17549Fwd: [gisig] RE: Dickens, education and ever present world educational, social, political and economic crises
- Oct 21, 2013I think members of the Dogme list might be interested in this response to my Luke P's "Dickensian Turn" posting on the GISIG list by Bill Templer. (I have a long-term standing arrangement that I can re-post his messages without asking for permission on each separate occasion).[Bill writes:]---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 21 October 2013 19:51
Subject: [gisig] RE: Dickens, education and ever present world educational, social, political and economic crises
Speaking of **instinctive understanding of and sympathy for human beings and their feelings and motivation as individuals set in societal, economic and political surroundings,** as Dennis mentions, another great novelist at Europe’s other end, inspired as a young man by Dickens, should also be noted.
LEO TOLSTOY founded (1859) and ran an elementary school on his estate at Yasnaya Polyana. Full of progressive and sometimes radical ideas on schooling, Tolstoy undertook to teach the peasant children many subjects---including imaginative writing---and wrote about what he learned. Some of his peasant boys cowrote a beautiful story in a team on their own. This was a pioneering experiment in the ‘free democratic school,’ a Russian forerunner of A. S. Neill’s Summerhill. Tolstoy at this point had already been influenced by the utopian anarchist socialism of Proudhon, the book WHAT IS PROPERTY? And Tolstoy met directly with Proudhon in 1861, then living in exile in Belgium . Tolstoy’s peasant school was developing precisely at this time. Tolstoy later came to espouse a radical pacifist Christian anarchist philosophy.
HERE LINK TO A GOOD SHORT ESSAY ON TOLSTOY’S RADICAL, STUDENT-CENTERED APPROACH, EXPERIMENTS WITH VILLAGE PEASANT CHILDREN IN THE 1860s. SOME OF WHAT TOLSTOY DISCOVERS ABOUT HIS PUPILS, GIVING THEM FREEDOM AND RESPECT, IS QUITE EXTRAORDINARY. THIS WAS SIMULTANEOUS WITH THE FINAL YEARS IN DICKENS’ LIFE, BUT I GUESS DICKENS WAS UNAWARE OF TOLSTOY’S EDUCATIONAL EXPERIMENTS, ESSAYS PUBLISHED IN RUSSIAN IN TOLSTOY’S MAGAZINE YASNAYA POLYANA: http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/smmnsej/tolstoy/chap4.htm
Tolstoy also wrote two books for Russian children learning to read: AZBUKA and NOVA AZBUKA (ABC BOOK and NEW ABC BOOK). These were used in Russia before the Revolution, and later in the Soviet Union. Maybe even down to today in some schools. They contain a number of tales for children written by Tolstoy, in part stories based on his own life, and also his adaptations of Aesop’s fables and other tales in world literature. Tolstoy pioneered the idea of children’s literature in the elementary school classroom. His stories for young learners could be used in English translation in some of our work. As Simmons writes:
**The ABC Book, based upon pedagogical theories that Tolstoy had developed and put into practice in his village school was designed, as he said, for the teacher who loved both his calling and his pupils. The work firmly eschews useless or erudite knowledge, or facts beyond the comprehension or experience of beginners. For the chief significance of teaching, he maintained, was not in the assimilation of a known quantity of information, but in awakening in students an interest in knowledge.**
Bob Blaisdell, TOLSTOY AS TEACHER: LEV TOLSTOY’S WRITINGS ON EDUCATION (2000) is a reader with Tolstoy’s major essays on education in a new English translation: http://www.bookdepository.com/Tolstoy-Teacher-Count-Leo-Nikolayevich-Tolstoy/9780915924967