Addresses to the German Nation/Ninth Address

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NINTH ADDRESS
THE STARTING-POINT THAT ACTUALLY EXISTS FOR THE NEW NATIONAL EDUCATION OF THE GERMANS


126. In our last address several proofs that had been promised in the first address were given and completed. The present problem, the first task, we said, is simply to preserve the existence and continuance of what is German. All other differences vanished, we said, before the higher point of view, and thereby no harm would happen to the special obligations under which anyone might consider himself to be. If only we keep in mind the distinction that has been drawn between State and nation, it is clear that even in the past it was not possible for their interests ever to come into conflict. Besides, the higher love of fatherland, love for the whole people of the German nation, had to reign supreme, and rightly so, in each particular German State. Not one of them could, indeed, lose sight of this higher interest without alienating everything noble and good, and so hastening its own downfall. The more, therefore, anyone was affected and animated by that higher interest, the better citizen also he was for the particular German State, in which his immediate sphere of action lay. German States might quarrel among themselves about particular established privileges. Anyone who wished for the continuance of the established state of affairs, and this must undoubtedly have been the wish of every sensible person for the sake of the more remote consequences, must have desired right to prevail, no matter on what side it might be. A particular German State could, at most, have aimed at uniting the whole German nation under its sway, and at introducing autocracy in place of the established republic of peoples. Suppose, as I for instance of course maintain, that it is just this republican constitution that has hitherto been the best source of German civilization and the chief guarantee of its individuality. Then, if the unity of government which we are presupposing had itself borne, not the republican, but the monarchical form, under which it would have been possible for the autocrat to nip in the bud for his lifetime any new branch of original culture throughout the whole German soil—if my supposition is true, I say, it would certainly have been a great disaster for the cause of German love of fatherland, if that plan had succeeded, and every man of noble mind throughout the whole length and breadth of the common soil would have been bound to resist it. Yet, even in this most unfortunate event, it would always have been Germans who ruled over Germans and were the original directors of their affairs. Even if for a short period the characteristic German spirit had been lacking, there would still have remained the hope that it would awake again, and every stout heart throughout the whole country could have expected to get a hearing and to make itself intelligible. A German nation would always have remained in existence and have ruled itself, and would not have sunk into an existence of a lower order. Here the essential point in our calculation is always that German national love itself either is at the helm of the German State or can reach it with its influence. But if, according to our previous supposition, the control of the German State—whether now that State appear as one or as several does not matter; in reality it is one—dropped from German into foreign hands, it is certain—for the opposite would be contrary to all nature and utterly impossible—it is certain, I say, that from that moment onwards no longer German, but foreign interests would decide. Whereas formerly the united national interest of the Germans had its place and was represented at the helm of the State, it would now be banished. Now, if it is not to be completely destroyed from off the earth, another place of refuge must be prepared for it, and that in what alone remains, with the governed, among the citizens. If it already existed in the majority of them, we should not have got into the plight which we are now considering; therefore, it does not exist in them, and must first of all be instilled in them. In other words, the majority of the citizens must be educated to this sense of fatherland, and, in order that one may be sure of the majority, this education must be tried on all. So with this it is now plainly and clearly proved, as was likewise formerly promised, that education is the only possible means of saving German independence. Undoubtedly it will not be our fault if anyone has not even yet been able to grasp the true content and the purpose of these addresses, and the sense in which all our statements are to be taken.

127. To put it more briefly. According to our supposition, those who need protection are deprived of the guardianship of their parents and relatives, whose place has been taken by masters. If they are not to become absolute slaves, they must be released from guardianship, and the first step in this direction is to educate them to manhood. German love of fatherland has lost its place; it shall get another, a wider and deeper one; there in peace and obscurity it shall establish itself and harden itself like steel, and at the right moment break forth in youthful strength and restore to the State its lost independence. Now, in regard to this restoration foreigners, and also those among us who have petty and narrow minds and despairing hearts, need not be alarmed; one can console them with the assurance that not one of them will live to see it, and that the age which will live to see it will think otherwise than they.

128. Now whether this proof, closely though its parts hang together, will affect others and stimulate them to activity, depends first of all upon whether there is such a thing as the German individuality and German love of fatherland which we have described, and whether it is worth preserving and striving after or not. That the foreigner, abroad or at home, denies this may be taken for granted; but his advice is not asked for. Besides, it is to be noted here that the deciding of this question does not depend at all upon proof by conceptions; these can certainly make us clear in this matter, but can give no information about real existence or value, which can be proved only by the immediate experience of each individual. In a case like this, though millions may say that it does not exist, that can never mean more than that it does not exist in them; by no means, however, that it does not exist at all; and if a single person rises against these millions and declares that it does exist, he carries his point against them all. Nothing prevents me, as I now speak, from being in the given case that one person who asserts that he knows from immediate experience that there is such a thing as German love of fatherland, that he knows the infinite value of its object, that this love alone has driven him, in spite of every danger, to say what he has said and will still say, since nothing else is left to us now but speech, and even it is checked and restrained in every way. Whoever feels this within him will be convinced; whoever does not feel it cannot be convinced, for my proof rests entirely on that supposition; on him my words are lost; but who would not stake something so insignificant as words?

129. That definite education, from which we expect the salvation of the German nation, has been described in general terms in our second and third addresses. We described it as a complete regeneration of the human race, and it will be appropriate to link up with this description a repetition of the general survey.

130. As a rule, the world of the senses was formerly accepted as the only true and really existing world; it was the first that was brought before the pupil in education. From it alone was he led on to thought and, for the most part, to thought that was about it and in its service. The new education exactly reverses this order. For it the world that is comprehended by thought is the only true and really existing world, and into this it wishes to introduce the pupil from the very beginning. It is only to this world of the spirit that it wishes to link his whole love and his whole pleasure, so that with him there will inevitably begin and develop a life in it alone. Formerly there lived in the majority naught but flesh, matter, and nature; through the new education spirit alone shall live in the majority, yea, very soon in all, and spur them on; the stable and certain spirit, which was mentioned before as the only possible foundation of a well-organized State, shall be produced everywhere.

131. Such an education undoubtedly achieves the object which we have specially set before us and from which our addresses started. That spirit which is to be produced includes the higher love of fatherland, the conception of its earthly life as eternal and of the fatherland as the support of that eternity. If it is produced in the Germans, it will include love of the German fatherland as one of its essential elements, and from that love there spring of themselves the courageous defender of his country and the peaceful and honest citizen. Such an education, indeed, achieves even more than that immediate object; that is always the case when thoroughgoing measures are willed for a great purpose; the whole man is inwardly perfected and completed in every part, and outwardly equipped with perfect fitness for all his purposes in time and eternity. Spiritual nature has inseparably connected our complete cure from all the evils that oppress us with our recovery as a nation and fatherland.

132. We have nothing more to do here with the stupid surprise of some, when we assert such a world of pure thought, and assert it, indeed, as the only possible world, and reject the world of sense; nor have we anything more to do with those who deny the former world altogether, or deny only the possibility that the majority of the people at large can be brought into it. We have already completely rejected these things. He who does not yet know that there is a world of thought can instruct himself meanwhile about it elsewhere by the available means; we have no time for that instruction here. But we do intend just this; to show how even the majority of the people at large can be raised into that world.

133. Now, in our deliberate opinion the idea of such a new education is not to be considered as simply a picture set up for the exercise of ingenuity of mind or of skill in argument, but is rather to be put into practice at once and introduced into life. Our task, therefore, is first of all to point out what already exists in the actual world with which the realization of this should be connected.

We give this answer to the question: it ought to be connected with the system of instruction invented and proposed by Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and already successfully practised under his eyes. We intend to give good reasons for this decision of ours and to define it clearly.

First of all, we have read and reflected over the man’s own writings, from which we have formed our conception of his art of instruction and education. We have taken no notice of the reports and opinions of the current literary periodicals, nor of their further opinions upon those opinions. We observe this in order to recommend this method and the complete avoidance of its opposite to everyone who wishes likewise to have a conception of this subject. Similarly, up to the present we have not desired to see anything of it in actual practice; not from disrespect, but because we wanted first to provide ourselves with a definite and clear conception of the inventor’s true intention. The application may often fall short of the intention, but from that conception the conception of the application and of the inevitable result follows without any experiment, and, equipped with this alone, one can truly understand the application and judge it correctly. If, as some believe, even this system of instruction has already degenerated here and there into blind, empirical groping and into empty play and show, for that the author’s fundamental conception, at least, is in my opinion quite blameless.

134. Now this fundamental conception is warranted for me, first of all by the individuality of the man himself, as he shows it in his writings with the truest and most hearty frankness. I could have used him, just as well as I used Luther or as I might use anyone else if there have been others like them, to demonstrate the characteristics of the German spirit and to give the gratifying proof that this spirit, in all its miraculous power, reigned down to the present day within the range of the German tongue. He, also, has spent a laborious life struggling with every possible obstacle; within, with his own stubborn obscurity and awkwardness and his very scanty supply of the most ordinary aids to scholarly education; without, with continual misunderstanding. Towards an end, which he simply surmised and which was quite unknown to him, he has struggled, upheld and stimulated by an unconquerable and all-powerful and German impulse, a love of the poor neglected people. As in the case of Luther, only in another connection and one more in keeping with his age, this all-powerful love had made him its instrument and had become the life of his life. It was the unknown but definite and unchanging guide which led his life through the all-enveloping night, and, because it was impossible for such a love to leave the earth unrewarded, crowned its evening with his truly spiritual invention, which achieved far more than he had ever longed for in his boldest wishes. He wished simply to help the people; but his invention, when developed to the full, raises the people, removes every difference between them and an educated class, provides national education instead of the desired popular education, and might, indeed, have the power of helping peoples and the whole human race to rise from the depths of their present misery.

135. This fundamental conception of his appears in his writings with complete clearness and unmistakable precision. First of all, in regard to the form, he desires, not the caprice and blind groping that has hitherto existed, but a definite and deliberate art of education; that is what we, too, wish and what German thoroughness must necessarily wish. He relates[1] very frankly how a French phrase, that he wanted to make education mechanical, made his mind clear concerning this aim of his. In regard to the content, the first step in the new education described by me is that it shall stimulate and train the free activity of the pupil’s mind, his thought, in which later the world of his love shall dawn for him. With this first step Pestalozzi’s writings deal excellently; our examination of his fundamental conception treats this subject first of all. In this regard his censure of the previous system of instruction, that it has only plunged the pupil in mist and shadow and has never let him reach actual truth and reality, agrees with ours, that this system has never been able to influence life, nor to form the root of life. Pestalozzi’s proposed remedy for this, to lead the pupil to direct perception, is synonymous with ours, to stimulate his mental activity to the creation of images and to let him learn everything just by this free formation; for perception of what has been freely created is the only possible perception. The application, to be mentioned later, proves that the inventor really means this, and does not understand by perception that blindly groping and fumbling sense-impression. Quite rightly, too, this general and very far-reaching law is laid down for the stimulation of the pupil’s perception by education: from the beginning keep pace exactly with the evolution of the child’s powers that are to be developed.

136. On the other hand, in Pestalozzi’s system of instruction all the mistakes in terms and proposals have one common source, the confusion and opposition of two things; on one side, the paltry and limited end originally aimed at, namely, to lend such aid as is absolutely necessary to those children from among the people who are the most neglected, on the supposition that the whole people will remain as it is; and on the other side, the means leading to a far higher end. One is saved from all error and obtains a completely consistent conception by dropping the former and everything that results from its consideration, and keeping only to the latter and carrying it out consistently. Undoubtedly it was solely the desire to release from school as soon as possible the very poorest children for bread-winning, and yet to provide them with a means of making up for the interrupted instruction, that gave rise in Pestalozzi’s loving heart to the over-estimation of reading and writing, to the setting up of these as almost the aim and climax of popular education, and to his simple belief in the testimony of past centuries, that this is the best aid to instruction. For otherwise he would have found that reading and writing have been hitherto just the very instruments for enveloping men in mist and shadow and for making them conceited. That same desire of his is undoubtedly the source of several other proposals that are in contradiction to his principle of direct perception, and especially his utterly false notion of language as a means of raising our race from dim perception to clear ideas. For our part, we have not spoken of the education of the people in opposition to that of the higher classes, because we no longer want to have the word “people” used in the sense of vulgar common populace, nor can German national interests tolerate this sense of the word any longer; but we have spoken of national education. If it shall ever come to this, the miserable wish that education shall be finished very soon and the child again set to work must not be breathed any longer, but given up right at the beginning of the consideration of this matter. In my opinion, indeed, this education will not be expensive, the institutions will be able to maintain themselves to a great extent, and work will not suffer. I shall state my thoughts about this in due course; but even if it were not so, the pupil must unconditionally, and at any cost, remain until education is and can be finished. That half-education is not a bit better than none at all; it leaves matters as they were; and if anyone desires this, he had better dispense also with the half and declare plainly at the very beginning that he does not want mankind to be helped. Now, assuming that the pupil is to remain until education is finished, reading and writing can be of no use in the purely national education, so long as this education continues. But it can, indeed, be very harmful; because, as it has hitherto so often done, it may easily lead the pupil astray from direct perception to mere signs, and from attention, which knows that it grasps nothing if it does not grasp it now and here, to distraction, which consoles itself by writing things down and wants to learn some day from paper what it will probably never learn, and, in general, to the dreaming which so often accompanies dealings with the letters of the alphabet. Not until the very end of education, and as its last gift for the journey, should these arts be imparted and the pupil led by analysis of the language, of which he has been completely master for a long time, to discover and use the letters. After the rest of the training he has already acquired, this would be play.

137. So much for the purely universal national education. It is a different matter with the future scholar. Some day he shall not only express his feelings about what is universally valid, but also by solitary reflection lift up into the light of language the hidden and real depths of his heart, of which he is unconscious. He must, therefore, get into his hands sooner, in the form of writing, the instrument of this solitary yet audible thought, and learn to create; yet even in his case there will be less need of haste than there has been in the past. This will become distinctly clearer in due course, when we distinguish between purely national and scholarly education.

138. Everything that Pestalozzi says about sound and word as means for the development of mental power is to be corrected and limited in accordance with this view. The scope of these addresses does not permit me to go into details. I make, however, just the following remark which profoundly affects the whole matter. His book for mothers contains the foundation of his development of all knowledge; for, among other things, he relies very much on home education. First of all, so far as this home education itself is concerned, we have certainly no desire to quarrel with him over the hopes that he forms of mothers. But, so far as our higher conception of a national education is concerned, we are firmly convinced that, especially among the working classes, it cannot be either begun, continued, or ended in the parents’ house, nor, indeed, without the complete separation of the children from them. The hardship, the daily anxiety about making ends meet, the petty meanness and avarice, which occur here, would inevitably infect the children, drag them down, and prevent them from making a free flight into the world of thought. This also is one of the absolute and indispensable conditions for the realization of our scheme. We have seen enough of what will happen if mankind as a whole repeats itself in each successive generation as it was in the previous one. If its complete reformation is intended, it must once for all be entirely separated from itself and cut off altogether from its old life. Not until a generation has passed through the new education can the question be considered, as to what part of the national education shall be entrusted to the home.

139. Setting that aside, and considering Pestalozzi’s book for mothers simply as the first foundation of instruction; to take, as the book does, the child’s body as the subject of instruction is also a complete mistake. He starts with the very correct statement, that the first object of the child’s knowledge must be the child himself. But is the child’s body, then, the child himself? If it must be a human body, would not the mother’s body be far closer and more visible to him? And how can the child obtain a perceptual knowledge of his body, without first having learnt to use it? That information is not knowledge, but simply the learning by heart of arbitrary word-symbols, brought about by the over-estimation of speaking. The true foundation of instruction and knowledge would be, to use Pestalozzi’s language, an A B C of the sensations. When the child begins to understand, and imperfectly to make, speech sounds, he should be led to make himself quite clear, whether he is hungry or sleepy, whether he sees or hears the actual sensation denoted by this or that expression, or, indeed, simply imagines it. He should be clear, too, as to the differences and degrees of difference of the various impressions on the same sense that are denoted by special words, e.g., the colours and the sounds of different bodies, etc. All this should take place in succession, developing properly and regularly the power of sensation. By this means the child first obtains an ego, which he abstracts in free and conscious conception, and which he scrutinizes by its aid; as soon as it awakes to life, a mental eye is set in life, and from that time onward never leaves it. Thus, also, measure and number, in themselves empty forms, obtain for the succeeding exercises of perception their clearly recognized inner content which, according to Pestalozzi’s method, can be given them only by obscure tendency and compulsion. In Pestalozzi’s writings a confession, which is remarkable from this point of view, is made by one of his teachers who, when initiated into this method, began to perceive only empty geometrical bodies. This would happen to all pupils of that method if spiritual nature did not, unnoticed, guard against it. It is at this stage, too, when what is really perceived is thus clearly grasped, that not language signs, indeed, but speech itself and the need for expressing oneself to others trains man, and raises him out of darkness and confusion to clearness and definiteness. When the child first awakes to consciousness, all the impressions of surrounding nature immediately crowd upon him and are mingled to a vague chaos, in which no single thing stands out from among the general confusion. How is he ever to emerge from this stage of vagueness? He needs the help of others; he cannot get it except by definitely expressing his need and distinguishing it from similar needs which are already denoted in the language. Under the guidance of those distinctions he is compelled to reflect and to collect his thoughts, to notice what he actually feels, to compare it with, and differentiate it from, something else which he already knows but does not at present feel. Thus a conscious and free ego begins to be separated off in him. Now, education ought with deliberate and free art to continue the course which necessity and nature begin with us.

140. In the field of objective knowledge, which is concerned with external objects, acquaintance with the word-sign adds absolutely nothing to the clearness and definiteness of the inner knowledge for the knower himself, but simply brings it within the sphere of what can be communicated to others, which is an altogether different sphere. The clearness of that knowledge depends entirely on perception, and whatever man’s imagination can create again at will in all its parts, just as it really is, is fully known, whether one has a word for it or not. Indeed, we are convinced that this perfection of the perception should precede acquaintance with the word-symbol. The opposite process leads straight to that world of shadow and mist, and to premature loquacity, both of which are rightly so hateful to Pestalozzi. He who wants to know the word as soon as possible, and considers his knowledge increased as soon as he knows it, lives in that very world of mist and is anxious merely to extend it. Considering Pestalozzi’s system of thought as a whole, I believe that it was just this A B C of sensation that he aimed at as the first foundation of mental development and as the content of his book for mothers. In all his statements about language he had a dim notion of it, and it was only lack of training in philosophy that prevented him from becoming quite clear on this point.

141. Now, presupposing this development of the knowing subject by means of sensation and setting it as the first foundation of the national education we have in view, Pestalozzi’s A B C of sense-perception, the theory of the relations of number and measure, is the entirely appropriate and excellent consequence. With this perception any part of the world of sense can be connected; it can be introduced into the domain of mathematics, until the pupil is sufficiently trained by these preliminary exercises to be led on to the planning of a social order of mankind and to love of that order. This is the second and essential step in his training.

142. But in the first part of education another subject, which is also mentioned by Pestalozzi, is not to be overlooked; the development of the pupil’s bodily powers, which must necessarily go hand in hand with those of the mind. He demands an A B C of Art, i.e., of the bodily powers. His most striking statements about this are the following:[2] “Striking, carrying, throwing, pushing, pulling, turning, struggling, swinging, etc., are the simplest exercises of strength. There is a natural sequence in these exercises from the beginnings to the perfect art, i.e., to the highest stage of the nerve rhythm, which ensures blow and push, swing and throw, in a hundred different ways, and makes hand and foot certain.” In this, everything depends on the natural sequence, and it is not enough that we should interfere in a blind arbitrary way and introduce any kind of exercise, just in order that it may be said of us that we too, like the Greeks perhaps, have physical education. Now, everything still remains to be done in this matter, for Pestalozzi has supplied no A B C of Art. This must first of all be supplied, and that certainly requires a man who is versed in the anatomy of the human body and also in scientific mechanics, and who combines with this knowledge a high degree of philosophical spirit. Such a man will be capable of discovering in all-round perfection that machine which the human body is designed to be, and of showing how this machine may gradually be developed out of every healthy human body, so that every advance occurs in the only possible correct sequence, thus preparing for and facilitating those that follow. Thereby the health and beauty of the body and the strength of the mind are not only not endangered, but are even confirmed and increased. It is obvious without further mention how indispensable this element is to an education which promises to train the whole man and is especially intended for a nation which shall restore again, and in the future maintain, its independence.

We reserve for the next address what there is still to say by way of further definition of our conception of German national education.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. [See De Guimps, Life of Pestalozzi, Sonnenschein & Co., 1903, p. 183.]
  2. [An almost exact quotation from Pestalozzi’s Wie Gertrud ihre Kinder lehrt; cf. Pestalozzi’s Ausgewaehlte Schriften, ed. F. Mann, Langensalza, vol. iii, p. 275, and see translation by Cooke, Sonnenschein & Co., 1907, pp. 177, 178.]