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Friedrich Diesterweg: "An Educator's Little Book of Crabs" (1856)
page 2 of 12


2. Rules for the Education of Mechanical (Mechanically Operative) Humans

We understand "mechanism" as an arrangement through which activities follow external stimuli. The power which sets everything in motion is outside of the machine. If that power is located within the inner essence of the material, then the whole is not a mechanism, but an organism. Clocks, mills, locomotives, etc. are machines; the human body, the universe, etc. are organisms.

A single, universally valid rule for the formation of mechanically active (mechanically thinking, mechanically feeling, mechanically behaving) human beings follows from this: Set them in motion through external stimuli! More specifically for the three directions of human activity: Withhold from them all insight into the essence of things! Train them to measure their sentiments according to external standards (customs, fashion, church regulations, family and regional origins, etc.)! Teach them to determine their actions according to directions given by others!

After the above remarks, which should be sufficient for our purposes, we need to mention which are the most favorable sorts of mechanical behaviors and activities in school, with special reference to lessons.

1. Writing letters merely according to the given rules (especially in the old manner of writing with a lead pencil, with or without connecting it to the proper positioning of the hand) is mechanism.
2. Reading according to the spelling method is mechanism.
3. The repetition of melodies sung aloud is mechanism.
4. Adding and measuring according to rules which are not understood is mechanism.
5. Drawing sketches of the human body based on printed reproductions is mechanism.
6. Memorization according to sound and rhyme is mechanism. (Judicious memorization is not something for children; their memorization is more or less mechanical; even the correctly stressed repetition of the catechism is done mechanically, as a rule.)
7. When children behave properly as a result of obedience to external commands, it is mechanism.
8. The habitual repetition of memorized prayers is mechanism. (Practicing prayers is mechanism several times over.)
9. A confession of faith in the presence of parents and teachers is mechanism.
10. The performance of "pious deeds and customs" as ordered by the church is mechanism.
11. Abandoning forbidden behaviors out of fear of punishment (hell) and performing good deeds in the hope of a reward (heaven) is mechanism.
12. Belief in authority is mechanism.

From that mentioned above and these twelve specific points follow the rules for making mechanical people, and training them for mechanical thinking, mechanical sentiment, and mechanical activity.

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