Pestalozzi, Johann Heinrich

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Pestalozzi, Johann Heinrich (1746 - 1827): Swiss Educational Theorist.

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi is considered, by many, one of the founders of modern pedagogy. He saw education as a key to social reform. His main concern was that education be provided to all children and adults regardless of condition or standing. He proposed that education should be student-centered and that students should be taught-by-doing and that schools should develop the body, the mind, and the soul (through moral education.) He was also crucial in ridding schools of cruel forms of discipline and punishment.

Pestalozzi was born in Zurich and after attending the city’s Latin schools he studied theology in college. While in college he was influenced by the writings of Rousseau, Jean-Jacques as well as the liberal reform movements which were sweeping Europe at the time. After a brief failed attempt at farming, Pestalozzi tried to provide vocational education to poor children in 1798. This too proved a failure, but it resulted in the publication of an early version of his educational philosophy in A Hermit’s Evening Hour (1780) which was followed by a more detailed version in his four volume didactic novel Lienhard and Gertrud (1781 - 1787).

In 1798, after the town of Stans was destroyed by war, Pestalozzi opened a school for the war orphans; it failed within months. In 1799 he opened a school at Burgdorf, moving it to Yverdon in 1805, which served for the next twenty years as the center of the Pestalozzi System. Pestalozzi died in Brugg on 17 February, 1827.

Pestalozzi’s ideas were implemented in Prussia, England and America. More importantly, his works appear to have influenced the later works of John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Maria Montessori.


B. Keith Murphy

Fort Valley State University

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