Academic journal article Journal of the History of Ideas

Eclecticism and the Technologies of Discernment in Pietist Pedagogy1

Academic journal article Journal of the History of Ideas

Eclecticism and the Technologies of Discernment in Pietist Pedagogy1

Article excerpt

While the Franckesche Stiftungen (the Francke Foundations) of Halle/Saale are perhaps best known today as the institutional centre of German Pietism, throughout much of the eighteenth century they were widely regarded as a pedagogically innovative Schulstadt (or city of schools). The founder of this Schulstadt, August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), was many things to many people: Pietist, radical Lutheran, theologian, pedagogue, professor of Greek and Oriental languages, preacher, member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences and proponent of a Protestant mission. Like most participants in what was initially a grassroots movement oriented around the personality of Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705), a minister active in Frankfurt am Main around 1670 who sought to breathe new life into the Lutheran church,2 Francke rarely referred to himself as a Pietist. From his post at the University of Halle (founded in 1694), this Spenerian protege set out to create a new "universal seminar" that would make the assimilation of many diverse points of view, identities, and competing strands of knowledge its defining mandate. "My purpose," Francke wrote in a letter to a Pastor Ring from Grünebartau (October 29, 1712), "is to develop a universal institution, useful for bringing into a good and holy order all that is important for the Christianity of all orders of society and relates, in some way, to the healing power of the soul."3 His Schulstadt would "bring into order" a myriad of relationships around a single point and relied, quite deliberately I propose, on an eclectic methodology to do this.

In recent years, the relationship of Francke's Schulstadt to the implementation of Brandenburg-Prussia's first compulsory schooling system and teacher training institutes has been better documented than in the past.4 Scholars of education have paid closer attention to the methodological innovations of Pietist pedagogy, and its points of convergence with the ideas of John Locke (1632-1704), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) have become subjects of mounting interest.5 Francke's significance for the history of education has been assessed mainly in terms of his ability to realize the pedagogically inclined reform projects of seventeenth -century figures, such as Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1670). 6 We know that the thousands of children who participated in the life of the Schulstadt very often left Halle to become actively involved as teachers and ministers throughout the German states. Several played pivotal roles in the development of the late eighteenth-century educational reform movement known as Philanthropismus and its associated practices and institutions.7

Perhaps the most striking feature of Francke's Schulstadt was its curriculum, which featured innovative training regimens in applied mathematics for children from diverse social backgrounds.8 The scale and rigor of these programs were to be found nowhere else at the time and can be linked to the overtly pedagogical mandate of the Berlin Academy of Sciences (f. 1701). These regimens deliberately juxtaposed artisanal and learned knowledge and stressed the importance of the eye as a conciliatory medium.9 Despite having acquired largely anti-empiricist reputations over the years due to their lingering interest in alchemy and their roles in securing the banishment of the "rationalist" mathematician and philosopher, Christian Wolff (1679-1754), from their community in 1723, careful consideration of what Halle Pietists were teaching in their schools suggests a different view. These historical actors reconciled categories of knowledge production and transmission often framed as oppositional - despite what several scholars have recently shown to be their clear interconnectedness.10

I argue here for the predominance of eclecticism in the Schulstadt, including a pronounced emphasis on the "middling" mathematical and mechanical sciences as tools of conciliation and self-improvement. …

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