IN studying the plans laid down by Friedrich Froebel for the education of young children, one is reminded of a passage in his letter to Krause, where he says:
Here there budded and opened to my soul one lovely bright spring morning, when I was surrounded by Nature at her loveliest and freshest, this thought, as it were by inspiration: That there must exist somewhere some beautifully simple and certain way of freeing human life from contradiction, or, as I then spake out my thought in words, some means of restoring to man himself at peace internally; and that to seek out this way should be the vocation of my life.
Froebel in his own childhood had suffered much from this contradiction in life. He had a severe father and an unsympathetic step-mother; and had himself felt the ill effects of a stern and rigid rule, which merely required conformity to the given law without inquiring if conformity were possible. He had found this kind of rule a hindrance to true development, inasmuch as organic growth can not take place according to rules prescribed from without, but only according to the natural law. Gradually the idea took shape in his mind that this contradiction was not a necessary condition of life, that the soul and the outer world are not meant to be forever at war, that when we have learned to live aright this conflict will cease and they will be at one.
The idea of the introduction of harmony into education and into life seems to be the keynote of all Froebel's teaching. At the time that the thought above quoted from the letter of Krause first came to him he had not as yet realized that this harmony might be effected by a change in education; he came gradually to see that the object for which he was striving was the substitution of development for repression and arbitrary rule. He says again in the same letter:
My experience, especially that gained by repeated residences at the university, had taught me beyond a doubt that the method of education hitherto in use — especially where it involved learning by rote, and where it looked at subjects simply from the outside or historically, and considered them capable of apprehension by mere exercise-work — dulled the edge of all high true attainment, of all real mental insight, of all genuine progress in scientific culture, of self-contemplation, and thus of all real knowledge and of the acquisition of truth through knowledge. I might almost go further and say that its tendency was toward rendering all these worthy objects impossible. Therefore I was firmly convinced, as of course I still am, that the whole former educational system, even that which had received improvement, ought to be exactly reversed and regarded from a diametrically opposite point of view — namely, that of a system of development.
The principles of Froebel, when rightly understood, are not only a guide enabling us to form natural systems of education,