Some Memorable Sayings from Great Pedagogues

In this article, we'll get to know some famous sayings of great pedagogues and, through them, we'll get closer to their thinking about childhood and education in general.
Some Memorable Sayings from Great Pedagogues
María Matilde

Written and verified by the pedagogue and trainer María Matilde.

Last update: 08 November, 2022

Throughout history, many pedagogues have developed theories and shared experiences on education and how to train people. Thus, we can find famous sayings of great pedagogues that help us begin to get to know the theoretical and practical contribution that these specialists have made to the pedagogical field.

Their contributions have helped pedagogy, as a discipline, to become a specialized field that explains how the teaching-learning processes take place.

Famous sayings: the beginning of pedagogy

The idea of childhood as a stage that’s distinct from adulthood and a vision of children as subjects with their own needs has evolved throughout history. The field of pedagogy has developed through the thinking of pedagogues who studied and explained how children learn. As a result, they’ve formed opinions on  how children should be taught according to their particularities.

  • “To teach well is to enable the student to learn quickly, pleasantly, and completely.”
  • “We shouldn’t teach what we know, but what the students are capable of learning.”
  • “Don’t teach more than one thing at a time, you have to teach one thing after another in order.”

These are sayings from John Amos Comenius (1592-1670), one of the first pedagogues who began to develop a theoretical body of pedagogical thought. He’s the author of the renowned work Didactica Magna (1632). In this work, he developed his teaching principles and made them compulsory for all children without distinction of race or social status.

Some Memorable Sayings from Great Pedagogues

Criticism of traditional pedagogy: famous sayings of great pedagogues

Traditional pedagogy began to develop in the 17th century, both in Europe and Latin America. Its main objective was to train young people to participate in the construction of the incipient nations.

Traditional pedagogy is, and has been, characterized by being a pedagogy centered mainly on the teacher and on the transmission of knowledge and concepts.

The first criticisms of this type of pedagogy came from the pedagogue Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). He turned traditional pedagogy on its head by shifting the focus from the educator to the child. Rousseau defended the natural evolution of children and respect for their own nature, without being so tied to adults. We can see his ideas in sayings such as:

  • “Man is good by nature, it’s society that corrupts him.”
  • “Childhood has its own ways of seeing, thinking, and feeling. Nothing is more foolish than trying to replace them with the ways of adults.”

The continuity of Rousseau’s thought

Rousseau’s ideas were taken up by other renowned pedagogues, such as Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) and Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852). They also defended children’s individuality, and the need for trained teachers to provide them with a comprehensive education. Thus, Pestalozzi said:

  • “A child who doesn’t feel loved can hardly be educated.”

In this line, Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) who, like Pestalozzi, defended the need to educate from practice and observation, was the creator of preschool education and the concept of the “kindergarten.” Froebel focused on free play as a way for children to learn. We can see his thinking in sayings such as:

  • “Play is the highest level of a child’s development. It gives joy, freedom, satisfaction, inner rest, outer rest, and peace with the world. Childhood games are the germinated leaves of a later life.”
Some Memorable Sayings from Great Pedagogues

Famous sayings of great pedagogues representing the New School

The New School was a movement that began at the end of the 19th century and which followed the line of the first pedagogues who committed themselves to changing and renewing traditional pedagogy. It advocated a pedagogical attitude that defended children’s interests, needs and freedom, and which trained them for life with a critical spirit.

Its aim was to train the whole person, and not only their intellect. Some of the sayings of great pedagogues who represented this movement are very interesting:

  • “Teaching must be carried out by actions. Education is life, school is society.” –John Dewey, 1859-1952.
  • “The first task of education is to stir up life, but to leave it free to develop.” – Maria Montessori, 1870-1952.
  • “Children have a spirit of observation, you just need to avoid snuffing it out.” –Ovide Decroly, 1871-1932.
  • “The purpose of education is none other than to help the child to develop and unfold their potential. It’s a free education designed to bring freedom.” – Adolphe Ferriére, 1879-1960.

Other famous sayings…

The thought and theoretical development of specialists in the fields of psychology or philosophy have also been fundamental in developing this educational field, as well as pedagogy as a discipline, and educational psychology.

So, even though they aren’t famous sayings from trained pedagogues, these sayings from renowned psychologists regarding education are worth mentioning.

  • “Children only have a real understanding of what they invent themselves, and every time we try to teach them something too quickly, we prevent them from reinventing themselves.” – Jean Piaget, 1896-1980.
  • “What a child can do today with help, they will be able to do by themselves tomorrow.” – Lev Vygotsky, 1896-1934.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.