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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

CRITICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Anyone who says that the principle of liberty
teaching and the school would raise a smile, just as if a chilowB
saw placed before him a box of transfixed butterflies were to insist
that they were alive and could fly.

A principle of repression which almost approaches slavery
pervades a great part of teaching, and therefore the same principle
animates the school.

One proof of that is the bench. Here is a shining example of
the early scientific, meterialistic pedagogy which deluded itself
by carrying its scanty stones for the rebuilding of the little, crumb-
ling edifice of the school. The rough, dreary bench existed wher-
ever scholars were gathered together; then science comes in and per-
fects the bench. All the contributions of anthropology are drawn
upon to improve the bench; the age of the child and the length of
his legs are used to make his seat of the right height; with mathe-
matical precision is calculated the distance between the seat and
the reading desk lest the child's back be deformed by spinal curv-
ature; and finally (oh, the depths of insight and adaptation!) they
separate the seats, measuring them in width so that once the child
is seated he cannot stretch himself out to make the slightest lateral
movement, and makes sure that he is separated from his -neigh-
bour; the bench is made in such a way that as far as possible the
child is kept motionless. All this separation has for its hidden
object the prevention of acts of sexual perversion in the class—and
that even in infant schools!

What can one say of such prudence in a society in which it
would be considered scandalous to enunciate principles of sexual
morality in education, lest innocence should be contaminated?
But here is science lending itself to this hypocrisy by making
machines. Not only so; complacency goes further! Science
perfects the benches so as to permit immobility to the child
to the highest degree possible or, one may say, to spare him
every movement; so that the pupil may be firmly fixed in his
bench, so that the bench itself forces him to assume a hygienic-
position, with the seat, footrest and desk so arranged that the*