EDUCATION IN MOVEMENT 135
Silence in the ordinary schools means stopping talking, quelling
a disturbance, the opposite of noise and disorder.
On the other hand, silence may have a positive meaning, indi-
cate a state of things on a higher level than that of normal
conditions. It may be like an instantaneous inhibition which costs
an effort, a dictate of the will, something which detaches us from
the noises of common life, almost isolating the mind from outside
This is the silence which we have attained in our schoolsó
profound silence, although it is produced in a class of more than
forty little children between the ages of three and six.
A command could never have secured the marvellous victory
of wills united in preventing all action, during that period of life
in which movement seems to be the irresistible, ever-present char-
acteristic of life.
This collective work is done by children who are accustomed
to act independently in satisfying their own desires.
It is necessary to teach the children silence. To accomplish
this we get them to perform various silence exercises which con-*
tribute in a noteworthy way to the surprising capacity for discipline
displayed by our children.
The exercises of silence and afterwards the " silence lesson,**
one of the most characteristic peculiarities of our schools, had
their origin in a casual episode.
During a visit paid to a Children's House, I. met in the court-
yard a mother who was holding ia her arms her four-months* old
baby, swaddled as was still the custom among the people of Rome.
Tiny infants were so tightly swathed in the bands moulded round
their little bodies having no other coverings, that they are known
as pupi (puppets). This little one, fat and tranquil, looked the
incarnation of peace,
I took her in my arms where she lay quiet and good. I
went inside with her in my arms, to be met by the children of the
House who rushed out to meet me, as they usually do, all trying
to embrace my knees in such a tumultuous fashion that they almost