De ethiek van het onderwijzersberoep rond 1900 | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 41, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1567-7109
  • E-ISSN: 2468-1652



Around 1900, lively discussions arose on the teaching profession and its ethics, in remarkable simularity to actual discussions on this subject. Was the best education to be seen as moral education, whether and how in combination with the cognitive basics; and on the outcome of that, what kind of teacher qualities were to be required, and how to be developed? Disputes hereon were mixed with the pressing question: must pedagogical quality be defined and prescribed by scientific reasoning, or by teachers themselves on their own terms and insights?

This article compares three positions in these discussions, traced in then influential pedagogical journals: Herbart-followers, as defenders of science based teacher quality; their fierce adversaries in the upcoming teacher union, led by Theo Thijssen; and educational reformers striving for nuanced or deliberatly doubting viewpoints on all this. This third position was favoured by Jan Ligthart and other authors in the journal he drifted.

Interestingly, all parties declared the teachers personality of the uppermost importance for educational quality. In Thijssens circle however, this personality was depicted as a real male, autonomously leading his classroom without ethical fuss. While around Ligthart, good teachership sprang from the capacity to empathize with pupils – including their unwillingness to be educated – but enriched by self-insight in ones own personal development, with the inevitable conflicts and doubts thereabouts. This perspective, gradually growing in Ligtharts writings, was otherwise mostly expressed by female authors. The article leads to persistently awkward discussion points, including gender questions, regarding the teaching profession.


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