Library Collections: Document: Full Text

Idiocy: And Its Treatment By The Physiological Method

Creator: Edward Seguin (author)
Date: 1907
Publisher: Teachers' College, Columbia University
Source: Available at selected libraries

Previous Page   Next Page   All Pages 


As an instrument of training we consider imitation as personal, when it affects the person alone, or objective when it effects objects. For instance, we raise an arm, the child does the same; that is personal imitation. But we take a book and set it upright on the table, the child does the same with another book; this is objective imitation. Everybody can understand that both of these are purely scholastic divisions, necessary to be kept in view of our practice, because each one initiates to different sorts of actions, and leads to different branches of acquirements and abilities: Otherwise, imitation is the power resulting from reflex spontaneity of repeating after others acts that we should not or could not have done of ourselves. It furnishes a motive to the millions of activities which have none primarily; it was the sole educator of the castes in the ages when the son had to imitate his father's doings to the end of the race; it is latent or patent, normal, endemic, or contagious; as seen in the Crusaders, the Flagellants, the Gold and Oil maniacs, etc. This power is in beasts as well as in man; the parrot has it for speech, the ape has it for gestures; we have it, too, physically confined in appearance, to the speech and gestures, but all our organs can and do imitate their similars in the measure of their physiological action. Children are known to cough, chew food, button their coats, walk, like their parents; imitation transmutes the particular accent of a few parents into a provincial dialect; it gives the Welsh, the Londoner, the Kentuckian, their individuality, and assimilates the habitues of Delmonico to those of Tortoni.


Personal imitation being a natural capacity in us, idiots or not, we must use it for the good of our children. Its physical effects may be expressed as the correct and rapid reproduction of actions limited to the sensible functions of the body. Never too soon commenced, never too much practised, never too far extended in its physiological applications. Personal imitation will create precision and rapidity, as gymnastics have created strength and endurance.


Beginning even before the child can stand, if necessary, we seat him on a chair opposite us, and putting our hands in certain relations to our bodies, we invite him to do the same. That he does not do, and we do it for him, and keep his hands in situ long enough to make him feel that that is the point; and after a reasonable succession of failures he is to be placed in full view of a group of children smartly imitating movements monitored to them; this will do as initiation.


The movements of totality, as sitting, standing, kneeling, are to be followed by movements of parts, the head, one arm, or one leg; then come the movements of special organs -- the lids, the lips, the tongue, the fingers, etc. These exercises will be concentrated upon the organs the most affected by mutism, automatism, chorea, etc. In this respect the hands will be treated as being affected with one of the greatest infirmities, the inability to prehend. And yet, notwithstanding the special adaptation of these exercises to the particular anomalies of each case, they must be, in every instance and at each sitting, merged into the largest mimical generalization, constantly making the children realize that the smallest part as well as the whole body may be called to answer the summons of an external will now, and must be ready at any time. This wide-awakeness of the whole being to so many and so varied impulses, gives the child a standing entirely different from his primary attitude, and makes him sooner or later assume an intelligent countenance which is not hereafter defaced.


But if our exercises of personal imitation are curtailed to a few serial movements of the arms, caricaturing the gestures of the old telegraph, the children are certainly taught automatism instead of reflex spontaneity; the imperfect application of a principle is dangerous to its final realization.


In fulfillment of this vindication, personal imitation, far from being the circular repetition of a few gestures, is the sudden, unexpected call into action of any organ that can be moved by the will. This is the broad ground of our training in education; but as the practice can make it more sensible, we will suppose and prepare a lesson given to a dozen children, with the double object of general and hand training.


Imitation is first induced by the concentrated operation of attention from the teacher to the child; individual influence requiring for its success silence, isolation, monotony of light, of color, of circumstances. But after any practical extension of the imitative faculty is acquired, this acquisition must be carried from the quiet closet prepared for individual imitation to the open room where group imitation displays its contagious. power: there we are presently.


We put our children together according to the kind of exercises to be done. If the imitation is to be alternately personal and objective, with dumb-bells, etc., we leave room between each of them, say four feet, in two or three rows. If the exercise is to require a good deal of attention from child to teacher, or need to be often interrupted by corrections and repetitions necessitated by individual failures, the children must be closely marshalled on a straight line, the teacher in front teaching, the silent assistant correcting wrong movements from behind the file. If the exercise is already quite familiar, and has for object, not so much the learning of new gestures, as the correction and more rapid performance of old ones, the children will be arranged on a slightly curved line, the more expert at the centre and extremities of the concavity, each of them seeing all the rest and the teacher; thus doubly impulsed and doubly taught.

Previous Page   Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34  35  36  37  38  39  40  41  42  43  44  45  46  47  48  49  50  51  52  53  54  55  56  57  58  59  60  61  62  63  64  65  66  67  68  69  70  71  72  73  74  75  76  77  78  79  80    All Pages