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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

THE HISTORY OF METHODS                    39

a large tenement house in the San Lorenzo Quarter. In the same
Quarter the Institute already possessed fifty-eight buildings, and
the Directors' plans provided there for coming into existence
soon about sixteen schools in the houses.

This special type of school was christened with the charming
name " Children's House ". The first of them was opened, under
this name, on January 6th, 1907, in the Via dei Marsi, 53, and I was
entrusted with the responsibility of directing it. The social and
pedagogic importance of such an institution became apparent to
me at once in all its greatness and I indulged in what seemed to be
then exaggerated visions of its triumphal future; but today many
are beginning to understand that I foresaw the truth. January
6th, in Italy, is the children's festal day, corresponding to the
Epiphany in the Catholic calendar. It is exactly like Christmas
Day in Protestant countries, when there is a Christmas tree, and
gifts and toys are given to the children. On the 6th of January
then there assembled the first group of little children, rather more
than fifty of them. It was interesting to watch these little creatures,
so different from those who are to be found in the usual charity
schools. They were timid and clumsy, apparently stupid and un-
responsive. They could not walk together and the mistress had to
make each child take hold of the pinafore of the one in front, so
that they walked in a kind of Indian file.

They wept and seemed to be afraid of everything—of the
beautiful ladies present, of the tree and of the objects on it. They
did not take the presents and they did not eat the sweets; they did
not answer when spoken to. They were really like a set of wild
children. They certainly had not lived, like the wild boy of Aveyron,
in a wood with animals, but they had lived in a forest of people,
lost and beyond the bounds of civilized society. At the sight of
this touching spectacle many ladies said that only by a miracle
could these children be educated, and that they would like to see
them again in a year or two.

I was invited to speak, but not being able to enter into the
details of structural and economic work, after a general reference