Spontaneous Activity in Education
by Maria Montessori
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Laws of the child's psychical life paralleled by those of its physical.

Current objections to a system of education based upon "liberty"

Hygiene has freed the infant from straps and swaddling clothes and left it free to develop

Education must leave the soul free to develop

Principle of liberty in education not a principle of abandonment

The liberty accorded the child of to-day is purely physical. Civil rights of the child in the twentieth century.

Removal of perils of disease a step toward physical liberation

Supplying the child's physical needs is not sufficient

Child's social rights overlooked in the administration of orphan asylums

Poor child's health and property confiscated in the custom of wet nursing

We recognize justice only for those who can defend themselves

How we receive the infants that come into the world.

Home has no furnishings adapted to their small size

Society prepares a mockery for their reception in the shape of useless toys

Child not allowed to act for himself

Constant interruption of his activities prevents psychical growth

Bodily health suffers from spiritual neglect

With man the life of the body depends on the life of the spirit.

Reflex action of the emotions on the body functions

Child's body requires joy as much as food and air



The precepts which govern moral education and instruction.

Child expected to acquire virtues by imitation, instead of development

Domination of the child's will the basis of education

It is the teacher who forms the child's mind. How he teaches.

Teacher's path beset with difficulties under the present system

Advanced experts prepare the schemata of instruction

Some outlines of "model lessons" used in the schools

Comparison of a "model lesson" for sense development with the Montessori method

Experimental psychology, not speculative psychology, the basis of Montessori teaching

False conceptions of the "art of the teacher" illustrated by model lessons

Positive science makes its appearance in the schools

Discoveries of medicine: distortions and diseases

Science has not fulfilled its mission in its dealings with children.

Diseases of school children treated, causes left undisturbed

Discoveries of experimental psychology: overwork; nervous exhaustion

Science is confronted by a mass of unsolved problems.

Laws governing fatigue still unknown

Toxines produced by fatigue and their antitoxins

Joy in work the only preventative of fatigue

Real experimental science, which shall liberate the child, not yet born



The organization of the psychical life begins with the characteristic phenomenon of attention.

Incident which led Dr. Montessori to define her method

Psychical development is organized by the aid of external stimuli, which may be determined experimentally.

Tendency to develop his latent powers exists in the child's nature

Environment should contain the means of auto-education

External stimuli may be determined in quality and quantity.

Educative material used should contain in itself the control of error

Quantity of material determined by the advent of abstraction in pupil

Relation of stimuli to the age of the pupil

Material of development is necessary only as a starting point.

Corresponds to the terra firma from which the aeroplane takes flight and to which it returns to rest

Establishing of internal order, or "discipline"

Psychical growth requires constantly new and more complex material

Difference between materials of auto-education and the didactic material of the schools

Psychical truths.

"Discipline" the first external sign of a psychical reaction to the material

Initial disorder in Montessori schools

Psychical progress not systematic but "explosive in nature"

Birth of individuality

Intellectual crises are accompanied by emotion

Older child beginning in system, chooses materials in inverse order

Course of psychical phenomena explained by diagrams

Tests of Binet and Simon arbitrary and superficial

Problems of psychical measurement

Observing the child's moral nature

Transformation of a "violent" child and of a "spying" child in a Montessori school

Polarization of the internal personality

Guide to psychological observation.






The school is the laboratory of experimental psychology

Qualities the new type of teacher must possess



Physical hygiene in the school

The requirements of psychical hygiene

Free movement.

Misconceptions of physical freedom

Action without an aim fatigues

Work of "preservation" rather than "production" suitable to children



Awakens in answer to an impulse of "spiritual hunger"

Attention cannot be artificially maintained by teacher

Liberty the experimental condition necessary for studying phenomena of attention

Child's perception of an internal development makes the exercise pleasant and induces him to prolong it

External stimuli powerless without an answering internal force

A natural internal force directs psychical formation

New pedagogy provides nourishment for internal needs

Organization of knowledge in the child's mind

Teacher directs, but does not interrupt phenomena of attention

Material offered should correspond to psychical needs



Its relation to attention

Manifested in action and inhibition

Opposite activities of the will must combine to form the personality

Powers of the will established by exercise, not by subjection

Persistence in effort the true foundation of will

Decision the highest function of the will

Development of will depends on order and clarity of ideas

Power of choice, which precedes decision, should be strengthened

Need of exercise for the will paralleled with need of muscular exercise

Fallacy of educating the child's will by "breaking it"

"Character" the result of established will, not of emulation



Liberating the child means leaving him to "his own intelligence"

How the intelligence of the child differs from the instincts of animals

Intelligence the actual means of formation of the inner life

Hygiene of intelligence

Intelligence awakens and sets in motion the central nervous mechanisms

In an age of speed, man has not accelerated himself

Swift reactions an external manifestation of intelligence

Ability to distinguish and arrange the characteristic sign of intelligence

Montessori "sensory exercises" make it possible for the child to distinguish and classify

The Montessori child is sensitive to the objects of his environment

Educational methods in use do not help the child to distinguish

Power of association depends on ability to distinguish dominant characteristics

Individuality revealed in association by similarity

By means of attention and internal will the intelligence accomplishes the work of association

Judgment and reasoning depend on ability to distinguish

Activities of association and selection lead to individual habits of thought

Importance of acquiring ability to reason for oneself

Genius the possession of maximum powers of association by similarity

Genius of errors in association and reasoning which have impeded science

The consciousness can only accept truths for which it is "expectant"

The intelligence has its peculiar perils, from which it should be guarded



The creative imagination of science is based upon truth.

Imagination based on reality differs from that based on speculation

Speculative imagination akin to original sin

Education should direct imagination into creative channels

Truth is also the basis of artistic imagination.

All imagination based on sense impressions

Non-seasonal impressions—spiritual truths

Education in sense perception strengthens imagination

Perfection in art dependent on approximation to truth

Exercise of the intelligence aids imagination

Imagination in children.

Immature and therefore concerned with unrealities

Should be helped to overcome immaturity of thought

False methods develop credulity, akin to insanity

Period of credulity in the child prolonged for the amusement of the adult

"Living among real possessions" the cure for illusions

Fable and religion.

Religion not the product of fantasy

Fable in schools does not prepare for religious teaching

The education of the imagination in schools for older children.

Environment and method oppressive

"Composition" introduced to foster imagination

How composition is "taught"

Imagination cannot be forced

The moral question.

Contributions of positive science to morality

Science raises society to level of Christian standards

Parents' failure to teach sex morality

Probable effects of experimental psychology in field of morals

Experimental psychology should be directed to the schools

Progress of medicine and its relation to new psychology

Childish naughtiness a parental misconception

Infant life different from the adult

Hindering the child's development a moral question for the adult

Need of the child "to touch and to act"

How the adult prevents him from learning by doing

Conceptions of good and bad conduct in the school

Mutual aid a high crime in the school

Surveillance for vicious habits originating in the school

Developing the "social sentiment" in the school

"A moral with every lesson" the teacher's aim

Injurious system of prizes and punishments the school's mainstay

The fallacy of "emulation"

Necessity of reforming the school

Good conduct dependent on satisfaction of intellectual needs

Mere sensory education inadequate

Love, the preservative force of life

Christianity teaches necessity of mutual love

The education of the moral sense.

Moral education must have basis of feeling

Adult the stimulus by which child's feeling is exercised

How and when the adult should offer affection

The essence of moral education.

Importance of perfecting spiritual sensibility

Necessity of properly organized environment

Helping the child distinguish between right and wrong

"Internal sense" of right and wrong

Moral conscience capable of development

Our insensibility.

Virtuous person and criminal not detected by contact

The War as an example of moral insensibility

Insensibility distinguished from death of the soul

Spiritually, man must either ascend or die

Morality and religion.

Conversion, the sudden establishing of moral order

The spirit enslaved by sentiments hostile to love

The religious sentiment in children.

Crises of conscience and spontaneous religious feeling

Some original observations by Dr. Montessori

* * * * *




The general laws which govern the child's psychical health have their parallel in those of its physical health.—Many persons who have asked me to continue my methods of education for very young children on lines that would make them suitable for those over seven years of age, have expressed a doubt whether this would be possible.

The difficulties they put forward are mainly of a moral order.

Should not the child now begin to respect the will of others rather than his own? Should he not some day brace himself to a real effort, compelling him to carry out a necessary, rather than a chosen, task? Finally, should he not learn self-sacrifice, since man's life is not a life of ease and enjoyment?

Some, taking certain practical items of elementary education, which present themselves even at the age of six, and must be seriously envisaged at seven, urge their objection in this form: Now we are face to face with the ugly specter of arithmetical tables, the arid mental gymnastics exacted by grammar. What do you propose? Would you abolish all this, or do you admit that the child must inevitably bow to these necessities?

It is obvious that the whole of the argument revolves round the interpretation of that "liberty" which is the avowed basis of the system of education advocated by me.

Perhaps in a short time all these objections will provoke a smile, and I shall be asked to suppress them, together with my commentary on them, in future editions of this work. But at the present time they have a right to exist, and to be dealt with, although indeed it is not very easy to give a direct, clear and convincing answer to them, because this entails the raising of questions on which everybody has firmly rooted convictions.

A parallel may perhaps serve to save us a good deal of the work. Indirectly, these questions have been answered already by the progress made in the treatment of infants under the guidance of hygiene. How were they treated formerly? Many, no doubt, can still remember certain practises that were regarded as indispensable by the masses. An infant had to be strapped and swaddled, or its legs would grow crooked; the ligament under its tongue had to be slit, to ensure its speaking eventually; it was important that it should always wear a cap to keep its ears from protruding; the position of a recumbent baby was so arranged as not to cause permanent deformity of the tender skull; and good mothers stroked and pinched the little noses of their nurslings to make them grow long and sharp instead of round and snub, and put little gold earrings through the lobes of their ears very soon after birth "to improve their eyesight." Such practises may be already forgotten in some countries; but in others they obtain to this day. Who does not remember the various devices for helping a baby to walk? Even in the first months after birth, at a period of life when the nervous system is not completely developed, and it is impossible for the infant to coordinate its movements, mothers wasted several half-hours of the day "teaching baby to walk." Holding the little creature by the body, they watched the aimless movements of the tiny feet, and deluded themselves with the belief that the child was already making an effort to walk; and because it does actually by degrees begin to arch its feet and move its legs more boldly, the mother attributed its progress to her instruction. When finally the movement had been almost established—though not the equilibrium, and the resulting power to stand on the feet—mothers made use of certain straps with which they held up the baby's body, and thus made it walk on the ground with themselves; or, when they had no time to spare, they put the baby into a kind of bell-shaped basket, the broad base of which prevented it from turning over; they tied the infant into this, hanging its arms outside, its body being supported by the upper edge of the basket; thus the child, though it could not rise on its feet, advanced, moving its legs, and was said to be walking.

Other relics of a very recent past are a species of convex crowns which were put round the heads of babies when they were considered capable of rising to their feet, and were accordingly emancipated from the basket. The child, suddenly left to himself after being accustomed hitherto to supports comparable to the crutches of the cripple, fell perpetually, and the crown was a protection to the head, which would otherwise have been injured.

What were the revelations of Science, when it entered upon the scene for the salvation of the child? It certainly offered no perfected methods for straightening the noses and the ears, nor did it enlighten mothers as to methods of teaching babies to walk immediately after birth. No. It proclaimed first of all that Nature itself will determine the shape of heads, noses, and ears; that man will speak without having the membrane of the tongue cut; and further, that legs will grow straight and that the function of walking will come naturally, and requires no intervention.

Hence it follows that we should leave as much as possible to Nature; and the more the babe is left free to develop, the more rapidly and perfectly will he achieve his proper proportions and higher functions. Thus swaddling bands are abolished, and the "utmost tranquillity in a restful position" is recommended. The infant, with its legs perfectly free, will be left lying full length, and not jogged up and down to "amuse" it, as many persons imagine they are doing by this device. It will not be forced to walk before it is time. When this time comes, it will raise itself and walk spontaneously.

In these days nearly all mothers are convinced of this, and vendors of swaddling-bands, straps, and baskets have practically disappeared.

As a result, babies have straighter legs and walk better and earlier than formerly.

This is an established fact, and a most comforting one; for what a constant anxiety it must have been to believe that the straightness of a child's legs, and the shape of its nose, ears, and head were the direct results of our care! What a responsibility, to which every one must have felt unequal! And what a relief to say: "Nature will think of that. I will leave my baby free, and watch him grow in beauty; I will be a quiescent spectator of the miracle."

Something analogous has been happening with regard to the inner life of the child. We are beset by such anxieties as these: it is necessary to form character, to develop the intelligence, to aid the unfolding and ordering of the emotions. And we ask ourselves how we are to do this. Here and there we touch the soul of the child, or we constrain it by special restrictions, much as mothers used to press the noses of their babies or strap down their ears. And we conceal our anxiety beneath a certain mediocre success, for it is a fact that men do grow up possessing character, intelligence and feeling. But when all these things are lacking, we are vanquished. What are we to do then? Who will give character to a degenerate, intelligence to an idiot, human emotions to a moral maniac?

If it were really true that men acquired all such qualities by these fitful manipulations of their souls, it would suffice to apply a little more energy to the process when these souls are evidently feeble. But this is not sufficient.

Then we are no more the creators of spiritual than of physical forms.

It is Nature, "creation," which regulates all these things. If we are convinced of this, we must admit as a principle the necessity of "not introducing obstacles to natural development"; and instead of having to deal with many separate problems—such as, what are the best aids to the development of character, intelligence and feeling?—one single problem will present itself as the basis of all education: How are we to give the child freedom?

In according this freedom we must take account of principles analogous to those laid down by science for the forms and functions of the body during its period of growth; it is a freedom in which the head, the nose, and the ears will attain the highest beauty, and the gait the utmost perfection possible to the congenital powers of the individual. Thus here again liberty, the sole means, will lead to the maximum development of character, intelligence and sentiment; and will give to us, the educators, peace, and the possibility of contemplating the miracle of growth.

This liberty will further deliver us from the painful weight of a fictitious responsibility and a dangerous illusion.

Woe to us, when we believe ourselves responsible for matters that do not concern us, and delude ourselves with the idea that we are perfecting things that will perfect themselves quite independently of us! For then we are like lunatics; and the profound question arises: What, then, is our true mission, our true responsibility? If we are deceiving ourselves, what is indeed the truth? And what sins of omission and of commission must be laid to our charge? If, like Chanticleer, we believe that the sun rises in the morning because the cock has crowed, what duties shall we find when we come to our senses? Who has been left destitute, because we ourselves have forgotten "to eat our true bread"?

The history of the "physical redemption" of the infant has a sequel for us which is highly instructive.

Hygiene has not been confined to the task of anthropological demonstration, such as that which not only made generally known, but convinced every one, that the body develops spontaneously; because, in reality, the question of infant welfare was not concerned with the more or less perfect forms of the body. The real infantile question which called for the intervention of science was the alarming mortality among infants.

It certainly seems strange in these days to consider this fact: that, at the period when infantile diseases made the greatest ravages, people were not nearly so much concerned with infantile mortality as with the shape of the nose or the straightness of the legs, while the real question—literally a question of life and death—passed unobserved. There must be many persons who, like myself, have heard such dialogues as this: "I have had great experience in the care of children; I have had nine." "And how many of them are living?" "Two." And nevertheless this mother was looked upon as an authority!

Statistics of mortality reveal figures so high that the phenomenon may justly be called the "Slaughter of the Innocents." The famous graph of Lexis, which is not confined to one country or another, but deals with the general averages of human mortality, reveals the fact that this terrible death-rate is of universal occurrence among all peoples. This must be attributed to two different factors. One is undoubtedly the characteristic feebleness of infancy; the other the absence of protection for this feebleness, an absence that had become general among all peoples. Good-will was not lacking, nor parental affection; the fault lay hidden in an unknown cause, in a lack of protection against a dire peril of which men were quite unconscious. It is now a matter of common knowledge that infectious diseases, especially those of intestinal origin, are those most destructive to infant life. Intestinal disorders which impede nutrition, and produce toxins at an age when the delicate tissues are most sensitive to them, were responsible for nearly the entire death-roll. These were aggravated by the errors habitually committed by those in charge of infants. These errors were a lack of cleanliness which would astound us nowadays, and a complete absence of any sort of rule concerning infant diet. The soiled napkins which were wrapped round the baby under its swaddling bands would be dried in the sun again and again, and replaced on the infant without being washed. No care was taken to wash the mother's breast or the baby's mouth, in spite of fermentation so pronounced as to cause local disorder. Suckling of infants was carried out quite irregularly; the cries of the child were the sole guide whereby its feeding times, whether by night or day, were determined; and the more it suffered from indigestion and the resulting pains, the more frequently was it fed, to the constant aggravation of its sufferings. Who in those days might not have seen mothers carrying in their arms babies flushed with fever, perpetually thrusting the nipple into the little howling mouth in the hope of quieting it? And yet those mothers were full of self-sacrifice and of maternal anguish!

Science laid down simple rules; it enjoined the utmost possible cleanliness, and formulated a principle so self-evident that it seems astounding people should not have recognized it for themselves: that the smallest infant, like ourselves, should have regular meals, and should only take fresh nourishment when it has digested what has been given before; and hence that it should be suckled only at intervals of so many hours, according to the months of its age and the modifications of physical function in its development. No infant should ever be given crusts of bread to suck, as is often done by mothers, especially among the lower orders, to still its crying, because particles of bread might be swallowed, which the child is yet incapable of digesting.

The mothers' anxiety then was: what are we to do when the baby cries? They found to their astonishment after a time that their babies cried a great deal less, or indeed not at all; they even saw infants only a week old spending the two hours' intervals between successive meals calm and rosy, with wide-open eyes, so silent that they gave no sign of life, like Nature in her moments of solemn immobility. Why indeed should they cry continually? Those cries were the sign of a state of things which must be translated by these words: suffering and death.

And for these wailing little ones the world did nothing. They were strapped up in swaddling clothes, and very often handed over to a young child incapable of responsibility; they had neither a room nor a bed of their own.

It was Science which came to the rescue and created nurseries, cradles, rooms for babies, suitable clothes for them, alimentary substances specially prepared for them by great industries devoted to the hygienic sustenance of infants after weaning, and medical specialists for their ailments; in short, an entirely new world, clean, intelligent, and full of amenity. The baby has become the new man who has conquered his own right to live, and thus has caused a sphere to be created for him. And in direct proportion to the diffusion of the laws of infantile hygiene, infant mortality has decreased.

So then, when we say that in like manner the baby should be left at liberty spiritually, because creative Nature can also fashion its spirit better than we can, we do not mean that it should be neglected and abandoned.

Perhaps, looking around us, we shall perceive that though we cannot directly mold its individual forms of character, intelligence, and feeling, there is nevertheless a whole category of duties and solicitudes which we have neglected: and that on these the life or death of the spirit depends.

The principle of liberty is not therefore a principle of abandonment, but rather one which, by leading us from illusions to reality, will guide us to the most positive and efficacious "care of the child."

* * * * *

The liberty accorded to the child of to-day is purely physical. Civil rights of the child in the twentieth century.—Hygiene has brought liberty into the physical life of the infant. Such material facts as the abolition of swaddling bands, open-air life, the prolongation of sleep till the infant wakes of its own accord, etc., are the most evident and tangible proof of this. But these are merely means for the attainment of liberty. A far more important measure of liberation has been the removal of the perils of disease and death which beset the child at the outset of life's journey. Not only did infants survive in very much greater numbers as soon as the obstacles of certain fundamental errors were swept away, but it was at once apparent that there was an improvement in their development. Was it really hygiene which helped them to increase in weight, stature, and beauty, and improved their material development? Hygiene did not accomplish quite all this. Who, as the Gospel says, can by taking thought add one cubit to his stature? Hygiene merely delivered the child from the obstacles that impeded its growth. External restraints checked material development and all the natural evolution of life; hygiene burst these bonds. And every one felt that a liberation had been effected; every one repeated in view of the accomplished fact: children should be free. The direct correspondence between "conditions of physical life fulfilled" and "liberty acquired" is now universally and intuitively recognized. Thus the infant is treated like a young plant. Children to-day enjoy the rights which from time immemorial have been accorded to the vegetables of a well-kept garden. Good food, oxygen, suitable temperature, the careful elimination of parasites that produce disease; yes, henceforth we may say that the son of a prince will be tended with as much care as the finest rose-tree of a villa.

The old comparison of a child to a flower is the reality to which we now aspire; though even this is a privilege reserved for the more fortunate children. But let us beware of so grave an error. The babe is a man. That which suffices for a plant cannot be sufficient for him. Consider the depth of misery into which a paralyzed man has sunk when we say of him: "He merely vegetates; as a man, he is dead," and lament that there is nothing but his body left.

The infant as a man—such is the figure we ought to keep in view. We must behold him amidst our tumultuous human society and see how with heroic vigor he aspires to life.

What are the rights of children? Let us consider them for a moment as a social class, as a class of workers, for as a fact they are laboring to produce men. They are the future generation. They work, undergoing the fatigues of physical and spiritual growth. They continue the work carried on for a few months by their mothers, but their task is a more laborious, complex, and difficult one. When they are born they possess nothing but potentialities; they have to do everything in a world which, as even adults admit, is full of difficulties. What is done to help these frail pilgrims in an unknown world? They are born more fragile and helpless than an animal, and in a few years they have to become men, to be units in a highly complicated organized society, built up by the secular effort of innumerable generations. At a period in which civilization, that is, the possibility of right living, is based upon rights energetically acquired and consecrated by laws, what rights has he who comes among us without strength and without thought? Like the infant Moses lying in the ark of bulrushes on the waters of the Nile he represents the future of the chosen people; but will some princess passing by perchance see him?

To chance, to luck, to affection, to all these we entrust the child; and it would seem that the Biblical chastisement of the Egyptian oppressor, the death of the first-born, is to be unceasingly renewed.

Let us see how social justice receives the infant when he enters the world. We are living in the twentieth century; in many of the so-called civilized nations orphan asylums and wet nurses are still recognized institutions. What is an orphan asylum? It is a place of sequestration, a dark and terrible prison, where only too often the prisoner finds death, as in those medieval dungeons whence the victim disappeared, leaving no trace. He never sees any who are dear to him. His family name is cancelled, his goods are confiscated. The greatest criminal may retain memories of his mother, knows that he has had a name, and may derive some consolation from his recollections, comparable to the soothing reflections of one who having become blind recalls the beauty of colors and the splendor of the sun; but the foundling is as one born blind. Every malefactor has more rights than he; and yet who could be more innocent? Even in the days of the most odious tyranny, the spectacle of oppressed innocence kindled a flame of justice that sooner or later blazed up into revolution. The persons imprisoned by tyrants because they had happened to be witnesses of their crimes, and who were cast into dungeons where darkness and inaudible suffering were henceforth their unhappy portion, at least roused the people to proclaim the principle of equal justice for all. But who will lift up his voice for our foundlings? Society does not perceive that they too are men; they are indeed only the "flowers" of humanity. And to save honor and good name, what society would not with one accord sacrifice more "flowers"?

The wet nurse is a social custom. A luxurious custom, on the one hand. Not very long ago, a girl of the middle-and not even the upper middle-class, who was about to marry, boasted in the following terms of the domestic comfort promised her by her future husband: "I am to have a cook, a housemaid, and a wet nurse." On the other hand, the robust peasant girl who has given birth to a son, looking complacently at her heavy breasts, thinks: "I shall be able to get a good place as wet nurse." It is only quite recently that hygiene has cried shame upon those mothers whose laziness makes them refuse to suckle their own children; in our times queens and empresses who suckle their children are still cited admiringly as examples to other mothers. The maternal duty of suckling her own children prescribed to mothers by hygienists is based on a physiological principle: the mother's milk nourishes an infant more perfectly than any other. In spite of this clear indication, the duty is far from being universally accepted. Often in our walks we still see a robust mother accompanied by a wet nurse gorgeously attired in red or blue, with gold and silver embroideries, carrying a baby. Wealthy mothers have untidily dressed wet nurses who do not go out with them, who always follow the modern nurse, an expert in infantile hygiene, who keeps the baby "like a flower."

And what of the other child?... For every infant who has a double supply of human milk at his disposal, there is another child who has none. The wealth in question is not an industrial product. It is apportioned by Nature with careful precision. For each new life, the ration of milk. Milk cannot be produced by any means other than the production of life. Cow-keepers know this well; their good cows are hygienically reared, and calves are sent to the butcher. Yet what distress is felt whenever the young of some animal is parted from its mother! Is it not so in the case of puppies and kittens? When a pet dog has given birth to a litter so numerous that she cannot suckle them all, and it is necessary to destroy some of the puppies, what sincere grief is felt by the mistress of the house, whose own baby is being suckled by a magnificent wet nurse! Well—the thing which excites her compassion above all is the eager, whimpering mother, who does not understand whether she has or has not the strength to suckle all the shapeless puppies she has borne, but who cannot lose one of them without despair. The wet nurse is quite another affair; she came of her own accord to offer her milk for sale. What the other—her own child—was to do, no one cared.

Only a clearly defined right, a law, could have protected him, for society is based on rights. These, it is true, are the rights of property, which are absolute; steal a loaf, even if you are starving, and you are a thief. You will be punished by the law and outlawed by society. The rights of property constitute one of the most formidable of the social bases. An administrator of landed estate who should sell the property belonging to his master, make money out of it for his own enjoyment, and leave the rightful owner in the direst poverty, is a criminal difficult to imagine. For who would buy a property without the signature of the owner? Society is so constituted that certain crimes would not only be punished if committed, but are almost impossible to commit. Yet in the case of young infants, this crime is committed every day, and is not regarded as a crime, but as a luxury. What can be a more sacred right than that of the baby to his mother's milk? He might say of this in the words of the Emperor Napoleon: "God has given it to me." There can be no doubt whatever as to the legitimacy of his claim; his sole capital, milk, came into the world with and for him. All his wealth is there: strength to live, to grow, to acquire vigor are contained in that nourishment. If the defrauded infant should become weak and rickety, what would become of him, condemned by poverty to a hard calling? What a claim for damages, what a question of accident during work with permanent injury resulting therefrom might be raised if some day the infant could present himself after the manner of a man before the tribunal of social justice!

In civilized countries rich mothers have been induced to suckle their children because hygienists have proved that this is beneficial to the baby's health, but not because it has been recognized that the "civil right" of the adult extends to the infant. These mothers consider countries where the wet nurse is still an institution as less highly developed, but on the same plane of civilization as their own.

It may be asked: what if the mother is ill and unable to suckle her child? In such a case the child of the sick woman is the unfortunate one. Why should another have to suffer for his misfortune? However poverty-stricken individuals may be, we do not allow them to take from others the wealth that is so urgently needed by them. If in these days an Emperor could be cured of terrible sufferings by immersion in a bath of human blood, he could not bleed healthy men for the purpose as a barbarian Emperor would have done. These are the things that make up our civilization. This it is which differentiates us from pirates and cannibals. The rights of the adult are recognized.

But not the rights of the infant. [1] What an implication of baseness the fact carries with it: we recognize the rights of adults indeed, but not those of the child! We recognize justice, but only for those who can protest and defend themselves; and for the rest, we remain barbarians. Because to-day there may be peoples more or less highly developed from the hygienic point of view, but they all belong to the same civilization—a civilization based on the right of the strongest.

When we begin seriously to examine the problem of the moral education of the child, we ought to look around us a little, and survey the world we have prepared for him. Are we willing that he should become like us, unscrupulous in our dealings with the weak? that like us, his consciousness should harbor ideas of a justice which stops short at those who make no protests? Are we willing to make him like ourselves half a civilized man in our dealings with our equals, and half a wild beast when we encounter the innocent and oppressed?

[Footnote 1: Of course, should the child of the wet nurse have died, there can be no question of an infringement of its rights. But such cases have no relation to those in which the rich mother requires a nurse for the child she is unable to suckle herself, owing to pathological reasons.

I may draw attention to a precautionary measure which has become a law in Germany: this prohibits the acceptance of a post as wet nurse by a mother until six months after the birth of her own child. This interval is considered sufficiently long to guarantee the health of the infant. Moreover, the special care devoted to artificial feeding in Germany provides a satisfactory substitute for wet nursing, in the case of children who are deprived of maternal nourishment. Such laws and provisions are a first step towards the recognition of the "civil rights" of poor infants.]

If not, then before we offer moral education to the child, let us imitate the priest who is about to ascend to the altar: he bows his head in penitence and confesses his own sins before the whole congregation.

This outlawed child is like a dislocated arm. Humanity cannot work at the evolution of its morality until this arm has been put into its place; and this will also end the pains and the paralysis of the injured muscles attached to it: women. The social question of the child is obviously the more complete and profound; it is the question of our present and of our future.

If we can reconcile to our conscience deeds of such grave injustice, not to say crimes, without recognizing them as such, what minor forms of oppression shall we not readily condone in our dealings with the child?

* * * * *

How we receive the infants that come into the world.—Let us look around. Only of late has any preparation been made to receive this sublime guest. It is not very long ago that little beds for children were first made; among all the innumerable tasteless, superfluous, and extravagant objects of commerce, let us see what things are intended for the child. No washstands, no sofas, no tables, no brushes. Among all the many houses, there is not one house for him and his like, and only rich and fortunate children have even a room of their own, more or less a place of exile.

Let us imagine ourselves subjected for even a single day to the miseries to which he is condemned.

Suppose that we should find ourselves among a race of giants, with legs immensely long and bodies enormously large in comparison with ours, and also with powers of rapid movement infinitely greater than ours, people extraordinarily agile and intelligent compared with ourselves. We should want to go into their houses; the steps would be each as high as our knees, and yet we should have to try to mount them with their owners; we should want to sit down, but the seats would be almost as high as our shoulders; clambering painfully upon them, we should at last succeed in perching upon them. We should want to brush our clothes, but all the clothes-brushes would be so huge that we could not lay hold of them nor sustain their weight; and a clothes-brush would be handed to us if we wanted to brush our nails. We should perhaps be glad to take a bath in one of the washstand basins; but the weight of these would make it impossible for us to lift them. If we knew that these giants had been expecting us, we should be obliged to say: they have made no preparations for receiving us, or for making our lives among them agreeable. The baby finds all that he himself needs in the form of playthings made for dolls; rich, varied and attractive surroundings have not been created for him, but dolls have houses, sitting-rooms, kitchens and wardrobes; for them all that the adult possesses is reproduced in miniature. Among all these things, however, the child cannot live; he can only amuse himself. The world has been given to him in jest, because no one has yet recognized him as a living man. He discovers that society has prepared a mockery for his reception.

That children break their toys is so well known that this act of destruction of the only things specially manufactured for them is taken to be a proof of their intelligence. We say: "He destroys it because he wishes to understand [how things are made];" in reality he is looking to see if there is anything interesting inside the toys, because externally they have no interest whatever for him; sometimes he breaks them up violently, like an angry man. Then, according to us, he is destroying out of naughtiness.

It is the tendency of the child actually to live by means of the things around him; he would like to use a washstand of his own, to dress himself, really to comb the hair on a living head, to sweep the floor himself; he too would like to have seats, tables, sofas, clothes-pegs, and cupboards. What he desires is to work himself, to aim at some intelligent object, to have comfort in his own life. He has not only to "behave like a man," but to "construct a man;" such is the dominant tendency of his nature, of his mission.

We have seen him in the Case dei Bambini happy and patient, slow and precise like the most admirable workman, and the most scrupulous conservator of things. The smallest trifles suffice to make him happy; it delights him to hang up his clothes on pegs fixed low down on the walls, within reach of his hands; to open a light door, the handle of which is proportioned to the size of his hand; to place a chair, the weight of which is not too great for his arms, quietly and gracefully. We offer a very simple suggestion: give the child an environment in which everything is constructed in proportion to himself, and let him live therein. Then there will develop within the child that "active life" which has caused so many to marvel, because they see in it not only a simple exercise performed with pleasure, but the revelation of a spiritual life. In such harmonious surroundings the young child is seen laying hold of the intellectual life like a seed which has thrown out a root into the soil, and then growing and developing by one sole means: long practice in each exercise.

When we see little children acting thus, intent on their work, slow in executing it, because of the immaturity of their structure, just as they walk slowly because their legs are still short, we feel intuitively that life is being elaborated within them, as a chrysalis slowly elaborates the butterfly within the cocoon. To impede their activity would be to do violence to their lives. But what is the usual method with young children? We all interrupt them without compunction or consideration, in the manner of masters to slaves who have no human rights. To show "consideration" to young children as to adults would even seem ridiculous to many persons. And yet with what severity do we enjoin children "not to interrupt" us! If the little one is doing something, eating by himself, for instance, some adult comes and feeds him; if he is trying to fasten an overall, some adult hastens to dress him; every one substitutes an alien action to his, brutally, without the smallest consideration. And yet we ourselves are very sensitive as to our rights in our own work; it offends us if any one attempts to supplant us; in the Bible the sentence, "And his place shall another take" is among the threats to the lost.

What should we do if we were to become the slaves of a people incapable of understanding our feelings, a gigantic people, very much stronger than ourselves? When we were quietly eating our soup, enjoying it at our leisure (and we know that enjoyment depends upon being at liberty), suppose a giant appeared and snatching the spoon from our hand, made us swallow it in such haste that we were almost choked. Our protest: "For mercy's sake, slowly," would be accompanied by an oppression of the heart; our digestion would suffer. If again, thinking of something pleasant, we should be slowly putting on an overcoat with all the sense of well-being and liberty we enjoy in our own houses, and some giant should suddenly throw it upon us, and having dressed us, should in the twinkling of an eye, carry us out to some distance from the door, we should feel our dignity so wounded, that all the expected pleasure of the walk would be lost. Our nutrition does not depend solely on the soup we have swallowed, nor our well-being upon the physical exercise of walking, but also upon the liberty with which we do these things. We should feel offended and rebellious, not at all out of hatred of these giants, but merely from our recognition of the innate tendency to free functions in all that pertains to life. It is something within us which man does not recognize, which God alone knows, a something which manifests itself imperceptibly to us to the end that we may complete it. It is this love of freedom which nourishes and gives well-being to our life, even in its most minute acts. Of this it was said: "Man does not live by bread alone." How much greater this need must be in young children, in whom creation is still in action!

With strife and rebellion they have to defend their own little conquests of their environment. When they want to exercise their senses, such as that of touch, for instance, every one condemns them: "Do not touch!" If they attempt to take something from the kitchen, some scraps to make a little dish, they are driven away, and mercilessly sent back to their toys. How often one of those marvelous moments when their attention is fixed, and that process of organization which is to develop them begins in their souls, is roughly interrupted; moments when the spontaneous efforts of the young child are groping blindly in its surroundings after sustenance for its intelligence. Do we not all retain an impression of something having been forever stifled in our lives?

Without being able to give any definite reason, we feel that something precious was lost on our life-journey, that we were defrauded and depreciated. Perhaps at the very moments when we were about to create ourselves, we were interrupted and persecuted, and our spiritual organism was left rickety, weak, and inadequate.

Let us imagine to ourselves certain adults, not mature and stable like the majority of grown men, but in a state of spiritual auto-creation, as are men of genius. Let us take the case of a writer under the influence of poetic inspiration, at the moment when his beneficent and inspiring work is about to take form for the help of other men. Or that of the mathematician who perceives the solution of a great problem, from which will issue new principles beneficial to all humanity. Or again, that of an artist, whose mind has just conceived the ideal image which it is necessary to fix upon the canvas lest a masterpiece be lost to the world. Imagine these men at such psychological moments, broken in upon by some brutal person shouting to them to follow him at once, taking them by the hand, or pushing them out by the shoulders. And for what? The chess-board is set out for a game. Ah! such men would say, "You could not have done anything more atrocious! Our inspiration is lost; humanity will be deprived of a poem, an artistic masterpiece, a useful discovery, by your folly."

But the child in like case does not lose some single production; he loses himself. For his masterpiece, which he is composing in the recesses of his creative genius, is the new man. The "caprices," the "naughtinesses," the "mysterious vapors" of little children are perhaps the occult cry of unhappiness uttered by the misunderstood soul.

But it is not only the soul that suffers; the body suffers with it. For the influence exercised by the spirit on the entire physical existence is a characteristic of man.

In an institution for deserted children, there was one extremely ugly little creature, who had nevertheless greatly endeared himself to a young woman who had the care of him. This nurse one day told one of the patronesses that the child was growing very pretty. The lady went to look at it, but found it very ugly, and thought to herself that daily habit soon accustoms us to the defects of others. Some time after this the nurse made the same remark as before, and the lady good-naturedly paid another visit; impressed by the warmth with which the young woman spoke of the child, she was touched to think that love had made the speaker blind. Several months elapsed, and finally the nurse, with a triumphant air, declared that henceforth no mistake would be possible, for the child had undoubtedly become "beautiful." The lady, astounded, had to admit that this was true; the body of the child had actually been transformed under the influence of a great affection.

When we delude ourselves with the idea that we are giving everything to children by giving them fresh air and food, we are not even giving them this: air and food are not sufficient for the body of man; all the physiological functions are subject to a higher welfare, wherein the sole key of all life is to be found. The child's body lives also by joyousness of soul.

Physiology itself teaches us these things. A frugal meal taken in the open air will nourish the body far better than a sumptuous repast in a close room, where the air is impure, because all the functions of the body are more active in the open air, and assimilation is more complete. In like manner a frugal meal eaten in common with beloved and sympathetic persons is much more nutritious than the food a humble, harassed secretary would partake at the lordly table of a capricious master. Liberty in this case is the cry that explains all. Parva domus sed mea (a little house, but my own), has been quoted ever since the Roman epoch to indicate which is the most healthful of houses. Where our lives are oppressed, there can be no health for us, even though we eat of princely banquets or in splendid buildings.

* * * * *

With man the life of the body depends on the life of the spirit.—Physiology gives an exhaustive explanation of the mechanism of such phenomena. Moral activities have such an exact correspondence with the functions of the body that it is possible to appreciate by means of these the various emotional states of grief, anger, weariness, and pleasure. In grief, for instance, the action of the heart becomes feebler, as under a paralyzing influence; all the blood-vessels contract, and the blood circulates more slowly, the glands no longer secrete their juices normally, and these disturbances manifest themselves in a pallor of the face, an appearance of weariness in the drooping body, a mouth parched from lack of saliva, indigestion caused by insufficiency of the gastric juice, and cold hands. If prolonged, grief results in mal-nutrition and consequent wasting, and predisposes the debilitated body to infectious diseases. Weariness is like a rapid paralysis of the heart; it may induce fainting, as expressed in the popular phrase "dead tired"; but a reflex action will nearly always restore the sufferer, like an automatic safety-valve; thus a yawn, that is to say, a deep, spasmodic inspiration, which dilates the pulmonary alveoli, causes the blood to flow to the heart like a suction pump, and sets it in motion again. In anger there is a kind of tetanic contraction of all the capillaries, causing extreme pallor, and the expulsion of an extra quantity of bile from the liver. Pleasure causes dilatation of the blood-vessels; the circulation, and consequently all the functions of secretion and assimilation are facilitated; the face is suffused with color, the gastric juice and the saliva are perceptible as that healthy appetite and that watering of the mouth which invite us to supply fresh nourishment to the body; all the tissues work actively to expel their toxins, and to assimilate fresh nourishment; the enlarged lungs store up large quantities of oxygen, which burn up all refuse, leaving no trace of poisonous germs. It is an injection of health.

In Italy, where after the abolition of the death penalty the punishment of solitary confinement was substituted, we have a proof even more eloquent of the influence of the spirit upon the functions of the body. With our modern measures of hygiene in prisons, the prison cell cannot be called a place of torture for the body: it is merely a place where all spiritual sustenance is withheld. It consists of a cell with perfectly bare gray walls, opening only into a narrow strip of ground enclosed by high walls, where the criminal may walk in the fresh air, because the open country is all around him, though it is hidden from his sight. What is lacking here for the body? It is provided with food, and a shelter from the weather, it has a bed and a place where it can take in fresh stores of pure oxygen; the body can rest, nay more, it can do nothing but rest. The conditions seem almost ideal for any one who does not wish to do anything, and desires simply to vegetate. But no sound from without, no human voice ever reaches the ear of the being here incarcerated; he will never again see a color or a form. No news from the outer world ever reaches him. Alone in dense spiritual darkness, he will spend the interminable hours, days, seasons, and years. Now, experience has shown that these wretched persons cannot live. They go mad and die. Not only their minds but their bodies perish after a few years. What causes death? If such a man were a plant, he would lack nothing, but he requires other nourishment. Emptiness of the soul is mortal even to the vilest criminal, for this is a law of human nature. His flesh, his viscera, his bones perish when deprived of spiritual food, just as an oak-tree would perish without the nitrates of the earth and the oxygen of the air. This slow death substituted for violent death was, indeed, denounced as very great cruelty. To die of hunger in nine days like Count Ugolino is a more cruel fate than to be burnt to death in half an hour like Giordano Bruno; but to die of starvation of the spirit in a term of years is the most cruel of all the punishments hitherto devised for the castigation of man.

If a robust and brutal criminal can perish from starvation of the soul, what will be the fate of the infant if we take no account of his spiritual needs? His body is fragile, his bones are in process of growth, his muscles, overloaded with sugar, cannot yet elaborate their powers; they can only elaborate themselves; the delicate structure of his organism requires, it is true, nutriment and oxygen; but if its functions are to be satisfactorily performed, it requires joy. It is a joyous spirit which causes "the bones of man to exult."



The precepts which govern moral education and instruction.—Although the adult relegates the child to an existence among toys, and inexorably denies him those exercises which would promote his internal development, he claims that the child should imitate him in the moral sphere. The adult says to the child: "Do as I do." The child is to become a man, not by training and development, but by imitation. It is as if a father were to say in the morning to his little one: "Look at me, see how tall I am; when I return this evening, I shall expect you to have grown a foot."

Education is greatly simplified by this method. If a tale of some heroic deed is read to the child, and he is told to "become a hero"; if some moral action is narrated and is concluded with the recommendation, "be thou virtuous"; if some instance of remarkable character is noted together with the exhortation, "you too must acquire a strong character," the child has been put in the way of becoming a great man!

If children show themselves discontented and restless, they are told that they want for nothing, that they are fortunate to have a father and a mother, and to conclude, they are exhorted thus: "Children, be happy—a child should always be joyous"; and behold! the mysterious yearnings of the child are supposed to be satisfied!

Adults are quite content when they have acted thus. They straighten out the character and the morals of their children as they formerly straightened their legs by bandaging them.

True, rebellious children occasionally demonstrate the futility of such teachings. In these cases a good instructor chooses appropriate stories showing the baseness of such ingratitude, the dangers of disobedience, the ugliness of bad temper, to accentuate the defects of the pupil. It would be just as edifying to discourse to a blind man on the dangers of blindness, and to a cripple on the difficulties of walking. The same thing happens in material matters; a music-master says to a beginner: "Hold your fingers properly; if you do not, you will never be able to play." A mother will say to a son condemned to sit bent double all day on school benches, and obliged by the usages of society to study continually: "Hold yourself gracefully, do not be so awkward in company, you make me feel ashamed of you."

If the child were one day to exclaim: "But it is you who prevent me from developing will and character; when I seem naughty, it is because I am trying to save myself; how can I help being awkward when I am sacrificed?" To many this would be a revelation; to many others merely a "want of respect."

There is a method by which the child may be brought to achieve the results which the adult has laid down as desirable; it is a very simple method. The child must be made to do whatever the adult wishes; the adult will then be able to lead him to the heights of goodness, self-sacrifice and strength, and the moral child will be created. To dominate the child, to bring him into subjection, to make him obedient—this is the basis of education. If this can be done by any means whatever, even by violence, all the rest will follow; and remember, it is all for the good of the child. The child could not be molded by any other means. It is the first and principal step in what is called "educating the will of the child," one which will henceforth enable the adult to speak of himself as Virgil speaks of God.

After this first step the adult will examine himself to see what are the things he finds most difficult, and these he will exact from the child in time, that the child may accustom himself to the necessary difficulties of man's life. But very often the adult also imposes conditions which he himself has not the fortitude to accept even partially ... as, for instance, the task of listening motionless for three or four hours every day, during a course of years, to a dull, wearisome lecturer.

* * * * *

It is the teacher who forms the child's mind. How he teaches.—The same conception governs the school: it is the teacher who must form the pupil; the development of the child's intelligence and culture are in his hands. He has a truly formidable task and a tremendous responsibility. The problems that present themselves to him are innumerable and acute; they form as it were a hedge of thorns separating him from his pupils. What must first of all be devised, to win the attention of his pupils, so that he may be able to introduce into their minds all that seems to him necessary? How is he to offer them an idea in such a manner that they will retain it in their memories? To this end, it is essential that he should have a knowledge of psychology, the precise manner in which physical phenomena are produced, the laws governing memory, the psychical mechanism by means of which ideas are formed, the laws governing the association of ideas, by means of which very gradually ideas proceed to the most sublime activities, impelling the child to reason. It is he who, knowing all these things, must build up and enrich the mind. And this is no easy matter, because, in addition to this difficult work, there is always the difficulty of difficulties, that of inducing the child to lend himself to all this endeavor, and to second the master, and not show himself recalcitrant to the efforts made on his behalf. For this reason the moral education is the point of departure; before all things, it is necessary to discipline the class. The pupils must be induced to second the master's efforts, if not by love, then by force. Failing this point of departure, all education and instruction would be impossible, and the school useless.

Another difficulty is that of economizing the powers of the pupils, that is to say, utilizing them to the utmost without wasting them. How much rest is necessary? How long should any particular work be carried on? Perhaps ten minutes' rest may be necessary after the first three-quarters of an hour of occupation; but after another three-quarters of an hour, a pause of fifteen minutes may be required, and so on throughout the day; finally, a quarter of an hour's rest may be needed after ten minutes' occupation. But what instruction is best adapted to the powers of a child during the various hours of the day? Is it best to begin with mathematics or with dictation? At what hours will the child be most inclined to exercise his powers of imagination, at 9 in the morning or at 11?

Other anxieties must assail a perfect teacher! How should he write on the blackboard so that the children seated at a distance may see? for if they do not see his work is of no avail. And how much light shall fall upon the blackboard, in order that all may see clearly the white characters on the black surface? Of what size should be the script specially chosen by the master to suit distant vision? This is a serious matter, because if the child, obliged by discipline to look and learn from a distance, should put too great a strain upon his powers of visual accommodation, he may in time become short-sighted; then the teacher would have manufactured a blind person. A serious matter indeed!

* * * * *

What consideration has ever been given to the state of anxiety of such a teacher? To get some idea of his anxiety we may think of a young wife about to become a mother, who should set herself such problems as the following: how can I create an infant, if I know nothing of anatomy; how can I form its skeleton? I must study the structure of the bones carefully. I must then learn how the muscles are attached; but how will it be possible to put the brain into a closed box? And must the little heart go on beating continually until death? Is it possible that it will not weary?

In like fashion, she might ponder thus over her new-born babe: it is evident that he will not be able to walk if he does not first of all understand the laws of equilibrium; if he is left to himself, he will not be able to understand these till he is twenty; I must therefore prepare to teach him these laws prematurely in order that he may be able to walk as quickly as possible.

The schoolmaster is the person who builds up the intelligence of the pupil; the intelligence of the pupil increases in direct proportion to the efforts of the teacher; in other words, he knows just what the master has made him know and understands neither more nor less than the master has made him understand. When an inspector visits a school and questions the pupils he turns to the master, and if he is satisfied says: "Well done, teacher!" For the result is indubitably the work of the master; the discipline by which he has fixed the attention of his pupils, even to the psychical mechanism which has guided him in his teaching, all is due to him. God enters the school as a symbol in the crucifix, but the creator is the teacher.

A good deal of help is given to teachers in their superhuman task. There is a kind of division of labor, by virtue of which more advanced experts prepare the schemata of instruction; basing them upon psychology, if the teaching is on a scientific plan, or on the principles laid down by one of the great pedagogists such as Herbart, for example; moreover, the sciences, such as hygiene and experimental psychology, are further invoked to overcome many practical difficulties and to help in the arrangement of schoolrooms, the drawing up of the curriculum, time-tables, etc.

Here, for instance, are notes for lessons on a psychological basis, that is to say, lessons which take account of the proper order of succession in which the psychical activities should develop in the mind of the child; by exercises of this kind, the pupil will not only learn, but will develop his intelligence in accordance with the laws governing its formation. [2]

[Footnote 2: These two examples are taken from the well-known review, I Diritti della Scuola, Year xiv.]


A Candle: Education of the sensory and perceptive faculties.

Sight.—White, solid.

Touch.—Greasy, smooth.

Nomenclature.—Parts of the candle: wick, surface, extremity, edges, upper part, lower part, middle part. The candles we use are made of wax mixed with stearine. Stearine is made of the fat of oxen and sheep and pigs. Hence they are called stearine candles. There are also wax candles. These are yellowish and less greasy. Wax is produced by bees. There are also tallow candles; these are very greasy and have a disgreeable smell when burning.

Memory.—Have you ever seen a candle-factory? Have you ever seen a bee-hive? Of what are the cells of the honeycomb made? When do you light a candle? Have you ever carried a lighted candle carelessly? Did not this cause a disaster?

Imagination.—Draw the outline of a candle on the blackboard.

Comparison, association, abstraction.—Similarity and difference in candles of stearine, wax, and tallow.

Judgment and reasoning.—Are candles useful? Were they more useful formerly, or now that we have gas and electric light?

Sentiments.—Children are greatly pleased by a visit to a candle-factory. It is indeed very agreeable to see how candles used by so many people are made. When we can satisfy our desire for instruction we feel pleasure and contentment.

Volition.—What should we do with the fat of pigs if we did not know how to make it into stearine? What should we do with wax if we did not know how to utilize it? Man is able to work and to transform many products into useful substances and objects. Work is our life. Blessed be the workers! Let us also love work and devote ourselves diligently thereto.

(N.B.—The children are all to listen without moving.) Any kind of lesson may be based on the same psychical plan, even a moral lesson. For instance:

Moral education derived from the observation of actions.

(N.B.—The actions are all invented and narrated.)

Agreeable manners. Incident.—"Is it true, Miss, that the village church is more than a kilometer from here? My mother has ordered me to go there. I thought I had arrived, and I was so pleased. I have come a long way, and I am so very, very tired." "Indeed," replied the girl, who was standing at the gate of her home, "you are still a kilometer and a half from the church. But come through my gate, and take the short cut I will show you through my fields. You will get to the church in five minutes." What an amiable girl!

Successive relations of cause and effect.—The village girl showed amenity to the little traveler. The latter reached the church quickly, was saved much fatigue, and felt great relief.

Memory.—Have you always been pleasant to your companions? Have you always been ready to lend a comrade anything he has asked for? Have you always thanked those who have done you favors in an agreeable manner?

Comparison, association, abstraction.—Comparison between an agreeable child and a boorish one.

Judgment, reasoning.—Why is it necessary to be courteous to all? Is it sufficient to give help solely to show oneself to be amiable?

Sentiments.—He who is amiable has a soul rich in sweetness and suavity. What sympathy he evokes in all! The disagreeable person is irritated by trifles. He excites disgust and fear in others. He who is affable shows love to his neighbor.

Volition.—Children, accustom yourselves to be pleasant to every one. You should be pleasant when you are conferring some favor, otherwise the favor will seem irksome. When you want something, do you ask for it arrogantly? If so, it will be easier to say no than yes to you. On the other hand, if you ask politely for something, will it not be difficult to refuse you?

It will perhaps be more interesting to follow a lesson actually given, and accepted as a model for teachers in general. I therefore reproduce one of the lessons which gained a prize at a competition of teachers held in Italy. [3] In this, according to the subject or theme, only one primary psychical activity was to be dealt with: viz. sensory perception. (The compositions were distinguished not by the names of the authors, but by mottoes.)

[Footnote 3: This was published in the review, La Voce delle Maestre d'Asilo, Year viii.]

Motto.—Things are the first and best teachers.

I set myself the following limits:

To give an idea of icy cold in contrast to that of heat. [This would be amply sufficient in itself, for these ideas are not grains to pick up one after the other, but sublime psychical facts of great complexity, and, consequently, very difficult to assimilate.]

Combine with the idea to be imparted, the cultivation of a sense of compassion and pity for the very poor, to whom winter brings such severe suffering; a feeling I have already tried many times to arouse.

The above is for my own guidance; what follows is for the children.

"Children, how comfortable we are here! Everything is clean; everything is in order; I am so fond of you; you are so fond of me. Isn't this true, children?

Children.—I am, I am. Me too (correct).

Tell me, Gino, are you cold? You said no at once. Well, no, you are right; we are really very cozy here. There, in that corner (I point) there is a thing which gives out much ...

Children.—Heat. It is the stove.

But outside, where there is no stove, over there, towards the horizon (the children are to a certain extent familiar with this word), there is no warmth.

Children.—It's cold there (an answer due to the clarity of the laws of contrast).

Last night ... while we were asleep, while your mother perhaps was mending your clothes ... dear mother, how kind she is!... well, last night, so many, many white flakes fell softly from the sky!...

Snow, snow! exclaim the children.

Children! let us say: so many snowflakes fell. How beautiful the snow is! Let us go and look at it closely.

Children.—Yes, yes, yes, yes.

It is so beautiful that I see you would all like to take a little. But perhaps this is not allowed. To whom does the snow belong? (No answer.) Who bought it? Who made it? You? No. I? No. Your mother? No. Then did your father buy it? (They look at me in astonishment; these are really very strange questions.) No, again. Well then, the snow belongs to every one. And if this is so, we may take a little handful of it. (Evident signs of joy.) I will hand round the boxes you made yesterday. (These children have not desks with lockers in which they may put their little works. Using the boxes will be a good way of demonstrating the utility of their work.) They will do very well to hold the beautiful snow. (I talk to them as I distribute the boxes, that their attention may not flag.) I will take mine too, the one I made with you. It is larger than yours; so which will hold more snow, mine or yours?


Come then, children. Put a white handful into your boxes. How delightful!

(Going.) Just stop a moment; how comfortable we are here! Put one hand over your face. How warm your face is, and how warm your hand is too! We shall see whether your hands will still be so warm after you have touched the snow.

Children.—They will be cold.

Yes, indeed. (Going out.) How beautiful it is! It fell down from above. The sky has given the earth a beautiful dress, all ...


At this juncture my children, accustomed to that principle of healthful, ordered liberty which is the main factor in the formation of character, touch and gather up the snow; some of them break the pure surface with little drawings. I let them. I wait a minute, then I make as it were a sudden assault upon their attention:

Children, I too will take a little snow, but together with all of you. Stop. Stand up. Look well at me. Let us take away a little strip of the great cloak. Let us put it in our boxes. That's right. (Re-entering the schoolroom.) Oh! how cold it is! The children who are not well wrapped up are the coldest. Poor little things! And those who haven't that thing full of burning coal in their houses!

Children.—The stove.

How cold they will be! Come now, quickly; all to your places. Put the boxes on the desk. How cold the snow is! Did you notice how cold it made your hands, which were quite warm?

Children.—My hand is cold! Mine too! Etc.

In the courtyard, I saw Caroline take a little snow, and then suddenly let it fall; she was not strong enough to bear such cold. But then she tried again, and the second time she did not drop it.

Child.—I didn't. I putted it (correct) quickly into my box.

Children, when the cold is as great as the cold of the snow, it is called frost. Say that, Guido. What is the word? Now you, Giannina. And the snow which is so cold is ... what? Who can guess?

A child.—Frozen.

Say: the snow is frozen.

We came indoors, because it is frosty outside, and inside it is ...


But we brought with us a frozen thing which is called ...


What is it the stove gives us? Do you remember? [4]


I want Maria to tell me. And now, Peppino.

[Footnote 4: The children are expected to know that the stove gives out heat, by an effort of memory.]

Do you know, our mouths also give out heat. Open yours. Not too much! Hold up one hand in front of it, the right hand. Breathe on it as I am doing. Let us breathe again; now let us send our breath outwards, as I am doing. Again ... again ... again. That's right. Now feel. You see your mouth too gives out a little ...


Now let us try putting a little snow into it. A little piece like this. Oh! the heat of the mouth is escaping, it has already gone at the icy touch of the snow.

Children.—Our mouths are cold now.

Yes, that's right. They are very, very cold, so cold that they are what we call ...


Perhaps Giuseppe doesn't know. He didn't say it with the others. Say it again, that he may say it with you. Again. That will do. Bravo, Giuseppe. So our mouths were ...


Let us eat another little piece of snow. The snow turns to water in our mouths, because it is made of water only. Now bread is made of water too, but not only of water. What does the baker want to make the dough for bread?...


And what else?


And what else?


I see Luigi is still eating snow, and Alfonso too, and Pierino. Do you like it?

Children.—Yes, Signora.

Do you like it?

Children.—Yes, Signora. Me too, me too (correct).

Well, eat a little more, but not much, it might make you ill. It is so freezing (I repeat this word very often, because it expresses the idea I am trying to convey).

When it snows it is so very cold, and just think that there are many children, many people, who are not warmly dressed and have no stoves; they are very poor. They suffer very much, and some of them die; poor people! How fortunate we are, on the other hand! We have so many garments (they have learned this word) to cover ourselves with; we have a stove at home and one at school, to warm us. How lucky we are!

A child.—I have no stove at home.

I know you have not, Emilio, and I am very sorry. Children, you must be kind to Emilio and Giuseppina, because they are very ...


Have you eaten it all?

Children.—No, Signora.

Now let us go into the courtyard and throw away the rest of the snow. Then we will put the boxes on this table to dry. And to-morrow I will show you a pretty picture of country covered with snow. Come along; bring your boxes, and when you have emptied them put them back where I told you."

I intend to repeat this lesson in another form, combining others with it, and referring in it to other ideas, which bear a relation to that here set forth.

As everything in the physical and moral world is one and indivisible, bound together in closest union, human development is gravely impeded by the presentment of isolated educational facts in a desultory manner, because it is impossible to disconnect things united by a sacred and eternal law.

* * * * *

In the above "model" lesson, it is claimed that only two perceptions are dealt with, those of cold and heat, and that the child has been allowed a good deal of liberty, but of a judicious kind.

Now it would be exceedingly difficult to limit the perceptions strictly to two, especially when dealing with persons placed in an environment abounding in stimuli, who have already stored up a whole chaos of images. But such being the object in view, it is necessary to eliminate as far as possible all other perceptions, to arrest those two, and so to polarize attention on them that all other images shall be obscured in the field of consciousness. This would be the scientific method tending to isolate perceptions; and it is in fact the practical method adopted by us in our education of the senses. In the case of cold and heat, the child is "prepared" by the isolation of the particular sense in question; he is placed blindfolded in a silent place, to the end that thermic stimuli alone may reach him. In front of the child are placed two objects perfectly identical in all characteristics perceptible to the muscular tactile sense: of the same dimensions, the same shape, the same degree of smoothness, the same resistance to pressure; for instance, two india-rubber bags, filled with the same quantity of water, and perfectly dry on the outside. The sole difference is the temperature of the water in the two bags; in the hot one, the water would be at a temperature of sixty degrees centigrade; in the cold, at ten degrees centigrade. After directing the child's attention to the object, his hand is drawn over the hot bag, and then over the cold one; while his hand is on the hot bag the teacher says: It is hot! While he feels the cold one he is told: It is cold. And the lesson is finished. It has consisted merely of two words, and of a long preparation designed to ensure that as far as possible, the two sensations corresponding to these two words shall be the only ones that reach the child. The other senses, sight and hearing, were protected against stimuli; and there was no perceptible difference in the objects offered to the touch save that of temperature. Thus it becomes approximately probable that the child will achieve the perception of two sensations exclusively.

And what about the liberty of the child, we shall be asked?

Well, we admit that every lesson infringes the liberty of the child, and for this reason we allow it to last only for a few seconds: just the time to pronounce the two words: hot, cold; but this is effected under the influence of the preparation, which by first isolating the sense makes, as it were, a darkness in the consciousness, and then projects only two images into it. As if from the screen before a magic lantern, the child receives his psychical acquisitions, or rather they are like seeds falling on a fertile soil; and it is in the subsequent free choice, and the repetition of the exercise, as in the subsequent activity, spontaneous, associative, and reproductive, that the child will be left "free." He receives, rather than a lesson, a determinate impression of contact with the external world; it is the clear, scientific, pre-determined character of this contact which distinguishes it from the mass of indeterminate contacts which the child is continually receiving from his surroundings. The multiplicity of such indeterminate contacts will create chaos within the mind of the child; pre-determined contacts will, on the other hand, initiate order therein, because with the help of the technique of isolation, they will begin to make him distinguish one thing from another.

The technique of our lessons is governed by experimental psychology. And this trend, without doubt, is in contrast to that of the past, which was governed by speculative psychology, on which the whole of the educational methods commonly in use in schools has hitherto been based.

It was Herbart who used the philosophical psychology of his day as a guiding principle to reduce pedagogic rules to a system. From his individual experience he believed he could deduce a universal method of developing the mind, and be made this the psychological basis of methods of teaching. The German pedagogist, whose methods are now, thanks to Credaro, formerly Professor of Pedagogy at the University of Rome, and afterward Minister of Education, adopted for elementary education throughout Italy, gave a unique type of lesson on the four well-known periods (the formal steps): clarity, association, system, method. These may be explained approximately as follows: presentation of an object and its analytical examination (clarity); judgment and comparison with other surrounding objects or with mnemonic images (association); definition of the object deduced from preceding judgments (system); new principles derived from the idea which is thus deepened, and which will lead to practical application of a moral order (method).

The teacher must guide the child's mind on these lines in every kind of teaching; he must, however, never substitute his own intelligence for that of the child, but rather make the child himself think, and induce him to exercise his own activity. For instance, in the association period, the master must not say: "Look at such and such an object, and at such and such another; see how much alike they are, etc...." He should ask the pupil: "What do you see when you look around? Is there not something which is like, etc.?" Again, in the definition period, the master should not say: "A bird is a vertebrate animal covered with feathers; it has two limbs which have been transformed into wings," but by rapid questions, corrections, and analogies, he should induce the child to find the precise definition for himself. If the mental process of Herbart's four periods is to come naturally, it would be essential that great interest in the object should exist; it is interest which would keep the mind amused, or, as the famous pedagogist would say, plunged in the idea, and would maintain it in a system nevertheless embracing multilateral ideas; and hence it is necessary that "interest" should be awakened and should persist in all instruction. It is well known that a pupil of Herbart's must, to this end, supplement Herbart's four periods by a prior period, that of interest; linking all new knowledge to the old, "going from the known to the unknown," because what is absolutely new can awake no interest.

"To make oneself interesting artificially," that is, interesting to those who have no interest in us, is indeed a very difficult task; and to arrest the attention hour after hour, and year after year, not of one, but of a multitude of persons who have nothing in common with us, not even years, is indeed a superhuman undertaking. Yet this is the task of the teacher, or, as he would say, his "art": to make this assembly of children whom he has reduced to immobility by discipline follow him with their minds, understand what he says, and learn; an internal action, which he cannot govern, as he governs the position of their bodies, but which he must win by making himself interesting, and by maintaining this interest. "The art of tuition," says Ardigo, "consists mainly of this: to know up to what point and in what manner one can maintain the interest of pupils. The most skilful teachers are those who never fatigue one fraction of the pupil's brain, but act in such a manner that his attention, turning now here, now there, may rest itself and, gaining strength, return to the principal argument of the discourse with renewed vigor."

A much more laborious art is that which leads the child to find by means of its own mental processes, not what it would naturally find, but what the teacher desires, although he does not say what he desires; he urges on the child to associate his ideas "spontaneously"—as the teacher associates them—and even succeeds in making the child compose definitions with the exact words he himself has fixed upon, without having revealed them. Such a thing would seem the result of some occult science, a kind of conjuring trick. Nevertheless, such methods have been and still are in use, and in some cases they form the sole art of the teacher.

When in 1862 Tolstoy was making his tours of inspection in the schools of Germany, he was struck by this method of tuition, and among the pedagogic writings describing his school, Iasnaja Poliana, he reproduces a lesson which deserves to be recorded, although perhaps it would no longer be possible to find an example of such a lesson in any German school.


Calm and confident, the professor is seated in the class-room; the instruments are ready; little tables with the letters, a book with the picture of a fish. The master looks at his pupils; he knows beforehand all they are to understand; he knows of what their souls consist, and various other things he has learned in the seminary.

He opens the book and shows the fish. "Dear children, what is this?" The poor children are delighted to see the fish, unless indeed they already know from other pupils with what sauce it is to be served up. In any case, they answer: "It is a fish." "No," replies the professor (all this is not an invention nor a satire, but an exact account of what I have seen without exception in all the best schools in Germany, and in those English schools which have adopted this method of teaching). "No," says the professor. "Now what is it you do see?" The children are silent. It must not be forgotten that they are obliged to remain seated and quiet, each one in his place, and that they are not to move. "Well, what do you see?" "A book," says the most stupid child in the class. Meanwhile, the more intelligent children have been asking themselves over and over again what it is they do see; they feel they cannot guess what the teacher wants, and that they will have to answer that this fish is not a fish, but something the name of which is unknown to them. "Yes, yes," says the master, eagerly, "very good indeed, a book. And what else?" The intelligent ones guess, and say joyfully and proudly: "Letters." "No, no, not at all!" says the teacher, disappointed; "you must think before you speak." Again all the intelligent ones lapse into mournful silence; they do not even try to guess; they think of the teacher's spectacles, and wonder why he does not take them off instead of looking over the top of them: "Come then; what is there in the book?" All are silent. "Well, what is this thing?" "A fish," says a bold spirit "Yes, a fish. But is it a live fish?" "No, it is not alive." "Quite right. Then is it dead?" "No." "Right. Then what is this fish?" "A picture." "Just so. Very good!" All the children repeat: "It is a picture," and they think that is all. Not at all. They have to say that it is a picture which represents a fish. By the same method the master induces the children to say that it is a picture which represents a fish. He imagines that he is exercising the reasoning faculties of his pupils, and it never seems to enter his head that if it is his duty to teach children to say in these exact words, "it is a book with a picture of a fish," it would be much simpler to repeat this strange formula and make his pupils learn it by heart.

As a pendant to this old-fashioned lesson witnessed by Tolstoy in an elementary school in Germany, we may cite the following lesson recently set forth by a distinguished French pedagogist and philosopher, whose text-books are classics in the schools of his own country and in those of many foreign lands, and are also in use in the teachers' training colleges in Italy. As the sub-title on the title-page informs us, it is one of a series of "lessons designed to mold teachers and citizens who shall be conscious of their duties, and useful to families, to their fatherland, and to humanity." [5] We are therefore in the ambit of secondary schools. The lesson we cite is a practical application of the principle of giving lessons by means of interrogation (Socratic method), and deals with a moral theme: rights.

[Footnote 5: F. Alengry, Education based upon Psychology and Morality.]

"You boys have never mistaken your companion Paul for this table or this tree?—Oh, no!—Why?—Because the table and the tree are inanimate and insensible, whereas Paul lives and feels.—Good. If you strike the table it will feel nothing and you will not hurt it; but have you any right to destroy it?—No, we should be destroying something belonging to others.—Then what is it you respect in the table? the inanimate and insensible wood, or the property of the person to whom it belongs?—The property of the person to whom it belongs.—Have you any right to strike Paul?—No, because we should hurt him and he would suffer.—What is it you respect in him? the property of another, or Paul himself?—Paul himself.—Then you cannot strike him, nor shut him up, nor deprive him of food?—No. The police would arrest us if we did.—Ah! ah! you are afraid of the police. But is it only this which prevents you from hurting Paul?—Oh! no, Sir. It is because we love Paul and do not want to make him suffer, and because we have no right to do so.—You think then that you owe respect to Paul in his life and his feelings, because life and feeling are things to respect?—Yes, sir.

Are these all you have to respect in Paul? Let us enquire; think well.—His books, his clothes, his satchel, the luncheon in it.—Well. What do you mean?—We must not tear his books, soil his clothes or his satchel, or eat his luncheon.—Why?—Because these things are his and we have no right to take things belonging to others.—What is the act of taking things that belong to others called?—Theft.—Why is theft forbidden?—Because if we steal we shall go to prison.—Fear of the police again! But is this the chief reason why we must not steal?—No, Sir, but because we ought to respect the property as well as the persons of others.—Very good. Property is an extension of human personality and must be respected as such.

And is this all? Is there nothing more to respect in Paul than his body, his books and his copy-books? Do you not see anything else? Can you not think of anything more? I will give you a hint: Paul is an industrious pupil, an honest, good-natured companion; you are all fond of him, and he deserves your affection. What do we call the esteem we all feel for him, the good opinion we have of him?—Honor ... reputation.—Well, this honor, this reputation, Paul acquired by good conduct and good manners. These are things which belong to him.—Yes, Sir; we have no right to rob him of them.—Very good; but what do we call this kind of theft, that is, the theft of honor and reputation? And first of all, how can we steal them? Can we take them and put them in our pockets?—No, but we can speak evil of him.—How?—We could say that he had done harm to one of his companions ... that he had stolen apples from a neighboring orchard ... that he had spoken ill of another.—That is so. But how could you rob him of honor and reputation by speaking thus?—Sir, people would no longer believe him if they had a bad opinion of him; he would be beaten, scolded, and left to himself.—Then if you speak evil of Paul, and what you say is false, do you give him pleasure?—No, Sir, we should cause him pain, and do him a wrong, which would be very odious and wicked of us.—Yes, boys, this lying with intent to injure would be odious and wicked, and it is called calumny. I will explain later that evil speaking differs from calumny or slander in that what is said is not untrue, and I will point out the terrible consequences of evil speaking and slander.

Now let us sum up what we have said: Paul is a living and sensitive creature. We ought not to cause him suffering, to rob him, or to slander him; we ought to respect him. The honorable things in Paul constitute rights, and make him a moral person. The obligation laid upon us to respect these rights is called duty. The obligation and the duty of respecting the rights of others is also called justice. Justice is derived from two Latin words (in jure stare), meaning: to keep oneself in the right.

The duties of justice enumerated by us are to be summed up thus: Not to kill ... not to cause suffering ... not to steal ... not to slander. Always reflect upon the words you say in which "Not" is followed by a verb in the imperative infinitive. What does that mean?

An obligation, a command, a prohibition.—Go on, explain. The obligation of respect ... the command to respect rights ... the prohibition of stealing. How may all these things be summed up? In doing no evil."

* * * * *

Positive science makes its appearance in the schools.—Positive science was invited to enter into schools as into a chaos where it was necessary to separate light from darkness, a place of disaster where prompt succor was essential.

* * * * *

Discoveries of medicine: distortions and diseases.—The first science, indeed, to penetrate into the school was medicine, which organized a special hygiene for the occasion, a kind of Red Cross service. The most interesting part of the hygiene that penetrates into schools was that which diagnosed and described the "diseases of school children," that is to say, the maladies contracted solely as a result of study in school. The most prevalent of these maladies are spinal curvature and myopia. The first is caused by excessive sitting, and by the injurious position of the shoulders in writing. The second arises from the fact that in the spot where the child has to remain seated, there is not sufficient light for him to see clearly; or this spot is too far from the blackboard, or from the places where the child has to read, and the prolonged effort of accommodation induces myopia. Other minor generalized maladies were also described: an organic debility so widely diffused that hygiene prescribed as an ideal treatment a gratuitous distribution of cod-liver oil or of reconstituent remedies in general to all pupils. Anemia, liver complaints, and neurasthenia were also studied as school diseases.

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