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The Elements of General Method Based on the Principles of Herbart   By: (1857-1929)

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E text prepared by Al Haines


Based on the Principles of Herbart.



Second Edition

Public School Publishing Co., Publishers, Bloomington, Illinois. 1893 Copyright, 1893. By C. A. McMurry, Normal, Ill.


The Herbart School of Pedagogy has created much stir in Germany in the last thirty years. It has developed a large number of vigorous writers on all phases of education and psychology, and numbers a thousand or more positive disciples among the energetic teachers of Germany.

Those American teachers and students who have come in contact with the ideas of this school have been greatly stimulated.

In such a miscellaneous and many sided thing as practical education, it is deeply gratifying to find a clear and definite leading purpose that prevails throughout and a set of mutually related and supporting principles which in practice contribute to the realization of this purpose.

The following chapters cannot be regarded as a full, exact, and painfully scientific account of Herbartian ideas, but as a simple explanation of their leading principles in their relations to each other and in their application to our own school problems.

In the second edition the last chapter of the first edition has been omitted, while the other chapters have been much modified and enlarged. The chapter on the Formal Steps is reserved for enlargement and publication in a separate form.

Normal, Ill., November 4, 1893.


CHAPTER I. The Chief Aim of Education

CHAPTER II. Relative Value of Studies

CHAPTER III. Nature of Interest

CHAPTER IV. Concentration

CHAPTER V. Induction

CHAPTER VI. Apperception


CHAPTER VIII. Herbart and His Disciples Books of Reference



What is the central purpose of education? If we include under this term all the things commonly assigned to it, its many phases as represented by the great variety of teachers and pupils, the many branches of knowledge and the various and even conflicting methods in bringing up children, it is difficult to find a definition sufficiently broad and definite to compass its meaning. In fact we shall not attempt in the beginning to make a definition. We are in search not so much of a comprehensive definition as of a central truth, a key to the situation, an aim that will simplify and brighten all the work of teachers. Keeping in view the end from the beginning, we need a central organizing principle which shall dictate for teacher and pupil the highway over which they shall travel together.

We will assume at least that education means the whole bringing up of a child from infancy to maturity, not simply his school training. The reason for this assumption is that home, school, companions, environment, and natural endowment, working through a series of years, produce a character which is a unit as the resultant of these different influences and growths. Again, we are compelled to assume that this aim, whatever it is, is the same for all.

Now what will the average man, picked up at random, say to our question: What is the chief end in the education of your son? A farmer wishes his boy to read, write, and cipher, so as to meet successfully the needs of a farmer's life. The merchant desires that his boy get a wider reach of knowledge and experience so as to succeed in a livelier sort of business competition. A university professor would lay out a liberal course of training for his son so as to prepare him for intellectual pursuits among scholars and people of culture. This utilitarian view, which points to success in life in the ordinary sense, is the prevailing one. We could probably sum up the wishes of a great majority of the common people by saying, "They desire to give their children, through education, a better chance in life than they themselves have had." Yet even these people, if pressed to give reasons, would admit that the purely utilitarian view is a low one and that there is something better for every boy and girl than the mere ability to make a successful living... Continue reading book >>

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