The Century of the Child by Ellen Key (1900)
VI: The School of the Future (part 1)
I should like to set down here briefly my dreams of a future school, in which the personality may receive a free and complete self- development. I purposely say “dreams,” because I do not want any one to believe that I am pretending in the following outline to give a reformed programme for the present time.
My first dream is that the kindergarten and the primary school will be everywhere replaced by instruction at home.
Undoubtedly a great influence has proceeded from that whole movement which has resulted, among other things, in the Pestalozzi- Froebel kindergartens, and in institutions modelled after them. Better teachers have been produced by it; but what I regard as a great misfortune, is the increasing inclination to look upon the crèche, the kindergarten, and the school as the ideal scheme of education. Every discussion dealing with the possibilities of women working in public life exalts the advantage of freeing the mother from the care of children, emancipating children from the improper care of their mothers, and giving women possibilities of work outside of the home. Mrs. Perkins Stetson proposes as a compromise, that every mother, pedagogically qualified, shall take care of a group of children along with her own. But what her own children will receive under such conditions is sufficiently shown in the case of those poor children who grow up in educational institutions presided over by their parents; and also by the experience of the poor parents who are not able under these conditions to look after their own children.
From another chapter (3):
Goethe showed long ago in his Werther a clear understanding of the significance of individualistic and psychological training, an appreciation which will mark the century of the child. In this work he shows how the future power of will lies hidden in the characteristics of the child, and how along with every fault of the child an uncorrupted germ capable of producing good is enclosed. ” Always,” he says, ” I repeat the golden words of the teacher of mankind, ‘if ye do not become as one of these,’ and now, good friend, those who are our equals, whom we should look upon as our models, we treat as subjects; they should have no will of their own; do we have none? Where is our prerogative? Does it consist in the fact that we are older and more experienced? Good God of Heaven! Thou seest old and young children, nothing else. And in whom Thou hast more joy, Thy Son announced ages ago. But people believe in Him and do not hear Him — that, too, is an old trouble, and they model their children after themselves.” The same criticism might be applied to our present educators, who constantly have on their tongues such words as evolution, individuality, and natural tendencies, but do not heed the new commandments in which they say they believe. They continue to educate as if they believed still in the natural depravity of man, in original sin, which may be bridled, tamed, suppressed, but not changed. The new belief is really equivalent to Goethe’s thoughts given above, i.e., that almost every fault is but a hard shell enclosing the germ of virtue. Even men of modern times still follow in education the old rule of medicine, that evil must be driven out by evil, instead of the new method, the system of allowing nature quietly and slowly to help itself, taking care only that the surrounding conditions help the work of nature. This is education.