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

XXIII. Education

§ 34. Practical and Physical Education

The educational leaders of America, however, and to a less extent the educated public, were keenly alive to the technical superiority of European education and to the value of some of the novel European experiments. The two most important of these have been mentioned. The mechanical English Lancasterianism reached the zenith of its popularity before the middle of the century and disappeared before the close of this middle national period. The Swiss Pestalozzianism, especially in its systematized German form, greatly increased in influence. Because of its liberal and more accurate interpretation of human nature, its kindly sentiment, its democratic bearing, and the social significance which it gave to education, it fitted into the American environment. School method was greatly modified and in time shaped by a more psychologically accurate interpretation of the child mind, as school management was by a more human conception of the educational process. Both Lancasterianism and Pestalozzianism occasioned a mass of publications, in pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, books, and special reports. The infant school, borrowed from England, though it had a briefer vogue than Lancasterianism, contributed to the development of our primary schools.

The Fellenberg experiment in Switzerland (1809–44) exerted, according to Barnard, a greater influence in America than any other single educational institution ever did. Its fundamental idea was the unifying of an academic and a practical industrial or agricultural education as this union is now achieved by such an institution as Hampton. Scarcely an American college and few academies founded between 1825 and the middle of the century but sought to embody this idea. Consequently early collegiate literature is saturated with this suggestion. Suggestion only, however, it proved to be, for few followed the experiment long and none actually understood the fundamental educational principles involved. The plan commended itself to provincial America, since it made collegiate education feasible to many to whom it were otherwise impossible because of financial limitations. It met with approval also because it promoted the physical health so much needed by students who were yet living under the ideals of a religious asceticism tempered only by occasional relapse. There were good souls who justified this type of education by recalling that Samson was a man of strength, David was ruddy of countenance, and that Moses must have been of strong physique to judge by certain incidents in his early manhood.