« PredošláPokračovať »
This is how it was that these children gradually became so attached to me, some indeed so deeply that they contradicted their parents and friends when they heard evil things said about me. They felt that I was being treated unfairly, and loved me, I think, the more for it. But of what avail is it for the young nestlings to love their mother, when the bird of prey that is bent on destroying them is constantly hovering near ?
For most of them study was something entirely new. As soon as they found that they could learn, their zeal was indefatigable, and in a few weeks children who had never before opened a book, and could hardly repeat a Pater Noster or an Ave, would study the whole day long with the keenest interest. · Even after supper, when I used to say to them, "Children, will you go to bed, or learn something ?” they would generally answer, especially in the first month or two, "Learn something." It is true that afterwards, when they had to get up very early, it was not quite the same.
But this first eagerness did much towards starting the establishment on the right lines, and making the studies the success they ultimately were - a success, indeed, which far surpassed my expectations. And yet the difficulties in the way of introducing a well-ordered system of studies were at that time almost unsurmountable.
My one aim was to make their new life in common, and their new powers, awaken a feeling of brotherhood amongst the children, and make them affectionate, just and considerate. I reached this end without much difficulty. Amongst these seventy wild beggar-children there soon existed such peace, friendship, and cordial relations as are rare even between actual brothers and sisters.
The principle to which I endeavored to conform all my conduct was as follows: Endeavor, first, to broaden your children's sympathies, and, by satisfying their daily needs,
to bring love and kindness into such unceasing contact with their impressions and their activity, that these sentiments may be engrafted in their hearts; then try to give them such judgment and tact as will enable them to make a wise, sure, and abundant use of these virtues in the circle which surrounds them.
In the last place, do not hesitate to touch on the difficult questions of good and evil, and the words connected with them. And you must do this especially in connection with the ordinary events of every day, upon which your whole teaching in these matters must be founded, so that the children may be reminded of their own feelings, and supplied, as it were, with solid facts upon which to base their conception of the beauty and justice of the moral life.
The pedagogical principle which says that we must win the hearts and minds of our children by words alone, without having recourse to corporal punishment, is certainly good, and applicable under favorable conditions and circumstances; but with children of such widely different ages as mine, children for the most part beggars, and all full of deeply-rooted faults, a certain amount of corporal punishment was inevitable, especially as I was anxious to arrive surely, speedily, and by the simplest means, at gaining an influence over them all, for the sake of putting them all in the right road. I was compelled to punish them, but it would be a mistake to suppose that I thereby, in any way, lost the confidence of my pupils.
Elementary moral education, considered as a whole, includes three distinct parts: the children's moral sense must first be aroused by their feelings being made active and pure; then they must be exercised in self-control, and taught to take interest in whatever is just and good; finally, they must be brought to form for themselves, by reflection and comparison, a just notion of the moral rights and duties
which are theirs by reason of their position and surroundings.
I have generally found that great, noble, and high thoughts are indispensable for developing wisdom and firmness of character. Such instruction must be complete in the sense that it must take account of all our aptitudes and all our circumstances; it must be conducted, too, in a truly psychological spirit, that is to say, simply, lovingly, energetically, and calmly. Then, by its very nature, it produces an enlightened and delicate feeling for everything true and good, and brings to light a number of accessory and dependent truths, which are forthwith accepted and assimilated by the human soul, even in the case of those who could not express those truths in words.
I believe that the first development of thought in the child is very much disturbed by a wordy system of teaching, which is not adapted either to his faculties or the circumstances of his life. According to my experience, success depends upon whether what is taught to children commends itself to them as true, through being closely connected with their own personal observation and experience. Without this foundation truth must seem to them to be little better than a plaything, which is beyond their comprehension, and therefore a burden.
Human knowledge derives its real advantages from the solidity of the foundations on which it rests. The man who knows a great deal must be stronger and must work harder than others, if he is to bring his knowledge into harmony with his nature and with the circumstances of his life. If he does not do this, his knowledge is but a delusive will-o'the-wisp, and will often rob him of such ordinary pleasures of life as even the most ignorant man, if he have but common sense, can make quite sure of.
The idea of elementary education, to which I have devoted my life, consists in re-establishing the course of Nature, and in developing and improving the tendencies and powers of humanity.
But what is human nature? It is, at bottom, that which distinguishes the man from the animal, that which should predominate and control whatever they have in common. Thus elementary education must aim at developing heart, mind, and body in such a way as to bring the flesh into subjection to the spirit.
Now it is evident that this development must follow a certain course, that this course must be the course of Nature, and that it is regulated by immutable laws.
Indeed, however great the diversities of men may be, they do not in any way affect either the unity of human nature or the universality of the laws which govern its development.
These laws apply to the whole of man's nature, and serve to maintain the necessary harmony between his heart, his intellect, and his physical powers. Any educational method which neglects either of these three sides, does but encourage a partial development. False to Nature, it produces no real and lasting results; it is as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, and exercises a fatal influence on the harmony of the natural development.
The idea of elementary education involves the equilibrium of a man's powers, and the equilibrium of the powers involves the natural development of each of them. Each power develops according to the particular laws of its nature, which laws are not the same for heart, mind, and body.
And yet all human powers may be developed in the simplest way by use. Thus a man lays the foundation of his
moral life of love and faith, by the practice of these virtues; of his intellectual life of thought, by thinking; of his industrial life, by making use of his physical powers.
Indeed, man is impelled by the very nature of the powers he possesses to use and train them, and thus to develop and improve them, as far at least as they are susceptible of development and improvement. These powers exist at first but in germ, but the desire to use them increases with every successful attempt, though it decreases and sometimes disappears with failure, especially if the failure should cause suffering
Further, the idea of elementary education consists in so regulating the use of the different powers that every effort shall succeed, and none fail; and this must be the case no less with the intellectual and the physical than with the moral powers.
The natural means for this early education are to be looked for in the enlightened love, faith, and tenderness of parents, made wise by a knowledge of all the conquests humanity has
The method of Nature is, in its principle, holy and divine, but if left to itself, it is often disturbed and perverted by the predominance of the animal instincts. Our duty, our heart's chief desire, the aim of our faith and wisdom, should be to keep it truly human, to quicken it by means of the divine element within us.
The first cares of a mother for her child are for its physical needs; she satisfies these with unfailing tenderness, enjoys the child's contentment, smiles at it with love, and receives an answering smile of love, trust, and gratitude. These are the first manifestations of the moral and religious development.
But the child must also feel the peace which proceeds from satisfied needs; this peace of the soul is indeed an es