158 THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD
or sixty children from two and a half to six years of age, all
together, at a single sign, keep silent so perfectly that the absolute
silence is like the solemn stillness of a desert; and if a gentle order,
expressed in a low voice, tells the babies: " Stand up, walk about
for a moment on the tips of your toes and then go back to your
places in silence," they all together, like a single person, rise and
execute the movements with the minimum of noise. The teacher,
by her one voice, has spoken to each one and every one hopes
to get from her intervention some light, some inner joy and
goes onward, intent and obedient, like an earnest explorer who is
following a way of his own.
Here again is something like the egg of Christopher Columbus.
A concert conductor must train the members of his orchestra one
by one if he is to secure from their collective efforts a noble
Tiarmony; and each artist must make himself perfect before he is
fitted to obey the silent guidance of the conductor's baton. We,
on the contrary, in the ordinary school, instal as a conductor one
who teaches, at one and the same time, to instruments and voices
of the most diverse characters, the same monotonous and even
So it is in society that the most highly disciplined are the
•most perfected men; but perfection of behaviour, for instance
among English citizens, is not of the heavy, brutal, military type.
We. are full of prejudices rather than of wisdom as regards
child psychology. Up till now, we wanted to dominate the
• children from the outside with the rod, instead of trying to subdue
them internally by guiding them like human beings. Thus it is
that they have passed close by us without our getting to know them.
But when, we throw aside the artificiality in which we tried
to wrap them and the violence which we deceived ourselves into
thinking meant disciplining them, then they reveal themselves to
us under a new aspect.
. Their gentleness is sweet and absolute, and their love of knowl-
•edge is such that it enables them to overcome obstacles by which
'One might have imagined their desires would be obstructed.