1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Girard, Jean Baptiste

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GIRARD, JEAN BAPTISTE [known as “Le Père Girard” or “Le Père Gregoire”] (1765-1850), French-Swiss educationalist, was born at Fribourg and educated for the priesthood at Lucerne. He was the fifth child in a family of fourteen, and his gift for teaching was early shown at home in helping his mother with the younger children; and after passing through his noviciate he spent some time as an instructor in convents, notably at Würzburg (1785-1788). Then for ten years he was busy with religious duty. In 1798, full of Kantian ideas, he published an essay outlining a scheme of national Swiss education; and in 1804 he began his career as a public teacher, first in the elementary school at Fribourg (1805-1823), then (being driven away by Jesuit hostility) in the gymnasium at Lucerne till 1834, when he retired to Fribourg and devoted himself with the production of his books on education, De l'enseignement régulier de la langue maternelle (1834, 9th ed. 1894; Eng. trans. by Lord Ebrington, The Mother Tongue, 1847), and Cours éducatif (1844-1846). Father Girard's reputation and influence as an enthusiast in the cause of education became potent not only in Switzerland, where he was hailed as a second Pestalozzi, but in other countries. He had a genius for teaching, his method of stimulating the intelligence of the children at Fribourg and interesting them actively in learning, and not merely cramming them with rules and facts, being warmly praised by the Swiss educationalist François Naville (1784-1846) in his treatise on public education (1832). His undogmatic method and his Liberal Christianity brought him into conflict with the Jesuits, but his aim was, in all his teaching, to introduce the moral idea into the minds of his pupils by familiarizing them with the right or wrong working of the facts he brought to their attention, and thus to elevate character all through the educational curriculum.