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Froebel, Friedrich Wilhelm August (1782–1852)

Froebel, Friedrich Wilhelm August (17821852)


Childhood education pioneer Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel was born at Oberweissbach in the Thuringia region of Germany. (Froebel is the English form of the German surname Fröbel.) Just as his last name was translated from his native language, his ideas and educational practices were adapted to a variety of international settings. Froebel's greatest contribution to the care and education of young children, however, was his invention called the kindergarten.

The principal accounts of Froebel's life were written either by himself or by his supporters. Most of these biographies draw extensively upon his correspondence, contain religious language, and present Froebel in an uncritical, sometimes hagiographical, manner. The accounts highlight Froebel's unhappy early childhood experiences, describing them as influencing his thoughts and actions as an adult. The most lasting of Froebel's contributions to early childhood education is his insistence that its curriculum be based on play. Although Froebel was not the first to recognize that play could be instructive, he did synthesize existing educational theories with innovative ideas of his own. He was not a very clear thinker, however; his writing is sometimes difficult to follow unless the reader interprets it in the context of German Romanticism, Idealist philosophy, and Naturphilosophie, or Nature Philosophy. These intellectual concepts heavily influenced Froebel. He read works by the German poet Novalis (17721801) and the German philosophers Johann Gottlieb Fichte (17621814), Karl Krause (17811832), and Friedrich Schelling (17751854).

Froebel applied his so-called spherical philosophy to education and it, rather than empirical observation, guided his work. Because of his strong religious beliefs, some educators have argued that his approach is more accurately described as mystical rather than philosophical. His method was to counterpose opposites that would then be resolved through the mediation of a third element. For example, Froebel held that mind and matter, although opposites, are both subject to the same laws of nature in which God, the third element, is immanent. Another triad he used in relation to the child was unity, diversity, and individuality. Each child would spontaneously represent these elements, a process he referred to as all-sided, self-activity. This is the context of his statement that "play is the self-active representation of the inner from inner necessity."

Like the seventeenth-century Moravian bishop and educator Johann Amos Comenius, Froebel thought that all personal development came from within. Therefore, he asserted that the task of the teacher was to provide the conditions for growth without intervening too much in the learning process. Froebel presented these ideas in his 1826 book The Education of Man. In this philosophical work, Froebel explains the aims and principles of his first school at Keilhau and describes the characteristics of the stages of boyhood(never girlhood). Like the revolutionary Swiss-born French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (17121778), Froebel believed that education should be adapted to the needs and requirements of each stage. Also, like Rousseau, he advocated that teaching should follow nature, avoiding arbitrary interference in the life of the young child. Contrary to many religious beliefs at the time, this naturalist approach asserted that every child is born good.

After childhood the youngster begins school, and Froebel devoted a chapter to describing the subjects he thought appropriate for this stage. This discussion owes much to the theories of Swiss educator, Johann Pestalozzi (17461827), whose work Froebel observed when he visited Pestalozzi's Yverdon Institute between 1808 and 1810. In the final part of his book, Froebel talks of the necessity of unity between the school and the family, thereby emphasizing the notion that education is most effective when the school and family complement each other.

Near the end of his life, Froebel turned his attention to the family and the education of young children through play. He invented his famous educational toys, which he called gifts, a graded series of wooden blocks together with a sphere and a cylinder. Later, he added learning activities, which he called occupations, such as paper-folding and -cutting, weaving, and clay modeling. At Blankenburg in 1837, Froebel gave the name kindergarten to his system of education foryoung children.

In 1843, Froebel published a book entitled Mother's Songs, Games and Stories. This was his most popular book; as the title suggests, it described action songs and finger plays (together with their musical notation) woodcut illustrations, and guidance on how to present the songs as well as the meanings that could be derived from them. The book's content was based in part on Froebel's observations of mothers singing to their children. Froebel wanted to help women educate their infants more effectively as a prerequisite for a better society. Many middle-class women in Germany and elsewhere, including the United States, opened kindergartens and used Froebel's methods to educate their children.

Educators have long debated the nature of the relationship between Froebel's philosophy and his pedagogy. While the gifts and occupations and games may not have been logically entailed by his philosophy, without it many teachers resorted to formalism and mechanical imitation. For the most part, his attempts to persuade public schools to adopt the kindergarten saw only limited success during his lifetime. After his death, however, his ideas and practices spread rapidly; other educators came to agree with Froebel's belief in the importance of early childhood education.

See also: Child Development, History of the Concept of; Education, Europe; Education, United States; Progressive Education; Theories of Play.

bibliography

Bowen, H. C. 1893. Froebel and Education by Self-Activity. London: William Heinemann.

Brehony, Kevin J., ed. 2001. The Origins of Nursery Education: Friedrich Froebel and the English System. 6 vols. London: Routledge.

Shapiro, M. S. 1983. Child's Garden: The Kindergarten Movement from Froebel to Dewey. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Wollons, R. L., ed. 2000. Kindergartens and Cultures: The Global Diffusion of an Idea. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Kevin J. Brehony

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"Froebel, Friedrich Wilhelm August (1782–1852)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Froebel, Friedrich Wilhelm August (1782–1852)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/froebel-friedrich-wilhelm-august-1782-1852

Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel

Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel

Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel (1782-1852) wasa German educator and psychologist who was a pioneer of the kindergarten system and influenced the growth of the manual training movement in education.

Friedrich Froebel was born on April 21, 1782, in Oberweissbach, a small village in Thuringia. His father was a Lutheran minister. His mother died 9 months after his birth. In 1797 Froebel was apprenticed to a forester in Thuringia. Two years later, while visiting his brother, Froebel took some courses at the University of Jena.

In 1801 Froebel returned home to be with his ailing father. After his father's death the following year he became a clerk in the forestry department of the state of Bamburg. From 1804 to 1805 he served as a private secretary to several noblemen.

Teaching Career

The year 1805 marked a turning point in Froebel's life. He went to Frankfurt intending to become an architect but instead ended up teaching in a preparatory school. The effect of this teaching experience on Froebel was such that he decided to make education his life's work. In 1808 he went to Yverdon, Switzerland, where he tutored boys attending Johann Pestalozzi's institute. Feeling somewhat lacking in his own educational background, he left Yverdon in 1811 and studied at the universities of Göttingen and Berlin until 1816. During this period he briefly served in the army raised by the German states to oppose Napoleon.

In 1816 Froebel opened the Universal German Educational Institute at Keilham, a school based on his own educational theories. Its curriculum was comprehensive in nature, covering all aspects of the student's growth and development—both physical and mental. In 1818 he married Henrietta Hoffmeister.

In Froebel's major educational work, The Education of Man (1826), he explained the basic philosophy which guided his educational undertakings—the unity of all things in God. This doctrine is evident in his work in the area of early-childhood education, to which he turned his attention in 1836. This culminated in the development of his famous kindergarten in 1840. That same year Froebel began to instruct teachers in the principles and methods of the kindergarten. His Mutterund Koselieder (1843) is a song and picture book for children. He spent the remainder of his life elaborating, propagandizing, and defending the principles and practices embodied in the kindergarten.

In 1849, after spending approximately 5 years touring Germany and spreading the idea of the kindergarten, Froebel settled in Liebenstein. He spent the remainder of his life combating conservative forces critical of his educational theories. These forces managed in 1851 to get the Prussian government to ban the kindergarten on the grounds that it was an atheistic and socialistic threat to the state. This action was based not so much on what Froebel had done but rather on his followers' misrepresentation of his educational ideas. He did what he could to restore confidence in his kindergarten but died on June 21, 1852, some 8 years before the ban was lifted by the Prussian government.

The Kindergarten

This preschool experience for children grew out of Froebel's belief that man is essentially part of the total universe that is God. He felt that the only way for one to become one's real self, as God intended, was through the natural unfolding of the innate qualities that made up the whole person. This process should begin as soon as possible and under as natural conditions as possible. The program encouraged free activity, so that forces within the child could be released; creativeness, since man, being part of the creative God, should also create; social participation, since man must by nature act in society (a departure from Rousseau); and motor expression, which is related to activity and learning by doing.

Analysis of Educational Theories

The favorable aspects of his view of the kindergarten lie in Froebel's emphasis on the child, the view that education is growth, the recognition of the importance of activity in education, and the position that knowledge is not the end of education. Less favorable in terms of modern thought is the heavy emphasis he placed on object teaching. Froebel believed in an almost mystical way that an object could in some way create symbolic meaning for a child (for example, association with a ball teaches the meaning of unity). In later years the use of objects was to become a formalized and fixed part of the kindergarten curriculum. The "unfolding of innate qualities" in a mystical manner has also been criticized as being unscientific.

Further Reading

For an account of Froebel see his Autobiography (trans. 1886).For insight into the early growth of the kindergarten in the United States see Nina C. Vandewalker, The Kindergarten in American Education (1908). William Boyd, The History of Western Education (1921; 8th ed. 1966), and James Mulhern, A History of Secondary Education in Pennsylvania (1933), both place the kindergarten in relation to other educational developments. □

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Froebel, Friedrich Wilhelm August

Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel (frā´bəl, frō´–, Ger. frē´drĬkh vĬl´hĕlm ou´gŏŏst frö´bəl), 1782–1852, German educator and founder of the kindergarten system. He had an unhappy childhood and very little formal schooling, learning what he could from wide reading and close observation of nature; he studied for a short time at the Univ. of Jena. He was studying architecture at Frankfurt (1805) when he was persuaded by the master of the model school at Frankfurt to become a teacher. He visited Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi at Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland, and then returned to Germany to study at the universities of Göttingen and Berlin. In 1813 he joined Lützow's free corps and saw active service in the Napoleonic Wars. While serving in the army he met Heinrich Langethal and Wilhelm Middendorff, with whom he was associated throughout the rest of his career. He returned to the Univ. of Berlin in 1814 and was given a position in the school's mineralogical museum. In 1816 he founded at Griesheim a school (later moved to Keilhau) called the Universal German Educational Institute where other teachers came to study his methods. Early in 1837 he went to Bad Blankenburg (near Keilhau), where he opened the first kindergarten. In 1849 he founded a kindergarten training school at Liebenstein. However, Froebel was unable to control constant disputes among his subordinates, and after a group of former associates accused him of propagating treason, the government issued an edict (1851) forbidding the establishment of kindergartens. The measure was repealed in 1860. Froebel was influenced greatly by the philosophy of Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling. His theories of education are based on a belief in the divine unity of nature, so that spiritual training is a fundamental principle. Froebel stressed the importance of pleasant surroundings, self-activity, and physical training in the development of the child. His most important work is Menschenerziehung (1826; tr. The Education of Man, 1877). The translation by Susan Blow of his Mutter-und Kose-Lieder (1844) is called Mother Play (1895). Other works translated into English are Letters on the Kindergarten (1891), Froebel's Chief Writings on Education (1912), and his fragmentary autobiography. His name is also written Fröbel.

See biographies by A. B. Hanschmann (tr. 1897) and H. C. Bowen (1903, repr. 1970); W. H. Kilpatrick, Froebel's Kindergarten Principles (1916); N. Brosterman, Inventing Kindergarten (1997).

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Froebel, Friedrich Wilhelm August

Froebel, Friedrich Wilhelm August (1782–1852) German educator and influential educational theorist. His main interest was in pre-school age children and, in 1841, he opened the first kindergarten. He stressed the importance of pleasant surroundings, self-directed activity, physical training, and play in the development of the child.

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