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 

Page 59:


Recompenses may be given like punishments; that is to say, provided their meaning be understood. If not, they speak to the sight, stomach, nostrils, etc., but not to the moral sense, and become in regard to it instruments of perversion.


Caresses are of great power for good or evil, and must be reserved as rewards and stimuli. But injudiciously applied, they break the continuity of commenced efforts, cause a diversion from the task and a relaxation of the will; it gives the child an exaggerated idea of his worth, or of that of his doings, and profoundly spoils his moral nature; moreover, a number of children cannot be caressed at all without danger, owing to certain nervous anomalies. Great discretion and reserve are required from teachers and others in this respect, for the moral government of idiots. Here once more we see how difficult it is to fill the place of a mother; in her absence caresses, as an incentive to progress, are not pettings, and less the selection of pets.


Moral education is nothing else than a revelation; as such, its teaching to children by books, or even by common language, would be a complete failure; whereas it is accomplished quite easily, through moral agencies whose simultaneity is the chef d'oeuvre of the art of human training. Though these moral influences proceed mostly from the ruling will of the master, we must distinguish those which emanate immediately from his own self, from those which are the result of intermediate agencies, prepared by him, or not. These agencies will first attract our attention as putting the child in the best external conditions to become spontaneous and willed afterwards.


Whatever we want a child to do, and whatever might be otherwise our special teaching to that effect, there are certain moral conditions as necessary to our success as the technical ones; those we shall at once consider. These conditions have reference to time, place, and surroundings. The time to command an action, or incite to it, must be not only favorable, but the most opportune: as for instance, the exercise of nomination of food must not only take place at meal times, but before the appetite begins to be satisfied; or the appreciation of temperature must not be made at different periods of the year, but at those when the child will best appreciate heat, cold, dryness, moisture, etc. The places where lessons are to be taken must be not only convenient, but exactly appropriate; thus attention need not be called to any indifferent object in front of any opening towards a fine natural scenery; nor comparison of color tried when the smell is strongly attracted by odors; thus, again, solicitations to activity must be made where there is room enough for action; speech provoked where its effect can be appreciated; the first commands imposed where there can be no escape from obedience. The surrounding circumstances are to be made equally instrumental to our purpose: light or darkness, solitude or multitude, movement or immobility, silence or sounds, etc., are to be chosen or prepared in view of their moral influence on the actions demanded of the idiot. We must remember that our teaching how to do a thing, is to him of no practical value if we do not place him in the best circumstances to accomplish it; as to put him among other children doing the same thing; to let him see them do it without attempting it himself; to make him imitate the nearest thing to the one wished of him; to let him desire what we desire him to do, etc. The accomplishment of these objects, and particularly of the last, which implies the fostering of new volition, will be partly realized by intelligent disposition of time, place, and scenery, but will be as often due to the influence that the children will exercise among themselves, if philosophically managed.


This moral training of the children, one by many, several by one, all by all, is one of the main springs of the present part of our task. What we cannot command, another child will incite; what we cannot explain to a child, he will imitate from another; what a group cannot do after our command, will be done after the example of a small child. However incapable we consider idiots, they can be made to act efficiently one upon another, if we know how to appose the vivacious to the immobile, the loquacious to the mute, the imitative to the careless, the affectionate to the indifferent. This apposition of children in view of their reciprocal advancement, ought to take place in various ways, according to the object desired; by groups of equals, by series of one capable and several incapable, and vice versa, by pairs of two extremes in aptitude, by one commanding the other from outside their ranks, by several correcting the vicious expressions or attitude of the whole files, etc. In these multiform operations of the simultaneous training, the child who teaches another in a certain sense teaches himself more by the reflex action of his will upon his own understanding; though it is quite certain, besides, that very many things are taught from child to child that we could not at all, or not so well inculcate ourselves.

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