Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V: MORAL CULTURE - Kant on Education (über Pädagogik)
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CHAPTER V: MORAL CULTURE - 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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By moral culture the child is taught to think, so that he may act in accordance with ‘maxims’—a difficult task since what is right or wrong is easily confounded with what gains reward, and what does not.
77.Moral culture must be based upon ‘maxims,’ not upon discipline; the one prevents evil habits, the other trains the mind to think. We must see, then, that the child should accustom himself to act in accordance with ‘maxims,’ and not from certain ever-changing springs of action. Through discipline we form certain habits, moreover, the force of which becomes lessened in the course of years. The child should learn to act according to ‘maxims,’ the reasonableness of which he is able to see for himself. One can easily see that there is some difficulty in carrying out this principle with young children, and that moral culture demands a great deal of insight on the part of parents and teachers.
Supposing a child tells a lie, for instance, he ought not to be punished, but treated with contempt, and told that he will not be believed in the future, and the like. If you punish a child for being naughty, and reward him for being good, he will do right merely for the sake of the reward; and when he goes out into the world and finds that goodness is not always rewarded, nor wickedness always punished, he will grow into a man who only thinks about how he may get on in the world, and does right or wrong according as he finds either of advantage to himself.
In the culture of ‘maxims’ children should be taught early to distinguish between right and wrongThe school ‘maxims’ of childhood are followed by ‘maxims’ of mankind
78. ‘Maxims’ ought to originate in the human being as such. In moral training we should seek early to infuse into children ideas as to what is right and wrong. If we wish to establish morality, we must abolish punishment. Morality is something so sacred and sublime that we must not degrade it by placing it in the same rank as discipline. The first endeavour in moral education is the formation of character. Character consists in readiness to act in accordance with ‘maxims.’ At first they are school ‘maxims,’ and later ‘maxims’ of mankind. At first the child obeys rules. ‘Maxims’ are also rules, but subjective rules. They proceed from the understanding of man. No infringement of school discipline must be allowed to go unpunished, although the punishment must always fit the offence.
Method and strict adherence to rules are of great importance in the formation of character
79. If we wish to form the characters of children, it is of the greatest importance to point out to them a certain plan, and certain rules, in everything; and these must be strictly adhered to. For instance, they must have set times for sleep, for work, and for pleasure; and these times must be neither shortened nor lengthened. With indifferent matters children might be allowed to choose for themselves, but having once made a rule they must always follow it. We must, however, form in children the character of a child, and not the character of a citizen.
Unmethodical men are not to be relied on; it is difficult to understand them, and to know how far we are to trust them. It is true we often blame people who always act by rule—for instance, the man who does everything by the clock, having a fixed hour for every one of his actions—but we blame them often unreasonably, for this exactness, though it looks like pedantry, goes far towards helping the formation of character.
Obedience is twofold: absolute and voluntary; both kinds being essential to the character of a child
80. Above all things, obedience is an essential feature in the character of a child, especially of a school boy or girl. This obedience is twofold, including absolute obedience to his master’s commands, and obedience to what he feels to be a good and reasonable will. Obedience may be the result of compulsion; it is then absolute: or it may arise out of confidence; it is then obedience of the second kind. This voluntary obedience is very important, but the former is also very necessary, for it prepares the child for the fulfilment of laws that he will have to obey later, as a citizen, even though he may not like them.
School laws must be general, and put into force without partiality
81. Children, then, must be subject to a certain law of necessity. This law, however, must be a general one—a rule which has to be kept constantly in view, especially in schools. The master must not show any predilection or preference for one child above others; for thus the law would cease to be general. As soon as a child sees that the other children are not all placed under the same rules as himself, he will at once become refractory.
The idea of duty, apart from inclination, must be imparted early in life
82. One often hears it said that we should put everything before children in such a way that they shall do it from inclination. In some cases, it is true, this is all very well, but there is much besides which we must place before them as duty. And this will be of great use to them throughout their life. For in the paying of rates and taxes, in the work of the office, and in many other cases, we must be led, not by inclination, but by duty. Even though a child should not be able to see the reason of a duty, it is nevertheless better that certain things should be prescribed to him in this way; for, after all, a child will always be able to see that he has certain duties as a child, while it will be more difficult for him to see that he has certain duties as a human being. Were he able to understand this also—which, however, will only be possible in the course of years—his obedience would be still more perfect.
Disobedience is always followed by punishment—either physical or moral
83. Every transgression of a command in a child is a want of obedience, and this brings punishment with it. Also, should a command be disobeyed through inattention, punishment is still necessary. This punishment is either physical or moral. It is moral when we do something derogatory to the child’s longing to be honoured and loved (a longing which is an aid to moral training); for instance, when we humiliate the child by treating him coldly and distantly. This longing of children should, however, be cultivated as much as possible. Hence this kind of punishment is the best, since it is an aid to moral training—for instance, if a child tells a lie, a look of contempt is punishment enough, and punishment of a most appropriate kind.
Physical punishment consists either in refusing a child’s requests or in the infliction of pain. The first is akin to moral punishment, and is of a negative kind. The second form must be used with caution, lest an indoles servilis1 should be the result. It is of no use to give children rewards; this makes them selfish, and gives rise to an indoles mercenaria.2
Punishments may also be divided into natural and artificial punishments
84. Further, obedience is either that of the child or that of the youth. Disobedience is always followed by punishment. This is either a really natural punishment, which a man brings upon himself by his own behaviour—for instance, when a child gets ill from over-eating—and this kind of punishment is the best, since a man is subject to it throughout his life, and not merely during his childhood; or, on the other hand, the punishment is artificial. By taking into consideration the child’s desire to be loved and respected, such punishments may be chosen as will have a lasting effect upon its character. Physical punishments must merely supplement the insufficiency of moral punishment. If moral punishment have no effect at all, and we have at last to resort to physical punishment, we shall find after all that no good character is formed in this way. At the beginning, however, physical restraint may serve to take the place of reflection.
Punishments should be inflicted with great caution, never in anger, and always with a view to their object—namely, the improvement of the child
85. Punishments inflicted with signs of anger are useless. Children then look upon the punishment simply as the result of anger, and upon themselves merely as the victims of that anger; and as a general rule punishment must be inflicted on children with great caution, that they may understand that its one aim is their improvement. It is foolish to cause children, when they are punished, to return thanks for the punishment by kissing hands,1 and only turns the child into a slave. If physical punishment is often repeated, it makes a child stubborn; and if parents punish their children for obstinacy, they often become all the more obstinate. Besides, it is not always the worst men who are obstinate, and they will often yield easily to kind remonstrance.
By duty a child understands submission to rules. A child’s obedience, therefore must be distinguished from the obedience of a youth, who understands by duty obedience to reason
86. The obedience of the growing youth must be distinguished from the obedience of the child. The former consists in submission to rules of duty. To do something for the sake of duty means obeying reason. It is in vain to speak to children of duty. They look upon it in the end as something which if not fulfilled will be followed by the rod. A child may be guided by mere instinct. As he grows up, however, the idea of duty must come in. Also the idea of shame should not be made use of with children, but only with those who have left childhood for youth. For it cannot exist with them till the idea of honour has first taken root.
The foundation and essence of character is truthfulness
87. The second principal feature in the formation of a child’s character is truthfulness. This is the foundation and very essence of character. A man who tells lies has no character, and if he has any good in him it is merely the result of a certain kind of temperament. Some children have an inclination towards lying, and this frequently for no other reason than that they have a lively imagination. It is the father’s business to see that they are broken of this habit, for mothers generally look upon it as a matter of little or no importance, even finding in it a flattering proof of the cleverness and ability of their children. This is the time to make use of the sense of shame, for the child in this case will understand it well. The blush of shame betrays us when we lie, but it is not always a proof of it, for we often blush at the shamelessness of others who accuse us of guilt. On no condition must we punish children to force the truth from them, unless their telling a lie immediately results in some mischief; then they may be punished for that mischief. The withdrawal of respect is the only fit punishment for lying.
Punishments may be divided into negative and positive punishments. The first may be applied to laziness or viciousness;1 for instance, lying, disobedience. Positive punishment may be applied to acts of spitefulness. But above all things we must take care never to bear children a grudge.
Children should be encouraged to form friendships, to be cheerful and light-hearted. School hours should be followed by hours of recreation
88. A third feature in the child’s character is sociableness. He must form friendships with other children, and not be always by himself. Some teachers, it is true, are opposed to these friendships in schools, but this is a great mistake. Children ought to prepare themselves for the sweetest enjoyment of life.
If a teacher allows himself to prefer one child to another, it must be on account of its character, and not for the sake of any talents the child may possess; otherwise jealousy will arise, which is opposed to friendship.
Children ought to be open-hearted and cheerful in their looks as the sun. A joyful heart alone is able to find its happiness in the good. A religion which makes people gloomy is a false religion; for we should serve God with a joyful heart, and not of constraint.
Children should sometimes be released from the narrow constraint of school, otherwise their natural joyousness will soon be quenched. When the child is set free he soon recovers his natural elasticity. Those games in which children, enjoying perfect freedom, are ever trying to outdo one another, will serve this purpose best, and they will soon make their minds bright and cheerful again.
The most troublesome period of life is the period of youth
89. Many people imagine that the years of their youth are the pleasantest and best of their lives; but it is not really so. They are the most troublesome; for we are then under strict discipline, can seldom choose our own friends, and still more seldom can we have our freedom. As Horace says: Multa tulit, fecitque puer, sudavit et alsit.1
Children should be taught only what is suitable to their age. Precocity and vanity must be guarded against
90. Children should only be taught those things which are suited to their age. Many parents are pleased with the precocity of their offspring; but as a rule, nothing will come of such children. A child should be clever, but only as a child. He should not ape the manners of his elders. For a child to provide himself with moral sentences proper to manhood is to go quite beyond his province and to become merely an imitator. He ought to have merely the understanding of a child, and not seek to display it too early. A precocious child will never become a man of insight and clear understanding. It is just as much out of place for a child to follow all the fashions of the time, to curl his hair, wear ruffles, and even carry a snuff-box. He will thus acquire affected manners not becoming to a child. Polite society is a burden to him, and he entirely lacks a man’s heart. For that very reason we must set ourselves early to fight against all signs of vanity in a child; or, rather, we must give him no occasion to become vain. This easily happens by people prattling before children, telling them how beautiful they are, and how well this or that dress becomes them, and promising them some finery or other as a reward. Finery is not suitable for children. They must accept their neat and simple clothes as necessaries merely.
At the same time the parents must not set great store by their own clothes, nor admire themselves; for here, as everywhere, example is all-powerful, and either strengthens or destroys good precepts.
[1 ]A slavish disposition.
[2 ]The disposition of a hireling.
[1 ]This refers to the then very common German custom of making children who have been punished, actually express their gratitude by saying ‘Danke schön,’ and by kissing the hands of the person who has punished them.—(Tr.)
[1 ]Rink and Schubert add: ‘quarrelsomeness.’—(Tr.)
[1 ]The lad [who hopes to win the race] has borne and done much; he has endured extremes of heat and cold.