of the World.

The main divisions of the Science of Education may be enumerated as follows: Book I includes the aim of Education in general, the government of children, and education proper; in Book II are discussed the "many sidedness" of interest, instruction, and the result of instruction; Book III is concerned with the moral strength of character, including what is to be understood by character, the notion of morality, the natural course of formation of character and discipline.

Herbart and the Herbartians. C. de Garmo.

This volume forms one of an interesting and instructive series, entitled Great Educators, which includes Aristotle, Loyola, Alcuin, Froebel, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and others. The author is Charles de Garmo, Ph.D., President of Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, who has contributed numerous articles on Herbartian principles of education to various American magazines.

"The purpose of this volume," says the author, "is to give a bird's-eye view of Herbart and his doctrines of education, both as presented by himself and as developed by his successors. In English-speaking countries his system of educational thought is for most teachers still in the stage of exposition; furthermore, the beginner, in every well-organised far-reaching system, is always in need of an introduction."

The views of the Herbartians are admirably expressed in the following statement: "The ultimate purpose of the Herbartians may be said to be the development of character, not in a narrow subjective sense, but in a broad social one. They seek to fit the child for every important phase of family, social, civil, religious and economic life—to develop, in short, the whole boy or girl. In this broad aim they are, perhaps, not peculiar; but they have certainly made some contributions as to the means for accomplishing this end, so devoutly to be desired for public education . . . They believe that, properly selected, articulated and taught, the common branches of an elementary education are potent influences in training the child's moral insight and disposition."

The subject-matter is divided into three sections. Part I deals with "Herbart's Contribution to Education," including his life and works, his psychology and his ethics, the doctrine of interest, instruction and school discipline. Part II contains the "Extension and Application of Herbart's Educational Ideas in Germany." Part III is devoted to "Herbartian Ideas in America." A valuable appendix, containing a bibliography of Herbartian literature is given at the end of the volume.

Among the most important chapters are: III, "Herbart's Psychology"; IV, "Herbart's Ethics—A Guide to Educational Ends"; V, "The Doctrine of Interest—Its Bearing upon Knowledge and Volition"; VI, "Instruction—Its Materials, Course and Method"; and VII, "School Discipline—Government and Training."

A Few Herbartian Aphorisms

(1) "Experience often brings a tediousness that we have to bear, but which the pupil should never have to suffer at the hands of a teacher. Tediousness is the greatest sin of instruction. It is the privilege of instruction to fly over steppes and morasses; if it cannot always wander in pleasant valleys, it can at least exercise in mountain climbing and reward with broad fields of view."

(2) "Interest means, in general, that species of mental activity which instruction must create; but which has no place in mere knowledge. For knowledge may be a store which a man may entirely dispense with, and yet be no other than before."

(3) "Experience and intercourse are the two constant teachers of men."

The Good School
(4) "The good school is everywhere the same, whether it be moderately large as the grammar school, or far-reaching as the high school and college, or as small and narrow as the elementary and village school. It always nourishes the same interests; it always leads to thinking as well as observation; it always points to the beautiful in the world and the sublime above it; it always awakens sympathetic participation for domestic and civic weal and woe."


Those of my readers who would like to become acquainted with the application of Herbartian principles to modern education are referred to (1) Herbart and the Herbartians, chapter IX, (2) Introduction to the Herbartian Principles of Teaching, by Miss C. I. Dodd (Swann, Sonnenschein & Co.) [This book is not in the P.N.E.U. Library], and (3) my article on "The Correlation of Lessons," which appeared in the Parents' Review for January, 1899 [that article is here].