Thursday, 27 February 2014

Célestin Freinet


schoolmaster and children's education visionary.

Stumbling over a linocut print roaming the Internet lead to the discovery of an old French school journal in a local website and I learned some things very much worth sharing. I sincerely hope.
In the mountains 

In Passy, in the French province of  Haute-Savoie, Fernand Durand was a schoolmaster from the 1920’s until around 1950. In the local school he worked with the village children according to a method and theory developed by Celestin Freinet (1896-1966). Freinet a schoolmaster himself had noticed children weren’t very much interested in abstract learning but were all the more concentrated and motivated about local events, their farms and animals, families, village and surroundings.

A local skying event in Passy. 

Freinet was badly injured in WWI and during his slow recovery read the works of Montaigne (1533-1592) and Lenin (1870-1924) and in 1920 he started teaching in le Bar sûr Loup in the South of France. 

 Farm animals 

Having access to a small wooden printing press he integrated it in his philosophy that much precious time is lost in school benches (!) He took his children outdoors motivating them to choose an event, think about it and write an account, print it with the press and illustrate it with linocut pictures and also organising the distribution.

 Wild and Zoo animals 

After marriage Freinet settled in St. Paul. His ideas were regarded "suspicious and communist" by the government and the better situated part of the public and community. But his ideas were supported by French philosopher Simone Weil (1909-1943) who died very young in a British sanatorium from tuberculosis. She'd come to the conclusion that: "after God created the world he'd left. And trusted it to the inhabitants, and the simplistic and natural forces to take it’s course". 

Fathers at work 

Freinet left the French public school system disillusioned in 1935 to start his own school in Vence where he worked with children until his death in 1966. Later it was accepted that his way of teaching created much better results then the traditional (public) way of teaching. His ideas are now embraced all over the world. 
   And some more wintersports. 

So here are some of the illustrations from the school booklets of Passy that I’ve found in the website. Besides the many “masterpieces” by achieved artists that have featured in my Blog these wonderful prints make us remind that education and motivation is not transmitted by learning how to read and write alone. 

Local plants and trees 

It is also a hommage to Celestin Freinet, Fernand Durand and the many other dedicated schoolmasters of the world who with great ideas and motivation taught our parents and grandparents. And to my late father-in-law, a "classic" school teacher and passionate Freinet believer.
PS: These examples, I could have fooled you with by telling they were created by German Expressionist printmakers, proof that only an exceptional great, but adult, artist is capable of creating works of art the way an unspoiled child does (after Karel Appel). 

All pictures borrowed freely from the internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 

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