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THE SEMINARY FOR SCHOOLMASTERS AT KÖNIGSBERG IN PRUSSIA.
BY W. WITTICH,
From the Quarterly Journal of Education, No. XX.
IN No. XII. of the Journal of Education a general account has been given of the principles and views which directed the Prussian government in establishing and arranging the seminaries for teachers of the lower classes. We shall here show their application, by giving the particulars of one of these institutions; and for this purpose we have chosen the seminary established in the Orphanotrophy of Königsberg, in Eastern Prussia.
We have made choice of this institution for several reasons. First, it is not one of the largest, nor one of the smallest; the number of seminarists amounting last year to forty-three. Secondly, it occupies a conspicuous position in the history of public education in Prussia, being the place in which a number of successive experiments have been made, of which the present system of education is the result. Lastly, its internal arrangement is more complete than that of many other institutions of this description, a school being annexed to it in which those who intend to enter the seminary receive preparatory instruction. We shall therefore prefix a short historical notice of its foundation and progress.
The Orphanotrophy at Königsberg was founded by Frederick III., Duke of Prussia, the same day on which he declared his dukedom to be a kingdom, and caused himself to be crowned king, under the name of Frederick the First.
of January, 1701.
This event took place on the 18th According to the statutes of the foundation, twenty-four orphans were to receive an education in this institution. This number was in course of time increased to upwards of fifty, and then again reduced to thirty. The boys admitted were, according to the intention of the founder, not to receive exclusively a classical education; but as at that time the education of the middle and lower classes had been very little attended to, a middle course, something between mere spelling and a classical instruction, was hardly known. But the funds, which were provided by the founder, and increased by his successors, were abundantly sufficient for the maintenance of two classical teachers. Accordingly it happened that the original intention of the founder was soon departed from, and the whole system of instruction was modelled on that of a grammar-school. In this form it existed for more than a century, and attained a certain degree of repute, a considerable number of learned and useful men having received their education in it between 1701 and 1809.
In 1809, however, the institution underwent a total change. After the unsuccessful war with France, which was terminated by the peace of Tilsit, the Prussian government, intending to raise the energy of the nation by an internal impulse, began to direct their attention to the education of the lower classes. Pestalozzi had many years before begun his useful labours, and his fame was then at its height. The Prussian government
thought that their object would be best attained by transplanting his method of instructing the lower classes into the kingdom, and diffusing it through all the elementary schools. With this view one normal school was thought necessary, and perhaps sufficient; and among all the then existing institutions, the Orphanotrophy at Königsberg was selected as the most suitable for the establishment of such a normal school.
As the normal school then established in the Orphanotrophy was the first active step which government took for the improvement of the instruction of the lower classes, it may perhaps be interesting to know some particulars respecting its arrangement. According to the plan of the government, an indefinite number of boys were to receive their education here after the method of Pestalozzi; and those of them who showed talent and inclination for teaching others were to be employed as teachers, so that in this respect the institution might be considered as a seminary of teachers for the lower classes. But at the same time it was to serve as a means of perfecting the method of Pestalozzi, and of diffusing it through all the Prussian territories. For the latter purpose the rectors and vicars, who all through Prussia are charged with the direction and superintendence of the middling and elementary schools, were invited to attend the instruction given in the institution; and the head and director was to deliver lectures to them on the principles of the method of Pestalozzi, and on the subjects which were to be taught in the lower schools. Lastly, it was intended that the most able of the teachers who had been employed in this institution, and had made themselves thoroughly acquainted with
its methods, should establish similar institutions in the other provinces of the kingdom.
Mr. Zeller was charged with the execution of this extensive plan, who, from his enthusiasm, zeal, activity, and knowledge of the method of Pestalozzi, seemed to be perfectly qualified for the great task of reform; and undoubtedly he would have performed the task, had he possessed a sufficient knowledge of human nature. But his efforts not being directed by this most essential knowledge, his zeal and activity were rather detrimental to the cause which he had undertaken. He changed everything in the then existing forms of education: most of these changes were mere trifles; and some of them quite puerile. Some very important branches of instruction he abolished or entirely neglected, substituting for them others of little or no importance. Thus in the course of the first year it became evident that the expectations of government with respect to this institution. were completely frustrated. The efforts of government for the improvement of the education of the lower classes would thus have proved entirely abortive, and perhaps this great object would have been abandoned in despair, but for one circumstance. The rectors and vicars, as well as the teachers of the upper schools, had been invited by government to attend the instruction of the normal school and the lectures of Mr. Zeller for a month, and accordingly 102 clergymen and 81 teachers had availed themselves of this offer. The minds of all these persons had been excited and roused by this opportunity, and without adhering strictly to what they had seen or heard, many of them, who were men of considerable talent and knowledge, used their own good
sense, and began to introduce changes into the schools under their direction, and to urge government to proceed in their plans. Thus it may be truly said, that out of this attempt, which in its immediate consequences proved a complete failure, the present improved state of education in Prussia took its rise.
As soon as the inefficiency of Zeller's exertions was fairly proved, the institution underwent another change, which brought it much nearer to the present arrangement of the seminaries. It was ordered that the pupils, whenever they showed talent and inclination for teaching, should be instructed in the institution up to their eighteenth year, and then sent to some of the most intelligent clergymen, who were to employ them as assistants in the elementary schools till they had completed their twentieth or twenty-first year, when they might become schoolmasters. But this plan was not long adhered to, as, in the mean time, attempts had been made to establish seminaries for schoolmasters in other places, and these attempts had been more successful. A way was thus pointed out, by following which it seemed probable that undertakings of this description would be attended with such results as government desired. Those institutions therefore in which unsuccessful attempts had been tried were by degrees reduced to the form of those which promised a fair success, and among these was the Orphanotrophy of Königsberg.
This seminary has the advantage, as already mentioned, of having connected with it a preparatory school.
It owes this advantage to its having been ingrafted on a charitable institution which previously existed; for such a preparatory school is not considered as a necessary part of a seminary, and most seminaries in fact are not