Pestalozzi’s motto: head, heart and hand

by Marianne Bürkli

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827) was a Swiss educator and philanthropist, school and social reformer, philosopher, and politician. His pedagogical goal was holistic popular education to empower people to work independently and cooperatively in a direct-democratic community. This elementary school would strengthen the power of the people, educate, and enable people to be able to help themselves and their loved ones in all needs autonomously and independently. It was important to him to develop the intellectual, moral, and manual skills of the children in a harmonious way. The content of his numerous political and pedagogical writings is still relevant.
  Head: Pestalozzi wanted to educate people holistically.
  Heart: Only when the teacher feels with the heart does he grasp what kind of student is in front of him and how he is doing. The children are taught together as a class, the teacher conducts the discussion in the class. The child experiences the social relationship to the other.
  Hand: No living creature has a hand that is so incredibly broadly applicable.
  I am a retired handicrafts teacher and am amazed and appalled that in Switzerland (direct democracy) the authorities have abolished handicrafts and crafts as separate subjects behind the backs of the citizenry. For the students, needlework was a very popular subject and a welcome change from the cognitive subjects. They could make something on their own and take the item home with them when the work was done. In doing so, they learned old and new cultural techniques such as sewing, knitting, embroidery, crocheting, printing – but they also learned how to work with machines – at work they learned to saw, sand, drill – in cardboard to measure, cut, and glue. What they also learned to a great extent was manual dexterity, care, accuracy, perseverance, and patience. They always worked together with their classmates, who very often also encouraged them, since most of the others did the same and they didn’t want to be left behind. As a reward for their work, they were always able to take their self-made work home with them – and they were always happy about it.
  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly children make progress. There is a boy in the second grade, pretty sure he has never picked up a pair of scissors. He cuts the shapes out of paper very clumsily, but the whole calendar page with its bright colours looks very pretty when glued on. When embroidering in the third grade, however, this same boy handles needle and thread so skilfully, carefully, and precisely that I am amazed.
  The earlier curriculum in handicrafts was very well structured and was geared precisely to the developmental steps of the children. The work was always planned from the easy to the difficult, until the children in the sixth grade could sew clothes, leather sport bags, appliqués on terry towels and so on. The children’s thinking was also trained a lot through the manual work, as the words “understand, mentally grasp, recognize connections, understand the meaning of things” say. Or “grasping, grasping difficult connections quickly, absorbing them with the mind, grasping them spiritually”. By grasping – touching with my hands – I also grasp the process in real terms. The head is also important when doing manual work. The child always gets to know the different techniques and materials and also trains their imagination.
  Milton Friedman, US-american economist, wrote in his book “Capitalism and Freedom” in 1962: “It makes little sense to finance school lessons such as needlework, basket weaving, etc., since they give so little [for whom?]. If parents want to spend their own money on such antics, that’s their problem.” Have our authorities dutifully acted according to this neoliberal bible, unaware of the devastating effects of the neoliberal economy, which has unfortunately impoverished whole countries?  •

Our website uses cookies so that we can continually improve the page and provide you with an optimized visitor experience. If you continue reading this website, you agree to the use of cookies. Further information regarding cookies can be found in the data protection note.

If you want to prevent the setting of cookies (for example, Google Analytics), you can set this up by using this browser add-on.​​​​​​​