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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"


To have learnt something is for the child a starting point;
when he has learnt, then he begins to get enjoyment from the
repetition of the exercise; he repeats what he has learnt an indefinite
number of times, with evident satisfaction; he enjoys doing things,
because in this he is developing his mental power. Having regard
to this fact, criticism may be directed towards what is done today
in many schools: when, for example, in the course of questioning
pupils, it happens that the master says to some one who has offered
to answer " No, you may not answer because you know," and he
questions the scholar who, he thinks, does not know.

Those who do not know must answer, those who do know
must keep silent. That is because it is considered useless to go
•outside knowledge. Yet how often it happens to us in the
common course of life to repeat what we know best, that which
•enthrals us, which corresponds to a life within us!

That is why we love to sing musical themes which are well
known, and therefore savoured, lived. We love to repeat the story
of things which have delighted us, which we know well, even if we
are quite well aware that we have nothing new to say, that we
have recited this story many times. The prayers which we have
learnt are always repeated with a renewal of interest.

But in order to repeat in this way, it is necessary that there
should first exist the thing to be repeated; knowledge corresponds
to this existence, to this sine qua non, to what is indispensable
for beginning the repetition of actions; and it is the repetition,
not the learning, which affords the exercise which develops life.

Now when the child has reached the stage of repeating an
-exercise, he is on the way set for the development of his life, and
this shows itself externally ia his being a disciplined child.

The phenomenon does not always occur. The same exercises
are not repeated at all ages. The repetition must answer a need.
In this is to be found the experimental method of education; the
exercises offered must respond to the necessity for development of
the organism, and if the definite necessity has disappeared as the
result of age, the child will no longer have a chance of reaching