THE MECHANISM OF WRITING 285>
If learning were as easy for adults as it is for children under-
six years of age, illiteracy could be got rid of in a month,,
but perhaps two obstacles would interfere with so brilliant a success..
In the adult, however, there is no longer this enthusiasm which,
in small children, is given by psychical sensitivities that exist only
during the constructive period provided for by nature for the
formation of language. Besides, the hand of the adult is by this,
time too stiff to acquire easily the delicate movements needed
But I know that when the procedure used by us in the educa-
tion of children was applied to adults (to the recruits and soldiers.
of the United States of America), the struggle against illiteracy
was considerably facilitated. Montessori teachers, in fact, dedi-
cated themselves to the instruction of soldiers.
Later I learned that in Rome, in bygone ages, the hand of
adults was trained in order to improve their penmanship by having,
them trace very large letters of perfect shape, and not by having.
them -write with a model before their eyes as is done nowadays in
exercises for penmanship.
To trace letters and compose phonetically entire words with
a movable alphabet, therefore, facilitates everybody's effort to
learn how to write. Many months, however, are certainly needed
when an adult tries to learn what a small child already indirectly
prepared can achieve in only one month.
So much for the time needed for learning. As for the style
of execution, our children, from the moment they begin, write
well, and one is surprised by the shape of the letters, bold and
rounded, resembling in every way the sandpaper models. The
beauty of their writing is scarcely ever attained by any pupil in
the elementary schools who has not had special lessons in
I, who have studied calligraphy closely, know how difficult
it is to get boys of twelve and thirteen in the secondary schools
to write whole words without lifting the pen except for the letter
* o,9 and how drawing the lines of the various letters with a single-