Educational Pioneers


Figure 1.--The most famous image of Socretes is the heroic paintig by the great French artist David. David is renounded for paining heroic images. He painted this just before the outbreak of the French Revolution (1787). The Revolutionaries favored Greece. Napoleon favored Rome. David simehow managed to keep his head and paint both. Socrates is the the first educational pioneer known to history. He is also the greatest og all eduvtional pioners and founded the principles of Western education that are still revered to this day. The Socratic method is at the heart of Western civilization and education today.

Education has always been aart of human existence such as it is a phenonenom observed with the higher animals in nature. Most animal behavior is innate, programed in the amimls genetic code. The higher aimals have to train their young. Formal schooling is, however, a a human phemomeonon and only arrived with the advent of civilization and writing. Before this, children were taught by their parents and mastered the skills of thir parents through observtion and oractice at their parent's side. Writing and mathematics was a different matter these were skills best learned in a formal school enviroment by trained teachers. Early educators are lost to time. The first eucator that we know anything sbout was Socretes who manahed to stir the youth of Athens up sufficently that their parents wanted him gone. We know a great deal about phiolsiphers of the classical era, but not a great deal about teachers. In Asia, Confusis is seen as a great teacher, but we mostly know about his philosophy more than his teaching methods. This does not change until the modern era when the Protestant Reformation began to generate the udea of free public schools. As this institution gained importance we see more nd more duscussion of how just how children should be taught in a classroom. And the issue arose of not children teaching a particulr philosopy or set if ideas, bit how to best learn and construct their own ideas on their own through a learning process.

Thomas Arnold (Britain, 1795-1842)

Thomas Arnold, perhaps not precisely a pioneer, was an important ducational reformer. He became the headmaster of Rugby School (1828-41). Rugby was aublic school, although un standard British fashion, the term mean rather than a freee, state school, an elite private boarding school with fees. Public schools were the central English educational ibstitution providing what we wiuld today call secondary education. He oversaw the school for 14 years, modernizing the school system and making it a safe place to learn. Rugby and other public schools before arnold were very rough places and not safe to send boys who were not robust and sturdy. And the idea of sport becoming an imporant adjunct to academic study becme firmly implanted. Basiically they can be seen as redefining standards of masculinity and achievement. Arnold's reforms were widely adopted by other Engliah public schools. Arnold is perhaps the most famous of all English schoolmasters. Thomas Hughes (1822–96) wrote a novel, Tom Brown's School Days (1857), a semi-autobiographical work set at Rugby School which Hughes attended during the Arnold era.

Margaret Bancroft (United States,1854-1912)

Margaret Bancroft was a pioneer of special education. As a young teacher, Bancroft focused on children with developmental neds at a time when those childrn were hidden away at home or warehoused. They were believed to be uneducatble. Bancroft with no real support opening a small boarding school in Haddonfield, New Jersey, for children with as she desctibed it, 'developmental delays'. It was the first such school in America and we believe Eyrope. Bancroft believed that handicapped children. She believed that the children were educatable, but needed special schools able toi deal with their needs. She thought that especially designe material and trained teachers could assist the children rather than warehousibg them in dreary institutions. Bancroft’s obtained remarkable succes. Here students responded to kindness and patience and the individually-tailored instruction. She played an important role in changing attitudes within the medical profession. Doctors began accept responsibility to reform hoe children with disabilities were diagnosed and treated.

Lorenzo Milani Comparetti (Italy, 1923-67)

Lorenzo Milani Comparetti was an Italian Roman Catholic priest. He was born in Florence in 1923 to a wealthy family. His parent were secularists. In 1943 Lorenzo converted from agnosticism to Catholicism and in 1947 he was ordined a priest. Calenzano, near Florence, was his first assignment. There he started a school aid service for poor children. The service assisted the children of both Catholic and non-believing families. At the time in Tuscany there were many Communists. That scandalized many conservative Catholics. In 1954 Lorenzo Milani became the parish priest in Barbiana, a little village in the mountains near Florence. Because there was no school in the village, most of the children has no way of obtaining an education. Lorenzo started a school in the parish house. The school motto was "I care" (in English). Father Lorenzo died in 1967 of leukemia.

John Dewey (United States, 1859-1952)

John Dewey was a pioneer of progressive education in the United States. Dewey's primary impact on American education was achieved while he was a professor of philosophy and the head of the Teacher College at the Chicago University. He promoted many educational reforms through the experimental schools he established. His central thesis was that children should be encouraged to develop 'free personalities'. He wanted children to be taught t how to think and to make judgments bsed on their conclusions rather than to simply to fiil their heads with knowledge like a jug of water. He also believed that America's public schools were places where children should be helped to learn live cooperatively together. He was a member of the first teacher’s union, and was concerned for both teacher’s rights and academic freedom.

Célestin Freinet (France, 1896-1966)

Célestin Freinet was a noted French pedagogue and educational reformer. In 1935 he started his own school in Vence, Alpes Maritimes department. In his natural and democratic system the pupils are encouraged to learn by working, to co-operate, to use their own experiences, to use democratic self-government. As in other 'democratic schools' there is no strict preordinated rules, not even a dress code, as we see in the photograph taken at the school in 1953.

Giulia Civita Franceschi (Italy, 1870-1957)

Giulia Civita Franceschi (1870-1957) was an Italian educator active in Naples. She directed the Nave Scuola Marinaretti Caracciolo for poor street boys (1913-23). This was a school like the Brititish naval training ships for young boys. Unlike the British naval training ships there was no close connection with the Navy, in this case the Italian Navy. Naples in southern Italy was amajor port, but there were many derelict street children, many abandoned, in the city. The main principles of her educational method were as she explained them were: 1) Instilling discipline as a personal responsibility. 2) Building a caring community for the boys. The school/ship became a family and a formative community. 3) Seeing play as a positive formative experienbce. The Mussolini's Fascists upon seizing control, shut down the school. Wesee a photograph of Franceschi with five of the noys aboard the ship. Note the uniforms inspired by the British training ships: sailor uniform with bare feet.

Freidrich Froebel (Germany, 1782-1852)

Freidrich Froebel was a pioneer in early childhood education. He was a German educator whose ideas of education influenced such people as Horace Mann and Maria Montessori. Frobel believed that a young child possessed innate qualities that would unfold gradually within a natural setting. He established kindergartens where young children could flower, preparing them for primary schooling. Froebel advovcated free expression, creativity, social interaction, motor activity and learning by doing. Many of these tenets are today major elements in modern early childhood education. .

Kurt Hahn (Germany/Britain, 1886-1974)

A German educator founded what is probably today the most well known school in Scotland. Germany's excellent education system was one of the first targets of the NAZIs who wanted to titally control the formation of young minds. Educators who were not pro-NAZI or willing to go along with the NAZI program were forced out. One such eductor was Dr. Kurt Hahn, Headmaster of Salem School. (HBC is not sure what the educational program or uniform of the Salem School was, but hope to learn more about this.) Dr. Hahn not willing to accept NAZI control of the education program left Germany and founded an 'international' boys' boarding school in the far north of Scotland. He had other novel ideas about education. He perceived an increasing decay in contemporary society. He sought to combat that decay by promoting in his students qualities of skill, compassion, honesty, initiative, adventure and service to their fellow beings. While academics were important, he sought to develop the "whole person" which he felt was accomplished by building a school community made up of boys of differing backgounds, talents and interests. Hahn wanted a rural setting to provide grounds to pursue his educational ideras. He found an imposing estate in the temperate environment of Morayshire. He launched his new school Gordonstoun. He began with just a handful of boys and two historic buildings, Gordonstoun House and Round Square. Dr. Hahn slowly expanded the enrollment as word of the educational program spread. The school faced many challenges, not the least being World War II. The school was evacuated to Llandinam . (Many British schools were moved during the War, especially schools located along the coast.)

Alice Franchetti Hallgarten (United States/Germany/Italy, 1874-1911)

Alice Hallgarten was born in New York (1874). Her parents were a German Jewish family. After the death of her parents she returned to Germany. She married the Italian politician Leopoldo Franchetti (1900). Baron Franchetti was born in Livorno (1847) and moved to Città di Castello (1880). He began his parliamentary career in the Unione Liberale Monarchica (1882). He focused his poltical career on agricultural issues and on the need for agricultural economic reforms. He was especially concerned with improving livig conditions and the cultural life of farm workers. They owed to the Villa Montesca in the Upper Tiber Valley near Città di Castello, Perugia. Despite their considerable age difference, they by all accounts had a happy marriage with a common interest in socila issues, culture and, psychotherapy. Influenced by educational renewal movement 'Scuole Nuove', Baroness Franchetti set up the rural schools (Villa Montesca and Rovigliano) to teach the children of farm workers. She founded a school a Città di Castello, central Italy, for the children of peasant familes. The Baron and Baroness were convinced that real cultural change required in the improvement of the social position of both these children and their families. Later Maria Montessori helped her with teacher training. She died in Leysin, Switzerland (1911).

Horace Mann (United States, 1796-1859)

Horace Mann was a pioneer of American public school education. The young American republic was a pioneer in public education and a leadung force in the development of American education. Horace Mann grew up in a time when schools were being opened on the frontier as Americans moved west. The system to finance public education was sketched out in the Northwest Ordinance (1787). The legal basis for public education was established in colonial times. But it was the Northwest Ordinance tht was the key step in American public education. All tracts of public land inclusding one portion where a school could be built. And it was large enough that lnd could be sold to finance the construction of a school. This provided for a school, it did not provide for teachers are the training of the large numbers of teachers eeded for the schools as the Frontier moved West. Anoter problem was that many families could not afford to send their children to school even if there was no school fees. They were needed to work the farm. The experuence of Abraham Lincoln at the time was not uncommon. Most children in the growing cities had ccess to schools, but in rural areas this only developed slowly. Mann himself had only a limited early education, he managed to attended Browns University and study law. He managed to pursue a successful political career. He served as a representative and senator in the Massachusetts state legislature. It was a Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education that he made a lasting contribution to American education. He help found teacher training colleges, free libraries, and a substantional expansion of tax payer financed free public education.

Charlotte Mason (Britain, 1842-1923)

Charlotte Mason was a pioneer of home-based education. Growing up in a class-based British society, Mason had the idea that all children, of all social classes, should have access to a liberal arts education. At the time, Britain lagged behind America and Grmny in public education. Mason wanted to improve teaching methods. She saw the importance of educating parents in areas of discipline and raising children. Tis was at a time that Britain was just beginning to commit to public education. She founded the Parents’ Education Union. She taugh the conceot of the 'living books'. She though that children could best learn through real experiences rther than dry textbooks. Andthe best way to provide those exoerinces was the home. She gave geat emphasis to cultivting the beauty and enjoyment of the arts. She wanted children to study great artists and musicians. Her er educational practices were often best uited to home education and her methods have influenced modern ideas about homeschooling.

Maria Montessori (Italy, 1870-1952)

Maria Montessori was a pioneer of i ndividualized education. Montessori developed teaching methods that are higly regarded by many parents today. She developed alternative education methods for children. She focussed on the early childhood and primary years. She first pursued a medical career. She was the first Italian woman to complete the training to become a doctor. There was at the time still resistance to the idea of women doctors. She was assigned to provide medical care to the patients of a mental institution. It was there that she got to know 'backward' and in the process developed a passion for childhood education. She set up a daycare facility in one of Rome's most dustressed neighborhoods. It was there that she began to put her theories into practice. Her previous medical training affected the methods she developed. She also had an interest in anthropology. She achieved impressive results and today there are Montessori schools around the world.

Berry O'Kelly (United States, 1861/64-1931)

Berry O'Kelly was an African American business man and philanthropist. He was born about 1861/64 in Orange County, North Carolina, so in the early years of his life he was a slave, but probably too young to understand that. He of course would have understand the injustices of the segregated South as he grew up. The family moved Wake County to live with some relatives who had been among the first settlers of Method, a small post-Civil War community West of Raleigh. He grew up there. He became a busnessman. His first job was in a general store in the village, but saved his money and soomn bought the general store. Next he purchased the small general store. He succeeded in bringing a railroad spur to the small village, starting a trans-Atlantic mercantile and warehouse and eventually got into banking. He was a great admiree of Booket T. Washington and wanted to purseue charitable endevors along with his business success. He established the Berry O'Kelly Training School, a school for African-Americans. He began by converting the small village, one room primary school house into a secondary school, a teacher training and boarding school for black students. The boarding school was one of the first rural high schools for African Americans in North Carolina. The Manufacturer's Record newspaper acclaimed the school at Method as the finest training school in the entire South (1917). He help the school obtain accreditation (1922/23), the school became one of only three fully accredited African American high schools in North Carolina.

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (Switzerland, 1746-1827)

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was an imprtant Swiss educational reformer who promoted ideals of the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Johann was born in Zurich (1746). His father was a surgeon and interestingly an oculist, a not so strange combintion in the years before the full rise of science. His fathr died when he was only age 33 years old leaving the family in difficult circumstances. Johann was the second of three children and was only 6 years old when his father died. His father's family had to flee the Locarno area as a result of their Protestantism. His mother's maiden name was Hotze came from Wädenswil on lake of Zürich. The family's maid was Barbara Schmid, affectionally called Babeli. When Johann's father died, Babeli help support the family. Johann attended the Gymnasium, Collegium Humanitatis (1761). Some of his teacers were Johann Jakob Bodmer (history and politics) and Johann Jakob Breitinger (Greek and Hebrew). During the holidays, Johann would often visit his maternal grandfather who was a clergyman in Höngg. He went along when his grandfather visit schools and the houses of parishioners. Johann learned bou the poverty the rural peasantry. He noted thesocial impact of young children going to work in factories rather than ttending school. He also noted the limited value of Catechism schools, many children lft iliterate. It left him with an imression of want, ignorance, suffering, and people with little opportunity. inability to help themselves left an impression on Pestalozzi, an impression that would help formulate his educational ideas. As an educator, He founded schools in German- and French-speaking cantons. He wrote widely on his educationsl ideas, explaining what at the time were revolutionary ideas. His basic motto was "Learning by head, hand and heart". Pestalozzi was a major force in virtually eliminating illiteracy in Switzerland, we think the first country to do so (by 1830).

Jean Piaget (France, 1896-1980)

Jean Piaget was a pioneer in the study of how children actually learn Anyone who has taken a child psychology class will have studied the developmental and learning theories of Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist. Fascinated with how children reasoned, he began researching and writing books on the subject of child psychology. When he later married and fathered three children, he was supplied with enough data to write three more books! His research and subsequent theories have become the basis and foundation of our understanding of normal child development.

Geoffrey Pyke (Britain, 1893-1948)

A British reader tells us that he has been reading about a British scientist named Geoffrey Pyke. He opened a school based on Freudian psychology ideas. The school was the Malting House school in Cambridge (1924-27). Malting House came into being when Pyke was looking at schools for his 3-year old son. He asked a psychoanalyst named James Glover to help find a school which would give his child a truly enlightened upbringing. He wanted a school in which his son would not experience the bullying which he endured at schol. He did not find a school that he thought was suitable for his son. He finally solved the problem by founding his own school. He had a psychologist as head of school. The British mobilized their scintists in World War II and Prime-Minister Churchill took a special interest in their ideas. Pyke was the inventive mind behind Pykrete which during World War II was an idea for inexpensive, unsinkable aircraft carriers built on sawdust infused icebergs. They were never built, but Lord Mountbattan at the First Quebec Confrence (August 1943) almost took out the Allied High Command when he fired pistol rounds into a block of Pykrete to demonstrate its indistructability. He proved his point, but the bullets wizzig around the confrence room could have taken out top Allied commandrs who were very much destructable.

Bernhard Rust (Germany, 1883-1945)

Most educational pioneers are individual who have made very positive contributions to society through their teaching thories and work. This is not the case for all who have been involved in education. The general pattern in Western Civilization beginning with Socrrtes was toward educatig youth to think and to sevelop leaning and study skills seking gow to improve their own lives and society. This was anthetical to the outlook of the great totalitarisn societies of the 20th century (Soviet Communism. Italian Fascism, Japanese Militarism, NAZI Germany, and Chinese Communism). Here leaders presented educators with the answers societly -- Communism and Fascism, relatedc ideological systems. Bernhard Rust was the man Hitler put in charge of turning arguavly the fiesr education system into the world into an ideological factories for NAZIs. We are not aware of the individuals who were given this job in other totalitarian countries. Tragically, all too many techers and orofessorts in in American and Europen schools and individuals have taken it upon themselves the mission of teaching ideologicl constructs rather than the skills needed in free societies to make reasoned judgemnts on public policy

Socrates (Greece, 469-399 BC)

Socrates is the the first educational pioneer known to history. He is also the greatest and founded the principles of Western education that are still revered to this day. Socrates was born in Athens during the Goldren Age and lived almost all of his life there. His father was Sophroniscus, a stonemason. His mother was Phaenarete, a midwife. He showed an early appetite for knowledge. Greece had a developed eductionl system whicg varoed among the city states. He studied the works of the contemporary philosopher, Anaxagoras. He was taught rhetoric by Aspasia, noneother than the gifted mistress of the great Athenian statesman Pericles. Socrates was renounded for walking around Atenes and asking people of all backgrounds about their beliefs, all men, about their beliefs. He especially focused on men seemed to be 'wise' or thoiught themselves wise. He coincluded that men whose reputation for wisdom stood highest were usually the menn mot lcling in it. And that the common people were often the more intelligent. [Plato] The Athenian youth absolutely delighted in watching Socrates question their elders and reducing their argumnts to nonsence. Their parents were none to happy with this. The results of course is that Socretes was put to death. The teaching approach Socretes fonded is today known as the Socratic method. It is a form of dialogue between individuals involving asking questions to stimulate critical thinking and to bring out ideas and assess underlying presumptions. There are not matters than are no open to question and the instructor does not provide students answers or seek to have the participnts arrivd ar precconceived conclusions. Rther the idea is to develop learning and reasining skills.

Rudolf Steiner (Germany, 1861-1925)

A German reader suggests adding Rudolf Steiner and his Waldorf education to the list of eductional pioneers. Waldorf was the name of his school in Stuttgart for the children of workers in a cigarette plant (1919). In many cities and towns, even smaller towns, in Germany there are active Waldorfschulen, from the Kindergarten to the secondary level. World-wide there are more than 1,100 Waldorf schools. We note an Italian school in Milan. Our German reader writes, " In Darmstadt (population about 150,000), for example, where I am living, and in Heidenheim (population about 80,000) where my wife was born you will find such schools. In Heidenheim, a town in the southwest of Germany located between Stuttgart and Munich there is a rather well-known, even internationally, company Voith GmbH & Co. KGaA (a German legal form for companies) with the owner families Voith living following the ideas of Steiner (anthroposophy); they follow the ideas in the management of their company and plant. The ideas of Steiner and the Waldorf education are not generally accepted in Germany. Waldorf pupils and graduates very often are somewhat esoteric.

Booker T. Washington (United States, 1856-1915)

Booker T. Washington was the first importnt African-American educator. White Americas, nostly abolitionists, played an important role in the first schools set of for freed slaves during Reconstruction. Washington was the first Africn American to play an inportant role in African American education. he was born a slave in Virginia, but emancipated as a boy during the Civil War (1865). Washington the leading spokesman of the last generation of African-American leaders born into slavery. His stature is somewhat diminished today among the current generation of African-American leaders who tend to condemn compromise and most admire people who rose up like Nat Turner. Freed slaves especially in the South were disenfranchisement and im Crow discriminatory laws were enacted in the post-Reconstruction South. Both legal and extra-judicial meyhods were used to oppress african americans. This was the regime in which Washington had to work. He saw from an early point the ability of an education to chnge lives. Washington was appointed to head the Tuskegee Institute now called Tuskegee University in Alabama. At the time it was a teacher’s training college for African-Americans in Alabama's segregatd schools. He led Tuskeege from its earliest years until his death. He was the dominant and influential figure for African American betterment. He firmly believed that education was the African-American community’s only real chance for social equality and a prosperous future. One of the real scandals of modern America is the attitude of many African Americans toward education and the refusal of African-American leaders to focus on education as Washingon correctly did.


Plato. Apology 22.


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