Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER II: PHYSICAL EDUCATION - Kant on Education (über Pädagogik)
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CHAPTER II: PHYSICAL EDUCATION - Immanuel Kant, Kant on Education (über Pädagogik) 
Kant on Education (Ueber Paedagogik), trans. Annette Churton, introduction by C.A. Foley Rhys Davids (Boston: D.C. Heath and Co., 1900).
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The private tutor, as the confidant of the parents, should know something of the physical training of children
34.Although those who undertake the home education of children do not have them entrusted to their care so early as to have charge of their physical education, at the same time it is useful for them to know all that is necessary to carry out this part of a child’s education from first to last. Though the tutor may only have to do with older children, it may happen that others may be born in the house, and if he conducts himself wisely he will always have a claim to become the confidant of the parents, and to be consulted about the physical training of the little ones; the more so as often the tutor is the only well-educated person in the house. He should therefore have previously made himself acquainted with the subject of the physical education of children.
35. Physical training, properly speaking, consists merely in the tending and feeding of the child, usually the work of parents or nurses.
The mother’s milk is the best nourishment for infants
The nourishment which Nature has provided for the infant is the mother’s milk, and it is better for both when the mother is able to nurse her child. That the child’s disposition is affected in this way, however, is mere prejudice, though one often hears it said of some trait of character: ‘You have imbibed that with your mother’s milk.’
We must, however, make an exception in extreme cases, such as when the mother’s condition is unhealthy. It was formerly believed that the first milk given by the mother after the birth of the infant, which resembles whey, is unwholesome, and must first be removed before the child is nursed.
Rousseau, however, called the attention of physicians to this point, to ascertain whether this first milk might not be useful to the child, since Nature has made nothing in vain, and it was actually found that the refuse which is always met with in a new-born child, which is known among doctors as meconium, is best removed by this milk, which is therefore useful and not harmful to the child.
Animal’s milk is a poor substitute
36. The question has been asked whether an infant might not be as well brought up on the milk of animals; but human milk is very different in substance from the milk of animals. The milk of all those animals which live on grass and vegetables very soon curdles, if anything sour is added to it—tartaric acid, for instance, citric acid, or especially the acid of rennet. Human milk, on the other hand, does not curdle. But should the mother or nurse take a vegetable diet for a few days, her milk will curdle in the same way as cows’ milk, &c.; though when she has returned to a meat diet for a little while, her milk will again become as good as ever. From this it has been concluded that it is best and most healthy for the mother or nurse to eat meat during the nursing period. When children throw up the milk, it is found to be curdled. The acid in the child’s stomach must therefore accelerate the curdling of the milk more than any other kind of acid, since human milk cannot be brought to curdle in the ordinary way. How much worse would it be if milk were given to the child which curdled of itself! We see, however, from the customs of other nations with regard to the bringing up of their infants, that everything does not depend on this.
There is a certain tribe of Russians in Asia who eat scarcely anything but meat, and are a strong and healthy people. They are not, however, very long lived, and are of such a slight build that a full-grown youth, whom one would hardly expect to be so light, can be carried as easily as a child. On the other hand Swedes, and more particularly Indian nations, eat scarcely any meat, and yet their men are tall and well-formed. It seems, then, from these cases that all depends on the good health of the nurse, and that the best diet for mother or nurse is that which best agrees with her.
After milk meal may be given, but no wine, spices, or salt
37. The question here arises as to how the child is to be fed if the mother’s milk should cease. For some time past all sorts of farinaceous foods have been tried, but such food is not good for the child from the beginning.
We must especially bear in mind that nothing stimulating be given to the child, such as wine, spices, salt, &c. It is a singular fact, however, that children have such a strong craving for things of this sort; this is because they act as a stimulant, and arouse their as yet undeveloped appetites in a manner pleasant to them. In Russia, it is true, children are given brandy to drink by their parents, who are great brandy-drinkers themselves, and it has been noticed that the Russians are a strong and healthy people. Certainly the fact of their being able to stand such a habit proves that they must have a good constitution: nevertheless, it is a fact that many who otherwise might have lived die in consequence of it. For such early stimulus to the nerves is the cause of many disorders. Children should be carefully kept even from too warm foods and drinks, as they are very apt to weaken the constitution.
Children ought not to be kept very warm, neither should their hunger be artificially excited
38. Further we should notice that children need not be very warmly clad, for their blood is already naturally warmer than that of the full-grown. The heat of a child’s blood reaches 110° Fahr., while the blood of a grown man or woman reaches only 96°. A child would be stifled in the same degree of warmth which his elders would enjoy. It is not good even for grown-up people to dress too warmly, to cover themselves up, and to accustom themselves to too warm drinks, for cool habits above all make people strong. Therefore it is good for a child to have a cool and hard bed. Cold baths also are good. No stimulant must be allowed in order to excite the child’s hunger, for hunger must only be the consequence of activity and occupation. However, the child must not be allowed so to accustom himself to anything as to feel the loss of it. It is better not to encourage artificially the formation of habits either good or bad.
The custom of swathing children is useless and even harmful
39. Among savage nations the custom of swathing infants is never observed. Savage nations in America, for instance, make holes in the earth, and strew them with dust from rotting trees, which serves to keep the children to a certain extent clean and dry. In these holes the children lie, covered with leaves, having except for this covering, the free use of their limbs.
It is simply for the sake of our own convenience that we swathe our children like mummies, so that we may not have the trouble of watching them in order to prevent their limbs from getting broken or bent. And yet it often happens that they do get bent, just by swathing them. Also it makes the children themselves uneasy, and they are almost driven to despair on account of their never being able to use their limbs. And then people imagine that by calling to the child they stop its crying. But suppose a grown man were to be subjected to the same treatment, and we shall soon see whether he, too, would not cry and fall into uneasiness and despair.
In general we must bear in mind that early education is only negative—that is, we have not to add anything to the provision of Nature, but merely to see that such provision is duly carried out. If any addition to this is necessary on our part, it must be the process of hardening the child. For this reason, also, we must give up the habit of swathing our children. If, however, we want to use some kind of caution, the most suitable arrangement would be a kind of box covered with leather straps, such as the Italians use and call arcuccio. The child is never taken out of this box, even when nursed by its mother. This protects the child from the chance of being smothered when sleeping with its mother at night, while with us many children lose their lives in this way. This arrangement is better than swathing the child, since it allows greater freedom for the limbs, while at the same time it serves as a protection against anything that might hurt or bend its body.
Rocking, also, is objectionable
40. Another custom belonging to early education is the rocking of babies. The easiest way of doing this is the way some peasants do it. The cradle is hung by a cord to the rafter, and, when the cord is pulled, the cradle rocks of itself from side to side. Rocking, however, is altogether objectionable, for the swinging backwards and forwards is bad for the child. We see this among grown people, in whom swinging often produces a feeling of sickness and giddiness. By swinging, nurses want to stun the child, so that he should not cry. But crying is a wholesome thing for a child, for when a child is born and draws its first breath the course of the blood in its veins is altered, which causes a painful sensation; the child immediately cries, and the energy expended in crying develops and strengthens the various organs of its body. To run at once to a child’s help when he cries—to sing to him, as the way of nurses is—is very bad for the child, and is often the beginning of spoiling him, for when he sees he gets things by crying for them he will cry all the more.1
Leading-strings and gocarts are superfluous, and the former, at any rate, hurtful
41. Children are usually taught to walk by means of leading-strings and go-carts; but, when one comes to think of it, it seems a surprising thing that people should insist upon teaching children how to walk, as if ever a human being had been found to be unable to walk for want of instruction. Besides, leading-strings are especially bad for the child. A writer once remarked that he had no doubt that the asthma from which he suffered was due to the use of leading-strings when he was a child, which he thought had narrowed his chest. For since a child takes hold of everything or picks up everything from the floor, his chest is confined by the leading-strings; and since the chest is still undeveloped, any pressure tends to flatten it, and the form it then takes is retained in after-life. Besides this, children do not learn to walk so surely as when they walk by themselves. The best plan is to let children crawl, until by degrees they learn of themselves to walk. To prevent them from hurting themselves with splinters from the floor, a woollen rug might be laid down, which would serve at the same time to break their fall.
It is commonly said that children fall very heavily; they do not, however; and it does them no harm to fall sometimes. They learn all the sooner to find their balance, and to fall without hurting themselves.
It is customary to protect the child’s head with a kind of wide-brimmed bonnet, which is supposed to prevent it from falling on its face. But it is a merely negative education which consists in employing artificial instruments, instead of teaching the child to use those with which Nature has already provided him. Here the natural instruments are the child’s hands, which he will manage to use to steady himself. The more artificial instruments we use, the more do we become dependent on instruments.
Instruments should, as far as possible, be dispensed with
42. Generally speaking, it would be better if fewer instruments were used, and children were allowed to learn more things by themselves. They would then learn them more thoroughly.
For example, it is quite possible that a child might learn to write by itself; for some one must at one time have discovered this for himself, and the discovery is not such a very difficult one. For instance, if a child asked one for bread, one might ask him to draw a picture of what he wanted—he might then, perhaps, draw a rough oval; on being asked to describe his wants a little more accurately—for an oval might as well be a stone as a loaf—he might then be led on to express the letter B in some way, and so on. The child might invent his own alphabet in this way, which he would afterwards only have to exchange for other signs.
Stays, which are sometimes used to remedy defects in the figure, generally increase the mischief
43. There are some children who come into the world with certain defects. Are there no means of remedying these defects? It has been decided, according to the opinion of many learned writers, that stays are of no use in such cases, but rather tend to aggravate the mischief by hindering the circulation of the blood and humours, and the healthy expansion of both the outer and inner parts of the body. If the child is left free he will exercise his body, and a man who has worn stays is weaker on leaving them off than a man who has never put them on. Perhaps some good might be done for those who are born crooked by more weight being put upon the side where the muscles are stronger. This, however, is a dangerous practice, too, for who is to decide what is the right balance?
It seems best that the child should learn to use his limbs, and remedy this defect by keeping his body in a certain position, even though he may find it troublesome, for no instruments are of any use in such cases.
An enervating influence is as much to be avoided as an over-hardenin process
44. All these artificial contrivances are the more hurtful in that they run counter to the aim of Nature in making organised and reasonable beings; for Nature requires them to keep their freedom, in order that they may learn how to use their powers. All that education can do in this matter is to prevent children from becoming effeminate. This might be done by accustoming them to habits of hardiness, which is the opposite of effeminacy. It is venturing too much to want to accustom children to everything. Russians have made the mistake of going too far in this direction, and consequently an enormous number of their children die young, from the over-hardening process. Habit is the result of the constant repetition of any one enjoyment or action, until such enjoyment or action becomes a necessity of our nature. There is nothing to which children become more easily accustomed, and which should be more carefully kept from them, than such highly stimulating things as tobacco, brandy, and warm drinks. Once acquired, it is very difficult to give up these things; and giving them up causes physical disturbances at first, since the repeated use of anything effects a change in the functions of the different organs of our body. The more habits a man allows himself to form, the less free and independent he becomes; for it is the same with man as with all other animals; whatever he has been accustomed to early in life always retains a certain attraction for him in after life. Children, therefore, must be prevented from forming any habits, nor should habits be fostered in them.
Regular times should be observed for eating and drinking
45. Many parents want to get their children used to anything and everything. But this is no good. For human nature in general, as well as the nature of certain individuals in particular, will not allow of such training, and consequently many children remain apprentices all their lives. Some parents, for instance, would have their children go to sleep, get up, and have their meals whenever they please; but in order that they may do this with impunity, they must follow a special diet, a diet which will strengthen the body, and repair the evil which this irregularity causes. We find, indeed, many instances of periodicity in Nature also. Animals have their appointed time to sleep, and man should accustom himself to a certain time, that the functions of the body be not disturbed. As to the other matter, that children ought to eat at any hour, we cannot well adduce here the case of the animal as an example; as, for instance, all grass-eating animals get but little nourishment each time they eat, therefore grazing is necessarily a constant occupation with them. It is, however, very important for man always to eat at regular hours. Many parents try to accustom their children to endure great cold, bad smells, and noises; this, however, is quite unnecessary, the only thing needful being to prevent them from forming habits. And for this it is best that they shall not always be subject to the same conditions.
A severe education is helpful to the body
46. A hard bed is much more healthy than a soft one; and, generally speaking, a severe education is very helpful in strengthening the body. By a severe education we must understand merely that which tends to prevent one from taking one’s ease. Remarkable examples in confirmation of this assertion are not lacking, only they are not observed, or, to speak more correctly, people will not observe them.
Discipline must be strict without being slavish
47. With regard to the training of character—which we may indeed call also, in a certain sense, physical culture—we must chiefly bear in mind that discipline should not be slavish. For a child ought always to be conscious of his freedom, but always in such a way as not to interfere with the liberty of others—in which case he must be met with opposition. Many parents refuse their children everything they ask, in order that they may exercise their patience, but in doing so they require from their children more patience than they have themselves. This is cruel. One ought rather to give a child as much as will agree with him, and then tell him ‘that is enough’; but this decision must be absolutely final. No attention should ever be given to a child when he cries for anything, and children’s wishes should never be complied with if they try to extort something by crying; but if they ask properly, it should be given them, provided it is for their good. By this the child will also become accustomed to being open-minded; and since he does not annoy anyone by his crying, everybody will be friendly towards him.
Providence seems indeed to have given children happy, winning ways, in order that they may gain people’s hearts. Nothing does children more harm than to exercise a vexatious and slavish discipline over them with a view to breaking their self-will.
From the time the child begins to cry from some conscious reason, caution is the more necessary to prevent his being spoilt
48. During the first eight1 months of a child’s life its sense of sight is not fully developed. It experiences, it is true, the sensation of light, but cannot as yet distinguish one object from another. To convince ourselves of this, we have only to hold up a glittering object before the child’s eyes and then remove it; we may at once notice that he does not follow it with his eyes.
At the same time as the sense of sight, the power of laughing and crying is developed. When the child has once reached that stage, there is always some reasoning, however vague it may be, connected with his crying. He cries with the idea that some harm has been done him. Rousseau says that if you merely tap a child of six months on the hand, it will scream as if a bit of burning wood had touched it. Here the child has actually a sense of grievance besides the mere bodily hurt. Parents talk a great deal about breaking the will of their children, but there is no need to break their will unless they have already been spoilt. The spoiling begins when a child has but to cry to get his own way. It is very difficult to repair this evil later on; indeed, it can scarcely be done. We may keep the child from crying or otherwise worrying us, but he swallows his vexation, and is inwardly nursing anger all the more.How children are made dissemblers In this way the child becomes accustomed to dissembling and agitation of mind. It is, for instance, very strange that parents should expect their children to turn and kiss their hand (vide p. 89) after they have just beaten them. That is the way to teach them dissembling and falsehood. For the child surely does not look on the rod with any special favour, so that he should feel any gratitude for its chastisement, and one can easily imagine with what feelings the child kisses the hand which has punished him.
Terms of abuse should never be used to children, for they lead merely to timidity and concealment
49. We often say to a child: ‘Fie, for shame! you shouldn’t do that,’ &c. But such expressions are futile in this early stage of education; for the child has, as yet, no sense of shame or of seemliness. He has nothing to be ashamed of, and ought not to be ashamed. These expressions therefore will simply make him timid. He will become embarrassed before others, and inclined to keep away from their company—and from this arises reserve and harmful concealment. He is afraid to ask for anything, when he ought to ask for all he wants. He conceals his true character, and always appears to be other than he is, when he ought to be able to speak frankly and freely. Instead of being always near his parents he shuns them, preferring to make friends with the servants of the house.
To be constantly playing with and caressing children makes them self-willed and deceitful
50. No better than this vexatious system of bringing up children is that of perpetually playing with and caressing the child; this makes him self-willed and deceitful, and by betraying to him their weakness, parents lose the necessary respect in the eyes of the child. If, on the other hand, he is so trained that he gets nothing by crying for it, he will be frank without being bold, and modest without being timid. Boldness, or, what is almost the same thing, insolence, is insufferable. There are many men whose constant insolence has given them such an expression that their very look leads one to expect rudeness from them, while you have only to look at others to see at once that they are incapable of being rude to anyone. Now we can always be frank in our demeanour, provided our frankness be united with a certain kindness. People often speak of men of rank having a royal air, but this is nothing but a certain self-sufficient manner in consequence of having met with no opposition all their life.1
Working-class parents are specially wont to spoil their children in this way, causing them to become head-strong and unruly
51. It may be said with truth that the children of the working classes are more spoilt than the children of those of higher rank, for the working classes play with their children like monkeys, singing to them, caressing, kissing, and dancing with them. They think indeed they are doing a kindness to their child in always running to him when he cries, and playing with him, &c.; but he only cries the oftener. If, on the other hand, no notice is taken of the child’s crying, he will leave off at last—for no one cares to continue a fruitless task. Once a child has become accustomed to having all his whims gratified, it is afterwards too late to begin to cross his will. On the other hand, if you do not mind the child’s crying, he will soon get tired of it. But should his fancies always be gratified, both his character and his manners will be spoilt.
The child has as yet, indeed, no idea of manners, but it goes far towards spoiling his natural disposition, so that afterwards sharp measures are necessary to undo the evil caused by early indulgence. When attempts are made later on to break off the habit of giving way to all the child’s wishes, his crying is then accompanied by a rage as fierce as any of which grown-up people are capable, only that he has not the physical strength to exercise it. This is but what we must expect, for children who have been for so long accustomed merely to cry to get what they want, become veritable despots, and are naturally aggrieved when their rule comes suddenly to an end; for even grown-up people who have been for some time in a high position find it very difficult if they are suddenly called upon to abdicate.
The training of the sense of pleasure and pain must be of a negative kind
52. Here we have also to discuss the training of the sense of pleasure or pain. In this our work must be negative; we must see that the child’s sensibility be not spoilt by over-indulgence. Love of ease does more harm than all the ills of life.We must guard against over-indulgence, dislike of work, and daintiness Therefore it is of the utmost importance that children should be taught early to work. If they have not been over-indulged, children are naturally fond of amusements which are attended with fatigue, and occupations which require exercise of strength. With regard to pleasures, it is best not to let them be dainty, nor to allow them to pick and choose. As a rule, mothers spoil their children in this way and indulge them altogether too much. In spite of this we very often notice that children, and especially boys, are fonder of their father than of their mother. This is probably because mothers are timid, and do not allow them to use their limbs as freely as they would wish, for fear of the children hurting themselves. While fathers, on the other hand, although they are stern to them, and perhaps punish them severely when they are naughty, yet take them out sometimes into the fields and do not try to hinder their boyish games.
The patience of children should not be unnecessarily put to the proof
53. Some people believe that in making children wait a long time for what they want they teach them patience. This is, however, hardly necessary, though doubtless in times of illness, &c., patience is needed. Patience is two-fold, consisting either in giving up all hope or in gaining new courage to go on. The first is not necessary, provided what we hope to gain is possible; the second we should always desire, as long as what we strive for is right. In cases of illness, however, hopelessness spoils what has been made good by cheerfulness. But he who is still capable of taking courage with regard to his physical or moral condition is not likely to give up all hope.1
The will of children should be bent, not broken—though at first their obedience is necessarily blind
54. The will of children, as has been already remarked, must not be broken, but merely bent in such a way that it may yield to natural obstacles. At the beginning, it is true, the child must obey blindly. It is unnatural that a child should command by his crying, and that the strong should obey the weak. Children should never, even in their earliest childhood, be humoured because they cry, nor allowed to extort anything by crying. Parents often make a mistake in this, and then, wishing to undo the result of their over-indulgence, they deny their children in later life whatever they ask for. It is, however, very wrong to refuse them without cause what they may naturally expect from the kindness of their parents, merely for the sake of opposing them, and that they, being the weaker, should be made to feel the superior power of their parents.
We should not yield to a child’s every wish; nor, on the other hand, should we unnecessarily thwart him
55. To grant children their wishes is to spoil them; to thwart them purposely is an utterly wrong way of bringing them up. The former generally happens as long as they are the playthings of their parents, and especially during the time when they are beginning to talk. By spoiling a child, however, very great harm is done, affecting its whole life. Those who thwart the wishes of children prevent them (and must necessarily prevent them) at the same time from showing their anger; but their inward rage will be all the stronger, for children have not yet learned to control themselves.
The following rules should accordingly be observed with children from their earliest days:—When they cry, and we have reason to believe they are hurt, we should go to their help. On the other hand, when they cry simply from temper, they should be left alone. And this way of dealing with them should be continued as they grow older. In this case the opposition the child meets with is quite natural, and, properly speaking, merely negative, consisting simply in his not being indulged. Many children, on the other hand, get all they want from their parents by persistent asking. If children are allowed to get whatever they want by crying, they become ill-tempered; while if they are allowed to get whatever they want by asking, their characters are weakened. Should there, then, be no important reason to the contrary, a child’s request should be granted; should there be a reason to the contrary, it should not be granted, no matter how often the request is repeated. A refusal should always be final. This will shortly have the effect of making its repetition unnecessary.
Obstinacy should be met by natural opposition
56. Supposing—what is of extremely rare occurrence—that a child should be naturally inclined to be stubborn, it is best to deal with him in this way:—If he refuses to do anything to please us, we must refuse to do anything to please him.
Breaking a child’s will makes him a slave, while natural opposition makes him docile.
Many fears are due to false impressions
57. All this we may consider as negative training, for many weaknesses of mankind proceed not so much from lack of teaching as from false impressions. For instance, fear of spiders and toads, &c., is suggested to children by their nurses. A child would probably pick up a spider as readily as anything else, were it not that the nurse’s horror at the sight of spiders has affected the child by a sort of sympathy. Many children retain this fear all their lives, and in this matter always remain childish; for spiders, though dangerous to flies, for whom their bite is poisonous, are harmless to men. In the same way the toad is as harmless as the beautiful green frog or any other animal.
[1 ]In the editions of Rink and Schubert §§ 51 and 48 follow here.—(Tr.)
[1 ]Rink and Schubert read: ‘three.’—(Tr.)
[1 ]In the editions of Rink and Schubert §§ 57, 58, and 59 follow here.—(Tr.)
[1 ]In the editions of Rink and Schubert the following is here inserted: