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but presently with more and more freedom, till at last invention comes, and he produces spontaneously."
V.—MY IDEA OF ELEMENTARY EDUCATION. (Pages 26 to 137.)
"It consists in developing, according to the natural law, the child's various powers, moral, intellectual, and physical, with such subordination as is necessary to their perfect equilibrium. "This equilibrium alone can produce a peaceful, happy life, and one likely to profit the general welfare. Piety, faith, and love bring a man peace, and are indeed its conditions, for without these virtues the highest development of intellect, art or industry brings no rest, but leaves the man full of trouble, uneasiness, and discontent.
"As an individual, the man who is not at peace with himself generally feels his misery and weakness. But as a member of a whole, of a party, of a sect, he no longer feels his position; he is blinded, dazzled. He thinks himself strong in the strength of others, skilful with their skill. Faith in a majority, a party, a sect, takes the place of faith in himself; loyalty to a society takes the place of virtue, public opinion that of truth.
"Loyalty, whether it be to a religious sect or a political party, comes rather from the flesh than the spirit; it is the business of elementary education to correct and weaken it by harmoniously developing the personal powers in a really religious direction.
"I now come to consider the idea of elementary education from the point of view of the means of instruction. From its very nature, it demands the general simplification of its means, which simplification was the starting-point of all the educational labours of my life. At first I desired nothing else, but merely sought to render the ordinary means of instruction for the people so simple as to permit of their being employed in every family. And so, in every branch of popular knowledge or talent, I set to work to organize a graduated series of exercises, the starting-point of which was within everybody's comprehension, and the unbroken action of which, always exercising the child's powers without exhausting them, resulted in a continuous, easy, and attractive progress, in which knowledge and the application of knowledge were always intimately connected.
"There exist general laws for the development of the human powers and for their application in every direction of their activity, but there is also a great diversity in the methods of their development, according to the objects to which they are applied, and according to the position, faculties, and character of individuals.
"It is the duty of elementary education to reconcile these diversities with the natural and general law, and to bring about a complete development of the different powers, whatever may be the particular methods of their application. It does this by making every step the child takes complete and perfect before allowing him to take another. Thus the child contracts the habit and the need of doing well all he does, and of tending towards perfection, not only in the matter of his instruction, but in his life generally.
"Before proceeding to point out the consequences which result from this point of view, there is one further question that I must consider: Is not my idea of elementary education a dream? Can it be made the foundation of practical work? On all sides, I am told, people are asking: Where has it really been realized?
"I answer: Everywhere and nowhere. Everywhere partially, nowhere completely.
"It nowhere exists as a method that has been fully organized and applied to everything. There is no school or institute whose organization is entirely elementary.
"The knowledge and talents of the human race, even of its highest and best representatives, are and will always remain incomplete and fragmentary. There are not, and never will be, conditions admitting of the complete realization of the great idea of elementary education. Human nature itself offers an insurmountable obstacle to it, since the weakness of our nature, the Divine element of which is hampered by the desires of the flesh, does not allow us to look for complete perfection in anything. And what is true in the case of individual men is still more true in the case of the general education of the human race. No institution, whatever its resources may be, will ever be able to realize and spread over a country an elementary method of instruction and education at once general, complete, and practical. In this respect the idea, it is true, is not realizable, and is but a dream.
"And yet, it has already been partially realized, not only in institutions and schools, but in families; it has already been the cause of much good and much progress. At all times and in every country it has been the condition and the means of the harmonious development of man's powers, and of the supremacy of the spirit over the flesh. It is the condition and means of true civilization, of the improvement of humanity, an improvement which is our essential and necessary object, for which we shall never cease working, and which we dare not declare to be impossible. In this respect the idea of elementary education is no longer unrealizable; it is no longer a dream, and we must strive for it unceasingly, as we strive for good and perfection.
"My idea of elementary_education was suggested to me by the sight of the evils I saw about me, evils resulting from the routine of the ordinary education. Everywhere the course pursued was in direct opposition to that of Nature, everywhere the flesh predominated over the spirit, and the Divine element was ignored; everywhere selfishness and the passions were made the motives of action, and everywhere mechanical habits took the place of intelligent spontaneity.
"L I had no other strength in me but that of a heart full of compassion and love for my fellow-men; I had neither ability, talent nor practical skill. Against me were old institutions and habits, the idleness, interests, and passions of people cleverer than myself. I was like a child struggling with grown men.
"The idea which I felt to be my strength was but an impracticable dream; impracticable, that is, in proportion to the blindness and hardness of men governed by routine and selfishness, and by indifference to progress and the spiritual interests of humanity. In certain of its applications, and for certain minds, this idea has already ceased to be a dreani, and the more civilization advances, the more of a reality will it become, though it can never reach absolute perfection.
"It is life that educates. Such is the principle which has guided me in all my experiments in elementary education, the results of which we will now consider from the moral, intellectual, and industrial points of view.
"On the moral side, elementary education is connected with the home; for its chief methods are to be found in the
domestic affections, those natural and instinctive sentiments that have been implanted by God in humanity as the eternal starting-points of love and faith, or, in other words, of morality and religion. In our institute, it is true, our experiments did not begin while the child was yet in the cradle. And yet the simpleness of our methods would have allowed us to use them for the moral development of much younger children than those entrusted to us. The child loves and believes before thinking and acting; the influences of home captivate him and develop in him an inner sense of his own moral strength. One certain result of our experience, and one in which many noble men have rejoiced besides ourselves, is that the methods of our elementary education, which enabled each child to hand on his small stock of acquirements to others, showed in a thousand ways their influence on the moral development, and caused a trust and brotherly love to reign in our house which, with the artificial and unnatural methods of ordinary education, would have been almost impossible.
"On the intellectual side, it is again life that educates; for life develops, in turn, the power of receiving impressions, the power of speaking, and the power of thinking.
"The power of receiving impressions by observation and experience furnishes the child with ideas and sentiments.
"The power of speaking is developed by use; it enables the child to make himself understood and to understand others. The power to speak does not proceed from the knowledge of the language; it is rather the knowledge of the language which proceeds from the power to speak.
"Speech is not only a result of life, but a condition of life. This is the reason why its development varies with social position. The methods of teaching then must vary too, and be determined by the resources and needs of earthly life. But there are other needs which necessitate a higher development; man does not live by bread alone; every child needs a religious development, needs to know how to pray to God with love and faith and in simpleness of heart. This need is a privilege which ennobles the very humblest, and, since it can only be satisfied by means of language and thought, develops them both morally and intellectually.
"When the power of speaking does not grow out of life itself, it neither develops the powers of the mind nor pro
duces anything but an empty verbiage. This is an evil from which all classes of society are at present suffering, the lowest as well as the highest.
"The power of receiving impressions and the power of thinking are separated by a wide gulf, which can only be bridged by the power of speaking.
"Just as the child must not speak of anything but what he has himself experienced, so he must not, and indeed cannot, examine his thought until he has clearly expressed it in words. Grammar is practice in the power of thinking, a philosophical study of the thought itself as well as of the form of the language which expresses it. The child must be thoroughly acquainted with this form first; then only is he in a position to examine and study it, and learn foreign and dead languages.
"A child soon learns to speak a foreign language with an illiterate person who merely talks to him without any attempt at instruction, whereas he does not learn to do so with a skilled teacher who adopts the mechanical, grammatical method.
"It is also in life itself that we must look for the means of developing the power of thinking.
"When a child's sense-impressions have resulted in clear and settled ideas, and when he can express these ideas in speech, he feels the need of examining, separating, and comparing them; this is a pleasure to which life itself invites him, and in which he finds the surest aid for the development of his judgment and power of thinking.
"To encourage, facilitate, and strengthen this development has at all times been the aim of education, though it has paid little heed to the laws of Nature and of life.
"At one time it has put before the child a mass of readymade judgments that his memory alone has been able to grasp, and which, instead of strengthening his thought, have allowed it to wither in inactivity. At another time, under the name of logic, it has offered him a system, more subtle than clear, of the eternal rules which regulate human thought; rules, however, which are but a closed book for the child who does not yet possess the power of thinking.
"The best elementary exercises for developing the child's power of comparing and judging, and thus strengthening his thought, are those in number and form. But if the study