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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 36

The Kindergarten — Engrafted on the American Public-School System at St. Louis, Mo

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The Kindergarten

Engrafted on the American Public-School System

sword and quill

New York: E. Steiger, 1877.

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* * *I have long been of opinion that what we especially want in England is a just estimate of elementary education; meaning by that term what Pestalozzi and Fröbel meant—the earliest stage in the cultivation of children's minds. In England this conception is generally confounded with that of elementary instruction, with which it is, strictly speaking, but remotely connected; and hence all our efforts are directed to instruction, while education or culture is extensively neglected. Instruction — that is, the systematic imparting of definite knowledge — should be the sequel, not the precursor, of the training of the intellectual powers which are to be employed upon the acquisition. In other words, the object of elementary education is to develop the natural faculties, that of elementary instruction to apply them. It would be easy to show this : if we make instruction our chief aim, we necessarily introduce dogmatic, didactic teaching, which, as a rule, depresses the native powers; whereas if we make education — that is, cultivation — our chief aim, we elicit the native powers, and make the best of them. * * *

* * * The adoption of Pestalozzi's principles by the Governments of Prussia, Saxony, Baden, Würtemberg. etc. , has only been a matter of time, and to their adoption we may fairly ascribe the enlightened teaching, with its excellent results, in the common schools of Germany. When the different States shall add (as Saxony has done) F. Fröbel's methods to those of Pestalozzi, the arrangements for elementary education will probably be as complete as it is possible for ordinary human ingenuity to make them. * * *

(Joseph Payne. A Visit to German Schools. London, 1876.)

Press of E STEIGER, N. Y.

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The Kindergarten
Engrafted on the American Public-School System
at St. Louis, Mo.

1. Extract from President Thomas Richeson's Report of the Board of Public Schools, for the year ending July 31., 1875.

* * * The cost of suppressing crime in our community is very nearly equal to the amount expended for education. The wisdom of expending half a million per annum in educating the youth into intelligent and useful citizens will commend itself even to the most sordid, when the fact is perceived that such expenditure saves a large outlay that becomes necessary to check criminal propensity, which grows up in a community where ignorance and indolence prevail. Statistics of jails and penitentiaries prove very clearly that ignorance is the parent of most of the crime which is apprehended and punished. It is ignorance on the one hand of books, and on the other it is ignorance of a trade or useful employment by which one may earn an honest living. The discipline into habits of regularity, obedience, and industry is the chief means by which the school strengthens the character, and prevents crime. The mere knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic is of far less value.

The question how far public education should attempt to fit the future citizen for the arts and trades, has often been considered in educational reports. Perhaps the question receives its practical answer in the introduction of industrial drawing into the schools throughout the country. This branch is by far the most generally applicable of all species of industrial training. All varieties of manufacture demand skill in giving shape and graceful contour to raw page 2 material. The education of the taste, and of the hand and eye, that the universal study of drawing will give, is certain to work in favor of our manufacturing interests.* * *

The support of Common Schools by public taxation is the needed recognition which capital is in duty bound to pay to labor. Ignorance docs not know what it stands most in need of, and cannot be expected to discover and apply the right means for its own amelioration. The poor and ignorant understand very imperfectly the relation of education to power, and they are too closely pursued by immediate necessities to adopt the far-seeing policy of investing their small earnings in the education of their children.

The rising generation are fed and clothed and housed by the industry of their parents at an annual expense of from one hundred to five hundred dollars a year. The cost of education in the Public Schools averages twenty-two dollars a year. This small sum serves to utilize the vast sums expended in the support of youth. The era of childhood is the era of capitalizing physical and mental force for manhood. Where there are no schools, the youth lay up a capital of evil propensities, narrow superstitions, and depraved tastes. Where the schools are good, the youth that attend them convert into capital a fund of scientific knowledge and habits of industry and punctuality, and of obedience to rule. This difference can be measured in dollars and cents, and seen in the value of real-estate investment in a community, as well as also by the higher moral standards usually applied to determine the results of culture in civilization. Statistics widely collected by the National Bureau of Education give the testimony of experience in different parts of the country as to the increase in value which a Common-School education gives to labor. The simple ability to read and write, and make arithmetical calculations, insures an average of twenty-five to fifty per cent, better wages than are given to illiterate laborers. The complete Common-School education adds from fifty to page 3 one hundred per cent, to the wages. Education gives availability and directive power.

It is in its industrial aspect chiefly that our recent experiments in Kindergarten education promise the most satisfactory results. At a tender age, when the child is plastic in his nature, and easily moulded in any direction, he commences a training adapted to give him great skill in the use of his hands and eyes. In various kinds of delicate manipulations—weaving, building, folding, drawing, modelling in clay, etc.—the perception of form is developed, and taste in design and skill in execution are trained in the most powerful manner. The influence of the Kindergarten will be felt on all subsequent education. The early impulse given to mechanical skill and to taste, in regard to form and design, in the Kindergarten, reinforced by a thorough course of instruction in industrial drawing in the primary and grammar schools, is sufficient to work a revolution in the manufactures of the country, and cause our goods to obtain the preference in foreign as well as domestic markets. The success of our Kindergartens has been assured through the devotion and enthusiasm of Miss Susie E. Blow, who has undertaken gratuitously to train our teachers and instruct them in the practical details of the system by example as well as precept.* * *

2. Extract from Superintendent W. T. Harris' Report.

The Kindergarten.

The experiment of establishing a Kindergarten in South St. Louis, at the Des Peres School, in the year 1872—73, having succeeded beyond expectations under the able management of Miss Blow, it was resolved to try the experiment in two schools near the centre of the town. Accordingly, the Divoll and the Everett Schools were selected, and a room page 4 in each was placed under the charge of a teacher who had received training under Miss Blow as an assistant the previous year. From two to five assistants have been allowed each "director" or manager of a Kindergarten. No compensation, as yet, has been necessary in order to secure the services of able assistants. They volunteer in large numbers to teach for one year gratuitously for the sake of the opportunity of learning how to conduct a Kindergarten.

The experiment at the Divoll and Everett Schools proved successful. It was hoped that the children of the very poor would be brought to the Kindergarten, inasmuch as the peculiar power of the new institution to elevate, and regenerate as it were, was relied upon to work great results where its influences were most needed. Cleanliness, manual skill, taste in ornament and design, politeness and courtesy, are the very virtues needing cultivation first among the indigent. But, as in all educational matters, the intelligent and well-to-do were foremost in appreciating the Kindergarten and in entering their children to enjoy its benefits. Ignorance cannot be left to itself to provide its own remedy—directive intelligence must first show the way. There has been certain improvement in this respect, and when the afternoon Kindergarten was opened at the Everett School, the ultimate success of the experiment in this direction was no longer in doubt.

The primary difficulty in the way of engrafting the Kindergarten on a system of public schools is its expensiveness. This objection has to be overcome first. In St. Louis we have not met the objection in its full force, for the reason that a plenty of assistants have been found, as above mentioned, to volunteer their services without compensation, for the opportunity of learning the art. We have had only the expense of the director. Inasmuch as the daily session of a Kindergarten ought not to exceed three or three and a half hours, there is time for a second session in the afternoon, with different pupils. The room and apparatus is thus page 5 utilized to twice the extent. Again, if one director could supervise both Kindergartens—morning and afternoon—a better salary could be paid her and yet the cost of tuition would not be increased exorbitantly. As before shown in this Report, the average tuition in the Public Schools, including the District, High and Normal, amounts to about $19, and the cost of incidentals is 82.50 extra. The tuition in the Primary Schools is $12.50 per annum and less. The salary given the director of a morning Kindergarten is $500. If her average attendance is 50 pupils, the tuition will cost only 810. The salary of $800 was offered for the director who would manage both morning and afternoon Kindergartens, but as yet no one has been found equal to the task; the drain on the physical system is too great. Accordingly the afternoon Kindergarten is conducted by a different director. Cheapness of tuition depends upon the number of pupils taught by the teacher, as well as upon the salary paid. If one director could manage a Kindergarten with 100 children in attendance—seated at four tables—her salary might be placed at $800, and $400 distributed among three or four assistants.

At present the tables used in the Kindergarten seat about 16 pupils when full, and the percentage ordinarily absent reduces the number to 13 or 14. An assistant at $200, having the control of 20 pupils only, costs each pupil a tuition of $10 per annum. Tables of double this size have been suggested, and probably will be adopted for the sake of economy.

As the material used by the pupils for their work—sticks, peas, drawing books, colored paper for weaving, clay for modelling, worsted for sewing, etc., etc.—is quite expensive, the bill for incidentals is large, and there is no way of leaving each pupil to purchase his own material as the pupils in the higher grades purchase their books and stationery.

The friends of the system claim, very justly, that true economy is to be measured not by cost alone, but by the page 6 amount and quality of the education that is purchased. They point to the superiority of Kindergarten training, and demand that it shall be introduced everywhere, because so much more valuable than any other. There will be, notwithstanding, great difficulty in persuading a School Board to pay $10 for the education of a child in his fourth or fifth year, when he can be taught in his seventh or eighth year for $12. The financial problem is, therefore, a vital one in the establishment of public Kindergartens. I have no question as to their great success under reasonably competent and well-trained teachers, to produce the following results: (1) Good physical development; (2) quickness of invention and fertility of imagination; (3) a keen sense of symmetry and harmony; (4) great mechanical skill in the use of the hands; (5) ability to form rapid judgments in number, measure, and size at a glance of the eye; (6) initiation into the conventionalities of polite society in their demeanor towards their fellows, and in the matters of eating, drinking, and personal cleanliness.

In this connection the following report* of Miss Blow will be read with great interest:

Wm. T. Harris

, Esq., Supt. of Public Schools.

Sir,—With the view of testing more thoroughly the possible merits of Froebel's system of early education, the School Board, in the fall of 1874, authorized the opening of Kindergartens in the Divoll and Everett Schools. These page 5 Kindergartens having had a satisfactory measure of success in the summer of 1875, it was decided to open new ones in the Webster, Franklin, Carroll and Carondelet Schools. At the present time, therefore, there are Kindergartens connected with seven schools. In five of these schools, the Kindergartens have two sessions, or, more accurately speaking, there are two Kindergartens, taught by different teachers and attended by different children.

The whole number of pupils regularly attending these Kindergartens is 457; the average number to each Kindergarten is 38; the average number to each school building is 65; the average per cent, of attendance is 85. The largest number of children belonging to any single Kindergarten is 51, and the highest per cent, of attendance is 92.

The work thus far accomplished in the Kindergartens is, of course, very imperfect. The graduate of a Normal School is not necessarily and immediately a good teacher, nor does the completion of a prescribed course of training constitute a Kindergartener. Experience and independent work alone can enable any one to grasp the relation of theory and practice, and to learn the bearing of general principles on small details. The teachers now directing the Kindergartens are fully conscious of the partial and inadequate character of their work. They are their own most severe judges. They see most clearly their own short-comings, and with an earnestness and steady determination, worthy of the warmest praise, are striving to approximate gradually to a higher standard.

I ask then for the existing Kindergartens a relative rather than an absolute judgment; and I claim that their imperfections are due, not to any inherent defects in the system of Froebel, but to the general reasons which everywhere cause the wide and often disheartening contrast between the ideal and the actual, the desirable and the attainable. What the Kindergarten needs is time to develop its possibilities; and it is a very encouraging fact, that in the neighborhoods page 8 where Kindergartens have been longest established and most thoroughly tested, the interest in the system is deepest and most general. This, I think, shows conclusively, that our schools are not mere play schools, charming only by their novelty, but that they do secure results, which commend them to thoughtful and impartial observers, and that they have in them that principle of organic life, whose surest manifestation is gradual development.

The Des Peres Kindergarten alone has been in existence long enough to promote any considerable number of its pupils. With a view to testing the effects of the system upon the subsequent development of the children, I have carefully questioned the teachers of the Des Peres School upon the conduct and intelligence of the pupils promoted from the Kindergarten, and have their authority for stating the following facts:

I. The Kindergarten children submit more readily to school discipline than do children received directly into the primary room. This testimony I consider very important, as it practically disposes of the argument urged in many quarters, that the comparative freedom of the Kindergarten tends to unfit pupils for the regular school. Facts, thus far, indicate that the reverse is true, and prove the Kindergarten to be, as its advocates claim, a healthy transition from the family to the school. If any Kindergarten should promote to the primary room disorderly and insubordinate children, the fault would lie with the individual teacher, and not in the system.

II. The average intelligence of the Kindergarten pupils is greatly superior to that of children who enter school without previous training. They observe accurately, seize ideas rapidly and definitely, illustrate readily, and work independently. Thus far, the promoted pupils of the Kindergarten have led every class into which they have been received, and the teacher who has the greatest number of page 9 them under her charge tells me that the best of them learn so rapidly as to constantly exceed the work required.

III. In addition to superior general development, the Kindergarten children show special aptitude for arithmetic, drawing and natural science; have quick comprehension of language, and express their own ideas with accuracy and fluency.

That these are precisely the results which Froebel's followers claim should follow the correct application of his system, only make them the more gratifying. They indicate, that, however inadequate in degree, the work has been right in direction, and are an earnest of still more satisfactory fruit in the future.

These direct and palpable results are, however, unimportant when compared with the slow, silent, subtle, yet powerful effect which the Kindergarten training produces upon children who remain for any length of time under its influence. Froebel's central idea is the recognition of man as an active, working, creative being, and the definite intention of his system is to educate men and women who will not be satisfied with knowing unless it results in doing; who will bring all their knowledge to bear upon their activities; and who will value themselves, not by the amount of information they have absorbed, but by the original thoughts they have created, or the practical force they have applied. "What can be taught a child, Froebel repeats again and again, is something which already exists, something which humanity already possesses." But a new thought at once blesses its creator, and enriches all humanity, and each life which actualizes its own possibilities gives to the world what else it must have lost forever. The idea is not new. Many thinkers have expressed it, and perhaps all earnest persons have had an instinct of it; but it remained for Froebel to ground a system of Pedagogies upon this basis, and to strive by an organized scheme to develop and intensify creative power.

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The means employed to attain this result can only be appreciated by those who thoroughly study the Kindergarten gilts in their sequence and relation, and intelligently observe their practical effects. The results which have come under my own observation are most surprising In the Des Peres Kindergarten, predestined engineers have built bridges as remarkable in conception as they were clever in execution; little mathematicians have discovered rather than learned all the simple relations of numbers; children with more than ordinary spiritual insight have intuitively seized the moral analogies of physical facts; tiny fingers have guided the pencil to trace beautiful decorative designs; and .soft clay has been fashioned into flowers, fruits and animals by the dexterous hands of embryo sculptors. There was no child who could not find in the varied material of the Kindergarten some expression for his individuality, and the general results were the formation of habits of industry and persistency, the development of the mind through the exercise of its powers, and the production of that spirit of contentment which must follow wisely directed and applied activities.

The new Kindergartens show the same results in a degree proportioned to the length of time they have been established, and I believe we may confidently expect them in any school where Froebel's principles are even approximately carried out.

It must not be inferred from what has been said that Froebel belonged to those extremists who, in emphasizing the necessity of development, failed to see the vital importance of instruction. The age of violent reaction and destruction was drawing to its close when he began to ponder the question of education. The defects of the old system, which insisted on "facts and facts" only, had been mercilessly exposed, and the inadequacy of the new system, with its purely subjective aim, was beginning to be felt by thoughtful minds. Froebel grasped the larger view, which page 11 includes and harmonizes these opposite extremes, and his watchword is, not development or knowledge, but development and knowledge—not subjective or objective, but subjective and objective—not "How shall we teach?" as distinct from and without regard to "What shall we teach?" but "What knowledge is most valuable, and how shall we teach it that it may best nourish the mind and develop the activities?" Education must bring its subject to a level with the demands and necessities of the age in which he lives, and it can only do this by familiarizing him with the achievements of the past. The student must know what has been done before he can realize what remains to be accomplished, and the accumulated wisdom of the past is the only sale index of the possibilities of the future. To harmonize the individual with the universal consciousness—to lead each new generation over the road the race has traveled—and to bring the student by the path of personal experience to comprehension of the formulas which the race has accepted, Froebel recognized as prime duties of the true educator; and I think I am not mistaken in saying that his Kindergarten system, wisely applied, lays the best possible foundation for that culture which, including in itself the opposite extremes of knowledge and mental training, is now the ideal of our wisest thinkers and teachers.

Respectfully submitted,

Susan E. Blow.

3. Extract from the Official Report of the Proceedings of the Board of Public Schools, St. Louis, November 14., 1876.


Mr. Lippman also submitted the following report, which was adopted:

Your committee beg leave to state for your information that the number of kindergartens now established by page 12 your Board comprise thirteen each a. m. and p. m. kindergartens; total twenty-six, with an average attendance of fifty pupils for each, or a total of 1,300 pupils. The expenditures for carrying on these twenty-six kindergartens during the scholastic year 1876—77 will be about $3,300, not including salaries, which latter item will be more than balanced by the advanced classes which these pupils will enter when they are admitted into the district schools. The receipts from pupils for supplies, at one dollar per quarter from each pupil (all those who cannot pay are admitted free), will amount to about $3,500.

Your committee take great pleasure in stating that these institutions enjoy a great and constantly increasing popularity amongst all classes of this community, and they promise from present evidences to become a most important addition to our system of public schools. Your committee believe that no organized system of kindergartens of such magnitude, and under the care of a board of public instruction, exists anywhere.

Since the beginning of the scholastic year these institutions have been thoroughly systematized. They have been placed under the supervision of some of our most experienced teachers.

Nearly one hundred zealous and intelligent ladies serve as volunteer assistants, and the applications of very many more had to be declined for want of vacant positions.

These assistants have to undergo a thorough examination as to their ability, etc., before they can be admitted, and at the close of the year they will have to make a final examination, and if fully competent, they will receive a diploma from this Board, which will enable them to obtain profitable positions in any kindergarten in the country.

In connection with those kindergartens the directors and assistants have established an institute for the better promotion of the profession in which they are engaged.

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Your committee has no doubt that in a very short time many other cities in the United States will follow our example in establishing kindergartens.

This community owes a great debt of gratitude to Miss Susan E. Blow, who is the founder of our kindergartens, and who has personally supervised and conducted them, with great sacrifice of time, patience, and labor, solely from a spirit of philanthropy.

Great praise is also due to the assistance rendered to Miss Blow by our Superintendent and his assistants; also to those young ladies who conducted some of the kindergartens when these institutions were yet an experiment.

Your committee hopes that the fostering care of this Board will continue to be bestowed upon these institutions, assuring you, gentlemen, that in their usefulness you will reap a rich reward for your labors in their behalf.

Respectfully submitted.

M. J. Lippman,

Chairman Committee on Course of Study.

Hugo Auler,

Chairman Teachers' Committee.

Wm. O. Wilson,

Eber Peacock,

John W. O'Connell,

Wm. Bryan,

Henry Schwaner,

M. Glynn.

James M. Youngblood.

(From the report of the Committee on Supplies.)

Second.—The regulation adopted for the purpose of meeting expense of supplies for the kindergartens, in part at least, causes an assessment of one dollar per quarter to be made upon each pupil. The expense of material used by the pupils of the kindergartens is nearly double the average annual expense of pupils in the district schools for books ($2.27) and nearly three times as great as the expense for books in the first year of the primary school ($1.35).

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The fee of one dollar per quarter, however, covers this expense so nearly that the kindergartens may be considered as self-supporting, except in the matter of salaries.

The present improvements in furniture by which thirty small tables, seating only two pupils each, are substituted for the three large ones, seating fifteen each, have so increased the seating capacity of the kindergartens, that to each paid teacher there is a present attendance of sixty, where formerly only forty could be well managed.* * *

Fourth.—The number of volunteer assistants at present in the several kindergartens is nearly one hundred. As their services are entirely gratuitous, and the only remuneration looked for by them is the training and preparation of themselves for the successful management of kindergartens, your committee have endeavored to pursue a liberal policy towards them, and to this end have offered to purchase in bulk the material to be used by them in their training lessons and to furnish the same to them at the sum of three dollars per half year. Your committee hope to obtain this material at such a reduction in price as to enable them to provide the quantity for each assistant at a cost of about eight dollars—the cost of the same at retail being fifteen dollars. The expense to the Board will be about two hundred dollars for the year—a sum really insignificant when it is considered that it is nearly all that is paid for the services of one hundred teachers. Inasmuch as the original appropriation for supplies to the kindergartens was one hundred and twenty-five dollars to each for the year, it is gratifying to be able to report that only a small part of this sum will be required.

Sixth,—* * * The returns from each kindergarten averaged for the last scholastic year over thirty dollars per quarter from each kindergarten, and at this rate the income for the next two quarters will exceed the amount expended by over three hundred dollars.

* This report was written in the month of February, 1876, and states results that belong to the scholastic year 1875—76. Many questions have been solved at this date. The incidentals of the pupils are paid for by a fee of $1, collected each quarter from all the pupils, except the indigent. The additional Kindergartens established in the Carondelet, Carroll, Franklin, and Webster schools swell the number to twelve, inasmuch as five afternoon ones—with different pupils and different teachers—were established in five schools that have morning ones. The age of five years has been fixed as the age at which children may be admitted to the Kindergarten.

This material has been furnished by E. Steiger, New York.