Venttsel’, Konstantin Nikolaevich
Born Nov. 24 (Dec. 6), 1857; died Mar. 10, 1947, in Moscow. Russian pedagogue, theoretician, and advocate of freedom in the upbringing of the child.
As a student, Venttsel’ participated in the revolutionary movement and served time in jail (1885-87). During World War I he opposed militarism and chauvinism. His philosophical views, as expressed in his The Ethics and Pedagogics of the Creative Personality (vols. 1-2, 1911-12), are idealistic. He took an active part in the work of the Pedagogical Society.
Venttsel’ put out his first independent work on pedagogics in 1896, under the title The Basic Tasks of Moral Education. His pedagogical conception (the major part of which was presented in his book The Fight for a Free School ) expressed the protest of the democratic Russian intelligentsia against the oppressive atmosphere in society and in the schools under the autocracy. He saw the foundation for the creation of a new society in the spiritual and moral perfection of people, and in this connection he developed his theory of “free upbringing.” Basing himself on the premise that it is will and not intellect that is the basis of spiritual life, he underestimated intellectual education. He criticized the prerevolutionary schools for their rigid list of compulsory subjects and the rigid order in which they were to be studied. He believed that a child should acquire as much knowledge as he wished and should acquire it when he felt the need for that knowledge. He advocated the establishment of “houses for free children” instead of schools.
There were some rational opinions among the pedagogical views of Venttsel’; specifically, he correctly regarded work as a powerful means of moral upbringing.
Venttsel’ did not immediately understand that new social conditions for the creation of a genuinely free school had appeared after the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, and for some time he continued to defend his idea of the “autonomy” of schools with regard to the state and to advocate nonpolitical education. In 1919-22 he was employed in the Voronezh Province department of public education, lectured at the University of Voronezh, and took an active part in the organization of the Institute of Public Education. His manuscript memoirs, entitled Experience,Felt and Lived, and dated 1932, are preserved in the scientific archives of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the USSR.
F. F. KOROLEV