January 12 – Happy Birthday, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi

Posted on January 12, 2014

Learning by head, hand, and heart.”

 This was the motto of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who worked in and created schools in Switzerland. He believed that education should be child-centered. He believed in educating the whole child—and he instituted physical education so that kids could play games and sports in school, so that they could use their bodies as well as their minds. He believed in teachers being kind and understanding with their students rather than strict and authoritarian.

Young Einstein
Have you heard that Albert Einstein, one of the most respected geniuses of all time, disliked school and did poorly there? Well, Einstein did not like being told what to do all the time, and he did not like being told what to learn, when, how, and where. 
Einstein did a lot of what most people would think of as school-type “work” at home, following his own interests—he loved to read about science, solved algebra problems at home for fun, taught himself Euclidean geometry, and so on. But when teachers made assignments of schoolwork, Einstein found that he didn't want to study that particular thing just at that moment.
Einstein had left school at age 15, but he ended up failing an exam to go to a Polytechnic Institute (a sort of technical college). So he went to a secondary school (a sort of high school) in Aarau, Switzerland. And this school used Pestalozzi's methods. Einstein later wrote that “it made me clearly realize how superior an education based on free action and personal responsibility is to one relying on outward authority.” Pestalozzi's school has been credited with fostering Einstein's visualization of problems and his “thought experiments.”
The familiar Einstein is a bit older.
After graduating from the Aarau school at age 17, Einstein enrolled in the Polytechnic Institute. Again, he was in a school with a top-down model – teachers gave lectures and made assignments, and judged how well students achieved predetermined ends. Once again, Einstein didn't like that sort of education, although he managed to earn a degree. We can all feel really lucky that Einstein did NOT learn just to sit around and learn what other people have said and done and thought—he thought new, revolutionary things!
J. H. Pestalozzi was born
on this date in 1746.
And perhaps he did so partly because today's birthday boy, Johann Pestalozzi, dared to think revolutionary thoughts about education!

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