|55 The Invention of Childhood 1633
You know more than you think you do." With these eight words, Benjamin Spock opened his Baby and Child Care--and turned attitudes toward parenting upside down. But Spock has to take a revolutionary backseat to Moravian bishop Johan Amos Comenius, who lived 300 years earlier. When he advised in The School of Infancy that babies should have their spirits stirred up "by kisses and embraces," Comenius was moving into new territory (at least for Europe), a place where affectionate behavior was seen as important to a child's well-being. And when he wrote that kids need to play to learn, he was giving voice to the unimaginable.
Picture the Europe of 1633. The Thirty Years' War was devastating villages; food was scarce; Protestants like Comenius were running for their lives. It was a difficult world, and children worked hard and died young. But Comenius was a utopian who believed the pathway to an earthly Eden was education. If children were not loved, not educated early and well, their souls could be lost.
After Comenius's death much of his work was forgotten. Then, 100 years later, Jean-Jacques Rousseau advised parents to let children savor nature. Soon Swiss reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was running the first infants' school. By 1837, Friedrich Froebel had opened a kindergarten in Germany. Attitudes toward childrearing swing through history like a drunken pendulum, but these days we hope children are treated as children.
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