Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

The system of education educed from the ideas of Rousseau and of the German "Enlightenment", and established by Basedow on the basis of "philanthropy".

Johann Bernhard Basedow (born at Hamburg, 11 Sept., 1723; died at Magdeburg, 25 July, 1790) was a pupil at the school of Hamburg under the free-thinker Hermann Samuel Reimarus, studied theology at Leipzig, became (1749) a tutor in a noble family in Holstein, and (1753) professor at the academy for young noblemen at Soroe on the Island of Zealand, Denmark. In 1761 he was removed from this position on account of his Rationalistic opinions and appointed professor in a school at Altona. Here he published his "Methodenbuch für Väter und Mütter der Familien und Völker" (Altona and Bremen, 1770; 3rd ed., 1773), in which he presented in detail his ideas for the improvement of the school-system. This work and his "Agathokrator oder von der Erziehung künftiger Regenten" (Leipzig, 1771) attracted the attention of Prince Leopold Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau. In 1771 the prince called Basedow to Dessau, where he wrote his "Elementarwerk" (4 vols. with 100 copper-plates, Dessau, 1774; 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1785) which, in a form suitable to modern times, sought to present the idea carried out in the "Orbis pictus" of Comenius, of uniting the pictures of the things with the notions of them, by giving with pictures all the material essential for training children. In 1774 he opened a model school at Dessau, the "Philanthropinum".

As the name signifies, it was to be a school of philanthropy for teachers and pupils. In contrast to the severe discipline of earlier days, children were to be trained in a friendly and gentle manner, instruction was to be made attractive, study as easy and pleasant as possible. The standard in forming the course of study was the practical and useful. Languages were to be taught more by practice and speaking than by the learning of grammatical rules, Latin, German, and French being regarded as the most important. Special attention was also given to the more practical studies, as arithmetic, geometry, geography, drawing, and natural science. Basedow and his successors deserve credit for their improvement of methods and educational appliances. Special stress was laid on physical development. The fact that children belonged to a particular nation or religious confession was disregarded; education was to produce cosmopolites. Religious instruction was to be replaced by the teaching of a universal natural morality. Among the teachers who aided Basedow in this school was Christian Heinrich Wolke, who had been his assistant before this in preparing the "Elementarwerk". Basedow, although a fine pedagogist, lacked the personal qualities necessary for conducting such an institution, and retired in 1776. His place was taken (1776-77) by Joachim Heinrich Campe (1746-1818), who was later a prolific writer on subjects connected with Philanthropinism, and is best known by his German version of Robinson Crusoe called "Robinson der Jüngere"; his most important work is "Allgemeine Revision des gesammten Schul- und Erziehungswesens" (16 vols., 1785-91). For a short time after Campe had retired, Basedow, assisted by Wolke, was once more the head of the school. Among the others who taught for a time at this institution were Ernst Christian Trapp (1745-1818), who sought to systematize the philanthropinist principles and theories in his "Versuch einer Pädagogik" (Berlin, 1780); Salzmann (see below), and Louis Henry Ferdinand Olivier (1759-1815). In 1793 this first 'Philanthropinum" ceased to exist.

Those who held Basedow's pedagogical opinions were called Philanthropen , or Philanthropisten . In imitation of the school at Dessau institutions called Philanthropin were established at various places. The only Philanthropin that prospered and still exists was that founded by Salzmann at Schnepfenthal in the Duchy of Gotha. Christian Gotthilf Salzmann (born at Sömmerda near Erfurt, 1 June, 1744; died at Schnepfenthal 31 Oct, 1811) was one of the most distinguished pedagogues of the Philanthropinist school, and probably the most interesting personality among all its representatives. He was originally a Protestant pastor at Erfurt; then, after writing on educational subjects for some time, he became the teacher of religion at the Philanthropin at Dessau (1781-84), and in 1784 founded his own school at Schnepfenthal, which he conducted until his death. Like the entire Philanthropinist school, his religious opinions were rationalistic. The best known of his writings are "Krebsbüchlein oder Anweisung zu einer unvernünftigen Erziehung der Kinder" (Erfurt, 1780, and frequently reprinted), a satirical account of the results of a wrong education ; "Ameisenbüchlein oder Anweisung zu einer vernünftigen Erziehung der Erzieher" (Schnepfenthal, 1806); "Konrad Kiefer oder Anweisung zu einer vernünftigen Erziehung der Kinder" (Erfurt, 1796). The most important of Salzmann's assistants was Johann Christoph Friedrich Guts-Muths (1759-1839), who was the teacher of geography at Salzmann's school ; one of his Pupils was the celebrated geographer Karl Ritter, the first pupil of the school at Schnepfenthal. Guts-Muths, however, is best known for his work in gymnastics. Friedrich Eberhard von Rochow (1734-1805) advocated views similar to those of the Philanthropinists but, unlike the actual members of this school, did much for the improvement of primary education ; his "Kinderfreund" (1775, and many later editions) was a widely used school-book. Finally Christian Felix Weisse (1726-1804), a voluminous writer for children, exerted great influence through his "Kinderfreund" (24 vols., 1775-84), a weekly publication for children.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13
1 The word of Yahweh came to me, saying,2 ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 36:6-7, 8-9, 10-11
6 your saving justice is like towering mountains, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:10-17
10 Then the disciples went up to him and asked, 'Why ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 24th, 2014 Image

St. John Boste
July 24: One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. He was born at ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter