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Source: Introduction to Kant on Education (Ueber Paedagogik), trans. Annette Churton, introduction by C.A. Foley Rhys Davids (Boston: D.C. Heath and Co., 1900).
Nearly a century after its original publication in Germany Immanuel Kant über Pädagogik is now for the first time presented to English readers in the translation made by Miss Annette Churton. The little work, as is well known, was not compiled for publication by the master himself. In the last years of his long life he handed over to his younger friend and former pupil, Theodor Rink, the notes he had written for his professorial courses on Physical Geography and on Pædagogics, and commissioned the latter to select and compile from the loose leaflets as much as he thought might prove serviceable to the reading public. Rink set to work and brought out the notes on education in 1803, the year before Kant’s death. The lectures, it seems, were not intended, nor à fortiori the notes, to give an exhaustive theory of education, nor do they present any well-formulated body of philosophical doctrine based on either metaphysical or psychological or sociological data. Kant’s chair at Königsberg University was that of logic and metaphysic, but his lecturing work—both as professor and, before that, as Privat-docent—included a number of subsidiary subjects. During the last quarter of the eighteenth century pædagogics was included as a subject of instruction in the university, certain professors taking it in turn to deliver a course of lectures thereon. When the course fell to Kant he conformed, as was his wont, to the not unusual custom of taking a standard text-book on his theme—in this connection it was that of his colleague, Prof. Bock, Ueber die Erziehungskunst (Königsberg, 1780)—as a nominal guide to procedure. But he did not allow the exposition of the book to hamper him in the original and constructive treatment of his subject. There is, indeed, no very apparent trace of Bock in these notes. The text-book, being in his hand and accessible to his hearers, probably required no memoranda for exposition and criticism of it. Whether he expounded and criticised or not, the legacy transmitted through his pupil to posterity consists simply of a number of independent reflections, of criticisms not relating to Bock, of series of apophthegms, suggestive points, aperçus, with here and there digression and repetition. Above all we feel that, according to his usual method, the master is addressing the average youth among his listeners. The toughest things of the Critiques are not drawn upon, nor is there any terminological paraphernalia to deter the listener. The Kantian ethic is there, right enough, but the teacher is feeling out after a theory of education. He is deeply interested in his theme, but his attitude towards it is inductive and experimental. He realised its importance and the magnitude of its issues, but also the imperfect and provisional nature of existing conclusions on the subject. There was his nine years’ experience as a private tutor to correct any rash theorising—he used to say he had never been able to apply his own precepts in any specific case among his pupils! And his long academic career must have afforded him very varied insight into the nature of youthful development.