Peter Menck is an emeritus professor of education at the Universität-Gesamthochschule Siegen, Adolf-Reichweinstr. 2, D-57076 Siegen, Germany. He has taught history of education, educational theory and research, and the history and theory of the curriculum and classroom instruction. He is author of the recently published Looking into Classrooms: Papers on Didactics (Stamford, CT: Ablex, 2000).
JCS invites comments responding to the views in this paper. Such comments should be addressed via e-mail to email@example.com.
Copyright © 2001 Taylor & Francis Ltd. ISSN 0022-0272. Copies may be made under the normal terms of copyright law.
The problem: knowledge and conscience
In his Guide to Lesson Preparation Hilbert L. Meyer (1980: 213-214), a well-known German educationalist, describes the following situation:
In a teaching unit on agriculture several lessons were devoted to the topic of poultry farming. The aim was to compare the natural living conditions of hens with battery farming. In a first step the pupils and the five student teachers who had planned and given this teaching unit together told a story about living conditions of hens and made life-size hens from old newspapers and much wallpaper paste. On the next day the class was split in two groups: the first group was to built a hen-house similar to natural living conditions; the second group was to make a battery farm, oriented to the economical aspects. The pupils did their job. Finally, in a third step they had a look at each others work and discussed reasons for building their coops this or that way and not another way.
In Meyers book the result of the pupils work is given in the pictures seen in figure 1.
Figure 1. Different ways of poultry farming (from Meyer 1980: 215).
In their evaluation the five students spoke at length about teacher-orientation, group-instruction, new ways of teaching, fun, spontaneity, and enthusiasm for the topic of agriculture - as nearly every student in teacher education in Germany would. I read this example in a somewhat different way, and I put my reading as the problem of knowledge and conscience.
In schools knowledge about the world, knowledge about actual facts and their relationship to the world we live in, is imparted: let us say knowledge about the origin and the basic principles of the American Declaration of Independence - and the Declarations binding character for the US political system. We assume that our pupils can actually benefit from this knowledge, after the lesson and even after they leave school. But how can we guarantee that a theoretical insight into the world as our field of knowledge implies the development of conscience, i.e. an imparting of motives for action (Derbolav 1960: 22), a willingness to act humanely within this world?
Any textbook of our day could illustrate the knowledge--conscience problem. But for me the distance given by time makes things more clearly visible. So let us go back more than 300 years and look at two picture books: the Orbis Sensualium Pictus by Johann Amos Comenius, a religious encyclopaedist of the early Enlightenment, and the Elementarwerk by Johann Bernhard Basedow, one of the first members of the movement we label the educational philanthropists and Immanuel Kants enlightened contemporary. I will restrict my attention to the specific logic of representation, the logic of the sequence of the pictures and their contents, and the logic of the links of the pictures with the explanations, or rather stories, presented alongside them. In this discussion I will develop the following four observations:
the books are explicitly pedagogically-framed;
there is an order according to which the matter is presented;
there is an underlying conviction of how humankind has to make use of the world; and
this conviction is obviously in correspondence with the society the respective authors live in.
It is the last two points, namely use and society, that are essential for my argument.
Johann Amos Comeniuss Orbis Sensualium Pictus (1658)
Johann Amos Comenius published the Orbis Sensualium Pictus [The world as far as we can discover it by our senses] in 1685; the work was famous in his time and is still well-known today. Let us look into it.
1. The book was meant as a textbook. So it is explicitly framed didactically through an invitatio, i.e. an invitation, a picture and a story at the beginning of the text, and a clausula, i.e. a conclusion, at the end containing the very same picture and the end of that story:
Figures 2 and 3. Invitatio and clausula (from the Orbis Pictus, pp. 2, 308).
Teacher: Come here boy! Learn wisdom.
Teacher: Now youve seen, in short, all the conceivable and you have learned the most important words of the (Latin) German language. Go on like this and read diligently other good books, so that you will become educated, wise, and pious.
2. Within this didactical framing the content itself is framed as follows: the book begins with God (see figure 4) and His creation; the last picture is the Last Judgement (see figure 5); and the content in between can be grouped as follows:
World - Heaven
The Four Elements
Fire - Air - Water - Earth
Flora and Fauna
Crafts - Arts
Ethics - Society - State - Religions
Figure 4. GOD and His creation (from the Orbis Pictus, pp. 6, 8).
Figure 5. The Last Judgement (from the Orbis Pictus, p. 306).
GOD and the Last Judgement stand for the theoretical framework which opens up the themes of Comeniuss primer in detail.
A convincing example of the iconographic means he used is the seen in three pictures presented in figure 6: he portrays the world by referring iconographically to the Genesis as Gods creation; he introduces human beings with a depiction of the Fall of Man, which corresponds to the Genesis; and he also repeats a nearly congruent detail from the picture of the worlds creation when he depicts the outer limbs.
Figure 6. Human (from the Orbis Pictus, pp. 78, 8)
The order of Gods Creation is the order on which Comenius based his Orbis Pictus. So what the book depicts is indeed an orbis, the world as a circle, portrayed as Gods creation and arranged according to Gods order of creation and salvation. This order is represented and conveyed mainly by iconographic means. Thus pictures - and stories - offer an illustration of how the readers of the Orbis Pictus are supposed to see and understand the world. Comenius presents the knowledge as a means which opens up possibilities for living humanely in this world.
3. The knowledge Comenius offers is not only knowledge of what the world is like: The Orbis Pictus also tells us what human life within the world should be like. We can identify this feature if we take a closer look at one of the pictures; let us look at the Fire (see figure 7). What can we see? Comenius not only gives us a picture; his page also contains words in Latin and German:
Figure 7. The Fire (from the Orbis Pictus, p. 12).
The fire burns and scorches. Its spark, resulting from steel hitting a flint-stone or in a lighter, caught by tinder, ignites at first the sulphur thread and then kindles the candle or the wood and causes a flame or even a blaze which destroys houses.
These are words and pictures as representations of real objects. But it is not only words and things. In addition, things are arranged in a composition, a picture [Bild]; and the words tell a story. Both - picture and story - have an obvious moral, a moral which is not, however, put into words. The picture and the story locate the place which the thing described has and should have in everyday life. Usus atque abusus, use and abuse, are shown in Comenius pictures and in the corresponding stories - without moral reasoning, but simply by the choice of stylistic means and by their arrangement in both these compositions. We are obliged to take care of the fire without any argument compelling, or even persuading, us to do so.
Thus the Orbis Pictus presents the things as they are and, at the same time, the way they are to be used - the things as we have to see them and the way we have to use them. This assumption is usually put as the concept of the identity of scientia and conscientia, the identity of knowledge and conscience. That means that for Comenius a correct and thorough knowledge of the world implies - in the sense of formal logic - acting rightly in the world.
4. Finally, neither scientia nor conscientia is timeless. The order of creation only seems to be universal and beyond history; there is a picture - which is not however part of the Orbis Pictus - which is often called upon, because it shows the world Comenius lived in. It is the reality of an early bourgeois society, of the Bohemian Brethren - Comenius was their last bishop. In short, we may read the order I have reconstructed from the Orbis Sensualium Pictus as interrelated with a specific stage of the development of the bourgeois society. In other words, the picture of the world Comenius conveyed in his Orbis Pictus was correlated to the society he lived in.
The Copper Plates of Johann Bernhard Basedows Elementarwerk (1787)
There are three reasons for juxtaposing Johann Bernhard Basedows Elementarwerk [Elementary Work] (1787) to Comeniuss Orbis Pictus:
It is another specimen of the same genus of picture books and as such it follows a similar didactical logic.
The knowledge--conscience problem can be explicitly identified.
The emergence of the problem corresponds to the victory of Enlightenment over the remains of a traditional Christian Weltbild.
So a juxtaposition may illustrate break as well as continuity and make our problem clearer - as Im going to suggest in my concluding pages.
1. The Elementarwerk consists of two major parts. The first part is a textbook for educators, i.e. parents and teachers - Basedow was thinking of tutors in a noble or a bourgeois family. This part begins with a Short introduction to the techniques of education which, as the title shows, presents the didactical framework of the whole. The second part is a collection of copper plates that were designed by the famous engraver and painter Daniel Chodowiecki. I take one of the copper plates as an illustration of the Elementarwerks didactical purpose.
Figure 8: A noble-bourgeois classroom (Detail from Basedow 1907: Table XLVIII).
2. The series of pictures in Basedows Elementarwerk starts with the picture of (as I would describe it) a bourgeois kitchen-cum-living room, stylized as the place where children - shown at four different ages - grow up.
Figure 9. Children in a kitchen-cum-living room (from Basedow 1909: Table I).
In contrast to this first picture, let us look at the last picture: the end of human life, transferred into the language of Greek mythology: we see Pluto (together with Persephone and the three judges) faced with the appearance of a ghost, dejected and charged by sin.
Figure 10. The end of human life (from Basedow 1909: Table XCVI).
What is the content framed by this framework? Looking at the series of pictures in detail, it is not easy to reconstruct an order. But let us look at the first part of the Elementarwerk, that is, at the book and its table of contents. There we find:
[A short introduction into the techniques of education]
About various things;
Especially about humans and their minds;
The commonly useful logic;
About religion and ethics;
About occupations and classes of the people;
Elements of history;
Knowledge of nature;
Further knowledge of nature;
The essentials of grammar and rhetoric.
The first item explicitly indicates the pedagogical framing of the whole. What follows are headings for what we know about the world, arranged in a way that was usual in an 18th-century school curriculum. Thus Basedows point of view is human life between birth and death and he collects the knowledge which is at human disposal - on an elementary stage.
3. The pictures in Basedows book are also based on the idea of a specific order in which it is spelled out how things belong together and how they are to be used. As an example let us look at a picture showing fire. When this picture is compared to the one by Comenius, the radical change of perspective becomes obvious - it is the childrens perspective.
Furthermore the implicit moral of the pictures is not as straightforward for Basedow (and for his fellow philanthropists) as it was for Comenius. This observation reflects the emergence of our knowledge--conscience problem. The Philanthropists no longer believed in an automatism by which conscience follows knowledge - provided the knowledge was true. Thus, as a rule, the philanthropists insisted on adding an explicit moral to their pictures, e.g. by headings like those given in the explanations of figure 11 ('Clothes and the mistakes through which children ruin them') and figure 12 ('Bad habits of some children at the table and the generosity of two others towards a poor man').
Maxims of this kind are explicitly added by Basedow in his explanation. All the stories written for children by the philanthropists, and which are today very difficult to read sympathetically, conclude with an unmistakably formulated moral, a maxim for acting rightly. Nevertheless, as in Comenius's Orbis, the conjunction of pictures and stories is based on an assumption of a more or less firm connection of scientia and conscientia.
Figure 11. Clothes and their use (from Basedow 1909: Table III).
Figure 12. A bourgeois family (from Basedow 1909: Table II).
4. The notion of good and bad that the Elementarwerk implies is not timeless, although the philanthropists - and Basedow with them - shared Jean Jacques Rousseaus epoch-making promise to bring up a newborn as a human being outside the borders of society and of any particular class or profession. Their idea of education is a thoroughly bourgeois one. This is obvious when we look, e.g. at figure 12. But it is more than that.
When we compare Basedows fire with Comeniuss, the iconographic similarity - as well as the rupture in the underlying philosophy - is obvious. By a juxtaposition of Comeniuss Orbis and Basedows Elementarwerk, I have been suggesting that there is no universally valid order as a basis for the two sets of illustrations. We do see an order in Basedows work, but it is now - explicitly - no longer the order of Gods creation. Nature has replaced Gods creation, in our case the nature of human life; and it is nature that humankind - more precisely, an enlightened bourgeois class - has recognized, and that humans are able to recognize.
To sum up: Basedow, by means of Chodowieckis copperplates and by his text, conveyed a picture of the world, a Weltbild. It differed from that of Comenius. But nevertheless it is a Weltbild, and it corresponds to the society he lives in.
A compulsion to the Good?
Whatever the topic of a lesson might be - let it again be poultry farming - it contains a part of or an aspect of ways of dealing with everyday life, an aspect of social practice. That practice is not made visible explicitly; it cannot be experienced directly. But the practice of poultry farming is included in the notion of hen-house and of battery-farm. It is the stories Meyers students told their pupils - about hens living here and there - and it is the pictures in our picture books which refer to that practice or, in other words, to everyday life. And classroom work aims at the establishing, or re-establishing, the connection between school subjects or topics on the one hand and social practice on the other.
Everyday life is, furthermore and above all, guided by a consensus of what is good and bad. This consensus is not so much like that of the Ten Commandments Thou shalt . . . but rather a We do things , or Things are done, in this or that way. This consensus can be reconstructed from the compositions and stories in the Comeniuss Orbis Pictus as well as from Basedows Elementarwerk, and from the poultry-farming story of our day. The implicit prescriptions for acting in everyday life depend on the society in which the consensus holds. Nevertheless, what is good is given, is interwoven in everyday life and may not be deliberately imposed by mere will, and even by a didacticians will. But how can we methodically form the conscience, and, more particularly, in a way that guides human actions
without the presence of physical force?
without treating it as the consequence of a formal syllogism?
without simply imposing moral principles? and, above all,
without leaving the whole matter to an individuals responsibility - which is to be provoked, first of all, by teaching?
This is the didacticians, i.e. our, question. Let me try to answer it.
To begin, I refer to teachers in their classrooms. They know quite well how to do their job. What do they do? Simply this: they tell stories and they compose pictures, simple ones at the beginning, more complex ones later on. And they methodically arrange classrooms in such a way that the product of classroom work is convincing to the pupils minds, so that they are prepared to willingly act in a humane way in the outside world.
It was Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841) who conceptualized the logic of such practice in his famous essay on The aesthetic presentation of the world being the main duty of education (Herbart 1964). He argues as follows:
Education has to aim at morality [i.e. at the formation of the conscience - in my language]. That means - within in the terms of his psychology - that human inclinations have to be governed by will. What kind of judgement can convince the will to strive for the Good? (p. 105)
Now Herbart discusses all kinds of judgement. The result is:
Among all sorts of necessities for convincing [the will] there remains only aesthetic necessity. It can be characterized as being able to create categorical judgements without any proof and without any kind of force. It is indifferent with regard to inclinations. And it develops from the perfect imagination of its object. (p. 110)
Herbart continues his argument this way:
When a human finds a fundamental and practical, i.e. aesthetic necessity, a person, acting on the basis of moral principles, will direct his inclination to give obedience to that necessity. (p. 111)
And now my point:
This self-reflection is possible in so far as the self finds the very inclination contained within the object of the aesthetic judgement within itself, too. (p. 111; emphasis added)
From this I jump to my conclusion. Classroom work is work on pictures and stories in the broadest sense. And classroom work aims at the discovery of our selves within the pictures and stories. Herbart supported reading the Odyssey with boys. It was this idea that Derbolav (1957, in press) explored and developed in a booklet on The Example as a Principle of Education in the Gymnasium; and it is examples that I have been dealing with here, namely stories, compositions, aesthetic creations in the broadest sense. More generally I speak of the symbolic representation of reality: texts, pictures, and all kinds of things refer to reality; they symbolize everyday life, the social practice of humankind - or, to put it somewhat closer to the language of the classroom, stories are told, pictures are drawn, compositions are produced and settings are arranged - and all this matter is worked on.
Bringing things together
Our question was how to create the moral judgement. Within the framework of the concepts I have been discussing, my answer is simply this. The story which is told and the picture of the world which is drawn include readers and viewers in their worlds - otherwise they have no place in a school curriculum. Moreover they invite, or rather urge us, without compulsion, to take to ourselves the maxims of the persons acting in the stories and pictures. To achieve this one condition must be fulfilled, we, and the students, must appear in the pictures and compositions.
However, this doesnt suffice. A play ends with the applause. Classroom work doesnt end with the end of the story. It is the end of the story which defines the starting point of classroom work. Classroom presentations of stories and pictures are followed by work. What is this work like? I suggest the conceptualization of classroom work as interpretation, the work by which we bring together the two worlds, namely the world of the story told on the one hand and the life-world of the students on the other.
How does this work in detail? Instead of an explicit argument, let me present a picture (see figure 13) and tell a story:
Figure 13. From a German arithmetic book (from Menck 2000).
A whining school-boy in 1941 might have felt a strong desire to become a soldier, jealous in honour and fight battles against our enemies with mighty things like planes and cruisers. Susanne and Alexander sailed to Oslo with their parents in 1982. They read about the fate of the German cruiser Blücher; they looked for the battery of Oscarsborg which sank it in the beginning of World War II; they helped their father dip the ensign at the sight of the grave of more than 1000 soldiers; they visited Fort Åkershus and the display which documents the German occupation of Norway; and they discussed the whole matter in great detail. I am sure that since then they feel things like war, occupation and resistance, and death when seeing pictures like the one given in figure 13. And I hope that, accordingly, they come to a moral conclusion of disgust about the objects the pictures refer to. In short, their aesthetic judgement and their motives might differ somewhat from the naïve one of their father in 1941.
The knowledge--conscience problem that I have been addressing is as follows: Classroom knowledge is conveyed, elaborated, and acquired, but this knowledge is not something on its own terms. It refers to humans, and their lives and actions in the world. Knowledge refers to everyday life where we know without question what is good and bad - and act accordingly. When we consider this we see that classroom work is more than simply the transport of knowledge from the teachers head into the students heads.
First of all the conscience is informed, as it were, by the knowledge and the everyday situations it discloses to its terms, e.g. the world of agricultural production and thus the love of animals can acquire form and content.
Second, the students and their knowledge can be involved in the context that this knowledge opens up.
The work of the teacher is to compose a living aesthetic presentation which
on the one hand presents the subject matter correctly and in a sufficiently differentiated way; and
on the other hand opens up a horizon of conscientious and conscience-guided acting.
This is what I have called 'the forming of the conscience'.
Let me conclude with Comenius again: School is the workshop where young souls are formed to virtue.
In this paper I draw heavily on my Looking into Classrooms: Papers on Didactics (Stamford, CT: Ablex, 2000).
Basedow, J. B. (1909) Elementarwerk mit den Kupfertafeln Chodowieckis u. a.: Kritische Bearbeitung in drei Bänden: mit Einleitungen, Anmerkungen und Aznhangen: mit ungedruckten Briefen, Portrats, Faksimiles und verschiedenen Registern, ed. T. Fritzsch (Leipzig, Germany: Ernst Weigandt).
Comenius, J. A. (1978) Orbis Sensualium Pictus (Dortmund, Germany: Harenberg Kommunikation).
Derbolav, J. (1957) Das Exemplarische im Bildungsraum des Gymnasiums. Versuch einer pädagogischen Ortsbestimmung des exemplarischen Lernens (Düsseldorf, Germany: Schwann).
Derbolav, J. (1960) Versuch einer wissenschaftstheoretischen Grundlegung der Didaktik. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 2. Beih. (Weinheim, Germany: Beltz), 17-45.
Derbolav, J. (in press) The exemplary: an attempt to locate the position of learning by example. Journal of Curriculum Studies.
Herbart, J. F. (1964) Über die ästhetische Darstellung der Welt als das Hauptgeschäft der Erziehung. In W. Asmus (ed.), Johann Friedrich Herbart: Pädagogische Schriften, Band 1 (Düsseldorf and Munich, Germany: Küpper vorm. Bondi), 105-121.
Menck, P. (2000) Looking into Classrooms: Papers on Didactics (Stamford, CT: Ablex).
Meyer, H. L. (1980) Leitfaden zur Unterrichtsvorbereitung (Königstein, Germany: Sciptor).
Figure 14. The School (from the Orbis Pictus, p. 198).