Edward Seguin.

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(aithorized and revised 8Y the author.)




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1880, by


In the office of the [librarian of Congress, in Washington.

(All rights of translation and reproduction reserved.)




The Cradle and the Creche.

7'A« Nursery ; Young Mother^ first Manual ; Lessons from Experience ;
Pre-education; Form of the Cradle; Enlargement; Uses; Ornamenta-
tion; Effects; Necessity of the Crlche; Nursing, a Progressive Art.

"Considerons I'espece humaine comme un individu
que la duree infinie de son existence permet de
rapprocher sans cesse d'un type parfait, dont son
etat primitif ne donnait meme pas I'idee." —


I. Introduction. «i^n inquiry into the conditions of popular
education in several countries can only serve to furnish the elements
of comparison between what is done at home and what is done
abroad, in view of improving home education. In this light, the
writer looked at the school-collections exhibited in Vienna, but soon
perceived that the most important data were missing, — some not being
susceptible of transportation or of representation by specimens, others
having been mtentionally withdrawn. Withdrawn ! why ?

To educate children for themselves is rare in Europe, and it is
considered rather Quixotic. The youth of the people are merchant-
able commodities, soon to be credited to the party which puts its
stamp upon them. Therefore, where they are worth having, they are
picked up as eagerly as nuggets. Priests pretend to teach them to
think, only to impose upon them a belief which implies obedience to
their craft; Kaisers claim their direction, not to elevate them, but to
put them among their droves of subjects; bourgeois and manufactu-
rers give them a minimum of instruction, just sufficient to insure
their working dependence, and to qualify their own sons to be fed at
the public expense; while the workingmen themselves — demoralized
by such examples — put their apprentices at menial employment, and
cheat them out of their rightful professional training.


For these and other causes, the Section of Education of the
Vienna exhibition was so incomplete as to seem to preclude, at first
sight, the idea of making any report upon it. But, considering that
completeness is not the siiie qua 71071 of human eftorts, the writer
thought of gathering, in and out of the Welt-:^2lSSteUu7ig, as
many facts as circumstances would permit, and of forming from them
a judgment, which subsequent observers could complete, confirm, or

From this stand-point, we consider European children as in four
groups : those who receive no education ; those who do not receive
the education they need; those who receive an education which dis-
qualifies them for work; and those whose education prepares them for
work. From ancfther point of view, we saw that the European
children enter the school younger, are trained longer, and are ad-
vanced fiiither than the Americans. As a consequence of this last
contrast, we shall have less to say about the primary and grammar-
schools, and more about the infantile and the professional. We will
leave the other consequences to issue naturally from observation.

Since singularly strenuous and successful efforts have been made
to overcome the apparently impassable barriers which separate from
the world some afilicted children, namely, the deaf-mutes and the
idiots, we will append an account, somewhat historical, but mainly
philosophical, of these methods, in the belief that, being positive, they
can be applied to ordinary children. Having no room for an intro-
duction, we would refer to the History of Education, by Philo-
biblius, (Dr. L. P. Brockett,) as the best substitute for it.

2. The Cradle. At the Vienna Exposition ( ^fg;^^r Wclt-
AussteUimg) there was a ''Pavilion de VEnfanU'^ room replete
with the necessaries of the nursery — and also with its superfluities —
intended altogether to represent the unbounded wishes of a mother
for her baby's comfort and happiness. This palace of luxurious
nursing ought to have ben furnished with a httle manual oi what is
necessary to protect and to prepare life before nati\dty.

During this first period, the feelings come mainly through reflex
impressions from the mother — a process which not only lays the
foundation of health and vitality, but which forms the deeper strata
of the moral dispositions and of the so-called innate ideas. The
managers of the world "from behind the screens" know this; for it
is the time at which they impose on plebeian women pilgrimages and
ecstatic 7ieuvai7ies, and keep those of a higher class under more
stringent impressions. Here in Vienna, for instance, from the times
of the Emperor Charles V. till quite recently, when an heir to the
throne was expected, the Empress was given in charge of a special
director, who would regulate all her actions and surroundings, in
view of commencing the course of submissive education of the con-
tingent monarch, as early as the first evolution from the yolk-sub-

stance of the human egg, during embryogenesis. Similar influence
is now claimed for an object diametrically opposed to the degenere-
scence thus arrived at in the house of Hapsburg. It can be attained
by advice, printed either in book-form, or on scrolls, as are the sent-
ences of the Koran. But whatever may be the form given to this
magna cTiarta of the rights of the unborn, let it be found precisely
where these rights ought to be kept most sacred, in the nursery ;
where their enforcement wouldjprotect the mother and elevate her
function, at the same time that it would insure her fruit against the
decay resulting from wrong pre-natal impressions.

We know that a cold contact with the mother makes the foetus
fly to the antipode of its narrow berth; that a rude shock may destroy
it, or originate life-long infirmities; that fear to the mother is terror or
fits within; that harsh words vibrate as sensibly in the liquor of the
amnion as in the fluid of the labyrinth of the ear. For instance,
when a mother has lulled her home sorrows with strains of soothing
music, her child, too often an idiot, shows wonderful musical procliv-
ities floating through the wreck of his mind.

Pre-natal impressions need not be of a depressing order to leave
their mark. Elation of feelings or high aspirations may too impress
the fcetus morbidly, as well as otherwise. Example : A couple of
artists marry under the most exalted feelings of their art. Their first
daughter, now oet 12, is a dreamy thing, with a brilliant but vague eye.
Her ordinary movement is of brushing up and away, as in the act of
smoothing the tones of an oil painting; in her hands, searching for
delicate contrasts, and unable of muscular exertion, her idiocy seems
to be concentrated. In the process of development of this artist-couple
music became the ideal, and their second daughter is extraordinarily
gifted in it; otherwise an ordinary child. — Later, the same elation
of art-feeling soaring in a larger horizon, the third daughter is an
exponent of the philosophy that all art culminates in the elevation
of man himself. She, only 4 years old, intuitively prepares her own
personations of excellence in artisrically studied attitudes, after hav-
ing arranged, on and around herself, the luxuries of the house most
befitting her part; an ordinary child, too, in other respects.

The impression, resented by the mother, may be transmitted to
her infant, and die away or not, when he is weaned. Example :

Madam R , now of i ith street, Nev/ York, being alone

with her sick husband in a country-house, saw, at night, somebody,
wrapped in a sheet, trying to force an entrance. She, unarmed and
unaided, cried out, pushed and piled heavy furniture against the
door, and succeeded in repulsing the intruder. She soon after gave
birth to a healthy male child, but who, at the hour at which this
struggle had taken place, would scream as if in terror. At all other
times he was good-humored, but no medical treatment could prevent
him firom awakening and screaming at that precise hour. This

habit disappeared, when he was taken from the breast of his moth-
ther. Become a man, he has shown endurance and bravery.

The impressions of the mother can be communicated to
her child, since they leave their imprints on our much more
hardened tissues and features when grown up. When twins
come from different sacs, they are often unlike; when from
the same sac, they almost mvariably resemble each other.
As a proof that this resemblance is mainly due to the identity of
their pre-natal impressions,let us follow this further, as in the example
of the brothers E . . . . Born with characteristics almost identical,
brought up under the same tuition and habits, in the college St.
Louis, they continued to look so much alike, that greeting or punish-
ment would often meet the one instead of the other. One entered
the atelier of De Laroche; the other went into some moneyed busi-
ness. New impressions modified their features: one grew sensitive,
the other rich; and their likeness disappeared in a corresponding
ratio, until, when seen last, they hardly looked like thirtieth cousins.

Physicians will testify, that, when our hands receive a new-
comer, we read quite plainly upon his featurs on what sort of feelings
he was bred by that intra-uterine education whose imprints trace the
channel of future sympathies and abilities. Therefore, if it is noble
work to educate or to cure the insane, the idiot, the hemiplegic, the
epileptic, and the choreic; how much higher is the work of prevent-
ing these degeneracies in the incipient being by averting those com-
motions which storm him in the holy region intended for a terrestrial
paradise during the period of evolution ! To teach Hi VI reverence
toward the bearer of his lace, to mstruct Her in the sacredness of
bland and serene feelings during the God-like creative process^ is
educating two generations at once. This is the highest education
of the nursery.

From this, the true cradle of mankind, let us look at that made
for the baby. There was no eiid of them in the Pavilion de
V Enfant ; and we may find more philosophy in them than the
upholsterer intended. Therein the infant will at first but continue
his ovum-life; and for this the cradle must be fitted. Let us see.
The head is bent, the extremities are drawn up, and the body shaped
like a crescent. This attitude gives to the muscles the greatest relax-
ation, and to the cartilages, which cap the bones, the position most
favorable to nutrition and growth. Generally, the baby rests on the
right side, to free from pressure and to facilitate the movements of the
heart. In this mode of reclining, the left hemi-cerebrum will con-
tain more blood than the right, which is compressed by the pillow.
Attitudes, concordant with the sleepy habits of the first months and
the activity of the mind durin g this long sleepiness, indicate the future
preponderance of the mental operations of the left over the right
side of the brain, the approaching superior nutrition and dexterity

of the right over the left hand, and even the later causation of more
frequent paralysis on the left. For the present, and for some time
yet, baby will live mainly in his sleep; during which, more than when
awake, he will be seen angry, smiling, or thinking, in the shape of
well-defined dreams.

How important it is, then, that the cradle be formed in accord-
ance with these natural indications! A transitory abode between
the pelvis and the bed; a warm, soft, yet supporting recipient, ampler
than the former, better defined in its shape than the latter, with
curves less short than circles and more varied than ovals. A perfect
egg, vertically split, would make two such cradles, or nests, suited
either for child or bird.

But as soon as the nursling awakes to the world, and wants to
be introduced to everything, his couch must be enlarged and enliv-
ened, and must look more and more like a school and play-room.
Otherwise, it becomes a prison, whence, Tantalus-like, he looks at
his surroundings. Here is his first lesson of practical sociability. To
see and not be able to reach, to perceive images with no possibility
of seizing the objects, renders him impatient, fretful, or unconcerned,
and opens an era of exaction upon others, or of diffidence of himself,
or of indifference tor any attainment, which unavoidably ends in
immorality or incapacity, or in both. Viewed from this stand-point,
these cradles, so varied, so elegant, so easy to keep clean and to
carry from the light of the window by day to the recess of the al-
cove at night — the best being of French and Austrian manufacture —
are yet very imperfect in their bearing on education. Let us mark
some of their short-comings.

Little ones have an instinctive horror of isolation. Whoever
studies them knows that, when they awake, they look, not, at first,
with staring eyes, but with searching hands; they seek not for sights,
but for contacts. This love of contact, whence results the primary
education of the most general sense, the touch, is ill-satisfied with
the uniformity of the materials at hand, as exemplified at Vienna or
Paris. (In November 1874 I saw a similar exhibition, a Pavilion
de r Enfant, in the Champs Elysees, but it was no improvement
on that of the Prater.)

In this respect, the child of poor people fares better, having the
opportunity of amusing himself for hours in experiencing the rude
or soft, warm or cold contacts of his miscellaneous surroundings;
whereas the hand of the offspring of the rich finds all around the
sameness of smooth tissues, which awake in his mind no curiosity;
he calls for some one to amuse him, gets first angry, then indiffer-
ent, and does not improve his main and surest sense of knowledge,
the touch.

But soon other senses are awakened. Audition — of which
hereafter — and vision, for the enjoyment of which the cradle be-

comes a kind of theatre. For a mother must be very destitute or
despondent, who does not try to enliven it with some bright things
laid on or flapping above. One may benevolently smile at the
extravagancies of colors and patterns intended to express this feel-
ing, but will also find in them a serious warning.

Physiologically viewed, this is a grave matter. The form of the
cradle demands fitness; its ornamentation requires a more extended
knowledge. When planning it, a mother muSt remember that the
fixity of the eye upon some object — particularly upon a bright one,
and more so if that object is situated upward and sideways from the
ordinary range of vision — and, through the eye, the fixedness of the
mind while the body is in a state of repose, constitute a concurrence
of conditions eminently favorable to the induction of hypnotism, and
its terrible sequels, strabismus and convulsions, — of hypnotism,
which, when unsuspected and not controlled is often mistaken for
natural sleep.

Psychologically viewed, the decoration of the cradle is of equal
moment. To surround an infant with highly wrought or colored
figures often grotesque, or at least untrue to nature, may, by day,
attract more attention than his faculties of perception can safely
bestow, hence fatigue of the bcain or worse, a resort to the solution
presented the early teachers of supernaturalism; but it will, by night,
evoke other than the perceptive and rational powers, for when
the lights and shadows of dusk alter all the forms and deepen every
color, the faculty of imprinting images being led astray, it photo-
graphs distorted imprints, from confused, often moving, sometimes
rustling, ornaments. It is then that the perception of the impossible,
by the sight and hearing mainly, educates the senses to feed the
mind on hallucinations, and prepares it to believe them instead of
inquiring into their causes, till it comes to the fatal CTCdo (JUia
dbsurdum. The seeds of most of the insanities are sown at or
before this time.

These were the first impressions that forced themselves upon
my mind in the Pavilion de V Enfant. Here is, in a few words,
a resume of them : Paucity of the material upon which the inex-
perienced yet inquisitive baby can exercise, with interest and profit,
his sense of touch; profusion, bad taste, and dangerous disposition
of the objects which speak to the eye, if not always with the inten-
tion, at least with the almost uniform result, of giving wrong or dan-
gerous impressions.

Attention was next called to what had been done, and to what
had been left undone, for the cultivation or the satisfaction of the
other senses of the infants. But here it was soon perceived that our
inquiries went beyond the sphere of what was exhibited. Perfumes
were there as an attenuation, and music as a distraction; nursery-
arrangements intended rather for the mother's and nurse's comfort

than for baby's improvement. We left this attractive place with
another grief.

3. The Creche. — This Pavilion de V Enfant ought to have
contained at least one model creche.

Creche is the French. name of the public nursery where workr
ing- women leave their little ones in the morning, and whence they
bring them home at night. The creche ! Horrid necessity ! Be-
ginning of the communistic inclined plane upon which thcsse, who
pay and do not receive rents, slide with a fearful rapidity; yet a kind
institution for those already fallen into the gulf. Since, therefore,
creches must be, the writer suffered from not seeing their latest
improvement represented at the Vienna Welt-^USStelluna next
to the appliances of the most luxurious nursing. There could have
been tested the action of colors, of light, and its various attributes,
on the organ of vision; the influence of varied sounds, of harmonies
and melodies on the virgin audition, the mind, and the sympathetic
centres; the power of primary perceptions to awaken first ideas, to
impel the determinations of the will, and to raise the various pas-
sions; the effects of diet upon those passions; the effect of modifica-
tion of food and digestion; the influence of rest and sleep on the
body's temperature, on the pulse and respiration; the influence of
the artificial, the moist, or the dry heat of the nursery on the too
precocious development of the nervous centres; and, subsequently,
on the prevalence of chronic or acute meningitis, diphtheria, and
croup; besides many other problems whose solutions depend on the
early study of phenomena, which can be found in the creche as
surely as those of disease are found in hospitals. In this respect, let
us bear in mind that the rich man can never flatter himself that he
does a gratuitous charity, since from its poor recipient comes many
times its worth in useful experience, directly benefiting the would-be

We do not overlook the fact that many mothers, particularly
among those both educated and fruitful, pay the closest attention to
these questions, and become expert therein, as they do in nursing
their sick; but as they jlack the means of record and transmission of
their observations, thei experience dies, so to speak, with each gen-
eration. Hence the nursing of babies continues to be a work of
devotion, but does not become the co-ordinate and progressive art
it ought to be in well-organized creches opened to criticism by
public exhibitions. Thus in Vienna, at least, this opportunity was

The child, soon two years old, is up, sees, hears well enough,
talks, though imperfectly, walks, though totteringly. Let us follow
him where he can yet teach us something, in the Salle d'^syle
and in the Kindergarten.


Chapter 2.
The Salle D'Asyle.

Mothers as teachers; The salle d^asyle; Effect on the child; Plan; Curriculum;
Remarks] Motives; Definition.

4. Mothers as teachers. — There are infant-schools of various
grades, from the most ragged to the most select; the average of them
are the Salle d' :^syle and the Kindergarten', both are intended
for the child, when he is once on the war-path of curiosity.

But cannot he learn from his mother, instead of going abroad
so soon, and while so incapable of self-support, that, off her knees or
arm, the physiological heat soon recedes from the surface of his skin?
Cannot she teach him as well as rear hmi, give him the food of the
mind and the food of the body, so appropriately comprehended in
the word "nurture?" No; at least, few can. Women cannot do it,
because they lack time and knowledge. Millions of them have sold
their whole lives for a paltry pittance; thousands of others have been
taught the basest absurdities instead of the realities which their child-
ren thirst for. Hence the children of the most numerous class are
compelled to go to the Salle d' Asyle, while the richer are sent to
the Kindergarten.

5. The Salle d'Plsyle, being open to the needy, receives
them younger; the Kindergarten, being a pay-school, receives
them later. These differences generate in the sequel many other
distinctions, the comparison of which will be the more satisfactory
for being commenced at the earliest opportunity. Therefore, we
would advise the study of the ^syle prior to that of the (Garten;
and we would not even counsel making a first visit in the middle or
at the end of a scholastic term, when one can only see the order,
routine, and monotony resulting from a settled discipline; but rather
visit it at the beginning of a session, when the ancients (six to seven
years old) have left for the primary, and the freshmen (two to
three) come in totteringly, giving the observer a vivid idea of their
first and novel impressions. And how could these impressions be
otherwise than novel ? New scenery, new language, new rules meet
them. The most sensible change, however, comes from the differ-
ence in the character of the personal contacts experienced. Only
yesterday how frequently did he leave unfinished a piece of mischief,

to be kissed and wamied at the contact of mother's larger breast,
softer frame and superior heating power ? To-day, at the command
of a distant index, he is filed among the many, and has to stand by
himself as isolated as a statue on a monumental column.

What will he do, then? As isolation would h^ • vacUUTTli he
will adapt his own mode of association with that of his new fellows,
and thereby give us our first lesson in the art of grouping children
according to sociability at different ages.

As soon as the little ones are together, they coalesce in two
forms. Seated, they support each other side wise, not unlike young
or feeble birds on the perch at nightfall. Standing, they range in a
one-line procession, like the globules of the blood in the act of circu-
lation. These rudimentary forms of association of the infant, which
can also be observed in their first attempts to play, have certainly
been taken into account, either instinctively (^C07? (iniore) or phil-
osophically (by the inductive process) in the organization of the
Sciiles d' ^syle. Aside from all theories, it is a fact that the
material, the training, and part, at least, of the living motors of the
^Sylc are in accord with the psycho-physiological conditions of the
incoming pupils. Here, at least, the school has been mide for the
child, and the child has not yet been manipulated to fit the school.

Considering the great difficulties attending the building of these
M.syles where they are most needed, in citifs where air and room
are only desiderata; the novelty of the social venture, which looked
so much like rearing babies without mother's milk; the liability of
falling into the pedagogic routines so deeply rooted elsewhere; and,
moreover, the preying of partisans on the asylum, with the view of
impressing the innocent with the stamp-mark of their hatreds, are
some of the risks encountered, and partly avoided in the creation
and management of the Salles d':isyle in most of the European

There was in Vienna no complete model of 8ailes d'Plsyle,
but several of their accessories, as seats, cards, images, and books;
therefore, we deferred foniiing an opinion on them, till we saw their
operation in large places like Brussels and Paris.

We found them arranged with a great similarity of plan. A

Online LibraryEdward SeguinReport on education → online text (page 1 of 24)