20 THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD
!~nie'performance of boys in the public garden when they caught
butterflies with a net fastened to a stick. The experimentalist
confronted with such material can do nothing.
The case would be the same if we placed a master who was a
scientist according to our definition in our present day schools,
where the children are repressed in all the spontaneous expres-
sions of their individuality as if they were dead things, and ate
fixed in their respective places on the benches like butterflies trans-
fixed with a pin, whilst they spread abroad the wings of the knowledge
acquired in the driest fashion—knowledge which may be symbolized
by those wings which signify vanity.
It is not enough, then, to train the scientific teacher; we must
prepare the school for him.
The school must allow freedom for the development of the
activity of the child, if scientific education is to come into being;
this is the essential reform.
No one will dare to assert that such a principle already exists in
teaching or in the school. It is quite true that certain pedagogues
like Rousseau set out fantastic principles and vague aspirations
of liberty for the child, but the true conception of liberty is,
in fact, unknown to the pedagogues. Their conception of liberty
is often that which peoples set up for themselves in the hour
of their rebellion against slavery; or taking a higher level, people
have an idea of liberty which is always restricted because it means
a step to be mounted on a staircase, that is, it is the liberation of
something in a partial sense—of a country, of a caste, of a form
On the contrary, the conception of liberty which ought to
inspire teaching is universal; it is the liberation of life imprisoned
by an infinite number of obstacles which are opposed to ?ts
harmonious development, bodily and spiritual. This is a reality
of. supreme importance, neglected up till now by the great crowd
It is not merely a question the discussion of which should be
curtailed; it has to be proved.