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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"

280              THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD

After the first word, the child continued to write with a kind
of frenzy everywhere, though generally on the blackboard. I have
seen children crowding round the blackboard eager to write, and
behind the standing children there was lined up another row of
children mounted on chairs who were writing above the others,
whilst some more were behind the blackboard. I saw other children
who were left outside running about in disorder in their vexation
and upsetting the chairs on which their companions were standing
in order to find a little space. Finally, the losers in the struggle
bent down and wrote on the floor, or ran to the window shutter
or the door and filled these with writing. In these early days we
had almost a tapestry formed of written signs on the floor—a
tapestry of writing. At home the same thing happened, and some
mothers, in order to save the floors and even the bread, on the
crusts of which they found written words, gave their children paper
and a pencil. One of these children brought to school one day
a kind of copybook filled with writing, and the mother told us
how the child had written all day and all evening and had gone to
sleep in bed with paper and pencil in his hand.

Such impulsive work, which I could not curb in the early days,
made me think of the wisdom of nature which develops spoken
language little by little, and develops it at the same time as ideas
are gradually taking shape. If instead of that, nature had acted
as unwisely as I had done, had allowed to develop from the senses
a rich and orderly stock of material, and had allowed a wealth of
ideas to develop, and had thus prepared completely for articulate
language, so that she might say to the child, mute up to this
point, *e Go, speak," we would have been faced with a sudden,
mad outbreak of torrential speech, in which the child would begin
to speak without a pause and without possible check, until its
lungs were exhausted and its vocal cords were worn out with
pronouncing words which were very difficult and strange to it.

Yet I think that between the two extremes there exists a mean
which embodies the really practical way. We must, then, encourage
written language less suddenly; but in bringing it into existence by