A Practical Application of an Eighteenth-Century Aesthetic: The Development of Pestalozzian Education

October 1, 1986

As music educators we recognize the importance of having a finely developed aesthetic sense. We understand what music means to us and the reason for its value, both to children and adults, and therefore to the school curriculum. Throughout the history of educational reform this was obviously not always the case. The development of the historical antecedents of quality education for children, particularly in eighteenth-century Europe, parallels significant trends in philosophy and musical taste. It is important to trace these philosophical and aesthetic shifts in order to understand the eventual inclusion of music in the school curriculum. One of the most influential reformers, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, revealed through his writings and actions the philosophy of the time, the state of change in education, and the vital role that music was to play.



Study of the eighteenth century reveals a century of enormous change. This era of Enlightenment in Western society beheld tremendous shifts in attitudes regarding philosophy, religion, government, and the arts. All of these changes had an impact on education. Education became one of the major means of reform: "From Locke to Rousseau and Pestalozzi the Enlightenment produced a series of very important writings on educational theory, and saw the beginnings of serious experimentation in the field."1

Europe in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was a land ripe for reform. Plagued by extreme poverty, ignorance, superstition, and authoritarianism, Europe witnessed terrible inequalities between the common people and the privileged classes. Many were ready to listen to the new ideas of the philosophes, the leading scholars of the day, who essentially spread their message as journalists, men of letters, the bright young talkers of the salons."2

An outgrowth of seventeenth-century Cartesian Rationalism, the Rationalism of the eighteenth century fostered a faith in reason and understanding. Great scientific strides (as those made by Newton, for example) and common sense superseded metaphysics and superstition, leading to the popularization of the sciences and a new "natural" religion. The new train of thought espoused a faith in natural instincts, human reason, and understanding as essential to the destruction of ignorance. Ignorance bred moral depravity whereas the correct formulation of character through education led to good and the elevation of morality.3 Through knowledge and the "rediscovery" of nature (the beautiful and the good) one could improve one's own situation and that of others, leading to justice and happiness for all human beings.

The acceptance of the common man as intrinsically good, educable, and worthy resulted in a greater concern for human welfare. These changes in attitude led to the formation of charitable volunteer organizations and pressure groups, and thus to humane reforms in criminal law, prisons, civil law.4 Further eighteenth-century developments included a belief in political liberty (encouraged in England by John Locke, 1632-1704); the American and French revolutions (1776 and 1791, respectively); economic growth, especially among the middle class; and a general climate of concern favorable to improvement for the masses.5

In an air of skepticism and secularism the eighteenth-century Rationalists rejected superstition, metaphysics, and the absolutism and tyranny of the Church (especially the Catholic Church) since the transcendental and supernatural are contrary to logic, one's ability to reason, and explanations of science. Although many of the scholars of the time were atheists they often held an aristocratic point of view. Philosophers like Voltaire (1694-1778) believed the lower classes to be "little above the savages," incapable of reason and understanding, and therefore religion and superstition had a legitimate function in their control.6 Along with rationalistic atheism other "isms" developed distinct relationships with theology—Methodism, Wesleyanism, pietism, deism, etc. One important result of this increased religious activity was that it "stimulated both the missionary movement and educational philanthropy among the poor."7

Of course, there are significant differences regarding these developments in various countries. Since these variations, however, were likely to exist simultaneously and become intertwined, they are often difficult to separate. Nonetheless, two trends worth mentioning had roots in specific countries. England's Empiricists developed an epistemology that focused on the idea that knowledge is based upon experiences. They denied the existence of innate ideas, believing instead that the human being is born tabula rasa and from infancy on is dependent upon experience, the senses, and the environment as sources of learning.8

Traces of Romanticism can be seen in Enlightenment philosophers such as Rousseau (1712-1778), but many of the seeds were sown in and around Germany, especially in regard to the principles of sympathy and the reintegration of feelings. Germany in the second half of the eighteenth century contained a growing body of sentimentalists who rejected the epistemology and social biases of the Rationalists, and instead turned to feeling, emotion, compassion, and intuition as fundamental qualities in a human being. There is a marked change reflected in the literature of the time, portraying the truly sensitive, enlightened man as one who understands the good, who is capable of feeling and great sympathy, who recognizes his relationship with other human beings and with God, and who can therefore live as a moral creature with a clear conscience.9

The new hero of this Empfindsamkeit movement often became exaggerated to the point that critics decried this sensitive kind of human being as a soft, sloppy slave to emotion and passion, too vulnerable to the dictates of the heart, defenseless against extremes, poor judgment, and instability.10

What is important here is the rise of the Philanthropic movement as an outgrowth of this great concern and sympathy for individuals. The Philanthropist wanted to find a middle path between rationalism and emotionalism, and to bring about a balance of the human faculties (head and heart). This sensitivity carried with it responsibilities to those less fortunate so that it became the task of the Philanthropists to make their students useful for society, and to aid in improving the lot of the underprivileged.11

This philanthropic thrust, which actually has deeper roots in the work of the seventeenth-century Pietists,12 accommodates the ideals of the eighteenth century toward greater toleration, justice, and liberation of the masses. The enormous effect this had on education, reflected in the writings of Rousseau and especially Pestalozzi, cannot be overstated.



Genevan-born Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), perhaps the leading philosopher after the middle of the eighteenth century, was troubled by his observations of the inequities of society, especially the wealth, power, and ease of the upper class as compared to the misery of the poor. Led by his faith in nature and the common man and his concepts of "natural religion," Rousseau furthered the cause of improvement of the individual and liberation of the masses. Rousseau wrote that one's original nature is good, but that one is corrupted by the evil influence of society (man is good; men are wicked).13 The antithesis between the nature of man and modern society is embodied in his tremendously influential landmark Émile (1762). This "half treatise and half romance" describes a person raised untouched by society's ills, and contains two important principles: one must study and follow Nature; and education is a natural, steady progression from infancy to maturity.14

This kind of education, based on the senses and experience and presented in stages matched to the child's development, represents an important liberation of the child. Rousseau was vehemently opposed to the oppressive, forceful, tyrannical type of education that was prevalent, and felt that this was not the way to allow a human being to develop properly. Furthermore, Rousseau aided in the eventual freedom from the onerous view of children as miniature adults; rather, the child entered a new realm as a natural creature deserving of attention and education.

Many of the ideas propagated by Rousseau were also reflected in the writings of the German Idealists in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The writing of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) "reads like a combination of the familiar ideas of Locke and Rousseau, in which the extreme naturalism and freedom of the French emotionalist is tempered with much of the discipline of the English rationalist."15 Like Rousseau, Kant believed that a human being possesses the capacity for good. The seeds for that good are naturally in the child and developed through education.

Kant believed that the following four factors are necessary to education: 1) One must be disciplined through education in order to control the animal side of one's nature. Reason therefore dominates.16 2) One must be cultivated: "Culture includes information and instruction. It is the attainment of skill, or the possession of an ability, that is adequate for all desired ends. It does not determine ends, but leaves that to circumstances. Some kinds of skill are good in all cases, as reading and writing; others only for particular ends, as music, in order to make us beloved." 3) One must be made to be prudent, civilized, polite, "adapted to human society." 4) One must be made moral, not just become skilled in things. One must "acquire the state of mind in which he will choose only what is good. Good aims are those that are necessarily approved by everyone, and that can at the same time be adopted by every one."

Jean Paul Friedrich Richter (1763-1825), also known as Jean Paul, was someone highly influenced by Rousseau and Émile. Unlike Rousseau, Richter was actually a private teacher for some time. Richter believed that the hope of the future was in children, and that the purpose of education was to cultivate the whole being, the intellect and the soul, the branches and the roots.17 Unlike the humanists of the eighteenth century, Richter did not believe it made sense to concentrate on the classics of Greece and Rome, for he did not feel that children were capable of truly understanding this kind of material. Instead, the student should first study and appreciate native literature: "At home and at school let the native poets be first placed on the altar as gods of the household and the country; let the little child rise from the lesser to the greater gods. What love of country must not that hanging on the lips of the poets inspire!"18

Another important pre-Pestalozzian reformer of education and instruction was the German Johann Bernard Basedow (1723-1790). Basedow maintained Rousseau's concepts of a natural religion and morality as part of education. Strongly influenced by Émile, Basedow dedicated much of his life to educational reform and the emancipation of children. He felt that education should be an enjoyable, natural process, and that morality and religious ideals should be conveyed to children without the strict, narrow authoritarianism of existing religious training.19

The severity of education has already been alluded to. Children were considered miniature adults: "The profligate age of Louis XIV imposed upon the poor children of the higher classes hair curled by the barber and smeared with powder and pomade, laced coats, knee-breeches, silk stockings, and a dagger at the side—for active, lively children the severest torture."20 Much of eighteenth-century education consisted of "beating" words and facts into children's memory in dark, gloomy schoolrooms, or, for that matter, wherever space could be found.

Basedow, who called himself a Christian (as opposed to Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed) and a philanthropist, reacted against such tortures and abominations. In 1774 he founded an institution in Dessau, the Philanthropinum. Here children were educated and treated as children. Among other things, Basedow eliminated the aforementioned costume, and encouraged that languages be taught through conversational methods as opposed to grammatical studies alone, that physical exercise and games be incorporated into their daily routine, and that the poor and the rich be educated together.21 There was also a very strong emphasis on the training of the teachers themselves.

Basedow and his followers Salzmann and Campe were responsible for a new wave of literature appropriate for children that could be used in the schools. The atmosphere in the classroom and educational methods were improved, as were the teachers who taught them. Unfortunately, the school was ill managed and was eventually closed. Kant, who knew of the school and was excited by it, was disappointed to learn of its demise. However, the school had an enormous influence in Europe, as proven by its many imitators. It also directly influenced the educational reformers Pestalozzi, Froebel, and Herbart.



As the ideals for education were changing in the eighteenth century, so were they for art. Throughout the eighteenth century there was an increasing dislike for Baroque ostentation and mysticism and a move toward simplicity, grace, and clarity. Partly due to a rise in position of the middle class and an increase in music printing, music became more accessible to the people. Music developed a greater universal appeal; it was considered more natural, more expressive. There was also a shift of emphasis from sacred to secular music.

In the pre-Classical period of Rococo and Empfindsamkeit (roughly 1720/25-1775), this striving for unaffectedness led to the increasing importance of melody plus accompaniment (as opposed to detailed, "muddy" polyphony). The non-melodic voice, or voices, provided harmonic support and accompaniment. Rousseau went so far to say that musical composition is mainly the invention of a tune and its accompaniment, and declared that "to sing two melodies at once is like making two speeches at once in order to be more forceful."22

Rousseau's Lettre sur la musique française (1753) is basically a comparison of French and (the superior) Italian music. In it he stresses the need for natural and beautiful melody, and how nothing (i.e., accompaniment) must interfere with it. He goes on to say that the good Italian composers know how to use unison accompaniments that support and reinforce the melody: "A further beauty resulting from these unisons is to give a more sensible expression to the vocal melody, now by letting it unexpectedly reinforce the instruments in a passage, now by letting it make them more tender, now by letting it give them some striking, energetic phrase of the melody of which it is itself incapable, but for which the listener, skillfully deceived, never fails to give it credit when the orchestra knows how to bring it to the fore at the right moment. . . . If there is one rule to help the composer acquit himself well on such occasion, it is surely that of the unity of melody which I have tried to establish, and which is in conformity with the character of Italian music and accounts for the sweetness of the melody together with the force of expression which prevails in it."23

Furthermore, Rousseau, who himself wrote an opera (Le devin du village, 1752), said that music "should imitate a mythical primitive speech-song, assumed to be the natural language of man."24 Since melody was "what we sang," melody became an even more crucial aspect of music at this time. This cry of "man sang before he spoke" was taken up by others. Johann Adolph Scheibe (1708-1776), for example, criticized Bach's contrapuntal music since it did not fit into the formula of melody plus harmony (accompaniment), but instead was contrived and artificial.

Seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century art, bound by the Affektenlehre, was meant to move and express affections. Later, art was considered capable of ennobling man's emotions, giving him ethic content through an aesthetic experience.25 Christoph Nichelmann said in his Die Melodie nach ihrem Wesen sowohl als nach ihren Eigenschaften (1775, chapter XI), "The ultimate purpose of various minglings and linkings of tones achieved by art is, by means of their various impacts on the sense mechanisms of hearing, to absorb a listener's whole heart, to keep occupied all the heart's powers, and to nourish its inner well-being through the purification of passions and affections."

The Abbé Jean Baptiste Dubos (1670-1742), in his Réflexions critiques (1719), explained that "movements of the heart were ends in themselves. Thus, well before Rousseau, he established aesthetic sentimentalism as a complement to the century's rationalism. Instead of judgment 'by the path of analysis' there was to be a valid judgment 'by the path of sentiment'."26 Throughout the century it became clear that the composer's function was no longer to simply portray the passions, but to create out of his inner depths, to pour forth from the heart, and to express his innermost feelings, his very soul.27

The Empfindsamkeit movement "formed in the century of Enlightenment the complement and reverse side of its strict rationality."28 Music was meant not merely to please, but to touch us, to make us feel, to awaken in man his better self (Reichardt). During this period, the Rococo and Empfindsamkeit styles eventually emerged and were absorbed into that of the Classical style.

The trends moving away from artificiality, ostentation, mysticism, and pedanticism toward naturalness, lightheartedness, purity, and expression have their parallels in the educational reforms of the period. The significance of melody at this time has its consequence in education as well. This will be made clear in the discussion of Pestalozzi.



The primary schools of eighteenth-century Europe were often in terrible condition. The teachers were for the most part social outcasts of some kind, and most likely uneducated and/or unemployed. The rulers of the day were likely to be against education for the masses, fearing that it could undermine their control. The primary schools were looked upon as a burden by the poor since their children could instead be earning money working somehow—even if the occupation was begging.

Switzerland, during Pestalozzi's time, was the center for many progressive and innovative ideas of the German cultural and literary enlightenment ''as well as the focal point of progressive educational thought. . . ."29 Despite the pitiable state of education, it is not surprising, given this intellectual environment in conjunction with the ideals of the Enlightenment and Pestalozzi's background and devotion, that Pestalozzi became one of the most influential educational reformers to date. The tremendous social and educational reforms that Pestalozzi was a part of included a (philanthropic) concern for the education of all children; further emancipation of childhood as a natural stage of humanhood deserving of respect, love, and education; the development of education as a natural and joyous process; the grading of children according to stages of development; and an overall improvement in curriculum and teaching methods, including the training of teachers.

Pestalozzi was born in Zurich, and as a child he often accompanied his minister grandfather on his calls to parishioners in his village outside Zurich. Pestalozzi saw first-hand the misery, squalor, and ignorance of the people. He also recognized that all people, regardless of their lot in life, have the capacity for goodness and love. He grew up to believe that education "would provide the means for the poor to elevate themselves to a higher social, economic, and moral state."30 Through the education of mind, spirit, and body, the oppressed could develop themselves fully, improving themselves and the lives of those around them.

Pestalozzi was a product of his time and it is clear that Rousseau had a particularly powerful influence on him. Neither adhered to Christian dogma, each preferring instead his own natural brand of religion. Neither believed in original sin. Rather, they regarded human nature as good; it is environment, or society, that brings about evil. Pestalozzi was strongly influenced by Pietism and philanthropism, and dedicated the major part of his life to humanitarian efforts.

Rousseau's Émile was the substance behind Pestalozzi's own Leonard and Gertrude (1781), a book that was intended as a message to the people, but which was instead popular as a novel. In it the misery of the eighteenth-century superstitious, ignorant, and impoverished peasant is brought to light. It is the story of two hard-working, pious peasants, their actions, and the way in which they raise their children. Its essence is that society can be saved through education and virtue. Both books are a reflection of the authors' faith in the individual and in education as a moral tool.

Pestalozzi led an experimental life. First he lived his ideas, then he articulated them. As a young man he considered a career as a minister, then as a lawyer. Influenced by Rousseau's cry of "back to nature," Pestalozzi turned to farming. In 1774 he experimented on his farm by taking in twenty poor children who would work the land and learn and pursue a practical handicraft (like spinning) in return for care and intellectual moral education. Pestalozzi received financial support from the Berne Republic Council of Commerce and private donations, and the venture was successful until 1780.

In 1798 the town of Stanz and surrounding areas (near Lake Lucerne) were burned by French soldiers. Many children were left orphaned, destitute, and homeless. Pestalozzi was asked to establish a school for these orphans in an unfinished convent. By reaching out to these pitiful children, often vermin-covered and starved, with care and love he was able to "open their hearts" and improve their general state of health and well-being.

In 1799 the convent was reclaimed by the French, Pestalozzi was forced to leave, and the school was closed. Even in that short time, Pestalozzi wrote to a friend, he learned a great deal and was able to prove the following two things: "The first is that it is possible and even easy to teach many children of different ages at once and well; the second, that many things can be taught to children even whilst they are engaged in manual labor. This sort of teaching will appear little more than an exercise of memory, as indeed it is; but when the memory is applied to a series of psychologically graduated ideas, it brings all the other faculties into play. Thus, by making children learn at one time spelling, at another exercises on numbers, at another simple songs, we exercise not only their memory, but their power of combination, their judgment, their taste, and many of the best feelings of their hearts. In this way it is possible to stimulate all a child's faculties, even when one seems to be exercising his memory only."31

In 1799 Pestalozzi became involved as a teacher with the primary schools in Burgdorf. In 1800 he was granted permission to teach the poor and well-to-do children in the Burgdorf castle. The Burgdorf institution, which included an orphanage and a school for training teachers, lasted a little more than three-and-a-half years. At that time the castle became occupied by new Berne officials and Pestalozzi was forced to vacate. While the school was operating, however, a report published by the school committee demonstrated a changing attitude on the part of the public by showing astonishment at Pestalozzi's success, and as a consequence a strong support of his efforts.32

In 1805 Pestalozzi established a school in Yverdon. Until 1825 this school earned an outstanding reputation and attracted educators and philanthropists eager to learn his methods from all over Europe. The institute included an infant care center (mainly for orphans), a boarding school for boys, a school for young men, and a pedagogical seminary for teachers.

Pestalozzi believed, much along the lines of Rousseau, that education should be built on the laws of nature. He fused his concept of nature with his own religious piety. He defined nature as "all that is genuine, authentic, and free from artificiality."33

Children were supposed to learn with joy and enthusiasm, through love, faith, and confidence. Their minds, bodies, and souls were nourished separately and as a whole. Pestalozzi referred to these three faculties (the intellectual, physical, and moral) of the human being as head, hand, and heart. The development of the body was important for the development of the physical senses as well as for sheer enjoyment and the prevention of ennui. He felt strongly that education must be a natural unfolding, or blossoming, of the child's capabilities, intellectual, spiritual, and physical, developed in a natural progression of simple to complex steps. Moral and intellectual learning was based on experiencing and sense-impressions. The curriculum included language, arithmetic, drawing, writing, reading, geography, natural history, singing, and gymnastics. Forced memorization was abhorrent to Pestalozzi. In fact, he had a "profound distrust for bookish knowledge,"34 and books were admitted into the classroom (if at all) only as a source of information.

A "natural" environment in the classroom was an integral part of Pestalozzi's concept of education. Above all, he wanted to make the children feel at home (they addressed him as "Father Pestalozzi"), since, starting with infancy, it is in the home where education begins: "His plan of teaching is just fit for the domestic fireside, with a father or mother in the centre, and a circle of happy children around them."35 Indeed, the teachers slept, ate, played, and lived with the students to encourage this feeling of family and unity.



In 1800, while Pestalozzi was at Burgdorf, the Society of Friends of Education appointed a commission to study Pestalozzi's practices and methods and report on them. They requested that Pestalozzi provide a written explanation of his methods and philosophies. The following excerpt from his letter to the Society reveals some of his attitudes about art:

Nature has two principal and general means of directing human activity towards the cultivation of the arts, and these should be employed, if not before, at least side by side with any particular means. They are singing and the sense of the beautiful. The mother lulls her child with her song, though here, as in everything else, we do not follow the law of Nature. Before the child is a year old, the mother's song ceases; by that time she is . . . often little more than a busy, overburdened woman. Ah! why should it be thus? Why has not the progress of the arts during so many centuries been able to find something to carry on the work of these lullabies in after life? Why has it not yet given us a series of national songs capable of elevating the very humblest souls and leading from the simple cradle melody to the sublime hymn of praise to God? . . .

And it is the same with the sense of the beautiful. Nature is full of lovely sights, yet Europe has done nothing either to awaken in the poor a sense for these beauties, or to arrange them in such a way as to produce a series of impressions capable of developing this sense. . . . But if ever popular education should cease to be the barbarous absurdity it now is, and put itself into harmony with the real needs of our nature, this want will be supplied.

Nature does much for humanity, but we have forsaken its path. The poor especially are far removed from its lifegiving springs. I have seen that this is so. . . . Hence the need which impels me not merely to remedy obvious defects, but to get to the very root of the educational evil which in Europe is destroying the most numerous class of the population.36

Pestalozzi believed that artistic education touches the intellectual, physical, and moral aspects of one's nature: "The extent to which the child's intellectual and moral powers are developed will determine his inner sensitivity for the beautiful."37 It was obvious to Pestalozzi that efforts must be made to cultivate the sense of the beautiful in children, that singing was a powerful tool toward that end, but that society was not making enough of an effort. In a discussion about drawing Pestalozzi states that involvement with art "promotes innocent pleasure" and relieves them from the "monotonousness of their daily and hourly repeated trifles, [introduces] variety into their little amusements, and acts as a stimulus to their ingenuity and sharpens their observation while it gains their interest."38

Because of their love of imitation children learn speech, song, and drawing, and through the arts they gain other advantages. Therefore Pestalozzi advised strongly that the arts have their place and function in the education of children.

According to various accounts, music was a large part of the children's activities in Pestalozzi's schools. Singing was part of all of the devotional and celebratory activities at the Yverdon school, and it was also an important accompaniment to outside excursions or field trips as well. One of the students from the Burgdorf Institute noted that singing "was one of the lessons which had the greatest charm for me, especially as it was taught in the early days of the institute. . . . [The teacher] made his pupils sing as they walked up and down the big corridors of the castle, two by two, and holding each other's hands. That was the greatest joy. . . . Indeed, singing was one of our chief sources of pleasure in the institute. We sang everywhere—out of doors, on our walks, and, in the evening, in the court of the castle; and this singing together contributed in no small measure to the harmony and good feeling which prevailed amongst us."39

Pestalozzi believed "music, especially vocal music, to be a means of improving the human relationships among the members of a community and of relieving the strains and nervous tensions of students and adults."40 Furthermore, singing "raised the spirits and cleansed the soul of the individual."41

Pestalozzi and his assistants taught singing in the lower grades by rote. When the students were capable of singing confidently they were introduced to elementary notation, theory, and composition. Accompanied by Pestalozzi's support, two of his colleagues, Michael Traugott Pfeiffer and Hans Georg Nägeli, wrote a textbook on singing. Exercises of rhythm, melody, dynamics, and dictation were included along with a number of songs "more in keeping with a child's nature and the needs of his age" (as opposed to the German chorales that were fashionable).42

In Pestalozzi's letter of 10 February 1819 to his friend James Pierrepont Greaves (a philanthropic Englishman) he discusses the need children have for physical education. In this letter and the first portion of another dated 18 February 1819, he explains in terms reminiscent of Plato's that the physical and moral advantages gained by physical exercises make it a mandatory part of education:

. . . And for this very reason, that exercises may be devised for every age and for every degree of bodily strength, however reduced, I consider it to be essential that mothers should make themselves acquainted with the principles of gymnastics, in order that among the elementary and preparatory exercises they may be able to select those which according to circumstances will be most likely to suit and benefit their children. . . .

If the physical advantage of gymnastics is great and uncontrovertible, I would contend that the moral advantage resulting from them is as valuable. I would again appeal to your own observation. You have seen a number of schools in Germany and Switzerland of which gymnastics formed a leading feature; and I recollect that in our conversations on the subject you made the remark, which exactly agrees with my own experience, that gymnastics, well conducted, essentially contributes not only to render children cheerful and healthy, which for moral education are two all-important points, but also to promote among them a certain spirit of union and brotherly feeling which is most gratifying to the observer: habits of industry, openness and frankness of character, personal courage, and a manly conduct in suffering pain, are also among the natural and constant consequences of an early and a continued practice of exercises on the gymnastic system.43

Perhaps the most significant document of Pestalozzi's thoughts on music as an aid to moral education is in the rest of the letter to Greaves of 18 February 1819. Here he not only outlines the functions of music, but reveals other aspects of his own musical aesthetics as well:

Now that I am on the topic, I will not let the opportunity pass by without speaking of one of the most effective aids of moral education. You are aware that I mean music, and not only are you acquainted with my sentiments on that subject, but you have also observed the very satisfactory results which we have obtained in our schools. The exertions of my excellent friend Nägeli, who has with equal taste and judgment reduced the highest principles of his art to the simplest elements, have enabled us to bring our children to a proficiency which on any other plan must be the work of much time and labor.

But it is not this proficiency which I would describe as a desirable accomplishment of education. It is the marked and most beneficial influence of music on the feelings, which I have always observed to be the most efficient in preparing, or as it were attuning, the mind for the best impressions. The exquisite harmony of a superior performance, the studied elegance of the execution, may indeed give satisfaction to a connoisseur; but it is the simple and untaught grace of melody which speaks to the heart of every human being. Our own national melodies, which have since time immemorial been resounding in our native valleys, are fraught with reminiscences of the brightest page of our history and of the most endearing scenes of domestic life.

But the effect of music in education is not only to keep alive a national feeling: it goes much deeper; if cultivated in the right spirit it strikes at the root of every bad or narrow feeling, of every ungenerous or mean propensity, of every emotion unworthy of humanity.

In saying so I might quote an authority which commands our attention on account of the elevated character and genius of the man from whom it proceeds. It is well-known, that there was not a more eloquent and warm advocate of the moral virtues of music than the venerable Luther. But though his voice has made itself heard and is still held in the highest esteem among us, yet experience has spoken still louder and more unquestionably to the truth of the proposition which he was among the first to vindicate. Experience has long since proved that a system proceeding upon the principle of sympathy would be imperfect if it were to deny itself the assistance of that powerful means of the culture of the heart. Those schools or those families in which music has retained the cheerful and chaste character which it is so important that it should preserve have invariably displayed scenes of moral feeling and consequently of happiness which leave no doubt as to the intrinsic value of that art, which has sunk into neglect or degenerated into abuse only in the ages of barbarism or depravity.

I need not remind you of the importance of music in engendering and assisting the highest feelings of which man is capable. It is almost universally acknowledged that Luther saw the truth when he pointed to music, devoid of studied pomp and vain ornament, in its solemn and impressive simplicity, as one of the most efficient means of elevating and purifying genuine feelings of devotion.

We have frequently in our conversations on this subject been at a loss how to account for the circumstance that in your own country, though that fact is as generally acknowledged, yet music does not form a more prominent feature in general education. It would seem that the notion prevails that it would require more time and application than can conveniently be bestowed upon it, to make its influence extend also on the education of the people.44

Pestalozzi continues in the remainder of the letter to say that music is a successful part of the curricula of many Swiss, German, and Prussian schools and that it would behoove Greaves to see music incorporated into those of more English schools.

Definitely a product of his time, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi is a mixture of rationalist, empiricist, naturalist, humanist, idealist, and enlightened thought. All that, combined with his love for and devotion to people, made him a formidable figure in the fight for reform. Pestalozzi's insistence on the importance of simple, unaffected melody is characteristic of the aesthetic preferences that took place in the eighteenth century. His goal was not the attainment of empty virtuosity, but rather the "beneficial influence of music on the feelings." The principle of art as an aid to moral education harks back to the writings of the Classicists. The belief in the "importance of music in engendering and assisting the highest feelings of which man is capable" is one which leads the eighteenth century directly into the Romanticism of the nineteenth century.

Pestalozzi was a direct influence on succeeding educational reformers, including Fellenberg, Neef, Froebel and Herbart. The philanthropic and educational ideas of Pestalozzi and his followers reached into Russia, Spain, Austria, Italy, and America. Their reforms spread from the schools to other kinds of institutions, such as reform schools and asylums. When one examines the beliefs and activities of Pestalozzi and these other early pioneers, music's historical role in education becomes increasingly clear. Furthermore, the long-lasting influence of these aesthetic ideals has remained strong to the present day.

1Crane Brinton, "Enlightenment," in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards, reprint ed., 8 vols. in 4 (New York: Macmillan, Free Press, 1972), 2:521.

2Brinton, "Enlightenment," 519.

3Harry C. Payne, The Philosophes and The People (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 27. Payne is discussing Helvetius' work De l'homme (1772) and his observation that there is "a direct relation between ignorance in nations and their moral baseness."

4Brinton, "Enlightenment," 520.

5Ralph L. Pounds, The Development of Education in Western Culture (New York: Meredith, 1968), 166-71.

6Paul Monroe, A Text-Book in the History of Education (New York: Macmillan, 1932), 541.

7Pounds, Education in Western Culture, 171.

8Brinton, "Enlightenment," 523-24.

9Georg Jaeger, Empfindsamkeit und Roman (Stuttgart, Berlin, Köln, Mainz: Kohlhammer, 1969), 44-47, as translated by Ilona Waldman.

10Ibid., 52-56.


12Philanthropism and this concern for individuals in Germany can be traced back to work of the seventeenth-century German Pietists Philip Jacob Spencer (1635-1700) and especially August Hermann Francke (1663-1727). Both felt that piety and virtue should be a part of one's education, and that education must penetrate further than just the well-to-do. Commencing in the 1690s Francke established a number of educational and charitable institutions in Halle, including schools for poor middle- and lower-class children, orphanages, and training schools for teachers. So impressive was this work that in the early 1700s school was made compulsory for elementary-age children, and in 1763 school became mandatory for children of ages five through fourteen. See Monroe, History of Education, 722; F.V.N. Painter, A History of Education (New York: Appleton, 1904), 257-61; and James A. Keene, A History of Music Education in the United States (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1982), 74-76.

13Ronald Grimsley, "Jean-Jacques Rousseau," in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 7:220-21.

14Painter, A History of Education, 266-67.

15Monroe, History of Education, 595.

16Painter, A History of Education, 292.

17Ibid., 285.

18Ibid., 288.

19Monroe, History of Education, 579.

20Painter, A History of Education, 274.

21Monroe, History of Education, 581.

22Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "mélodie," in his Dictionnaire de musique, as cited in Donald J. Grout, A History of Western Music, rev. ed. (New York: Norton, 1973), 451.

23Oliver Strunk, Source Readings in Music History: The Classic Era (New York: Norton, 1965), 69, 73.

24Grout, A History of Western Music, 451.

25Immanuel Willheim, lecture, "Aesthetics of Music," Hartt School of Music, 11 October 1984.

26On Nichelmann and Dubos, see Carl Dahlhaus, Esthetics of Music, trans. William W. Austin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 16-17.

27Ibid., 21.

28Ibid., 22.

29Thomas A. Barlow, Pestalozzi and American Education (Boulder: University of Colorado Libraries, Este Es Press, 1977), 2.

30Ibid., 13.

31Roger de Guimps, Pestalozzi: His Life and Work, tran. J. Russell (New York: Appleton, 1890), 170.

32Painter, A History of Education, 300.

33Robert Ulich, "Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi," in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 6:122.

34Will S. Monroe, History of the Pestalozzian Movement in the United States (New York: Arno Press, New York Times, 1969), 85.

35From Professor Griscom's "Year in Europe," cited in the preface of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi's Letters on the Education of Infancy (Boston: Carter & Hendree, 1830), vi.

36de Guimps, Pestalozzi, 186-87.

37Sister Mary Romana Walch, Pestalozzi and The Pestalozzian Theory of Education (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1952), 103.

38Pestalozzi, "The Letters to Greaves" (1818-19) in Lewis Flint Anderson, Pestalozzi (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1931), 178.

39de Guimps, Pestalozzi, 209.

40Barlow, Pestalozzi and American Education, 43.

41Ibid., 117.

42Keene, Music Education in the United States, 85.

43Letters of 10 and 18 February 1819, in Anderson, Pestalozzi, 169-72.

44Ibid., 172-77.

3903 Last modified on October 24, 2018