Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 22. Pestalozzian Influences

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 22. Pestalozzian Influences

Meanwhile a European educational influence of quite different character was being exerted through literary channels. This was the Pestalozzian movement in Switzerland and Germany, destined in later decades to have a powerful effect on American education. In 1806 William McClure, a Scotch philanthropist recently settled in Philadelphia, returned from Paris whither he had been sent as a commissioner to settle the French war claims. While there he had gone on an occasion to see the great Emperor, when it had been announced that Napoleon was to visit an experimental school kept by one of his old soldiers, Neef by name. Napoleon rejected the Pestalozzian ideas urged on him by Neef, while McClure accepted them, as did also the Prussian government.

Through various articles McClure was the first to introduce the Pestalozzian conception of education into America; later he induced Neef to remove to America, and in Philadelphia in 1808 Neef issued his Plan and Method of Education, the first distinctly pedagogical work published in the United States. The work of Neef in his first school was briefly described in later years in the memoris of his most distinguished pupil, Admiral Farragut. Subsequently McClure and Neef both joined in the communistic and educational scheme which Robert Owen established at New Harmony, Indiana, in 1825. Owen had published in 1813 his New Views of Society, which was widely circulated in America as a means of educational and social propaganda. The substance of this dissertation was delivered by invitation before the American Congress, of which Owen’s son, Robert DaleOwen, was later a member. The son also issued his Outline of the System of Education at New Lanark, Scotland, as a part of the American propaganda. The New Harmony experiment was a failure (1828), and the literary propaganda aroused intense opposition upon the part of the conservative elements in American society, particularly the religious, which then dominated the traditional education. The general triumph of the Pestalozzian ideas did not come until after the Civil War.