Revitalizing a Humanizing Vision

Contesting GERM Policies with Froebel


  • Daniel Castner
  • Cecilia Maron-Puntarelli


Continental pedagogy; Progressive education; Froebelian Pedagogy; Froebelian Philosophy; GERM policies


For early childhood educators, few individuals have more historical significance than Friedrich Froebel. Froebelian approaches traveled across the Atlantic and inspired early childhood educators in the United States during the progressive era. Although early childhood professionals in the United States still celebrate the inventor of kindergarten, his vision for early education is inevitably altered when it is interpreted within alternative linguistic, cultural and historical contexts. Authored within this American context, this article aims to recognize Froebel’s unique and contributions to early childhood education. The article has three parts. First, we resituate Froebel within his original context considering the other influential educational theorists and philosophers in 19th century Europe. We contrast continental, human science pedagogy with the many-sided progressive educational movement in the United States. Secondly, we imagine Froebel in dialogue with a contemporary director of an American early childhood center. This dialogue puts Froebel’s philosophy of education in reciprocity with contemporary discourses of policy and practice. We advance an American interpretation of Froebel that considers him much more than a precursor to progressive education. We suggest Froebel provides a uniquely humanizing perspective that is desperately needed within conditions currently dominated by GERM policies.