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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

80                THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD

THE DIFFICULTY OF CLASS DISCIPLINE

In order to carry out my plans I generally had to make use
of mistresses already experienced in the old methods of the ordinary
schools. That convinced me of the radical difference between the
two systems. Even an intelligent mistress who had grasped the
principle found great difficulty in putting it into practice. She
could not understand her apparently passive role, one like that of
the astronomer, who sits motionless before the telescope, whilst
worlds are wheeling through the universe. This idea that life and
all pertaining to it go on by themselves, and that in order to study
life, to enquire into its secrets and to direct it, one must observe it
and get to know it without interfering with it, is really very difficult
to assimilate and put into practice. The mistress has accustomed
herself too completely to being the only freely active person in the
school, which results in the extinction of the activity of the children.
When she fails to obtain order and silence she looks at people in
dismay protesting that she cannot help it; in vain does one repeat
to her that disorder at the start is unavoidable. And when she is
obliged to do nothing but look on, she asks herself if she ought
not to send in her resignation, seeing that she is no longer a teacher.

But when she begins the task of distinguishing between those
acts which have to be prevented and those which should be
observed, the old-fashioned teacher discovers something to be
lacking in herself and suddenly begins to ask herself if she will be
equal to her new duties.

In fact, anyone who is not trained will find herself for a long
time helpless and bewildered; similarly, a mistress will be the more
intensely interested in proportion to her scientific education and
her practical experience.

In a novel called My Millionaire Uncle, there is a very
eloquent example of the old methods of discipline. The uncle is
evidently a very difficult child, and after he had done enough
mischief to upset a city he is, as a despairing resort, shut up in a
school. Here the uncle, Fufu by name, performs his first kindly