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228               THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD

When the child finds himself in front of the material he applies
himself to it with a serious, concentrated effort which seems to
draw out the best there is in him. It actually appears that children
are found making conquests greater than their minds are capable
of; the material opens up to their intelligence ways otherwise
inaccessible in the age of childhood.

It is by way of this material that concentration is attained, for
it includes things fitted to absorb the intense attention of the child.


Knowing that this educational method for normal children
has its origin in the method which Itard and Seguin elaborated for
children mentally deficient, many have objected that it is impossible
to apply one and the same treatment to the two classes of children.
At the present time more and more is the tendency to distinguish
mental levels with increasing accuracy, recognizing and treating
differently those who from the point of view of intelligence are
differently endowed, e.g. the supernormal.

I think it well, therefore, to point out the difference which our
method recognizes so clearly between children rich in vital spirit
and those who are poor in it. The same means used in both cases
provoke different reactions and serve to establish an extremely
illustrative comparison.

The first and fundamental difference between a child mentally
inferior and a normal child, when placed in front of the same
material, is that the defective child does not show spontaneous
interest. It is necessary to ask for his attention continually and
actively, inviting him to observe, to compare, exhorting him to do

Let us suppose that we are using as our first object a piece of
the solid insets. The exercise, as we know, consists in taking the
cylinders out of their places, putting them on the table* mixing
them up, and then replacing them, each in its own place.