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WRITTEN LANGUAGE                       247

The labour which we had thought necessary to learn to write
is quite artificial work, demanded not by writing but by the methods
of teaching it.


Let us discard for the moment all the old dogmatism which
pertains to the subject. Let us disregard culture. Let us drop
all interest in the question of how man began to write as well as
in the genesis of writing itself. Let us drop the conviction which
established custom has given us of the necessity for beginning
writing with strokes; and let us imagine ourselves to be stripped
bare in spirit, like the truth which we want to discover.

Let us observe an individual who is writing, and try to analyse
the moves which he makes as he writes—the mechanism which is
concerned in writing.

This would mean carrying out a psycho-physiological study of
writing; it would mean studying the individual who is writing—the
subject, not the object.

It was always by beginning with the object, by beginning with
the writing, that a method was built up.

A method which started from the study of the individual
rather than from that of the writing would really be original, very
different from any method which has preceded it.

If I had thought of giving a name to this new method when
I undertook the experiments on normal children, before I had
learnt the results of it, I would have called it a psychological
method, because of the source of inspiration. But experience has
given me, as a surprise and as a gift from nature, another title
—the method of spontaneous writing.

During the time when I was teaching defectives I happened to
notice the following fact. An idiot girl, eleven years old, whose
motive power and strength of hand were normal, could not learn
to sew, could not even master the first stage, that of pushing the
needle in and out in succession under and over the cloth, taking
and leaving a few threads.