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Idiocy: And Its Treatment By The Physiological Method

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

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Imitation relating to objects, or impersonal, requires a vast room. Closets alternating with architectural engravings and images of things to be imitated; very few seats, large tables, the middle of the room remaining unencumbered. In the closets are the pieces, carefully assorted, necessary for the representation of certain patterns hanging on the walls, or near at hand. On some tables are geometrical blocks, whose forms stand next for comparison and adaptation. Other blocks of various sizes, most of them shaped like bricks, are piled up in out-of-the-way places, ready to enter into whatever combinations, whether of a few geometrically assembled on a table, or of a great many rising from the floor in towers, or extending in walls, houses, and circumvallations.


The education of the touch demands separate accommodations. The room in which it is done must be easily deprived of light, well supplied with closets containing a selection of substances, productions of art or of nature, whose characteristic properties fall under the control of the tact. When there is a want of room, the exercise of the taste and smell may be practiced in the same place, though they do not exact so much attention as those of the touch and may be favored by the sight of the pictures representing repasts, feasts, convivialities, fruits, flowers, and such-like; external elements of incitation of taste and smell, at best superfluous in tactile gymnastics.


Though auditory exercises are not all confined to a single room, we may describe only the principal one devoted to it. In it the child is spoken to, close by, and at various distances; directly from the mouth to ear, or through the medium of hollow tubes, speaking-trumpets, etc.; or he is submitted to the direct agency of watches, bells, pianos: that room must be supplied for such emergencies. But it would be a poor teaching of audition to limit the sounds to one room; those first heard, because they are actually produced near the organ, must soon be reproduced farther and farther from it, till instead of directly impinging upon the organ, they are to be gathered in the concha by an effort of the child's, will. Therefore the pianos, violins, etc., playing in this room must, for some special teachings, have their tones continued by some similar instruments placed in the building, at graduated distances. Besides, the audition-room is the place for the ordinary training of that sense, by making the children appreciate, as in sports, the noises produced by the fall or the contact of various bodies, their own voices reciprocally, etc., without the assistance of other senses.


The gymnastics of the sight require more space, and cannot even very well be confined to rooms; but part of them demand the following accommodations. A place easily rendered dark and easily lighted by the removal of one or several blinds, whose displacement at once gives entrance to a large amount of light. To these windows may be adapted kaleidoscopic combinations, stereoscopic views, simple colors, forms, or letters, or striking images to be shown or concealed in a moment; the same room, lighted at will from above, to exhibit objects through long tubes and appliances, such as opera-glasses, microscopes, etc. And a gallery is to be fitted up near by, in which the bow and air-gun may be used, or which may serve as a croquet-ground or a bowling alley. Once the look secured, the child is transferred to the room in which he shall systematically learn colors, forms, dimensions, and the combination of parts to form a whole. Here ornaments and decorations are not amiss; the walls are covered with rich pictures, to which reference may be had when studying colors on cards, or with samples of cotton, woollen, or silken fabrics. Here too we see for the first, and not the last time, the narrow semicircular table, inside of which the teacher stands, while around it are the children. There are few chairs, and fewer unobstructive closets, running low along the walls, to keep the objects necessary for the aforesaid teaching, leaving plenty of room in the centre for moving and comparing objects.


Drawing, writing, reading, are taught in one room. Opposite the windows, the wall is entirely covered, at a proper height, with slate or composition answering the same purpose. On the sides are cards representing letters and words; the simple representation of the familiar objects named on the cards, and forming, with the words written on the blackboard, the staple reading matter of beginners. In well-lighted embrasures stand also some of the ingenious machines for composing words. There are no more seats and tables than absolutely necessary for a temporary rest of part of the class. But in front of the black-board, there are on the floor painted foot-marks to keep the children at a proper distance from the object of instruction; and when these marks are not stringent enough, isolating blocks are put up, and the delinquent is expected to behave from the top of them. But immobility and attention are generally secure with less apparatus; as when children have their names conspicuously written on the board, or other conventional punishment felt more keenly than strangers might suppose.

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