The Education of Man

The Education of Man

by Friedrich Froebel

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In this classic of childhood education, Friedrich Froebel identifies the fundamental principles upon which he based his now-ubiquitous kindergarten system. Froebel demonstrates how to channel child's play and integrate it into the development of intelligence and social skills, explaining the vital inner connection between the pupil's mind and the subject of study.


In this classic of childhood education, Friedrich Froebel identifies the fundamental principles upon which he based his now-ubiquitous kindergarten system. Froebel demonstrates how to channel child's play and integrate it into the development of intelligence and social skills, explaining the vital inner connection between the pupil's mind and the subject of study.
Impressed by the theories of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Froebel developed an approach to early childhood education that exercised enormous influence over modern techniques, particularly those of John Dewey. Froebel espoused "self-activity" and play as essential factors in preschool education, maintaining that the teacher's role is not to drill or indoctrinate but to encourage self-expression through play. His method banishes mechanical and rote activities in favor of creative play, which fosters the growth of artistic capacity.
Originally published in Germany in 1826 as Die Menschenerziehung, this volume constitutes one of the most important books on education ever written.

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Dover Publications
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Dover Books on History, Political and Social Science Series
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5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

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The Education of Man

By Friedrich Froebel, W. N. Hailmann

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14530-3



§ 1. IN all things there lives and reigns an eternal law. To him whose mind, through disposition and faith, is filled, penetrated, and quickened with the necessity that this can not possibly be otherwise, as well as to him whose clear, calm mental vision beholds the inner in the outer and through the outer, and sees the outer proceeding with logical necessity from the essence of the inner, this law has been and is enounced with equal clearness and distinctness in nature (the external), in the spirit (the internal), and. in life which unites the two. This all-controlling law is necessarily based on an all-pervading, energetic, living, self-conscious, and hence eternal Unity. This fact, as well as the Unity itself, is again vividly recognized, either through faith or through insight, with equal clearness and comprehensiveness; therefore, a quietly observant human mind, a thoughtful, clear human intellect, has never failed, and will never fail, to recognize this Unity.

This Unity is God. All things have come from the Divine Unity, from God, and have their origin in the Divine Unity, in God alone. God is the sole source of all things. In all things there lives and reigns the Divine Unity, God. All things live and have their being in and through the Divine Unity, in and through God. All things are only through the divine effluence that lives in them. The divine effluence that lives in each thing is the essence of each thing.

§ 2. It is the destiny and life-work of all things to unfold their essence, hence their divine being, and, therefore, the Divine Unity itself—to reveal God in their external and transient being. It is the special destiny and life-work of man, as an intelligent and rational being, to become fully, vividly, and clearly conscious of his essence, of the divine effluence in him, and, therefore, of God; to become fully, vividly, and clearly conscious of his destiny and life-work; and to accomplish this, to render it (his essence) active, to reveal it in his own life with self-determination and freedom.

Education consists in leading man, as a thinking, intelligent being, growing into self-consciousness, to a pure and unsullied, conscious and free representation of the inner law of Divine Unity, and in teaching him ways and means thereto.

[In his educational work this principle of life-unity was ever uppermost in Froebel's mind. The full, clear, consistent translation of this principle into life, and into the work of education, constitutes the chief characteristic, as well as the chief merit, of his work. Viewed in its light, education becomes a process of unification; therefore, Froebel frequently called his educational method "developing, or human culture for all-sided unification of life." In his letter to the Duke of Meiningen he characterizes his tendency in these words: "I would educate human beings who with their feet stand rooted in God's earth, in nature, whose heads reach even into heaven and there behold truth, in whose hearts are united both earth and heaven, the varied life of earth and nature, and the glory and peace of heaven, God's earth and God's heaven." Still later he said, in the same vein: "There is no other power but that of the idea; the identity of the cosmic laws with the laws of our mind must be recognized, all things must be seen as the embodiments of one idea." With reference to the individual human being, this unification of life means to Froebel harmony in feeling, thinking, willing, and doing; with reference to humanity, it means subordination of self to the common welfare and to the progressive development of mankind; with reference to nature, it means a thoughtful subordination to her laws of development; with reference to God, it means perfect faith as Froebel finds it realized in Christianity.

It may not be amiss to point out at the very start the essential agreement between Froebel and Herbert Spencer in this fundamental principle of unification. Of course, it will be necessary in this comparison to keep in mind that Froebel applies the principle to education in its practical bearings as an interpretation of thought in life, whereas Spencer applies it to philosophy, as the interpretation of life in thought. To Spencer "knowledge of the lowest kind is ununified knowledge; science is partially-unified knowledge; philosophy is completely-unified knowledge." In the concluding paragraphs of "First Principles" he sets forth the "power of which no limit in time or space can be conceived "as the" inexpugnable consciousness in which religion and philosophy are at one with common sense," and as "likewise that on which all exact science is based." He designates "unification" as the "characteristic of developing thought," just as Froebel finds in it the characteristic of developing life; and Spencer's faith in the "eventual arrival at unity" in thought is as firm as Froebel's faith in the eventual arrival at unity in life.—Translator.]

§ 3. The knowledge of that eternal law, the insight into its origin, into its essence, into the totality, the connection, and intensity of its effects, the knowledge of life in its totality, constitute science, the science of life; and, referred by the self-conscious, thinking, intelligent being to representation and practice through and in himself, this becomes science of education.

The system of directions, derived from the knowledge and study of that law, to guide thinking, intelligent beings in the apprehension of their life-work and in the accomplishment of their destiny, is the theory of education.

The self-active application of this knowledge in the direct development and cultivation of rational beings toward the attainment of their destiny, is the practice of education.

The object of education is the realization of a faithful, pure, inviolate, and hence holy life. Knowledge and application, consciousness and realization in life, united in the service of a faithful, pure, holy life, constitute the wisdom of life, pure wisdom.

§ 4. To be wise is the highest aim of man, is the most exalted achievement of human self-determination.

To educate one's self and others, with consciousness, freedom, and self-determination, is a twofold achievement of wisdom: it began with the first appearance of man upon the earth; it was manifest with the first appearance of full self-consciousness in man; it begins now to proclaim itself as a necessary, universal requirement of humanity, and to be heard and heeded as such. With this achievement man enters upon the path which alone leads to life; which surely tends to the fulfillment of the inner, and thereby also to the fulfillment of the outer, requirement of humanity; which, through a faithful, pure, holy life, attains beatitude.

§ 5. By education, then, the divine essence of man should be unfolded, brought out, lifted into consciousness, and man himself raised into free, conscious obedience to the divine principle that lives in him, and to a free representation of this principle in his life.

Education, in instruction, should lead man to see and know the divine, spiritual, and eternal principle which animates surrounding nature, constitutes the essence of nature, and is permanently manifested in nature; and, in living reciprocity and united with training, it should express and demonstrate the fact that the same law rules both (the divine principle and nature), as it does nature and man.

Education as a whole, by means of instruction and training, should bring to man's consciousness, and render efficient in his life, the fact that man and nature proceed from God and are conditioned by him—that both have their being in God.

Education should lead and guide man to clearness concerning himself and in himself, to peace with nature , and to unity with God; hence, it should lift him to a knowledge of himself and of mankind, to a knowledge of God and of nature, and to the pure and holy life to which such knowledge leads.

§ 6. In all these requirements, however, education is based on considerations of the innermost.

The inner essence of things is recognized by the innermost spirit (of man) in the outer and through outward manifestations. The inner being, the spirit, the divine essence of things and of man, is known by its outward manifestations. In accordance with this, all education, all instruction and training, all life as a free growth, start from the outer manifestations of man and things, and, proceeding from the outer, act upon the inner, and form its judgments concerning the inner. Nevertheless, education should not draw its inferences concerning the inner from the outer directly, for it lies in the nature of things that always in some relation inferences should be drawn inversely. Thus, the diversity and multiplicity in nature do not warrant the inference of multiplicity in the ultimate cause—a multiplicity of gods—nor does the unity of God warrant the inference of finality in nature; but, in both cases, the inference lies conversely from the diversity in nature to the oneness of its ultimate cause, and from the unity of God to an eternally progressing diversity in natural developments.

The failure to apply this truth, or rather the continual sinning against it, the drawing of direct inferences concerning the inner life of childhood and youth from certain external manifestations of life, is the chief cause of antagonism and contention, of the frequent mistakes in life and education. This furnishes constant occasion for innumerable false judgments concerning the motives of the young, for numberless failures in the education of children, for endless misunderstanding between parent and child, for so much needless complaint and unseemly arraignment of children, for so many unreasonable demands made upon them. Therefore, this truth, in its application to parents, educators, and teachers, is of such great importance that they should strive to render themselves familiar with its application in its smallest details. This would bring into the relations between parents and children, pupils and educators, teacher and taught, a clearness, a constancy, a serenity which are now sought in vain: for the child that seems good outwardly often is not good inwardly, i. e., does not desire the good spontaneously, or from love, respect, and appreciation; similarly, the outwardly rough, stubborn, self willed child that seems outwardly not good, frequently is filled with the liveliest, most eager, strongest desire for spontaneous goodness in his actions; and the apparently inattentive boy frequently follows a certain fixed line of thought that withholds his attention from all external things.

§ 7. Therefore, education in instruction and training, originally and in its first principles, should necessarily be passive, following (only guarding and pro. tecting), not prescriptive, categorical, interfering.

[This should in no way be interpreted as a pretext for letting the child alone, giving him up wholly to his own so-called self-direction, allowing him possibly to drift into vicious lawlessness instead of training him upward into free obedience to law. Froebel, indeed, sees in the child a fresh, tender bud of progressing humanity, and it is with reference to the divinity that to him lies in the child thus viewed that he calls for passive following and vigilant protection. He would have the educator study the child as a struggling expression of an inner divine law; and it is this he would have us obey and follow, guard and protect, in our educational work. It is evident that this involves constant activity in judicious adjustment of surroundings, so that the child may be free from temptation and from the growth of unhealthy whims and pernicious tendencies; while, on the other hand, he may be supplied with ample incentives and opportunities to unfold aright.

Spencer says, with the same thought: "A higher knowledge tends continually to limit our interference with the processes of life. As in medicine, etc., ... so in education, we are finding that success is to be achieved only by rendering our measures subservient to that spontaneous unfolding which all minds go through in their progress to maturity."—Tr.]

§ 8. Indeed, in its very essence, education should have these characteristics; for the undisturbed operation of the Divine Unity is necessarily good—can not be otherwise than good. This necessity implies that the young human being—as it were, still in process of creation—would seek, although still unconsciously, as a product of nature, yet decidedly and surely, that which is in itself best; and, moreover, in a form wholly adapted to his condition, as well as to his disposition, his powers, and means. Thus the duckling hastens to the pond and into the water, while the young chicken scratches the ground, and the young swallow catches its food upon the wing and scarcely ever touches the ground. Now, whatever may be said against the previously enounced law of converse inference, and against this other law of close sequence, as well as against their application to and in education, they will be fully vindicated in their simplicity and truth among the generations that trust in them fully and obey them.

We grant space and time to young plants and animals because we know that, in accordance with the laws that live in them, they will develop properly and grow well; young animals and plants are given rest, and arbitrary interference with their growth is avoided, because it is known that the opposite practice would disturb their pure unfolding and sound development; but the young human being is looked upon as a piece of wax, a lump of clay, which man can mold into what he pleases. O man, who roamest through garden and field, through meadow and grove, why dost thou close thy mind to the silent teaching of nature ? Behold even the weed, which, grown up amid hindrances and constraint, scarcely yields an indication of inner law; behold it in nature, in field or garden, and see how perfectly it conforms to law—what a pure inner life it shows, harmonious in all parts and features: a beautiful sun, a radiant star, it has burst from the earth! Thus, O parents, could your children, on whom you force in tender years forms and aims against their nature, and who, therefore, walk with you in morbid and un natural deformity—thus could your children, too, unfold in beauty and develop in all-sided harmony!

In accordance with the laws of divine influence, and in view of the original soundness and wholeness of man, all arbitrary (active), prescriptive and categorical, interfering education in instruction and training must, of necessity, annihilate, hinder, and destroy. Thus—to take another lesson from nature—the grape-vine must, indeed, be trimmed; but this trimming as such does not insure wine. On the other hand, the trimming, although done with the best intention, may wholly destroy the vine, or at least impair its fertility and productiveness, if the gardener fail in his work passively and attentively to follow the nature of the plant. In the treatment of the things of nature we very often take the right road, whereas in the treatment of man we go astray; and yet the forces that act in both proceed from the same source and obey the same law. Hence, from this point of view, too, it is so important that man should consider and observe nature.

Nature, it is true, rarely shows us that unmarred original state, especially in man; but it is for this reason only the more necessary to assume its existence in every human being, until the opposite has been clearly shown; otherwise that unmarred original state, where it might exist contrary to our expectation, might be easily impaired. If, however, there is unmistakable proof from his entire inner and outer bearing that the original wholeness of the human being to be educated has been marred, then directly categorical, mandatory education in its full severity is demanded.

On the other hand, however, it is not always possible, and often difficult, to prove with certainty that the inner being is marred; at least, this applies to the point, the source in which the marring originates and whence it derives its tendency. Again, the last essentially infallible criterion of this lies only in the human being himself. Hence, from this point of view, too, education in training and in all instruction should be by far more passive and following than categorical and prescriptive; for, by the full application of the latter mode of education, we should wholly lose the pure, the sure and steady progressive development of mankind—i. e., the free and spontaneous representation of the divine in man, and through the life of man, which, as we have seen, is the ultimate aim and object of all education, as well as the ultimate destiny of man.

Therefore, the purely categorical, mandatory, and prescriptive education of man is not in place before the advent of intelligent self-consciousness, of unity in life between God and man, of established harmony and community of life between father and son, disciple and master; for then only can truth be deduced and known from insight into the essential being of the whole and into the nature of the individual.


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