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216 THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD
said the boy, but that * beautiful' referred to the inner movement
of his own mind.
I thought then that in the observation of the geometrical forms
in the flat insets, and in that of the plants cultivated by the children
and seen growing under their own eyes, there exist precious sources
of spiritual education also.
Another preoccupation of the ordinary teacher is that she has
10 widen the knowledge of the child through continual applications
to the surroundings, or through generalizations. ** Making him
see everything," "reflect on everything" is an anxious business,
and unfortunately destroys his youthful energy, deprives him
cruelly of everything which would create interest in him. It is the
spiritual part of that fatal intervention of the adult who wants to
substitute herself for the child and act for him, and in doing so,
erects the most serious obstacle to his development. Beauties
which, when discovered by the child himself in the world which
surrounds him, would bring him time after time, joy and satisfac-
tion, give rise to the tedium of mental inertia when the gay flowery
path becomes the subject of instruction by an adult.
Let the mistress then cease from worrying herself about
* applications/ urged by the fear that the child, as so many want
to insinuate, will be miserably held up by the material which we
have limited and which we have substituted for the greatness of
variety in the things offered by nature and by the vast environment
which surrounds the child in the school and at home.
If the child, by exercising himself with the sense-material, has
strengthened his power of distinguishing one thing from another,
and has opened up the pathways of his mind to a continually
growing avidity for work, he has certainly become a more perfect
and intelligent observer than at first, and anyone who is interested
in things on a small scale will be the more interested in great things.
We ought to expect from normal children the spontaneous
enquiry into the surroundings, or as I put it, the voluntary explo-
ration of the environment. In this case the children are overjoyed
with every new discovery which they make; that gives them a sense