Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was born in Zurich, Switzerland, on January 12, 1746. During his childhood, he suffered many hardships. Four of his six siblings died at an early age, and his father died when Pestalozzi was only five years old, leaving his mother to raise her three remaining children in poverty. Poor living conditions, combined with the trauma of losing her children and husband, caused his mother to devote her life to raising her children in a socially isolated, over-protective environment in which she indulged them with love and attention.
Although Pestalozzi received much attention from his mother, his overall lack of proper socialization outside his isolated environment led to awkward and inappropriate peer interaction. As a result, his peers ultimately rejected him because of his non-conformity, and he developed greater difficulties in attaining the practical skills necessary for proper socialization.
During his childhood, Pestalozzi was strongly influenced by his grandfather, Andreas Pestalozzi. The elder Pestalozzi was a minister in a small Swiss village who often spoke to the younger Pestalozzi about the poor living conditions of the Swiss lower class. He inspired in him the idea that there must be an abolition of social privileges for the wealthy. He felt that an education should be provided to all children, regardless of their social class.
Never forgetting his grandfather’s ideals, Pestalozzi studied law under the tutelage of Johann Jakob Bodmer. Bodmer and his students formed a group called “Patrioten,” in which they studied the thoughts of ancient and modern philosophers. They also discussed the social conditions in Europe at the time and how they negatively affected the lives of their own families and neighbors. The “Patrioten” spoke out against the powerful ruling class, which brought them to the attention of the Swiss government. Pestalozzi and his fellow students were briefly jailed for these activities, and he experienced first hand the uncivilized treatment of prisoners.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was the philosopher whom Pestalozzi found most interesting. He was impressed with Rousseau’s writings which spoke of the idea of a natural, virtuous, and free life. Rousseau believed the life of a farmer was an ideal one because it was simple and close to nature. He also felt that children should be educated in this natural environment in order to protect them from negative influences of society. It was with this view that Pestalozzi chose to quit his law studies and devote his life to farming.
At the age of 21, Pestalozzi began farming on land called “Neuhof.” He hoped to help his underprivileged neighbors by teaching them how to farm. He also taught their children how to spin and weave cotton as well as to read and to perform mathematical exercises. However, his role as both farm manager and teacher proved too much for Pestalozzi, and eventually he closed his farm. His...