Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


The task of this research is to examine the epistemological premises inherent in Thornton W. Burgess' nature stories for children as defined by Ernst Cassirer's philosophy of symbolic forms. Its purpose is to identify these premises, examine them in light of Cassirer's philosophy, and explore their relevance to education theory.

Burgess holds that children are characterized by their potentiality, that their interest in animals is inherent, that they instinctively sense themselves superior to animals, and that for these reasons it is possible to convey any lesson to the child through the medium of a fact-based animal story.

During the course of examination of these premises and the body of Burgess' writings published between 1910 and 1927, two forms of presentation emerge: the mythic and the empirical-scientific. Examination of these trends in terms of Cassirer's philosophy discloses a progressive development of the way in which Burgess presents facts of nature. The resulting derivation of principles of this progression provides guidelines for early childhood literature and education about science and nature.