Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi’s life and his top 5 finest quotes.

pestalozzi wisdom
Pestalozzi wisdom

At this festive time of year it seems fitting to reflect on our namesake, the great man Pestalozzi, the father of modern education, to whom we owe a great deal: our ethos and educational framework and some timeless words from his musings.

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746 -1827) wrote a lot. He had many articles published in newspapers and he even wrote 239 ‘fables’, nearly all very short and containing a striking or original truth about morality, education, society or politics. 
Since he didn’t formally record his work, he simply scribbled down his ideas as they occurred to him. This is one of the reasons he is not as well known as he deserves to be. He provided several insightful remarks about life in his collection of writings, which are now quotes for us to ponder. See below.

Here is a very brief story about his life and career…

Pestalozzi’s career was not a prosperous one. Because of how poorly his first sermon as a clergyman went, it was suggested that he become a lawyer instead. But he had made too many enemies fighting for justice and exposing corruption, to be able to sustain such a career!

Despite Pestalozzi’s long list of professional failures, he was a good man with a big heart, and he went on to dedicate his life to the welfare of others, especially children.
Pestalozzi was deeply tormented by the sufferings he saw children living under, from their extreme poverty, to the failings he saw of their school educations.

Pestalozzi believed that children would learn best and thrive in whatever circumstances they found themselves in, if their learning encompassed more than academia and included the moral– love and motivation to help others, and physical– practical life skills. Therefore a full education needed to engage the Head, Heart, and Hands.
‘Give children access to knowledge in such a way that they form free spirits liberated by knowledge’. Quote from Colégio Interativo Pestalozzi

And he was right.

He created a research institute and school specialising in the education of children and proved his methods could work – he began educating six year olds and in eight months he had not only taught the children to read perfectly, but also to write, draw and understand arithmetic. He applied this same principles to students of all ages, and the outcome was the same.

Educationalists at the time were astounded by his achievements, and his work forced people in power to pay attention to how children were educated. He democratised education proclaiming it to be an absolute right of all children, and crucially that educators needed to be educated – Pestalozzi saw teaching as a subject worth studying in its own right and therefore is why he became known as the father of pedagogy. Slowly his methods became the basis of the education system in Switzerland and across Europe.

He transformed how children were educated and he became known as the ‘Father of Modern Education’ and many famous educators, such as Maria Montessori, show his influence and his principles are still successfully used to this day. And of course, this charity uses his ethos and methods to underpin all of the work we carry out in our Pestalozzi Villages. (for further reading click here)

The life of Pestalozzi is a wonderful example to remember the true meaning of Christmas since, although he revolutionised education, it was the manner he lived that was truly humble; he gave everything he had to help others.

Legend has it…
‘He would give money to every beggar he walked past, to the point that when he himself became so poor that he had no money left, he gave his silver shoe buckles instead.’

(Interestingly Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843) was written only 16 years after Pestalozzi’s death, and is the book best known for observing the true meaning of Christmas!)

Merry Christmas!

If you would like to discover more about the history of Johann Hendrich Pestalozzi please head to our dedicated website:

If you would like to read further about the history of the Pestalozzi World charity please head to think link:

The History of Pestalozzi World.

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