The Education of Karl Witte | Best books about bringing up genius child

Karl Witte, by age 13, became a phd. He is listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the "youngest doctorate", a record that still stands today (source: Wikipedia). This book focuses on the treatment, Karl Witte received from his parents.

The Book: The Education of Karl Witte is a lost gem. For a long time, there was only one copy in the United States in the Treasure room of Harvard University Library. And also after its translation from German, it was only read in elite circles. In China however, it has become a Best-seller in the past few years.

In the last 200 years it has been repeated by a number of other parents, and always with a similar result!

The author of the book, insisted that his son was normal at birth, and that a specific type of education can transform any child into a genius.
Witte’s fundamental principles are very similar to the principles of László Polgár, the education of a child should begin in the early childhood. It was against the accepted pedagogical policy that the education of the child should not start until the child reached “school age”. And if a child is wasting their energy in all sorts of dissipation, schools and parents are to blame!

Witte mapped out a detailed program which he proceeded in the upbringing of his son. It covered very different topics like Karl toys, the environment, diet, moral education, how to express himself in mother tongue, learn languages, importance of reasoning, rewards, education is sciences, etc.

But let’s see some examples from the experience of the Witte family!

Witte laid a huge emphasis on learning the mother tongue up to par. It looks like an obvious process, but his idea was, that language is the tool of thought, so a child should express itself clearly, fluently, purely. In their daily conversation he never ‘talked dawn” to his son, baby talk like “bow-wow” had no place in his program. He warned everybody in his environment to respect these simple rules.

From the first moment he named body parts, objects in the bedroom, and gradually widened the horizon of knowledge with more and more information with practical utility or aesthetic worth.

He encouraged the child to ask questions to understand the whys whatever was under discussion.  So don’t be angry with your child if he asks why again and again, but answer these questions properly and encourage him to ask further questions.

When Karl was 6 years old, his mother was a little anxious, that her son could not speak other languages, so at a journey she convinced her husband, and he promised to have a 15 minutes’ lesson with their son each day. During the rest of the journey, he considered which language to choose.

Karl Witte started first with French, because of many reasons.
• It was not a dead language
• the father was acquainted with it
• French has similar Grammar rules what the child already knew
• They had opportunity to use French in real life conversations
• There were some simple books available what a small child would enjoy

They used a very similar approach in learning languages what Daniel Coyle described in his book “The Talent Code”. After learning the first language, he became faster and faster learning new languages, and became a polyglot. In a few years he could speak French, English, Italian, Latin, Greek beside German.
This knowledge helped him to become one of the biggest expert on Dante, and interpreting “Göttliche Komödie”.

The breakthrough came when Karl was seven a half years old and had his first visit in college. A few weeks later newspapers mentioned his name admiringly.

The father himself was an influential and highly-regarded scholar so he was able to take Karl to many interesting places such as art galleries, history museums, zoological gardens, mines, shops, other cities, meeting inspirational thinkers of his time. However, it was not only his merit, that his son had all these great opportunities. As in the case of the so-called “genius hotbeds”, after proving the validity if his ideas, his initiative was supported by the King of Prussia.

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Előd Szabó
Előd Szabó