Academic journal article Journal of Correctional Education

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi: 18th Century Swiss Educator and Correctional Reformer

Academic journal article Journal of Correctional Education

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi: 18th Century Swiss Educator and Correctional Reformer

Article excerpt


This is the second in a series of articles on famous correctional educators. The first article introduced Mary Carpenter: 19th Century English Correctional Education Hero. (Editor's Note: See the September 2003 Issue for the first article) This article focuses on Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, 18th century Swiss educator. It begins with a summary of Pestalozzi's early life and the experiences that influenced his ideals. The second section identifies Pestalozzi's contributions in practical or industrial education, in literature, in correctional reform and as a humanistic educator. The final section summarizes major components of Pestalozzi's "method" of education, and offers a synthetic conclusion. The authors hope this article can increase readers knowledge of the history of correctional education and the primary leaders in the field.


The following inscription can be found on a monument over Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi's grave:

Here lies

Heinrich Pestalozzi,

Born in Zurich on 12th January 1746,

Died in Brugg on 17th February 1827.

Saviour of the Poor in the Neuhof,

Preacher of the People in 'Leonard and Gertrude,'

In Stans Father to Orphans,

In Burgdorf and Munchenbuchsee

Founder of the new Elementary School,

In Yverdon Educator of Mankind.

Man, Christian, Citizen.

All for Others, Nothing for Himself.

Blessed be his Name. (Silber, 1960, p. 270-271)

The fact that the monument and inscription did not appear until 1846, nineteen years after Pestalozzi's death (the one hundredth anniversary of his birth), seems fitting for a man who was largely unappreciated, misunderstood and often ridiculed during his lifetime. It was only in his later years, and even more after his death, that educators, social reformers, philosophers, religious leaders, government officials, and correctional educators began to understand and appreciate the work and ideals of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. His concern for "the people" was evident in his belief in every man's right to an education, in society's role in providing that education, and in the importance of the home environment. His concern for legislation and the fair and humane treatment of criminals may have been influenced by his own experiences with jails. During the thirty years he spent in Neuhof, Pestalozzi lived in poverty. His lack of interest in his personal appearance, his limited means, ragged clothing, depressed mood and absentmindedness (or intense focus on his own thoughts) often resulted in being mistaken for a vagabond and thrown into jail overnight.

Summary: the Main Themes of Johann Pestalozzi's Life

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi's early life played a significant role in his later development and interests. The death of his father, at age thirty-three, left Pestalozzi's mother with three young children and limited financial resources. However, with the help of a faithful servant, Barbara Schmid, the two women devoted their lives to raising the children. The roots of Pestalozzi's belief in the "original goodness of man and of his dedication to the poor" resulted from the unfailing love and attention given by his mother and this servant (Silber, 1960, p. 4). Throughout his career and writings, the influence of these women was evident.

...a human child needs sustained help and care, and these are given him from the hour of his birth by his mother with complete unselfishness. It is this moral attitude that turns her female animal instinct into a human mother's love. Pestalozzi calls this loving care her fidelity. (Silber, 1960, p. 232).

Pestalozzi also recognized the importance of a close relationship between the home and education in the school to help ensure the child's success. His writings continually emphasized the importance of the mother in a child's life and the impact the mother-child relationship had on the child's development. …

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