Thus a new field was opened to hygiene in connection with the most fertile source of professional disease, and reading and writing were carefully studied in relation to pedagogical methods, and in relation to spinal curvature and defective refraction of the eyes.
The figure of the child, that victim of unsuitable and disproportionate work, was not hereby brought into strong relief, as might have been expected, by the aid of medicine, but a new branch of "legal medicine" came into being. It was, indeed, medicine which drew attention to the diseases and deaths of the victims in orphan asylums, victims of artificial or irrational feeding, in conjunction with wet nursing; it was medicine which passed in review one by one all those individual cases which proclaim this legal fact: children have no civil rights. Medicine now entered into another sphere where the victims were not "cases," but the generality, the child-population in its entirety; and now it is the law itself which imposes duties upon them, and condemns them en masse to labor for many years in a manner which entails physical torture. If a branch of legal medicine has arisen in connection with criminals, how is it that none should ever have arisen in connection with the innocent?
* * * * *
Science has not fulfilled its mission in its dealings with children.—Medicine has confined itself to the treatment of diseases artificially produced. It has diagnosed a cause of disease and left this cause undisturbed, content merely to alleviate the resultant evils befalling a multitude of victims. It has not taken up the attitude proper to its great and dignified role of "protector" of life; it has merely come forward, like the Red Cross Service during war, to heal the wounded and alleviate the condition of the suffering; it has not considered that the authority it enjoys as the guardian of health would enable it to utter the supreme cry of peace, putting an end to a war so dangerous, unjust, and inhuman.
As, in its struggle against microbes, it was the standard-bearer in the most glorious of victories over death, so, fighting directly against the causes of the impoverishment of generations, it might have aspired to bear the banner of protector of posterity. Instead of this, it confined itself to the elaboration of a branch of study that mimics science: school hygiene; thus making itself the accomplice of a social wrong.
Let us glance into a recent treatise of school hygiene, which merely sums up the ideas and the work of the world at large:
"We will briefly indicate the conditions favorable to the development of spinal curvature. The age when the malady usually appears is that of second infancy, hence its name of spinal curvature of the adolescent; spinal curvature caused by rickets, which appears in early childhood, is rarer, and is of less direct interest to us here. The commonest cause, and that on which our attention should be primarily concentrated, is the vicious attitude adopted by the majority of our pupils during their school work; this cause is so universal that we may call spinal curvature the professional disease of the pupil. Doctor Legendre, in a formula which may be judged over-severe, though unhappily it is only too well-founded, said of our schools that they are factories for the production of the deformed and the myopic.
"The main cause of myopia is to be found in the very conditions under which children are gathered together in schools: insufficiency of light, the over-small type common in school-books, the frequent use of the blackboard, on which the teacher is not always careful to make the size of the characters he traces proportionate to the distance at which they have to be read, are so many causes of ocular fatigue. The visual keenness of a given eye, says Doctor Leprince, decreases rapidly when the intensity of the light falls below a certain limit. The pupil, working with insufficient light, repairs the defective keenness of which this is the cause, by increasing the visual angle under which the details of the object he is looking at appear to him; in other words, he brings that object inordinately close to him.
"The time necessary to recognize a given letter increases greatly, when the limit of visual acuteness has been reached. Therefore, insufficient light would tend to make work slower, unless the pupil increased acuteness by approaching the object more closely. Thus myopia constitutes a positive adaptation to the defective conditions of work, enabling the pupil to work more rapidly." 
[Footnote 6: Bronardet and Mosny, Hygiene Scolaire. Boilliere, Paris, 1914, pp. 142, 143, 430, 496.]
It would seem therefore natural to say: let the child find himself a better lighted place; if the blackboard is at some distance from him, let him come nearer to it; if the insufficient light retards his work, let him go more slowly; if the questions at issue are such harmless things as changing a place, advancing a step or two, taking a few minutes longer over a task—what tyrant on earth would deny such a small favor, and condemn the suppliant to blindness?
Such a tyrant is the teacher, who aspires to win the affection of his victims by means of moral exhortations.
It would be so simple to allow children, when tired of sitting, to rise, and when tired of writing, to desist, and then their bones would not be twisted. Who can look on unmoved at the spectacle of children whose vertebral column is being deformed by using desks, just as in the Middle Ages the instep was deformed by the torture of the boot. And on what grounds is this odious torture judged to be necessary?
Because a man has substituted himself for God, desiring to form the minds of children in his own image and likeness; and this cannot be done without subjecting a free creature to torture. This is the only reason.
We will now quote the remedies by means of which a so-called science proposes to counteract spinal curvature in school-children. It has determined the exact position in which a child may remain seated and at work for a long period of time without injury to the vertebrae.
"The child, seated at the table, should have his feet planted flat upon the ground, or upon a foot-rest. The legs should be at right-angles to the thighs, as should the thighs be to the trunk, save for a slight inclination of the bench itself. The trunk should be in such a position that there will be no lateral inclination of the vertebral column, the arms should be parallel with the sides of the body, the thorax should not be interfered with by the front edge of the table, the pelvic basin should be symmetrically supported, the head slightly bent forward at a distance of thirty centimeters from the level of the table; the axis of the eyes, remaining parallel with the front edge of the table, should be horizontal; the forearms, two-thirds of which should be laid on the table, should rest on it, but without leaning upon it."
To realize all these conditions, it is necessary that the desk should be exactly fitted to the proportions of the child; its constituent parts should agree with those of the body and limbs of the scholar.
The following are the measurements which Dufessel considered indispensable in the fashioning of a desk suitable for children:
2. The length of the leg, taken from below the knee, when the child is seated with the legs at right-angles to the thighs, and the feet flat on the ground. This measurement gives the required height of the seat from the foot-rest.
3. The diameter of the body from front to back, taken from the sternum; this, with five centimeters added to it, gives the proper distance from the reading-desk to the back of the seat.
4. The length of the femur, two-thirds of which represent the depth of the seat.
5. Finally, the height of the epigastric cavity above the seat, augmented by a few centimeters, indicates the height of the reading-desk.
We may add that in view of the rapid growth of the child, these measurements should be taken twice in the course of the school year, and children should be made to change places in accordance with these measurements.
There is a little crustacean which, coming naked into the world, chooses an empty shell and adapts itself thereto; when it grows larger and the shell becomes too tight, it sallies forth and takes up its abode in a larger one. This the creature does of its own accord, without a savant to measure it or a teacher to choose a new shell for it. But to us and to scientists, a child is inferior to this lowly invertebrate!
The difficulty of keeping forty or fifty children motionless for hours in the prescribed hygienic attitude, and of finding desks exactly adapted to these growing bodies, makes this remedy impracticable, so hunchbacks continue among us. The problem remains unsolved.
Hence it has been deemed more practical to establish a kind of orthopaedic institution within the building itself in certain model schools in Rome. It consists of a costly and elaborate apparatus, to which the pupils come in turn to be suspended by the head after the method adopted in medicine to combat spinal curvature in Pott's disease (tuberculosis of the vertebral column) and rickets.
Healthy children, as well as the unsound, suffer by these applications; but on the other hand, the results afford encouraging statistics. If this hanging treatment be initiated regularly at the age of six years it strikes a perfect balance with the injury caused by prolonged deterioration induced by school desks, and children are delivered from spinal disease.
* * * * *
Discoveries of experimental psychology: overwork; nervous exhaustion.—Hygiene, making its way into the school, discovered scholar's spinal curvature and scholar's myopia; experimental psychology discovered the exhaustion due to overwork, and studied the fatigue of the scholar. It followed in the beaten track of medicine—that is to say, it sought to alleviate the ills it had diagnosed, and instituted a branch of science the title of which is not very clearly defined as yet, for some call it experimental psychology applied to the school, others Scientific Pedagogy.
It is necessary to remember that experimental psychology was established in 1860 by Fechner, who was a physicist accustomed to experiment on things, not on living creatures, and who merely adapted the methods employed in physics to psychical measurements, thus founding psycho-physics. The instruments specially invented for esthesiometric measurements were of extreme precision; but the results obtained showed such variations that by mathematical law they could not be attributed to "errors of measurement," but were obviously due to "errors of method." Indeed, for the measurement of liquids it is necessary to have an instrument different from that which we use in measuring solids, although we are still in the domain of physics; we cannot measure a stuff by the quart, nor wine by the yard; how much more then must the methods of measuring physical substances and spiritual energy differ?
After psycho-physics, psycho-physiology was introduced by Wundt. Wundt, being a physiologist, applied the methods of study proper to physiological functions to psychical study. He did not make the exact metrical instrument his aim; but he measured nervous reactions exactly in time. Fechner's primitive researches made it possible to produce instruments so exact that they can measure the sound made by a drop of water falling from the height of a meter, while Wundt's researches have resulted in chronometers which can measure the thousandth part of a second. But the spirit did not correspond to the exactness of research—the results showed by their oscillations that nothing was being measured—that the object to be measured escaped. It will suffice to mention that in measuring the nervous currents in rate of transmission of impulse along the nerves and also in the ganglion cells of the spinal marrow, Exner arrived at a rapidity of eight meters, and Bloch at a rapidity of 194 meters, in the same unit of time.
In spite of this startling contrast between the precision of the means of research and the huge variations in the results, which were shown by mathematical law to be absurd, experimental psychology carried on extensive studies, under the illusion that it rested upon a mathematical basis.
It is from this science that a branch has been detached with which to penetrate into the school, for the purpose of giving spiritual help to the scholar, and fresh vigor to pedagogy.
Methods of research are no longer merely those antiquated psycho-physical and psycho-physiological methods formerly in favor; experimental psychology, henceforth emancipated from its origins, has developed independently. It now relies on purely psychological tests for its researches, and although it does not exclude the methods adopted in the laboratory, and the use of such accurate and trustworthy instruments as the esthesiometer and the ergograph, the school itself has become the chief field of experiment.
For example: one of the most familiar tests of attention is to give a printed page to be read over, with directions to strike out every a on the page; the time taken to complete this task is measured by chronometer.
Counting aloud from one to a hundred, and at the same time carrying on arithmetical operations in writing, is a measure of the distribution of the attention, provided the time taken be calculated by the chronometer, and all errors be noted. To make several persons perform similar exercises at the same time enables us to study comparative individual activities. In schools, exercises in dictation which have been previously determined, may be given to a group of scholars, care being taken to note the time occupied in performing the exercise and to compare the errors. This is also an easy and practical means of obtaining collective results.
These experiments all psychologists agree should be carried out without interrupting the usual routine of the school. They are to be regarded as an addition, an extra, and may be summed up as a means of scientific research, throwing light upon the regular psychical conditions of school studies.
The principal results of such experiments have been: the multiplicity of mistakes made, and the difficulty of fixing attention; that is to say, they reveal the weariness, the degree of fatigue, in children.
This gave the alarm! Old-fashioned pedagogy was concerned solely with what children ought to do. The idea that their nervous energies might be impaired was first called into being by the warning note of science.
Researches into the causes of fatigue became more and more frequent, and coupled with such researches was the less immediate enquiry as to how fatigue could be "combated" or "alleviated." All the factors relating to the question were studied: age, sex, the degree of intelligence, the type of individual, the influence of the seasons, the influence of the various times of the day, of the various days of the week, of habit, intervals of relaxation, interest, variety of work, the position of the body, and, finally, position in reference to the cardinal points.
* * * * *
Science is confronted by a mass of unsolved problems.—The outcome of all these researches is a growing mass of unsolved problems. It has not been established whether males are more easily fatigued than females; whether the intelligent are more subject to fatigue than the unintelligent. With regard to the individual type, Tissie's conclusion seems to be the most noteworthy: "Each individual becomes fatigued or not according to his degree of will." In connection with the seasons it appears that fatigue increases from the first to the last day of school, but it is uncertain whether this is due to the influence of the seasons, or whether, as Schuyten affirms, the scholar's gradual exhaustion is due to the scholastic system. With regard to the time of day, "it is still a question whether the fatigue produced is less when the pupil works spontaneously, but this problem is a difficult one to solve." The days of the week when fatigue is least evident are Monday and Friday, but researches made in this connection are not definitive; as to habit, intervals of rest, interest: "in connection with these factors which are antagonistic to fatigue, it has been questioned whether they actually diminish fatigue, or merely cloak it, but no decision has been reached." A great variety of interesting researches have been made into the question of change of work with identical results—namely, that frequent change of work causes greater fatigue than continuous work of one kind, and that a sudden interruption is more fatiguing than persistence. The following experiment (quoted by Claparede) was made by Schultze: one day the girls were required to add up figures for twenty-five minutes, and then to copy out passages for another twenty-five minutes. Another day they performed the same work, but it was differently divided; they had to add for fifty minutes and to copy for another fifty minutes. Now these last tests gave results infinitely superior to the first. And yet it is well known that, in spite of such results, constant interruption and change of work are commonly practised in schools, as part of a scientific plan for combating fatigue.
One of the researches directly relating to schools is that of the ponogenic co-efficient of the various subjects of instruction, that is to say, of the degrees of fatigue induced by these. Wagner is of opinion a priori that one hundred, the maximum co-efficient, must be assigned to mathematics; in this case, we should get the following ponogenic co-efficients in schools, for each subject:
Mathematics 100 Latin 91 Greek 90 Gymnastics 90 History and Geography 85 French and German 82 Natural History 80 Drawing, Religion 77
We may note the arbitrary and surprising manner in which such results are established; nevertheless, in the name of "experimental science" it is possible to make such deductions as the following:
"It would be interesting to enquire if the order of the ponogenic co-efficients varies with the age of the children, which would enable us to know on the one hand when the brain is best fitted for the study of any particular subject and when therefore it would be most judicious to make it predominate in the program; on the other hand, it would help us in the arrangement of the daily time-table; we should take, if possible, the most fatiguing subjects at the beginning of the day" (Claparede, op. cit.).
Another order of recent researches is that made into the toxines produced by fatigue; Weichardt succeeded in isolating these toxines, and in fabricating anti-toxines with which he experimented successfully on rats. The experiments were also repeated in a clinic. With regard to the appearance of the toxines, it was found that they were abundantly produced during the performance of "wearisome" work, whereas there were only traces of them to be found when the work was "interesting."
Throughout this science so packed with researches which give as their result unsolved problems, we perceive that not one of the factors taken into consideration can alleviate fatigue; interruption and change of work merely aggravate it. The one means by which surmenage (exhaustion due to overwork) can be eliminated is to make work pleasant and interesting, to give joy in work rather than pain.
"The necessity of making education and instruction attractive has been propounded by all pedagogists worthy of the name, such as Fenelon, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Herbart, and Spencer," says Claparede, "but it is still unrecognized in the everyday practise of the schools" (op. cit.).
"By common consent, the first duty of the educator is that of doing no harm: first do no harm, a precept also accepted in the practise of medicine. To obey it to the letter is, indeed, impossible, because every method of scholastic education is in some way prejudicial to the normal development of the child. But the educator will seek to alleviate the injury which instruction necessarily entails" (op. cit.).
This is indeed cold comfort, after all these studies and researches! A confession that problems have arisen at every step, and that not a single one has been solved! Indeed, underlying all this is the problem of problems: how to make that place attractive and joyous where hitherto the body has been tortured and contorted, and the blood poisoned by weariness! It is impossible to educate without doing harm; but we must do harm that will give pleasure! This is truly an embarrassing position! And this is why an interminable string of notes of interrogation serves as the decorative motive of this new science, which might be more appropriately styled: ignorabimus.
And it is for this reason that the considerations indicated by hygiene and psychology now tend to do away altogether with the sum total of irreparable evils, "commuting the sentence," that is to say, abbreviating hours of study, cutting down the curriculum, avoiding written exercises. Thus a new specter, that of ignorance, and henceforth the abandonment of the child for the greater part of the day, present themselves as a substitute for the specter of destruction. Meanwhile our epoch demands an intensive care of the new generation, and the preparation of a culture ever vaster and more complex.
True, it would appear that to-day a way of escape may be offered by the discovery of the anti-toxine for fatigue. "Just think!" exclaims Claparede, "a serum against fatigue. How valuable this would be!" From this point of view, I should say that the ponogenic co-efficients might find a more practical and rational application than that of the revelation of "programs"; indeed these co-efficients indicating the production of toxines would appear destined to determine the dose of anti-toxine necessary to nullify the evil effects resulting from each different subject of instruction. In the not far distant future, when these auxiliary sciences of the school and pedagogy shall have made due progress, we shall perhaps see, side by side with the orthopaedic ward, a physio-chemical clinic, where every evening the pupils, as they leave the beneficent suspensory apparatus which counteracts injury to their skeletons, may enter with a kind of ponogenic prescription regulated by the teaching they have undergone, and receive an injection which will deliver them from the poisonous effects of fatigue!
This reads like an irony of the worst kind, perhaps; but this is not the case. Where the orthopaedic institution is already an accomplished fact, we may very soon see the chemical clinic established. If a problem of liberty is to be solved with machines, and if a problem of justice is to be regarded from the chemical point of view, similar consequences will be the logical end of sciences developed upon such errors.
It is obvious that a real experimental science, which shall guide education and deliver the child from slavery, is not yet born; when it appears, it will be to the so-called "sciences" that have sprung up in connection with the diseases of martyred childhood as chemistry to alchemy, and as positive medicine to the empirical medicine of bygone centuries.
I think it will be of interest here to record the impressions of a person who, leaving the field of mathematics, entered upon the study of biology and experimental psychology.
It is an account of a young English engineer, who had evidently mistaken his vocation, and who, after studying my method for two years, returned to the universities of his own great country as a student of biology.
This is his opinion of experimental psychology:
In psychology we are studying the most modern experimental researches. At present we are engaged upon Thought and Imagination. I must confess that I do not find this course very illuminating, though I agree that it is necessary to know something of these researches. In modern psychology there is nothing at all adequate to the subject of our method. These investigators seem to me like persons looking at a tree, and noting the most obvious of its external forms: the shape of a leaf, a stem, etc., doing all this with great gravity and using very precise language (perhaps believing that this constitutes science), but often confusing the function of definition with that of description.
In this manner descriptions of wonderful and fascinating things are reduced to arid definitions, in order to be clothed in their science, and thus are rendered powerless to inspire thought. They never meditate; they read a great deal; they think in mental images which no more represent facts than a diagram on the blackboard represents a living organ; and these images differ among different psychologists, but their language is always the same. They do all this believing they are making progress, and instead of training their pupils to observe for themselves without prejudice, they instil their own prejudices into the minds of the students, cramming them with definitions and descriptions of the strangest and most amorphous kind, which effectually prevent them from thinking for themselves.
But within the tree there is the fundamental structure which they have not begun to examine, though the revelation of this would explain all the external data. The details would diminish in importance; all these details issuing from a single root might be classified in the simplest manner. This "science" reminds me of that antiquated lore which dealt with the constellations, when the laws of planetary motion were not yet known, and the so-called science confined itself to descriptions of the "Great Bear," the "Crab," the "Goat," etc.
I detest those dryasdusts who, unaware of their own ignorance, write enormous arid tomes with an air of great majesty, as if they were revealing absolute knowledge, books that lie heavy on the minds of the students, making them dry as their teachers. But the students seem to me to care only about passing their examinations and to have no thought of discovering new knowledge; and the professors "serve" them to this end. Thus we are all in a state of servitude due to a mistaken system of education, which calls loudly for reform.
MY CONTRIBUTION TO EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE
The organization of psychical life begins with the characteristic phenomenon of attention.—My experimental work with little children from three to six years old has been, in fact, a practical contribution to research which has for its aim the discovery of the treatment required by the soul of the child, a treatment analogous to that which hygiene prescribes for its body.
I think, therefore, that it is essential to record the fundamental fact which led me to define my method.
I was making my first essays in applying the principles and part of the material I had used for many years previously in the education of deficient children, to the normal children of the San Lorenzo quarter in Rome, when I happened to notice a little girl of about three years old deeply absorbed in a set of solid insets, removing the wooden cylinders from their respective holes and replacing them. The expression on the child's face was one of such concentrated attention that it seemed to me an extraordinary manifestation; up to this time none of the children had ever shown such fixity of interest in an object; and my belief in the characteristic instability of attention in young children, who flit incessantly from one thing to another, made me peculiarly alive to the phenomenon.
I watched the child intently without disturbing her at first, and began to count how many times she repeated the exercise; then, seeing that she was continuing for a long time, I picked up the little armchair in which she was seated, and placed chair and child upon the table; the little creature hastily caught up her case of insets, laid it across the arms of her chair, and gathering the cylinders into her lap, set to work again. Then I called upon all the children to sing; they sang, but the little girl continued undisturbed, repeating her exercise even after the short song had come to an end. I counted forty-four repetitions; when at last she ceased, it was quite independently of any surrounding stimuli which might have distracted her, and she looked round with a satisfied air, almost as if awaking from a refreshing nap.
I think my never-to-be-forgotten impression was that experienced by one who has made a discovery.
This phenomenon gradually became common among the children: it may therefore be recorded as a constant reaction occurring in connection with certain external conditions, which may be determined. And each time that such a polarisation of attention took place, the child began to be completely transformed, to become calmer, more intelligent, and more expansive; it showed extraordinary spiritual qualities, recalling the phenomena of a higher consciousness, such as those of conversion.
It was as if in a saturated solution, a point of crystallization had formed, round which the whole chaotic and fluctuating mass united, producing a crystal of wonderful forms. Thus, when the phenomenon of the polarisation of attention had taken place, all that was disorderly and fluctuating in the consciousness of the child seemed to be organizing itself into a spiritual creation, the surprising characteristics of which are reproduced in every individual.
It made one think of the life of man which may remain diffused among a multiplicity of things, in an inferior state of chaos, until some special thing attracts it intensely and fixes it; and then man is revealed unto himself, he feels that he has begun to live.
This spiritual phenomenon which may co-involve the entire consciousness of the adult, is therefore only one of the constant elements of the phenomena of "internal formation." It occurs as the normal beginning of the inner life of children, and accompanies its development in such a manner as to become accessible to research, as an experimental fact.
It was thus that the soul of the child gave its revelations, and under their guidance a method exemplifying spiritual liberty was evolved.
The story of this initiatory episode soon spread throughout the world, and at first it seemed like the story of a miracle. Then by degrees, as experiments were made among the most diverse races, the simple and evident principles of this spiritual "treatment" were manifested.
* * * * *
Psychical development is organized by the aid of external stimuli, which may be determined experimentally.—The contribution I have made to the education of young children tends, in fact, to specify by means of the revelations due to experiment, the form of liberty in internal development.
It would not be possible to conceive liberty of development, if by its very nature the child were not capable of a spontaneous organic development, if the tendency to develop his energies (expansion of latent powers), the conquest of the means necessary to a harmonious innate development, did not already exist. In order to expand, the child, left at liberty to exercise his activities, ought to find in his surroundings something organized in direct relation to his internal organization which is developing itself by natural laws, just as the free insect finds in the form and qualities of flowers a direct correspondence between form and sustenance. The insect is undoubtedly free when, seeking the nectar which nourishes it, it is in reality helping the reproduction of the plant. There is nothing more marvelous in nature than the correspondence between the organs of these two orders of beings destined to such a providential cooperation.
The secret of the free development of the child consists, therefore, in organizing for him the means necessary for his internal nourishment, means corresponding to a primitive impulse of the child, comparable to that which makes the new-born infant capable of sucking milk from the breast, which by its external form and elaborated sustenance, corresponds perfectly to the requirements of the infant.
It is in the satisfaction of this primitive impulse, this internal hunger, that the child's personality begins to organize itself and reveal its characteristics; just as the new-born infant, in nourishing itself, organizes its body and its natural movements.
We must not therefore set ourselves the educational problem of seeking means whereby to organize the internal personality of the child and develop his characteristics; the sole problem is that of offering the child the necessary nourishment.
It is by this means that the child develops an organized and complex activity which, while it responds to a primitive impulse, exercises the intelligence and develops qualities we consider lofty, and which we supposed were foreign to the nature of the young child, such as patience and perseverance in work, and in the moral order, obedience, gentleness, affection, politeness, serenity; qualities we are accustomed to divide into different categories, and as to which, hitherto, we have cherished the illusion that it was our task to develop them gradually by our direct interposition, although in practise we have never known by what means to do so successfully.
In order that the phenomenon should come to pass it is necessary that the spontaneous development of the child should be accorded perfect liberty; that is to say, that its calm and peaceful expansion should not be disturbed by the intervention of an untimely and disturbing influence; just as the body of the new-born infant should be left in peace to assimilate its nourishment and grow properly.
In such an attitude ought we to await the miracles of the inner life, its expansions and also its unforeseen and surprising explosions; just as the intelligent mother, only giving her baby nourishment and rest, contemplates it, seeing it grow, and awaits the manifestations of nature: the first tooth, the first word, and finally the action by which the baby will one day rise to his feet and walk.
But to ensure the psychical phenomena of growth, we must prepare the "environment" in a definite manner, and from this environment offer the child the external means directly necessary for him.
This is the positive fact which my experiment has rendered concrete. Hitherto the liberty of the child has been vaguely discussed; no clearly defined limit has been established between liberty and abandonment. We were told: "Liberty has its limits," "Liberty must be properly understood." But a special method indicating "how liberty should be interpreted, and what is the intuitive quid which ought to co-exist with it," had not been determined.
The establishment of such a method should open up a new path to all education.
* * * * *
It is therefore necessary that the environment should contain the means of auto-education. These means cannot be "taken at random"; they represent the result of an experimental study which cannot be undertaken by all, because a scientific preparation is necessary for such delicate work; besides, like all experimental study, it is laborious, prolonged, and exact. Many years of research are required, before the means really necessary for psychical development can be set forth. Those educationalists who leave the great question of the liberty of the pupil to the good sense or to the preparation of the master are very far from solving the problem of liberty. The greatest scientist, or the person most fitted by nature to teach, could never of himself discover such, because, to preparation and natural gifts, the further factor of time must be added—the long period of preparatory experiment. Therefore a science which has already provided the means for self-education must exist beforehand. To-day, he who speaks of liberty in the schools ought at the same time to exhibit objects—approximating to a scientific apparatus—which will make such liberty possible.
The scientific instrument must be constructed upon a basis of exactitude. Just as the lenses of the physicist are constructed in accordance with the laws of the refraction of light, so the pedagogic instrument should be based on the psychical manifestations of the child.
Such an instrument may be compared to a systematized "mental test." It is not, however, established upon a basis of external measurement, for the purpose of estimating the amount of instantaneous psychical reaction which it produces; it is, on the contrary, a stimulus which is itself determined by the psychical reactions it is capable of producing and maintaining permanently. It is the psychical reaction, therefore, that in this case determines and establishes the systematic "mental test." The psychical reaction which constitutes the sole basis of comparison in the determination of the tests, is a polarization of the attention, and the repetition of the actions related to it. When a stimulus corresponds in this manner to the "reflex personality," it serves, not to measure but to maintain a lively reaction; it is therefore a stimulus to the "internal formation." Indeed, upon such activity, awakened and maintained, the accompanying organism initiates its internal elaborations in relation to the stimuli.
This does not penetrate into the ancient ambit of pedagogy as a science that measures the personality, as the experimental psychology introduced in schools has hitherto done, but as a science that transforms the personality, and is therefore capable of taking its stand as a true and real pedagogy. Whereas the ancient pedagogy in all its various interpretations started from the conception of a "receptive personality"—one, that is to say, which was to receive instructions and to be passively formed, this scientific departure starts from the conception of an active personality—reflex and associative—developing itself by a series of reactions induced by systematic stimuli which have been determined by experiment. This new pedagogy accordingly belongs to the series of modern sciences, and not to antique speculations, although it is not directly based on the purely metric studies of "positive psychology." But the "method," which informs it—namely, experiment, observation, evidence or proof, the recognition of new phenomena, their reproduction and utilization, undoubtedly place it among the experimental sciences.
* * * * *
External stimuli may be determined in quality and quantity.—Nothing can be more interesting than such experiments. By their means external stimuli may be determined with the greatest precision, both as regards quality and quantity. For instance, very small objects of various geometric forms will only attract the fugitive attention of a child of three years old; but by increasing the dimensions gradually, we arrive at the limit of size when these objects will fix the attention; then such objects excite an activity which becomes permanent, and the resulting exercise becomes a factor of development. The experiment is repeated with a number of children, and thus the dimensions of a series of objects are established.
It is the same with colors and with every kind of quality. In order that a quality should be felt to such a degree as to fix the attention, a certain extension and a certain intensity of the stimulus are necessary, which may be determined by the degree of psychical reaction shown by the child; as, for instance, the minimum chromatic extension sufficient to attract the attention to the colored tablets, etc. Quality, therefore, is determined by a psychical experiment demonstrating the activity it produces in a child, who will continue the exercise with the same object for a long time, thus elaborating a phenomenon of internal development, of self-formation.
Among the characteristics of the objects, one must be pointed out, which demands the highest degree of activity in the intelligence: they contain in themselves control of error.
To make the process one of self-education, it is not enough that the stimulus should call forth activity, it must also direct it. The child should not only persist for a long time in an exercise; he must persist without making mistakes. All the physical or intrinsic qualities of the objects should be determined, not only by the immediate reaction of attention they provoke in the child, but also by their possession of this fundamental characteristic, the control of error, that is to say the power of evoking the effective collaboration of the highest activities (comparison, judgment). For instance, one of the first objects which attract the attention of the child of three years old, the solid insets (a series of cylinders of various dimensions to be placed in or taken out of a block with corresponding holes) contains the most mechanical control, because if a single mistake be made in placing the cylinders, one of these must be left out at the end of the exercise. Hence a mistake is an obstacle only to be overcome by correction, for without it the exercise cannot be completed. On the other hand, the correction is so easy that the child makes it himself. The little problem suddenly presenting itself to the child, almost like the unexpected object of a jack-in-the-box, has "interested" him.
It is, however, noteworthy that the "problem" thus presented is not in itself the stimulus to interest; it is not that which incites to the repetition of the act—to the progress of the child. What interests the child is the sensation, not only of placing the objects but of acquiring a new power of perception, enabling him to recognize the difference of dimension in the cylinders, a difference which he did not at first notice. The problem presents itself solely in connection with the error, it does not accompany the normal process of development. An interest stimulated merely by curiosity, by a "problem," would not be that formative interest which wells up from the needs of life itself, and therefore directs the building up of the spiritual personality. If it were only the problem which should lead the soul to find itself, order might be dissipated by it, as by any other external cause which tends to seduce life into false paths. I lay, perhaps, excessive stress upon this point, in answer to very important objections and observations that have been made to me.
Indeed in the second series of objects designed to educate the eye to appreciate dimensions, the control of error is not mechanical, but psychological; the child himself, whose eye has been educated to recognize differences of dimension, will see the error, provided the objects be of a certain size and attractively colored. It is for this reason that the next objects contain, so to say, the control of error in their own size and in their bright colors. A control of error of a totally different kind, and of a much higher order, is that offered by the material of the arithmetical frame, in which the control will consist in the comparison of the child's own work with that of a model, a comparison which denotes a remarkably intelligent effort of will on the part of the child, and places him thenceforth in the true conditions of conscious auto-education. But, however slight the control of error may be, and in spite of the fact that this diverges more and more from an external mechanism, to rely upon the internal activities which are gradually developing, it always depends, like all the qualities of the objects, upon the fundamental reaction of the child, who accords it prolonged attention, and repeats the exercises.
On the other hand, the experimental criterion is different, in determining the quantity of the objects. When the instruments have been constructed with great precision, they provoke a spontaneous exercise so coordinated and so harmonious with the facts of internal development, that at a certain point a new psychical picture, a species of higher plane in the complex development, is revealed.
The child turns away spontaneously from the material, not with any signs of fatigue, but rather as if impelled by fresh energies, and his mind is capable of abstractions. At this stage of development, the child turns his attention to the external world, and observes it with an order which is the order formed in his mind during the period of the preceding development; he begins spontaneously to make a series of careful and logical comparisons which represent a veritable spontaneous acquisition of "knowledge." This is the period henceforth to be known as the period of "discoveries," discoveries which evoke enthusiasm and joy in the child.
This more elevated level of development is extremely fruitful in its last ascent It is essential that the child's attention should not be directed to the objects when the delicate phenomenon of abstraction begins. For instance, the teacher who invites the child to continue his operations with the material at such a moment, will retard his spontaneous development and place an obstacle in his way. If the enthusiasm which leads the child to rise to greater heights and experience so many intellectual emotions be extinguished, a path of progress has been closed. Now the same error may be committed by an excessive quantity of the educative material; this may dissipate the attention, render the exercises with the objects mechanical, and cause the child to pass by his psychological moment of ascent without perceiving it and seizing it. Moreover, such objects are then futile, and, by their futility, "the child may lose his soul."
The thing to be exactly determined is: what is necessary and sufficient as a response to the internal needs of a life in process of development, that is, of upward progression, of ascent? Now in determining the "quantity" we must be guided by the expression and at the same time by the active manifestations of the child. Those children who have long been occupied with these determined objects, showing every sign of absorbed attention, will, all of a sudden, begin to rise gradually and insensibly, like an aeroplane when it completes its short journey upon the ground. Their apparent indifference to the objects is revealed in its true essence by the intense and radiant expression of the face, which is animated by the liveliest joy. The child may seem to be doing nothing, but this will only be for a moment; very soon he will speak, and so will reveal what is happening within him, and then his ebullient activity will carry him along in a series of explorations and discoveries. He is saved.
Now take the case of other children in whom the same primitive phenomenon is taking place, but who are surrounded by too great a profusion of objects. At the moment of maturity they are seen to be caught, obstructed, almost palpably entangled in the toils that bind them to earth. A diminution of the absorbed attention bestowed upon the new objects, instability, and consequently fatigue, manifest themselves in an obvious extinction of internal activity. The child's bearing deteriorates, he indulges in loud, empty laughter, rude actions, and indolence. He demands "other objects," and then again other objects, because he has remained imprisoned "in the vicious circle of vanities," and is no longer sensible to anything but the desire to alleviate his weariness. Like the adult who during a chaotic life commits kindred errors, he becomes undisciplined, feeble, and "in peril of perdition." If some one does not help him by wresting from him the futile objects, and pointing out his heaven to him, he will hardly have the energy to save himself.
These two extreme types will give an idea of the criteria by which we experimentally determine the quantity of the material necessary for development.
Over-abundance debilitates and retards progress; this has been proved again and again by my collaborators.
If, on the other hand, the material be insufficient, and the primary auto-exercise incapable of leading the child on to that maturity which causes him to ascend, there will be no explosion of that spontaneous phenomenon of abstraction which is the second stage of an auto-education advancing in infinite progression. The same fundamental phenomenon of absorbed and prolonged attention which leads to repetition of the acts, guides us in determining the stimuli suitable to the age of the child. A stimulus which will cause a child of three years old to repeat an act forty times in succession, may only be repeated ten times by a child of six; the object which arouses the interest of a child of three no longer interests a child of six. Nevertheless the child of six is capable of fixing his attention for a much longer period than a child of three, when the stimulus is suited to his activities; if, indeed, a little child of three may achieve as his maximum the repetition of an act forty times in succession, the child of six is capable of repeating two hundred times an act which interests him. If the maximum period of continuous work on the same object may be half an hour for the child of three, it may be over two hours for the child of six.
Hence, to establish systematic tests for a certain purpose, such as that of preparing children to write, without taking their ages into account, is valueless. For example, my system of writing is based upon the direct preparation of the movements which physiologically concur to produce writing: i.e. manipulation of the instrument of writing and the tracing of the letters of the alphabet. The children, filling in the contours of the insets with innumerable parallel strokes in the one case, and touching the sand-paper letters in the other, fix the two muscular mechanisms so perfectly, that the final result is an "explosion" of "spontaneous writing" extraordinarily uniform in all the children—because, as if all molded to a common form, they have fixed the necessary movements by touching the same alphabet, and therefore reproduce its forms faithfully. To bring this about, to establish a real motor-mechanism, it is essential that the exercise should be repeated over and over again. Now the children who take most interest in filling in the figures with parallel strokes, and, above all, in touching the letters, are, at most, between four and five years old. If we offer the same material to a child of six he will not touch the letters often enough, and he will always write imperfectly, in comparison with the child who has begun the exercise at a suitable age. This applies also to all the other details of the system. It is therefore possible to determine experimentally, with, I believe, a precision not hitherto attained, what is the mental attitude of the child at various ages, and hence, if the fitting material for development be offered, what will be the average level of intellectual development according to age.
Here we have an indication of the possibility of determining the means of development so exactly as to establish a true correspondence between internal needs and external stimuli, just as actual as the correspondence which exists between the insect and the flower.
He who has all this material ready to his hand has an easy task in bringing about the natural development of the psychic life of the child. With such objects at his disposal, every teacher may realize the ideal of liberty in the school.
This long, occult experiment—suggested to me, as I have already said, by Itard and Seguin—is, in fact, my initial contribution to education.
All this preparatory work has served for the determination of the method now well known, but it is also the key to its continuation.
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The material of development is necessary only as a starting point.—In the organization of the external means of development, there remains a material impress of the internal development, and of that which the soul needs in its progress, during its course, and in its flights. The material part does not contain the impress of the whole soul, any more than the impress of the foot is the impress of the whole body; the aviation-ground is not the sphere of action proper to the aeroplane, but it is the part of terra-firma necessary for flight, and it is also the resting-place, the refuge, the hangar to which the aeroplane must always return. Thus in psychical formation there is a necessary material part from which the spirit rises, and where it should find repose, refuge, and a point of support, Without this it could not grow and rise "freely."
In order that it may be a true support it ought "to reproduce its forms" and contain them in the part corresponding to the peculiar functions of the material aid. Thus, for instance, in the first period of the psychical life, the material corresponds to the primitive exercises of the senses—it is in quality and quantity determined by the sensory needs given by nature—and permits an exercise of the activities sufficient to mature a superior psychical state of observation and abstraction. Vice versa, nothing corresponds in the material to the subsequent career which the childish spirit accomplishes with such delight and with so much acquisition of knowledge. But we then see the spirit eager for higher kinds of exercise—and now we witness the same primitive phenomenon of attention, which will exercise itself henceforth upon the alphabet and arithmetical material, repeating in a more complex form methodical exercises of the intelligence by linking auditory images with the visible and motor images of the spoken and written word; and in the positive study of quantities, proportions, and number. The same concomitant phenomena of "patience" and "perseverance" then manifest themselves, together with those of vivacity, activity, and joy, characteristic of the spirit when the internal energies have found their keyboard, the gymnasium in which they exercise themselves freely and tranquilly.
And the spirit, organized in this manner under the guidance of an order which corresponds to its natural order, becomes fortified, grows vigorously, and manifests itself in the equilibrium, the serenity, the self-control which produce the wonderful discipline characteristic of the behavior of our children.
The external material, then, should present itself to the psychical requirements of the child as a staircase which helps him to ascend, step by step, and on the steps of this staircase there will of necessity be disposed the means of culture, and of the higher formation. Therefore the psychical exercises require new material, and this, if it is to fulfil its purpose, must contain new and more complex forms of objects capable of fixing the attention, of making the intelligence ripen in the continual exercise of its own energies, and of producing those phenomena of persistence in application and of patience to which will be added elasticity, psychical equilibrium, and the capacity for abstraction and spontaneous creation. Thus, in the subsequent development of the children, we see them applying themselves to those exercises of the memory which seem to us most arid, because a desire has been born in them, not only to retain the images they encounter in the world, but also to "acquire knowledge rapidly" by a determined effort. An example of this is seen in the surprising yet common phenomenon of committing the multiplication table to memory, whereas the memorizing of poems and prose extracts, although this is sometimes a passion, causes us no surprise.
Very interesting again, is the detachment the child shows at a certain point from the aids to arithmetical calculation; at a certain stage of maturity he desires to "reason in the abstract" and make "abstract calculations with numbers," as if obeying an internal impulse which seeks to liberate the soul from every material bond and at the same time to effect an economy of time. Hereupon we see children of eight years old become eager and precocious calculators.
Children thus launched upon the enterprises of self-education acquire a remarkable "sensibility" as to their own internal needs. Just as the new-born infant whose food is rationally regulated, is silent and tranquil during the two hours of digestion and assimilation, and cries out the moment the hour for a fresh meal has struck, so do these children "ask for help," ask for "new materials," new "forms of work," as soon as they have accomplished their mysterious phenomena of internal maturation, and ask for them determinately, indicating their most immediate need, just as one in physical want would be able to state distinctly whether he were hungry, thirsty, or sleepy. A child, in like manner, asks for reading, or grammatical exercises, or means for observing Nature. His sensibility manifests itself in a lucid and intense desire, to which the teacher has only to respond.
It is evident that some external basis is necessary in the progressive development of such phenomena, and that the teacher, who is to respond to the requests of the child in conscious evolution, cannot do so adequately by haphazard means; he must be guided by conditions previously determined by experience. In other words, those external means already alluded to several times, that staircase, the steps of which lead the soul upwards, must have been already established by experience, just as all the preceding means of the first development of the infant were established.
The construction of the ascending stairway, of the external means of support for the soul in process of evolution, is gradually amplified, like an inverted cone, the apex of which touches the very beginnings of psychical life, resting upon that primitive impulse which attracts the child of two and a half to the sensory stimuli, just as hunger leads the new-born infant to perform the wonderful complex action of sucking. And as these external means multiply, they are complicated more and more by the growing psychical needs of the child, and comprise within themselves the principles of culture.
The highest external organization is not based solely upon psychological necessities, but also upon those factors which take into account the cultural aspect itself. Each subject of study, as, for instance, arithmetic, grammar, geometry, natural science, music, literature, should be presented by means of external objects upon a well-defined systematic plan. The essentially psychological character of the preliminary work must now be supplemented by the collaboration of specialists in each subject, in order to ensure the establishment of that aggregate of means necessary and sufficient to incite to auto-education.
This is the experimental preparatory work, which establishes those means of development, those external impressions, necessary to unfold the inner life, and an exact correspondence to the psychical needs of formation is essential in their construction.
Up to a certain point, they might correspond with the so-called didactic or objective material of the old methods. Their significance, however, is profoundly different. The objective material of the old schools was an aid to the teacher, in making his explanations comprehensible to a collective class listening passively to him. The objects were related solely to the things to be explained, and these were chosen at random, that is to say, without any scientific criterion of their relation to the psychical needs of the child.
Here, on the other hand, the means of development are experimentally determined with reference to the psychical evolution of the child; and their aim is not to give mere instruction; they represent the means which induce a spontaneous interpretation of the internal energies.
The external material is then offered, and left freely to the natural individual energies of the children. They choose the objects they prefer; and such preference is dictated by the internal needs of "psychical growth." Each child occupies himself with each object chosen for as long as he wishes; and this desire corresponds to the needs of the intimate maturation of the spirit, a process which demands persevering and prolonged exercise. No guide, no teacher can divine the intimate need of each pupil, and the time of maturation necessary to each; but only leave the child free, and all this will be revealed to us under the guidance of nature.
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Psychical truths.—It is necessary to adopt a scientific point of view in order to interpret the facts that reveal themselves in children when they are developed upon this system, and to divest oneself completely of the old scholastic conception according to which the progress of the child is assessed according to his proficiency in the various subjects of study. Here, almost like the naturalist, it is essential to observe the development of certain phenomena of life. It is true that we prepare special "external conditions"; but the psychical effects are directly bound up with the spontaneous development of the internal activity of the child.
Hence there is no direct correspondence between teacher and child; instruction is certainly not a cause of the effects observed. It is the objects of the method which, as "re-agents," provoke special psychical reactions; these may be summed up as an awakening, as an organization of the personality. Discipline, as the first result of an order establishing itself within, is the principal phenomenon to be looked for as the "external sign" of an internal process that has been initiated.
During the first days when a new school is opened, we may consider a certain initial disorder as characteristic, especially if the teacher is making her first experiment, and consequently is handicapped by her over-sanguine expectations. The immediate response of the child to the material does not take place; the teacher is perhaps discomfited by the fact that the children do not throw themselves, as she had hoped, upon the objects, choosing them according to their individual taste. If, indeed, the pupils are very poor children, this phenomenon does nearly always happen at once; but if they are well-to-do children, already sated by the variety of their possessions, and by the most costly toys, they are very rarely attracted at first by the stimuli presented to them. This naturally leads to disorder when the mistress makes a kind of chain of that "liberty" she is to respect, and a dogma of the correlation existing between the stimulus and the childish soul. Experienced teachers, on the other hand, understand better that liberty begins when the life that must be developed in the child is initiated, and they possess a tact which greatly facilitates orientation in the initial period.
However, an experience under the most difficult conditions, as between a teacher making her first experiment, and a class of wealthy children, is more instructive, and gives us a clearer picture of the fundamental psychical phenomenon, which may be compared to the order which springs up out of chaos.
I quote, in this connection, various descriptions, some of which already have been published, among them that given by Miss George, of her first school in the United States, and that of Mlle. Dufresne in England.
The initial disorder is eloquently set forth by Miss George: "They (the children) at first snatched the objects out of each other's hands; if I tried to show an object to any particular pupil, the others dropped what they themselves were holding and gathered aimlessly and noisily round us. When I had finished explaining the nature of an object, all the children snatched at it and quarreled for its possession. The children showed no interest in the material: they passed from one object to another without persevering in the use of any.... One of the children was so incapable of keeping still that he could not remain seated long enough to run his fingers round one of the little circular objects we give the children. In many cases, the movements of the children were quite aimless, they ran round the room without any apparent object. During these movements, they made no attempt to respect the objects about them; indeed, they stumbled against the table, upset the chairs and stepped upon the material; sometimes they began an occupation at one spot, and then ran off in another direction; they took up the objects and cast them aside capriciously."
Miss Dufresne describes the initial disorder of her first attempt as follows: "I must confess that the first four weeks were disheartening; the children could not settle to a task for more than a few moments; they showed no perseverance, no initiative; at times they followed one another like a flock of lambs; when one child took up an object, all the others wanted to imitate him, sometimes they rolled on the floor and overturned the chairs."
From an experiment with rich children here in Rome, we get the following laconic description: "The greatest difficulty was the question of discipline. The children showed a complete lack of attraction to their work, and seemed disinclined to begin upon it."
These persons, who were all working independently, are all agreed later in their accounts of the initiation of order: the phenomenon is identical; at a given moment, a child begins to show an intense interest in one of the exercises. It is by no means necessary that it should be that exercise pertaining to the object determined as the first series; it may be any other object that fixes the attention of the child so deeply; the important factor is not the external object, but the internal action of the soul, responding to a stimulus, and arrested by it.
Now when a child once shows this deep interest in any one of the objects we present to him as something answering to his psychical needs, he goes on to show a like interest in all the objects, and begins to develop activities as by a natural phenomenon. When once the initiation has taken place, it leads to progression which goes on steadily, and develops of its own accord. Moreover, the phenomenon is not that of the slow and gradual progression that might be produced by a measured and systematic external action; rather it has the "explosive" character of unsuspected facts that establish themselves suddenly, and make us think of the crises of physiological life, so characteristic in the period of growth. Thus it is from one day to another that the baby cuts a tooth, from one day to another that he utters his first word, from one day to another that he takes his first step; and when the first tooth has been cut, the whole set of teeth will come; when the first word has been uttered, language will be developed; when the first step has been taken, the power of walking has been established once for all.
Similar crises occur in the first achievement of psychic order, which is the beginning of progressive evolution in the inner life.
I quote the following sentences from Miss George's description of the advent of discipline:
"In a few days that nebulous mass of whirling particles—the disorderly children—began to take definite form. The children seemed to begin to find their own way; in many of the objects they had at first despised as silly playthings, they began to discover a novel interest, and, as a result of this new interest, they began to act as independent individuals." Miss George's subsequent expression is: "They became extremely individual." "Thus it came to pass that an object of absorbing interest to one child had not the slightest attraction for another; the children were strongly differentiated in their manifestations of attention...." "The battle is only definitively won, when the child discovers some particular object which spontaneously excites great interest in him. Sometimes this enthusiasm awakens unexpectedly, or with curious rapidity."
"On one occasion I had tried a child with nearly all the objects of the series without exciting the smallest spark of interest; then I casually showed him the two tablets of red and blue colors, and called his attention to the difference of tint. He seized them at once with a kind of thirstiness, and learned five different colors in a single lesson; during the following days he took nearly all the objects of the series which he had at first despised, and little by little mastered them all.
"A child who at first had very little power of concentrating his attention, found an outlet from this state of chaos by means of one of the most complex objects of the material, the so-called length-rods; he played with these continually for a whole week and learned to count and make simple additions. He then began to turn to the cylinders and the insets, the simpler objects, and showed interest in every part of the system.
"Directly the children find their objects interesting, their disorderliness disappears at once; their mental restlessness is at an end, and they amuse themselves with the blocks, the colors, etc."
It is very interesting to follow Miss George again in her description of the special qualities that develop after such a phenomenon. She illustrates the birth of individuality by a pretty anecdote:
"There were two sisters, one of three years old, the other of five. The child of three could hardly be said to exist as an individual, so minutely did she imitate her elder sister; for example, the elder child had a blue pencil and the little one was not happy till she too had a blue pencil; when the elder sister ate bread and butter, whatever the little one had of a different kind, she would touch nothing but bread and butter, and so on. This child took no interest in anything in the school, but merely followed her sister, imitating everything she did. One day the little one became interested in the pink cubes, built up the tower with the liveliest interest, repeated the exercise several times, and completely forgot her sister. The older girl was so astonished at this, that she called her little sister and said to her: 'How is it that while I am filling in a circle you are building the tower?' From that day the younger child became a personality; she began to develop independently, and was no longer merely the shadow or reflection of her sister."
These interesting facts concerning the spontaneous development of qualities which hitherto were non-existent in the individual, and which exploded after the fundamental phenomenon—of intense and prolonged interest in a task—had manifested itself, have been confirmed by repeated experiments in a great variety of places made by persons who had had no sort of communication one with another.
Thus, for instance, Miss Dufresne speaks of a little girl of four years old, who seemed quite incapable of carrying a glass of water even only half full, without spilling it; so much so that she turned away from such a task, knowing she could not accomplish it. One day she became absorbed in work with one or other of the objects, and after this, she began to carry glasses of water with the greatest ease; and as some of her companions were now painting with water-colors, it became her great delight to carry water to them all without spilling a single drop.
Another most significant fact is related by Miss Barton, an Australian teacher. Among her pupils was a little girl who had not yet developed articulate speech, and only gave utterance to inarticulate sounds; her parents had had her examined by a doctor to find out if she were normal; the doctor declared the child to be perfectly normal, and considered that though she had not as yet developed speech, she would do so in time. This child became interested in the solid insets, and amused herself for a long time taking the cylinders out of the cavities and putting them back in their places; and after repeating the work with intense interest, she ran to the teacher, saying: "Come and see!"
A phenomenon of constant occurrence when the children begin to be interested in the work and to develop themselves is the lively joy which seems to possess them. Certain psychologists would say, it is the "sentimental note" corresponding to the intellectual acquisition; a physiologist, making an exact comparison, might affirm that joy is the indication of internal growth, just as an increase in weight is the indication of bodily growth.
The children themselves seem to have the "sensation" of their spiritual growth, a consciousness of the acquisitions they are making by thus amplifying their own personalities; they demonstrate with joyous effusion the higher process which is beginning within them. "All the children," says Miss George, "show that pride we ourselves experience when we have really produced something novel. They skip round me, and throw their arms about my neck, when they have learned to do some simple thing, saying: 'I did it all alone, you did not think I could have done that; I did it better to-day than yesterday,'"
It is after these manifestations that a true discipline is established, the most obvious results of which are closely related to what we will call "respect for the work of others and consideration for the rights of others." Henceforward a child no longer attempts to take away another's work; even if he covet it, he waits patiently until the object is free; and very often a child becomes interested in watching a companion at work on some object he would like to use himself. Afterwards, when discipline has been established by these internal processes, it will happen all at once that a child will work quite independently of the others, almost as if to develop his own personality; but no "moral isolation" results from such work; on the contrary, there is a mutual respect and affection between the children, a sentiment which unites instead of separating; and hence is born that complex discipline which, moreover, contains within itself the sentiment that must accompany the order of a community.
Miss Dufresne says: "After the Christmas holidays, when school began again, there was a great change in the class. It seemed that discipline was establishing itself, without any effort on my part. The children appeared to be too much absorbed in their work to indulge in any of the disorderly actions which had marked their conduct in the beginning. They went spontaneously to the cupboards to choose the objects which had bored them formerly. They took the geometrical insets, the graduated cylinders, and began to touch the outlines of the wooden forms with their fingers; the younger children showed a preference for the buttoning and lacing frames; they took one after the other without any signs of fatigue, and seemed delighted with the new objects. An atmosphere of industry pervaded the schoolroom. The children who had hitherto chosen objects on the impulse of the moment, henceforth manifested a desire for some sort of rule, a personal and internal rule; they concentrated their efforts on their task, working accurately and methodically, and showing real satisfaction in surmounting difficulties. This precision in work produced an immediate effect on their characters. They became capable of controlling their nerves."
The instance which struck Miss Dufresne most was that of a little boy of four and a half, who at first had seemed very nervous and excitable and had disturbed the whole class: "The imagination of this child had been developed in an extraordinary manner, so that when an object was given to him, he took no notice of the actual form of the object, but personified it, and further personified himself, talking perpetually, pretending to be some one else, and seeming incapable of fixing his attention upon the objects. While his mind was in this chaotic state he was unable to perform any precise action; he could not, for instance, button a single button.... All at once a miracle seemed to take place within him. I noted the great change in him with astonishment. He took one of the exercises as his favorite task, then went on to choose all the others in succession, and thus calmed his nerves."
I will choose from various individual studies made by two mistresses of a Children's House at Rome for well-to-do children, those of two children of very different characters. One of these children came to the school too late, when he was too old, and had already developed in another environment. The other is a little creature of the normal age for entrance to the Children's Houses. The older child (a boy of five) had already been to a Froebelian Kindergarten, where he was considered very troublesome because of his restlessness. "For the first few days he was a torment to us, because he wanted to work, but could not settle to any occupation. He said of everything: 'This is a game,' and ran about the class-room, or annoyed his companions. At last he began to take an interest in drawing." Although normally drawing comes after the sensory exercises, he was left at liberty to do what he wished; the teachers rightly thought that it would be useless to insist that the child should apply himself to a different task. Indeed, this child, having passed the age when the primary materials answer to the psychical needs of childhood, was for the first time attracted by an exercise of a higher order, that of drawing. "Whereas at first the child had passed from one occupation to another, and had even taken up the letters of the alphabet, but had never settled to work with any one of the objects, now suddenly discipline was established. We do not know exactly at what moment the change took place, but discipline was maintained and perfected, and reached a higher level in proportion to the growing interest of the child in every kind of occupation. Interest having been primarily aroused by drawing, the child spontaneously went on to the rods used in the teaching of length, then to placing the plane geometric insets, and so gradually worked through all the earlier sensory stimuli which the teacher had passed over." Thus we see that the older child chooses the objects in inverse order, proceeding almost methodically from the most difficult to the elementary.
The other child of three was also quite undisciplined. The teachers were beginning to despair of producing order in this case, when the child began to take an interest in the solid insets and in one of the frames. Thereupon he worked steadily and ceased to disturb his companions.
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In our "Children's Houses" for poor children in Rome, directed by Signorina Maccheroni, it was possible to make more methodical observations, and these were represented by diagrams, in order to demonstrate the course of the phenomena more clearly.
The transverse line A B represents the quiescent state; the phenomena of order (work) are represented above; those of disorder below. When a child has become calm after the first strong attraction to a task, a permanent state of order may be established in him. At this stage the conditions most favorable to work may be studied.
PRIMITIVE CURVE OF ORDERED WORK
This is the manner in which it develops; individual type of a morning of disciplined work.
The child keeps still for a while, and then chooses some task he finds easy, such as arranging the colors in gradation; he continues working at this for a time, but not for very long; he passes on to some more complicated task, such as that of composing words with the movable letters, and perseveres with this for a long time (about half an hour). At this stage he ceases working, walks about the room, and appears less calm; to a superficial observer he would seem to show signs of fatigue. But after a few minutes he undertakes some much more difficult work, and becomes so deeply absorbed in this, that he shows us he has reached the acme of his activity (additions and writing down the results). When this work is finished, his activity comes to an end in all serenity; he contemplates his handiwork for a long time, then approaches the teacher, and begins to confide in her.
The appearance of the child is that of a person who is rested, satisfied, and uplifted.
The apparent fatigue of the child between the first and second period of work is interesting; at that moment the aspect of the child is not calm and happy as at the end of the curve; indeed, he shows signs of agitation, moves about, and walks, but does not disturb the others. It may be said that he is in search of the maximum satisfaction for his interest, and is preparing for his "great work."
But, on the other hand, when the cycle is completed, the child detaches himself from his internal concentration; refreshed and satisfied, he experiences the higher social impulses, such as desiring to make confidences and to hold intimate communion with other souls.
A similar process became in time the general process in a class of disciplined children. Signorina Maccheroni sums up this complex phenomenon as follows:
In the first period of the morning, up to about 10 a.m., the occupation chosen is generally an easy and familiar task.
At 10 o'clock there is a great commotion; the children are restless, they neither work nor go in quest of materials. The onlooker gets an impression of a tired class, about to become disorderly. After a few minutes the most perfect order reigns once more; the children are promptly absorbed in work again; they have chosen new and more difficult occupations.
When this work ceases, the children are gentle, calm, and happy.
If in the period of "false fatigue" at 10 a.m. an inexperienced teacher, interpreting the phenomenon of suspension or preparation for the culminating work as disorder, intervenes, calling the children to her, and making them rest, etc., their restlessness persists, and the subsequent work is not undertaken. The children do not become calm: they remain in an abnormal state. In other words, if they are interrupted in their cycle, they lose all the characteristics connected with an internal process regularly and completely carried out.
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The single curve of individual orderly work is not general, nor strictly constant in the type described. But it may be considered as the average type of work in the level of order achieved. It will be interesting, first of all, to consider the curve of children in whom order has not yet been established. Poor children hardly ever show themselves to be in such a state of utter confusion as rich ones; they are always more or less attracted by the objects, and respond to them with a certain interest from the very first moment. Such interest, however, is at first superficial. They are attracted mainly by curiosity, by a desire to handle "pretty things." They amuse themselves for some time, it is true, with single objects, changing and selecting them, but without developing any deep interest. The characteristic of this period, which may be altogether lacking in a class of well-to-do children, is that of alternations of disorder. The following diagram represents this period.
STAGE PRECEDING THE EVOLUTION OF ORDER
The various curves of work are to be found below the line of quiescence, in state of disorder. It was only when the children were called to order collectively that this child was still, unless it was rising towards work; in this case, however, it did not persevere, and the curve drops suddenly below. It should be noted that in the irregular course of this diagram we may trace a period of easy work preceding a period of difficult work (frame, plane insets) and between these two the maximum decline into disorder.
CURVE OF WORK
OF A VERY POOR CHILD, ALMOST ENTIRELY NEGLECTED BY ITS PARENTS, AND VERY TURBULENT
The child in question (O) seemed to have a tendency to learn from others; he ran away from work or was attracted by it only for a brief moment; and seemed incapable of receiving direct teaching. If any attempt was made to teach him something, he grimaced and ran away. He wandered about, disturbing his companions, and seemed quite intractable; but he listened attentively to the lessons the teacher gave to the other children.
When he began to work, after having learned how to do so, he persevered, and the normal process is apparent in the diagram; that is to say, preliminary work, a pause (during which the child relapsed slightly and momentarily into his habit of disturbing his companions), then the curve of great application, and of final repose (during which, however, he again relapsed into his characteristic defect). The summits of the diagram show not only interest in the work, but a marked kindliness; the child was not only calm, but seemed full of beatitude and gentleness; when at the height of his labors he frequently looked round at his companions, and blew little kisses to them on his fingers, but without relaxing his attention. It seemed as if a fount of love were gushing up from the fulness of his internal satisfaction, from the depths of a soul that had appeared at first so rough and uncouth.
The diagram is made up of curves that fall upon the line of quiescence; unity of curve is lacking, hence unity of effort. The culminating point of work is reached after a preliminary task of an easier kind; and the supreme task (color) is briefly resumed, after the great impetus has been exhausted. The phase of rest is not clearly defined; the child turns to a very easy task (solid insets). A certain feebleness of character seems to manifest itself in the half-hearted mental processes. The child makes many successive efforts to rise; but he can neither make the decisive, vigorous effort, nor come to a definite decision to cease working. The child is calm, but his state of calm has no variations; he is neither lively, nor serene, nor does he show strong affectionate impulses.
COURSE OF PROGRESS
When the whole class is disciplined, the course of development of the internal activities may be observed.
It must be remembered that the material of development affords graduated exercises passing from the most rudimentary sensory exercises to exercises in writing, calculating, and reading. The children are free to choose the exercises they prefer; but of course, as the teacher initiates them in each exercise, they only choose the objects they know how to use. The teacher, observing them, sees when the child is sufficiently matured for more advanced exercises, and introduces them to him, or perhaps the child begins them for himself, after watching other children more advanced.
We must bear such conditions in mind in order to follow "progress" in work.
The two curves represent stages of greatest development as compared with the primary curve of orderly work. The stage of unrest between the easy and the more difficult work tends to disappear; the child seems more sure of himself; he goes more directly and readily to the choice of his culminating exercise.
Consequently, two successive phases of uninterrupted work are left; one may be called the phase of preparation, the other the phase of serious work. The phase of preparation lasts a very short time, the serious work is of much longer duration; it is noteworthy that the period of rest, with its characteristic air of comfort and serenity, sets in after the maximum effort has spontaneously spent itself. On the other hand, it happens invariably that any external interruption of the effort causes the child to show signs of fatigue (restlessness), or to become inattentive.
In the first curve, the initial work consists of two easy tasks, carried on for a short time, and from these the child passes directly to the serious work. The finale is a spell of rest full of thought; the child ceases to work, but contemplates his finished task for a long time in silence; before preparing to put it away, or, after having contemplated his own work, he goes quietly to watch that of the others.
In the second curve there is a very noticeable parallelism with the line of repose; the child pursues his labors almost uniformly, and the sole difference between the initial work and the serious work is in their different duration. The contemplative period becomes henceforth an obvious "period of internal work," almost a period of "assimilation" or "internal maturation." Observation of the work of others becomes increasingly frequent, as if it were a spontaneous "comparative" study between the child himself and his companions; or as if an active interest in the contemplation of the external surroundings were developing: the period of discovery. We may say that the child studies himself in his own productions and puts himself into communion with his companions and his environment.
At this stage the completion of an entire cycle will exercise an influence more and more far-reaching on the personality of the child. Not only is he spurred on to a work of intimate concentration immediately after his culminating effort; he preserves a permanent attitude of thought, of internal equilibrium, of sustained interest in his environment. He becomes a personality who has reached a higher degree of evolution. This is the period when the child begins to be "master of himself" and enters upon that characteristic phenomenon I have called the "phenomenon of obedience." He can obey, that is, he can control his actions, and therefore can direct them in accordance with the desires of another person. He can break off a piece of work when interrupted, without becoming disorderly or showing symptoms of fatigue. Moreover, work has become his habitual attitude, and the child can no longer bear to be idle. When, for instance, we call some of the children who are in this stage to the lessons for teachers, in which they are to serve as the "subjects of study," they lend themselves with ready docility to that which we ask of them, they submit to the measurements of height, heads, etc., and they perform the exercises we suggest, responding always with interest, and not merely with resignation, as if they were conscious of collaborating with us. But when they have to wait, seated on one side till they are called forward, they cannot sit idle; they work at something. Inactivity has become intolerable to them. Very often, while I am giving the lesson, the children take the lacing or tying frames, or cover the floor with words made with the movable letters; and where this is feasible, some of the children will draw or paint in these moments of waiting.
All these things have now become expressions of intelligent activity, which form part of their psychical organism.
But to ensure the continuance of this attitude and of the development of personality it is essential that some real task should be performed each day; for it is from the completed cycle of an activity, from methodical concentration, that the child develops equilibrium, elasticity, adaptability, and the resulting power to perform the higher actions, such as those which are termed acts of obedience. This makes one think of the method prescribed by the Catholic religion for the preservation of the forces of spiritual life: that is, a period of "spiritual concentration," which opens up the possibility of acquiring "moral powers." It is from methodical "meditation" that moral personality must draw its powers of solidification, without which the "inner man," incoherent and unbalanced, fails to possess itself and dispose of itself for noble ends.
Children have always need of the period of concentration, and serious work from which they derive the capacity for final development.
The following diagram represents a very lofty stage of childish development:
Even the preparatory work is now of a higher kind: as soon as the child comes into school, he will choose, for instance, the letters of the alphabet, or will write, then (his strenuous work) he will read. For recreation he will choose an intelligent pastime, such as looking at illustrated books.
All his intellectual occupations are of a higher order, as are also his moral attributes (obedience, serenity, perseverance).
Taking the line of quiescence as a level of development, it follows that the level has become higher.
In a superior stage, the line of work tends to become straight, parallel to the line of quiescence.
Meanwhile it has been established that it is possible to determine degrees of development, or averages of internal development, by means of which individual variations may be studied. In the primordial type the characteristics are disorderly conduct, and incapacity to concentrate attention; in such a case there is no real line of work, and the main part of the diagram remains below the line of quiescence. For the type in which the phenomenon of permanent concentration of attention on a task has manifested itself, the average characteristic diagram of normal orderly work of the first degree is now established: i. e. preliminary work followed by a period of restlessness, and then strenuous work followed by a state of repose.
Afterwards we distinguish a second degree, where the average is characterized by the disappearance of the period of unrest, and the strenuous work is brought to a close in contemplation; this is the stage of discoveries, of generalized observation, of obedience; work has become a habit.
This is followed by a general elevation, to be recognized by the choice of higher preliminary work; disciplined behavior has become a habit.
During this progression the diagram of work tends to become straight, and parallel to the line of quiescence.
The rise in the level of the plane is related to the qualities of more advanced intellectual work; and the straightening of the line is related to qualities of internal construction and of the organization of the personality; qualities which would be considered of a moral order, such as serenity, discipline, self-mastery as manifested in obedience and in the various activities of the child.
When work has become a habit, the intellectual level rises rapidly, and organized order causes good conduct to become a habit. Children then work with order, perseverance, and discipline, persistently and naturally; the permanent, calm, and vivifying work of the physical organism resembles the respiratory rhythm.
The pivot, the medium of this construction of the personality, is working in freedom, in accordance with the natural wants of the inner life; thus freedom in intellectual work is found to be the basis of internal discipline. The great achievement of the "Children's Houses" (Case dei Bambini) is to produce disciplined children.
It is this internal organization which gives them a special "type," or character, the type or character required to continue the free exercise of activities for the conquests of culture in successive stages.
The elementary school period presents itself insensibly as a continuation of the "Children's Houses." In these, behavior is a habit superposed on and fused with the earlier habit of work. Henceforth it will be sufficient to present the material of further culture, and the child, gradually exercising himself upon it, will pass from one intellectual stage of culture to another.
The difference shown in the successive ages arises from an intellectual interest which is no longer merely the impulse to exercise oneself by repetition of the exercises, but is a higher interest directed to the work itself, and tending to complete an external work, or to complete a branch of knowledge as a whole. Thus the child creates and seeks for things organized in themselves; for instance, he desires to compose a design by means of combinations of geometrical figures with the metal insets, and devotes himself to this work with the greatest intensity until he has completed it. Again, we see a child occupied for seven or eight consecutive days with the same work. Another child becomes interested in the potentialities of numbers or in the arithmetical frame, and perseveres with the same work for days, until his knowledge of it has matured.
Upon a basis of interior order produced by internal organization, the mind then builds up its castle with the same leisurely calm with which a living organism grows spontaneously after birth.
We can give but a primary idea at present of the practical possibility of determining average levels of interior development according to age. We shall further require many perfect experiments, in which homogeneous children, completely suitable environment, and trained teachers will afford adequate material for observation. Then students will be able to undertake a scientific work, which will perhaps be characterized by a precision superior even to that with which it is at present possible to measure the body, and give the mathematical averages of growth.
We must consider, however, that the indications available to-day represent a long, systematic toil, and that they rest upon the still greater labor of finding external material means for natural development.
This will give some idea of the difficulty of scientific researches, which many still believe it possible to make by means of arbitrary and superficial tests such as those of Binet and Simon!