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Salzmann, Christian Gotthilf (1744–1811)

Salzmann, Christian Gotthilf (17441811)


Christian Gotthilf Salzmann, a German theologian, education reformer, and writer, was born in Sömmerda, Germany, in 1744, and died in Schnepfenthal, Germany, in 1811. Salzmann began his pedagogical literary activity while he was still a vicar, but in 1780 went to Dessau to become employed by Johann B. Basedow in his famous school, the Philanthropinum, and helped develop the school's pedagogy (known as philanthropinism ). Philanthropinism was characterized by an ideal of a loving relationship of trust between children and adults and by the idea that the education should take place joyfully and playfully, complying with the course of nature in the education of the child (influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau) and its followers were known as Philanthropinists. In 1784, Salzmann resigned from the Philanthropinum to start his own boarding school in Schnepfenthal. He believed that the school should take the form of a family, and the educator should first and foremost set a good example for his students. Salzmann put much weight on the unfolding of the powers of observation and the abilities of the children to use their intellect as well as the development of their morality. For him it was a fundamental educational principle to start with what was closest to the child, and thus move from the visible to the nonvisible, from things near to things farther away, and from the concrete to the abstract. Finally, physical education was seen as very important, and Salzmann upheld a focus on health, gymnastics, and manual work (woodwork, gardening, etc.) in his teaching.

Together with Basedow, J. H. Campe, and Fr. E. von Rochow, Salzmann was one of the most important thinkers among the Philanthropinists, and his significance to the pedagogical debate of his day and to the pedagogical practice went far beyond the German-speaking countries. His influence was partly due to his writings, and partly due to his school in Schnepfenthal, which was visited by many teachers and tutors who studied his pedagogy. He also strongly influenced the well-known physical education reformer at Schnepfenthal, Johann GutsMuths.

Salzmann's many works in the educational field can be divided into at least two groups: education manuals and pedagogical novels. In his education manuals, Salzmann speaks ironically of the common mistakes in the education of the time which only implants bad qualities in the children, gives instructions on how to provide what he considered a suitable education, and points out the necessity of educating the educator. In his pedagogical novels, Salzmann's pedagogical ideals are couched in lively stories about the way of life and condition of life in the different classes of the old social order. Thus, the novel Carl von Carlsberg mainly portrays the conditions of life among the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, while books like Conrad Kiefer describe the sensible or rational education of peasant children. Finally, Salzmann was deeply concerned about the dangers of masturbation which he saw as one of the great diseases of civilization leading to physical as well as mental illnesses.

See also: Education, Europe.

Signe Mellemgaard

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