The Year Of The Child Entering the World Early Childhood
Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.
vol. VIII no. 3
First published in 1979. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright ÂŠ 1979-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-297-8 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555 www.EducationalSolutions.com
Like so many institutions all over the world, we are celebrating the Year of the Child. Our five Newsletters for 1979 will carry articles which, together, may tell a story readers will appreciate. In this issue, the first article refers to the whole project in which a survey of the development from birth to old age will contribute to seeing children of any age as people involved in living functionally. The criterion used here is dear to ourselves and to our readers: the question “What is there to learn in order for us to make sense of our lives, of what must we become aware at the various ages to occupy us meaningfully and to allow us to grow steadily?” Early childhood, as well as boyhood and girlhood, as well as adolescence, call on everything we are and everything we have to meet the challenges of life. To these broad subdivisions of the first 15 to 18 years of our lives we devote the first three issues. To the sage, grownups are also children so in looking at adults we ask ourselves, “What have they done with the child that they were? Is it still alive in them and in what form?” When such lights are available we find ourselves confronted with the difficult distinction between psychology and epistemology; are they perhaps one and the same in the area of learning? An article by a teacher of language who is articulate about important matters which were revealed to her when she was learning a new language has been added to this issue. A few news items are also included.
Table of Contents
1 Introduction To The Series ................................................ 1 2 Entering The World .......................................................... 7 Self-Confident As A Learner .............................................................. 7 Relating In Trust ................................................................................ 7 Blossoming In Love............................................................................8 Sleep An Important Aspect Of Existence...........................................8 Senses Link The Inner World And The Outer ................................... 9 Those Who Look After Are Guided By The One Being Looked After ....................................................................................... 9 Inner Dynamics — The Basis For An All-Round Growth................ 10 Loving Care Nurtures Spiritual Growth .......................................... 10 Authoritative Attitude Disrupts Spiritual Growth............................11 3 Knowing Young Children ................................................ 13 4 “The Universe Of Babies:” Revisited. -A Personal Account- ......................................17 After Studying Hindi........................................................... 25 News Items ......................................................................... 31
1 Introduction To The Series
Children: a word which generates hosts of images in many of us. For a while we identify, but soon we think of “them ‘ as having little to do with us, the grownups. We look upon them as being in another category than us. Sometimes — in some cases — we find them a nuisance and wish they would behave in such a way as not to embarrass us in public, or would let us do what we want, when and as we want to. Since all of us at some stage were or are children, there must be some good reason why we spend a number of years in that state. In “Emile,” Rousseau asked us to look upon childhood as a natural phase of our growth whose function it was to pave the way to our becoming adults. Alain, the French philosopher and essayist, who was very influential between the two world wars, looked upon childhood as an awkward period of life, implying that the children he knew wanted to be grownups as soon as possible and thus missing the sui generis meaning of childhood altogether. Freud and the various psychoanalytic schools stressed how important childhood was in the preparation for adult life in society. They saw children mainly as vulnerable creatures, who could too easily be affected by what went on around them and needed a lot of protection from those who loved them. To understand childhood mainly meant to describe children’s behavior from an a priori theoretical point of view. Often this resulted in the actual meaning of years of experience being missed.
The Year Of The Child
The lighting which has served me best resulted from my asking myself what there is for each of us to know to enable us to integrate the demands of a world which is not of our making. As humans, we are born into a world which is already highly structured, on the levels both of nature and society. Things are what they are and we have no say, for a long time, in what they are, how they were made and why, and to what extent we can affect them to suit our purposes. Because of this pervading component of manâ€™s intervention in the world, there is a continuous need to know and to know in certain ways. Conscious living is a requirement of human living where instincts play such insignificant roles. We can therefore say that to live, for human beings, is the actual exchange of our time, the given time measured by the rotation of the earth, into experience. Each life will be the richer according to how this transaction is best made. Hence the importance of education in human affairs. But because the people in the environment had many tasks of survival to attend to, only exceptionally could they study what their young ones were doing with their time. All that time which is spontaneously taken by each child to do what he or she then feels to be calling to him or her to be engaged in for the purpose of sorting things out, we must count as part of oneâ€™s self-education. Concern with self-education is very recent. For a very long time we missed the meaning of those years in our lives when we need to be babies, infants, boys or girls and adolescents before joining our groups as grownups to run our affairs on the social, economic and political planes. Going back to look at children again, this time with the stress that they know what they have to do, and do it with care, involvement, a sense of purpose and continuous feedback, may very well give us insights that escaped most people in previous generations. There is no doubt that our children are alive. Hence there is no doubt that they are exchanging their time for some experiences. Which ones, and in what way, are, to my mind, the fields of study of child psychologists and epistemologists.
1 Introduction To The Series
To rehabilitate to the status of essential learning all that which is part of the spontaneous activities of babies (and later of all children up to adolescence) cannot fail to give us, grownups, engaged in the study of human reality, a firmer basis and a greater chance of doing a better job when applying our findings. In fact, it is ourselves we rehabilitate; we rehabilitate ourselves as investigators, now able to do the job we were unable to undertake earlier. In observing various groups of children in the long term, I have looked upon them first as individuals bounded by their individuality (which is so apparent in their locomotion and in many of their biological functionings) and then as capable of relating in a multitude of ways and manners to others. This study has indicated that for extended periods of time we are susceptible to being touched by some items in the inner and outer milieus while remaining totally impervious to other items, also present but perceptible only for others. It has been found convenient to name “absolutes” those inner climates which make individuals divide the contents of environments into what will touch them and engage them and what will be left non-energized and therefore without effect. These “absolutes” stretch over periods of time, with an entry in, an exit from, and a longish middle period during which there is no doubt in the minds of the individuals involved that the way they see the world is the only one and the right one. Once the function of this centeredness is accomplished the self allows other items to strike it and opens itself to giving them a right of being. Confusion results and the individual is experiencing an awakening to a new absolute and the abandonment of the previous one. Hence before and after the installation of an absolute there are two periods of transition during which uncertainties affect the self, allowing one to feel unsure of where one is and where one is going. The future is contrasted with the past. The latter appears more secure, more trustworthy, while the former is characterized by its containing some fascination as well as an element of threat. By allowing oneself to be adventurous, to enter areas where the unknown is felt, one’s commitment to the past diminishes and one’s permeability to what will soon be the new absolute becomes more inviting.
The Year Of The Child
Even if we do not sense “absolutes” we sense this succession of phases, particularly when we allow new components of reality to reach us. Several times in any one life we shift from one dominating interest to another. The dominating interest, when it is broad enough and deep enough, is what we call an absolute. Temporary interests are easily perceived both from the inside and from the outside. The manner in which our affectivity colors a number of them characterizes how they are lumped together in one layer of time, in one absolute. Once born, it is necessary for each of us to develop in order to face the challenges confronting us and there are temporal hierarchies in that growth. That is precisely why we go through absolutes. Perception is more primitive than action and must be present before one can take oneself into action. So for a few years very young children live intensely conscious of the world of perception and of that part of the universe of action which is connected with it, while they barely perceive the universes of the intellect and of social relations. Psychology books, for a century or more, noted that young children were concerned with what was described as sensory-motor activities. The Montessori schools were paramount representatives of this approach. What we are suggesting here differs from such views of children (the theoretical bases of which did not look to self-awareness and selfeducation) mainly in that we grant everyone a self capable of awareness, and acknowledge the deliberateness of experiencing which demonstrates that children know well what they are doing and why. To understand children requires that we place them in their “spiritual environment” characterized by their spontaneous willingness to mobilize themselves fully and for as long as is needed in order to achieve their conscious aims. The universe of perception is a complex one and demands at least five years of investigation for one to end up equipped to use all the senses instrumentally. This stress on perception creates the absolute of perception for babies as well as for the students of early childhood. The universe of action is also complex and another five years or so are needed to feed back to every boy and girl that the subtle use of the 4
1 Introduction To The Series
muscle tone of most voluntary muscles is under control, constant supervision, and has been fully integrated with perception. The stress on action creates the absolute of action so easily apprehended when looking at boys and girls in parks and school yards all over the world. The universe of affectivity whose scrutiny, study and knowledge define adolescence, again demands five years or more to be scouted and thoroughly known. The absolute of affectivity colors all adolescent actions. Most of us need only ourselves and our peers to sail through these 15 or more years after birth. The function of the social environment will be correctly discharged if it eases the numerous encounters demanded by the self, facilitating conscious education. Unfortunately schooling has very little to do with spiritual growth, and this because the kinds of schools created during the last 300 years have been the work of people living in the absolute of the intellect. During the last 100, the social absolute has been allowed to enter in also to some extent. Young men and women of our time get into the intellectual absolute at the time they finish their high school and enter college. So for the many who have had a chance to live the three previous absolutes of the preceding periods properly, the intellectual climate of academic life at school and college is a source of inspiration and of growth. Alas, the many more students with dented growth in the earlier periods of their lives do not blossom in the arid world of the intellect and it never becomes an absolute for them As a result they are not integrated in themselves and when they come to the social absolute in which they could be as creative as the others, they are confused and clumsy and become followers without clear reasons for the course of their lives â€” grownups who are not really adults, citizens reacting to circumstance rather than contributing to their groupâ€™s evolution. Children of any age must acquire the working experience which they need to count on in order to meet the demands of life, which are many and unpredictable. To secure this experience they must be present in their activities, that is, conscious and aware that they are taking the steps they must take during their involvement in the activity. That is why the appearance which we can observe leads to the reality of the
The Year Of The Child
absolutes and the integration of experience, and we see people living intensely so as to learn well, and for good. For this Year of the Child we wish to make the clear statement that there is only one way of growing, which translates into knowing what one is doing all the time from conception to adulthood; this, together with the forms and appearances (which differ for each of us), generate what we can all perceive as our expanding universes. Caleb Gattegno
2 Entering The World
As I sit with pen in hand, my inner climate changes into one which may resemble that present in me years ago. The fact of having lived a number of years helps me formulate in words the feeling which prevails within me at the moment. This feeling has been generated by the title: “Entering the World.” ***
Self-Confident As A Learner The world I have entered is a phenomenon unknown to me. I am prepared to learn to know it. I know I can count on myself to participate as a learner in this new adventure. I know well how to trust myself for I have done so all my life in the cozy habitat which has been mine thus far. Up until this point in my life no one has been there to help me learn to do what I have been engaged in, my “self” is a tested and a trustworthy being. I have entered the world with complete trust in myself. I am confident I can learn to carry on my life as it progresses in time just as well as I have done up to now.
Relating In Trust Now I have others around me. Some of them I come in touch with a lot. They handle me in every way. They pick me up. They bring me very close to themselves, so much so that I can feel their heartbeats against 7
The Year Of The Child
my body and their breath breezing gently over my brow. Their arms nestled around me provide a special warmth. The trust within me grows and extends towards these people. The bond of my very first relationships with others is one of trust. It is the same bond with which I relate to myself. I am not apprehensive when people touch me, roll me over on my side or put me down on my tummy. With a selfabandonment in trust, I remain absorbed in knowing what is going on.
Blossoming In Love Although I am well aware of my capacity for self-reliance, I do not mind depending on these people for my well-being. This is so because I trust they care. My dependence on them does not negate my sense of independence. In fact, it serves as an expression of my trusting relationship with them. When I am hungry, I let them know it. They feed me. When I am wet, they change me and make me feel snug and comfortable again. When my head happens to hit against the side of my crib and cause me pain, they take note of my unhappy expression, lift me up, console me and put me gently down. There is one particular person among these people whose tender attention never leaves me. I sense a selflessness in the attitude of this person, a givenness to my well-being with no expectation of returns. Not long after I entered the world my bond of trust with this person began to blossom. I feel a joy in being with this person. There has emerged between us a mutually felt delight in being with each other. Another dimension â€” the one of love â€” has been added to our relating.
Sleep An Important Aspect Of Existence I enjoy being with people, specially with the one to whom I feel closest in terms of the giving and receiving of our trusting love. Still, I need to be with myself a lot of the time. I have certain jobs to do which can be done only by myself when I am alone. I must process the many many impacts of the world to which I have made myself vulnerable. The processing must be done with meticulous care, and uninterrupted. There must be no interferences while I work on the impacts received. There must be no distractions. For this important task to be efficiently 8
2 Entering The World
accomplished, I retreat into sleep. Sleep is the state in which I am close to my inner life. Sleep allows my mind to further sort out and understand all that which needs sorting and understanding. Sleep, in this sense, is an extremely meaningful part of my existence. After an active existence in sleep, I am once more energetically busy when I open my eyes, this time receiving impacts. If this special person happens to be around at the moment I wake up, we exchange smiles. We both let each other know that we are in contact with the significance of my sleeping or being awake. We both respect the fact of my being with myself and with the world.
Senses Link The Inner World And The Outer My senses form the link between the world around me and my inner life. With my skin I feel the touch of others. What I feel is within me, my inner reality. With my eyes I see, but it is I who change the input through my eyes into my perceptions. With my ears I hear sounds, but it is I who listen and give meaning to those sounds. The spectrum of smells outside becomes a part of me through the act of sifting, which I do. My various senses are the means which allow me to develop my sensitivity for all that which is other than me and happens to be within my reach. The internalized impacts of the outside reality confirm in me a sense of myself. With the dynamics of my inner life I transform the outer world into the reality of my existence. My senses serve to bridge the gap between the inner world, and the outer.
Those Who Look After Are Guided By The One Being Looked After My somatic growth and the evolution of my mind take place as a result of what I do with the input from the outside. The loving people around me watch my responses to what they offer me for my intake. They like to know, for instance, what food and how much of it is right for me, and when. They determine the nature and amounts of such food and the times for feeding me, by paying attention to my bowel movements and by taking note of whether or not I am tranquil while I am awake or asleep. If they see some disturbance in my physical well-being, they 9
The Year Of The Child
take steps to change the food they offer me, and make alterations in the warmth they provide me with, in my exposure to natural elements and to people. Peopleâ€™s singing, humming, speaking, the sounds of their laughter and all sorts of other sounds around me bring me plenty of food for my mind. Moving or still, far or near, colorful forms or objects in light or in shade are food for my sight. I keep busy transforming them into the substance of my mind. The smells in my surroundings activate my mind. The impact on my skin of the gentle caresses from loving people helps me know them in a unique way. Those who love me see to it that I am neither mentally over-excited, nor undernourished. Their loving care helps me grow with an enriched trust in myself. Without any fear of the world and with a respect for its reality I relate to it through my senses. My learning processes link my senses to my inner life.
Inner Dynamics â€” The Basis For An All-Round Growth I am entirely taken by the tremendous task of my simultaneous growth on the physical, mental and spiritual planes. My interaction with loving people facilitates, and the activity of my inner resources generates this threefold growth. With my senses and sensitivity I explore more and more new regions. My awareness indicates to me the realms in which I need to grow. My will translates into action all that which becomes manifest through my awareness. My intelligence works on, and makes sense of the impacts received. My affectivity integrates into my existence those impacts which are meaningful. My contact with the harmonious workings of these inner resources intimates to me that I am growing.
Loving Care Nurtures Spiritual Growth The outcome of the workings of my inner resources constitutes my spiritual existence. My spiritual growth resides in the healthy workings of my inner resources. Their health is enhanced by my ability to relate to myself and to others in trust. The more others respond to me with a loving understanding, the more I grow in my ability to trust myself and 10
2 Entering The World
others. At times people may not know how to do that. Their ignorance does not hamper my spiritual growth provided their good will and their willingness to learn to understand are a part of their way of relating to me.
Authoritative Attitude Disrupts Spiritual Growth My inner dynamics are upset when people’s attitude towards me is arbitrarily authoritative. This attitude conveys to me that they think they know best what is right for me, without having regard for what their actions and their attitude do to me. The impacts of authority which is indifferent to the truth of my existence, are felt as dead weight: I sense through my awareness that such impacts are not in my real interest, so I do not feel interested in relating to them. My will is immobilized and does not act adequately upon such impacts. The inner processing is halted. The unprocessed impacts stay unintegrated, as alien elements in my inner life. The authority imposed on me violates my inner being: it interferes with my contact with my own dynamics. This interrupts my spiritual life. The bonds of trust begin to sever. The severing hurts. Love for others based on trust is replaced by fear. Fear precipitates a dysfunctioning of the inner workings. My awareness and intelligence — those attributes of myself which in their clarity could help me make sense of the world — become obscured. My will becomes incapacitated, my actions become reactionary: My affectivity and sensitivity get blunted. My contact with healthy and harmonious inner workings suffers a setback. I feel spiritually impoverished. I hope for a loving relationship to come my way and restore my spiritual wellbeing, a relationship which could let me be a loving, trusting self. I keep on learning to grow physically and, in some ways, mentally, as best I can. But deep inside me I yearn to be in intimate contact with my inner dynamics so that I can be engaged — as an integrated learner — in discovering the reality of the immense world I have entered, and in knowing the meaning of my existence in it. Shakti Gattegno
3 Knowing Young Children
I wanted to understand what young children do with themselves, as much as I wished to understand myself. My circumstances during the last 10 years have been such that my studies of early childhood and of myself have taken place simultaneously, and the findings of one investigation have often enhanced explorations in the other area. I was familiar with two directions commonly taken by students of early childhood. One familiar strategy is to look at oneself and ask questions such as: “How do I think?” or “How do I use the language of my environment?” Then, one makes observations or designs experiments in order to know when the adult functionings in question appear in children. Investigations of this kind, however, necessarily result in “stages of development” and usually carry with them a view of children as incomplete adults. Another common method of study is to make naturalistic observations and to record and classify the activity of young children at various ages. The difficulty with this approach, however, is that only observable behavior can be catalogued — and most of us know that observable behaviors must be interpreted, and are so often misinterpreted. The methods of study to which I was introduced at Educational Solutions were quite different from these two. There was stress on finding “instruments of study” which aided the understanding of living at all ages — thus, it is not surprising that studying early childhood contributed to my knowledge of myself and vice-versa. Another discipline of study was to avoid explanations such as, “one learns to
The Year Of The Child
speak through imitation” or “one learns to speak because of the need to communicate,” and to proceed watchfully and cautiously with a dedication to understanding. This difference between explaining (i.e. explaining away) and understanding has been critical. As I became aware of new realities in myself, the children with whom I was relating began to look so different. I recognized, for example, that I myself had lived through various distinguishable stages, each of which was characterized by absorption and passionate involvement in a particular area of interest. I could remember the time, for instance, when what I wanted most of all was to understand the dynamics of friendship. What was loyalty? Betrayal? A best friend? Feeling understood? The love one feels for a friend? It seemed clear that these were not the preoccupations of six-month-old babies; but by asking, “What are the concentrated involvements of children a few hours old, of children six months, one year, or four years old?” I was coming closer to their reality. This does not mean, of course, that I always understood the meaning of a particular cry or of specific activities which I witnessed. Part of the discipline of study has been to accept that the meaning of much of what I observe will remain mysterious. Still, just as I understand what concerns me better than what concerns others, I trust that the same is true of young children. I was introduced to other instruments for the study of my self: the will, the need to know, the sense of truth, affectivity, the psyche, ways of knowing… Occasionally, I would have the opportunity to be with young children and I would notice that what I had found in myself was now visible in their being. I learned that what we see in others is the outcome of aspects of reality to which we have made ourselves vulnerable. At the same time, seminars at Educational Solutions on Early Childhood and Dr. Gattegno’s book, The Universe of Babies (1973), raised a number of questions which I had not asked in my previous studies of young children. A few were, “Can I know how to do a certain thing without having spent some time learning it? When did I learn it? 14
3 Knowing Young Children
How was it possible for me to learn it?” After looking at a number of functionings such as swallowing, breathing, seeing, sitting, walking, speaking, the conclusion was: very young children are the best learners because what they learn is integrated in them forever. They know that all learning is self-learning, and they direct their investigations systematically. The learnings accomplished in early childhood became an inspiration and made me think of myself as being equipped to learn. At the same time, they made me more thoughtful about the obstacles I put in my way when learning. I found that I could be more childlike when learning something new: by using my available powers and functionings to enter cautiously into a new field; by mobilizing my intuition, perception, and intelligence in order to know what the new universe required; by accepting mistakes as a necessary component of learning; by achieving a degree of mastery which suited me; and by feeling, in all of this, that I was becoming more myself. Another question which contributed to my study of early childhood was, “When learning to speak, are there any activities during the apprenticeship which only require oneself?” My earlier studies in psychology had stressed children’s needs, and consequently given prevalence to the others in a child’s environment. Moreover, studies in language development seemed to agree that children learned to speak because of the need to communicate with others. Yet it seemed tome that most young children were communicating very well with the grownups around them, long before they became speakers. Examination of what children can do on their own in their apprenticeship in learning the language of their environment became exhilarating. It seemed apparent, for example, that babies can become aware that they are producers of sound. Because their sound-producing apparatus is under their voluntary control, they can work consciously and deliberately on the vocal chords, lips, tongue, airflow and other parts of themselves involved in sound-making. Young children must also learn to use their ears to monitor their utterances. In fact, if this coordination were not established, how would any child know that he or she had made the same sound again?
The Year Of The Child
What resulted from asking these questions was the sense that, for children, living is synonymous with learning. They learn when they are aware that the equipment for entering the new field is available in them and when they have an intuition of a potential expansion of themselves in the new endeavor. A study of those aspects of childrenâ€™s acquisition of language for which they depend on hearing the language spoken around them brought numerous and varied details. I could see that in this work too children were using their ways of knowing and their vigilant selves to make sense of the new data in the environment. Ten years ago I enjoyed being with children and wanted to know how to be a vital part of their lives. Nonetheless, I looked at them primarily in terms of what they lacked. Today the tables have turned. I reflect on those qualities which I perceive in children and am pensive about what I need to do to support the use and maintenance of these gifts. In this light, the opportunities I have when relating to children are clearer. As I come closer to their reality, I am more capable of being on their side, of using their powers, sensitivities, and ways of knowing as allies in my teaching, and of relating to them in ways compatible with their sense of truth. They welcome my presence in their lives when I become an opportunity for their growth, when they sense that their relationship with me takes them beyond the place where their spontaneous involvements in life already take them. At the same time, my contact with children inspires my growth as a person. They, too, become opportunities for my growth, as I reflect on the qualities I perceive in them and look for the evidence of these in myself. Seeing how babies and young children put their presence and relaxed concentration into all that they do can show us, the adults, how to function in a more integrated manner. Katherine Mitchel
4 “The Universe Of Babies:” Revisited. -A Personal Account-
One rarely reads a book which profoundly affects one’s life. When one does, it’s very difficult to share the effect with others because, having been changed, one speaks from a different point of view — one which would have sounded strange, even odd, to the same person having not yet had the experience of reading the book. And so, if it would have sounded so foreign to one’s own self, one wonders how a description of such a deeply personal, even intimate shift in one’s way not only of thinking, but actually of living, might strike others. And would not the problem be confounded if the book purported to be a scientific investigation into one of the most perplexing areas of human experience: “What do babies do? And how do they do it?” The answer, for me at least, is “Yes.” And yet the book exists, as does the experience of having been changed by having read it. In fact, the title of this article should be: “The Universe of Babies:” Re-re-re re-revisited, since I have read the book at least six times. The book is a gem. As a parent and a teacher, I know that it has opened to me a world that for the most part might have otherwise escaped my notice. It offers a look beyond what appearance seems to dictate to most “experts” and lay persons alike, and reveals a great deal about how babies actually manage to learn what all children accomplish by the age of two or three years.
The Year Of The Child
This, I realize, is quite a claim. After all, myriads of researchers, most of them well-intentioned, many very intelligent and academically successful, some well-financed and supported by prestigious institutions, have published volumes and volumes about their studies of how babies and young children learn. Yet, there remains little or perhaps even nothing which is generally accepted as representing a factual explanation of how the learning takes place. Why? The answer may simply be that almost everyone is seeking answers in terms of what is directly knowable through the five senses — thus the quest for “observable phenomena.” This search, at least to my way of thinking, has always appeared quite reasonable. The environment or the genes, or some combination of the two, are where people generally look for an explanation of how babies manage to accomplish so much in so short a time. Hence the old “nature vs. nurture” controversy continues to rage on, with the pendulum swinging up and back from time to time. But what if the explanation is only to be found in something which is entirely invisible even through the most powerful microscope, something which can’t be touched or smelled or otherwise known through those ways in which we usually relate to the outside world? What if, since it is the inner universe which is being explored, an explanation can only be found through ways of observing and knowing which are compatible with the inner life? Then any and all researchers who rely only on other ways of knowing will necessarily come up with incomplete, inadequate, and confusing answers. It is just such a situation which is brought to light in “The Universe of Babies.” Rather than looking to heredity or environmental influences as a way of understanding how children learn, the fact of consciousness takes a central place and proves to be a powerful tool for understanding. Adults either already know, or need little to be convinced that they are conscious beings, and that consciousness is at work in them all the time. The fact of consciousness may be less obvious in small children, less so in infants, and still less in fetuses and embryos. Yet once it is understood that there is, in everyone, a mind which is not the brain but is in fact superordinate to it, it is not too big
4 “The Universe Of Babies:” Revisited. -A Personal Account-
a step to find a free mind, acting consciously (i.e. knowingly) in any human organism at any stage of development. Looking at babies, with an awareness that they are aware of themselves and of everything that they do, can be a rather startling experience. Rather than finding poor, helpless, though perhaps cute and lovable little creatures, one discovers an awesome set of strengths and powers, all under the capable and deliberate control of a self which, because it is free energy and has been operating from the start, has access to all of the organs, functionings and learnings, the development of which it has monitored from the start. Suddenly, one can see a fully competent individual doing, at every stage, what he or she is capable of given what he has had the time and opportunity to manage so far. Gone is the image of an incomplete adult working, through some genetic program and/or the proddings of the environment, toward “maturity.” Rendered inadequate also is one or another conceptualization of “growing intelligence.” One realizes instead that one and the same intelligence guides the baby’s fingers to its toes, allows it to form the concept “mother” from the myriad of appearances that are the reality of its experience, produces the first word which serves as an arbitrary but consistent label for whatever it is that the baby, through stressing some attributes and ignoring others, finds it can reliably recognize, and refer to. And so on and on for all the countless masteries and insights accomplished by the very young. Intelligence, seen as the adequate use of all that is available to oneself at any time, grows only in the sense that the self knows what it is doing and so knows what new powers and skills are being added all the time and can thus use these effectively to learn more and more. What a shock to acknowledge, not through sentimentality but through a simple glance beyond appearance, that babies are in no way less intelligent, less mature, less competent, less capable of operating with profound wisdom within those realms of experience which are constantly unfolding for them, than adults themselves are in their fields of interests and endeavors. Does it not generate, in the adult, a respect which goes beyond words, which shakes one to the core and can only lead to humility in the face of all that small children manage
The Year Of The Child
to teach themselves in a few years of life? Should it not make us all extremely careful in our contact with them, not because of their helplessness, but because of their competence, so that we don’t unnecessarily interfere with that which we understand so little about? Who could teach children to speak better than they teach themselves? Even acknowledging that those who are around youngsters when they are in the process of mastering language (especially mothers) deliberately or otherwise modify their normal language habits for the sake of their children, one cannot help but notice, under the lighting of consciousness, how incredibly well children use and manipulate the offerings from the environment to make sense of so complicated an activity. To read “The Universe of Babies” is to find all of this and much, much more. It is a journey into a universe where all is wholesome, so long as the tamperings of usually unwitting adults don’t infringe too deeply through their not-careful-enough attempts to help or nurture. For the sake of babies, as well as of all of us who come in contact with them, it should be widely read. To that end, the following excerpts from the book are offered, without hesitation, as a tempting taste of what will be found by those ready to take the few hours needed to read through its one hundred and thirty-two pages. As soon as we accept that consciousness is at work from the start, we know (1) that we are concerned with a person, and (2) that if we think of each of us as an organism moved only by laws of nature, we do not see all. We make room for the singularities of every individual. We introduce a powerful rectifier of over-simplistic generalizations and make room for a retraction of any statement, each of which was provisional in any case. Relativity — required by the mere existence of viewpoints associated with systems in motion with respect to which there are observers — and evolution which merely expresses that time affects everything although in definite ways — are to be blended with consciousness to give us the capacity to embrace the unique, changing reality of each-of-us-in-the-world. (pp 6-7) From outside, each of us has “a body;” from inside we are what we have called “a soma.” The difference is simply that our
4 “The Universe Of Babies:” Revisited. -A Personal Account-
consciousnesses are at work in our somas, whereas our bodies are objects to be considered like all other objects. In the medical schools of the West, much of what future doctors study is learned in morgues where consciousness is no longer present, or in operating theaters where it is prevented from manifesting itself. The assumption of consciousness is not made, though the truth is that no learning, and so no growth, can take place without it. (p 12) All my attention, at the level of the embryo, means that there is an alternation of intense conscious elaboration followed by a consolidation of the result, using as little consciousness as is required in order to survey it and to signal any dysfunction to the much larger portion of consiousness that has been freed from the task of elaboration. This is followed by a shift towards the elaborated form that is now available for new tasks, which in turn gather all one’s attention to do that which is required to produce the next “automatism,” a structure that maintains itself with an absolute minimum of consciousness, thereby in its turn freeing the self for more complex tasks using what is available, and so on. Man begins with one single cell, like amoebae or bacteria, because life can take that form, as proved by these organisms. As a single cell it is not a man, but since the single cell has the capabilities (not yet fully understood in the case of multicellular organisms) that permit it to use time to gather chemicals to maintain life, the living egg begins a human life at the somatic level and transforms itself so that in every one of us the functions of the egg are still alive, as are all their transformations. (pp 14-15) Coping with what is incompatible with the existing functions costs a great deal more than coping with activities that are compatible and therefore leave no track. Throughout life the relation of the individual to his environment is harmonious if the encounter harmonizes with the ways of knowing available to him at the moment, and it is traumatic if the encounter is biased in favor of the environment that, in whatever way, is not taking into account what the individual is busy working at. (p 32)
The Year Of The Child
What we do with ourselves in the total environment makes us into the persons we are. But what we are is never finished because our continuing encounter with other persons shows us ways of being that were open to us but which we have not actualized in our own lives, and through such encounters we can change. (pp 33-34) Although babies are small, their discrimination at the level of their engaged consciousness does not leave anything to be desired compared with that of older people. Size is no attribute of maturity. In employing the perspective of temporal hierarchies, we give ourselves a chance of seeing wisdom at work on elements other than family, social and business concerns. Wisdom is displayed by babies at every stage of their dialogues with their successive universes because wisdom is nothing other than the candid recognition of what one is able to do and what one is permitted to do. It seems therefore that wisdom may be found in later years if it has at all ages been enhanced by a sense of realism in connection with whatever one is involved in. It is no harder to be wise in society than it is to use discrimination to cope with teething by putting oneâ€™s thumb in oneâ€™s mouth, or to use discrimination in following the inner dynamics of emotions and not let them dissipate the selfâ€™s energy in fits. Each of us is given opportunities to know himself engaged in knowing himself in the world, and hence knowing himself as part of the world. Each opportunity must be taken here and now and not be postponed to later years. Temporal hierarchies are layers of life, no one better than another, no one more precious than another, but simply one after the other, each giving to a preceding one a position of foundation for others and each giving to a subsequent one a position of integration of others. All must be taken care of consciously and conscientiously in order to bring us health now and later. To this process we have been fitted, as human beings, (pp 61-62) Ted Swartz
4 â€œThe Universe Of Babies:â€? Revisited. -A Personal Account-
1979 - The Year of The Child With an emphasis on learning through action, boys and girls of elementary school age make sense of what goes on around them. Our next issue, due in April, will be devoted to the study of this period of growth.
After Studying Hindi
In taking Hindi, I, II and III (August 1978) I learned of the interference of emotional states in meeting a challenge adequately, and saw ways in which to deal with these as a teacher. I learned about the pacing of learning, about allowing students the freedom to be responsible in their learning, and discerned some areas of language as vehicles for meaning which I had previously ignored as a teacher. I experienced inwardly the process of making a new language one’s own, and made an observation about the difference in the skills required to be a speaker and a hearer. The first thing I came up against was my own frustration at not being immediately perfect. I experienced this in my first contact with trying to make those sounds which were proper to Hindi but heretofore unfamiliar to me. I had great difficulty with these, and when we passed from sound to sound-with-meaning I felt that we were doing so too soon, that I was not yet completely mistress of the sounds and further lost “control” of them when grappling with meaning at the same time. By the time we had reached Hindi II I had learned various things on the basis of this: •
that I needed to become more patient with myself and not use expectations as a distraction from dealing with the actual challenge confronting me;
that this would bring its reward, because the making of “difficult” sounds became easier with the passage of time, and most notably time in which I was engaged in activities apparently far removed from learning Hindi 25
The Year Of The Child
(e.g. other workshops, sleep etc.) — it was as if those parts of my soma involved in the production of these sounds had gradually made them a part of their functioning while I was not looking; •
that all of the above could apply to any one of my students, and that therefore I must also, as a teacher, be patient and aware of the workings of time;
the slight degree of loss of control over production of unfamiliar sounds was something I had already noticed happening in my own students on first encountering the demand of giving one’s energy both to sound and to meaning; I therefore learned the dual lesson of the importance of giving plenty of time to laying a good basis in mastery of sounds per se, and that of accepting slight loss of control them, when it happens, as a temporary phenomenon, and not making it a point of anxiety in my teaching.
I found that to be given the opportunity to work on the sounds in a sentence before its meaning was introduced, as we were again and again throughout all three courses, was very helpful. It meant that we could approach meaning more directly when we came to it. As a student I also discovered something about the pace of learning — which, as a teacher, I had always had trouble in assessing. I found that I was never bored and that we could work for a long time on acquiring one word — indeed needed to — without the challenge or our interest diminishing. This dispelled the anxiety I had previously experienced when teaching, born of the fear that I was (mostly) going too slow to provide a sufficient challenge to engage my students fully, or (occasionally) too fast. My sensitivity to feedback, from students’ activities, as to where they are in relation to assimilation of a particular element being worked on has increased through my awareness that, as a student, I knew when I had to go on working on something, and when I was ready to proceed to something new — and that I could let it be known. I released myself from the preconception that I, the teacher, had to know these things for my students, and am better able to grant them the capacity to do so for themselves.
After Studying Hindi
Another aspect which dissipated my anxiety about taking the onus upon myself of pacing my students’ learning for them, was finding that when Shakti gave time to working with one student alone that time was full of learning for me too. I didn’t find myself disengaged even if I didn’t share the problem being worked on directly, since within it there were many elements which I still needed to give attention to. In fact within every exercise, either deliberately initiated on my part or accepted from someone else, there were always so many facets to be chiselled and brought closer to mastery. I also became aware of a dynamic in the class which had a selfregulating function, independent of the teacher. At times we would pick up on one element of the language recently put into circulation, and explore its potentials by initiating new situations, combining it this way and that with other material already wholly or partially assimilated. This experimentation would lead to more and more material being introduced (to fit the requirements of the formerly unexplored situations), and this in turn would lead to new experiments. For me this brought a sense of exhilaration, of soaring higher and higher but into thinner and thinner air — until a general sense that it was time to come down and do some groundwork on assimilating things properly seemed to take over, and we did so. The freedom Shakti gave us to do this, without interference on her part even when things were getting almost (for us) into the outer atmosphere, permitted us to take responsibility for knowing when we needed to come back and seek the necessary exercises to give ourselves a grasp on, rather than a vision of, the language. There were, however, times when I was not engaged, and in these I distinguished two different states in myself. One was a state which manifested itself in a feeling that I had become detached from the language as a “living thing” i.e. as a vehicle for expression from within. At such times formulating statements in Hindi seemed like a dry, academic exercise, somewhat like playing with algebraic formulae without being connected anymore to what a and b stood for. The exercise became as something whose relevance did not extend beyond the four walls of the classroom, seemingly absurd and
The Year Of The Child
no longer connected to content and meaning. I believe that at such times I had failed to find sufficient challenge, in the activities, to engage me. The second state occurred when I deliberately cut myself off from active participation, in anger. During this period I took in absolutely nothing of what was going on. When I began, gradually, to re-enter, I became aware of how much I had completely failed to assimilate. Since I had cut myself off in anger, and this emotion was dominant in me during that time, I found out to what an extent a strong emotion can be a block and distracter, leading away from the challenge and into selfobsession. At those times when I was most fully engaged (towards the second half of Hindi III) I felt the whole of myself mobilized to meet the challenge, and was free of the weight of anxiety or any other emotions or expectations. I experienced, then, a sense of altered space and time, and entered an inner universe in which I had my whole being. The world outside faded and ceased to impinge upon me — it was no longer within my field of perception. Within the four-dimensional inner space a struggle took place to pull together sound and meaning (m’ and m*), the inner force directed to this being present in all its strength, yet meeting great resistance. Through this process m’ and m were brought closer and closer until, at a given moment, they united and M came into being. At that split second I felt myself freed of the binding tension of the force pulling m’ and m together, and borne up by a new lightness. Once sound and meaning had been connected into one I found I no longer “heard” the word when it was produced, but shed it as I connected to the meaning. As a hearer, I also found myself finishing a sentence by running ahead of the voice producing it i.e. catching the intent before the last words had even been put out, indicating that I had begun to make the *
m’ is taken here to represent the sounds which constitute a word, and m the meaning to which it is attached. Once both of these have entered one’s field of cognition they can be brought together; this process results in M. when they unite, i.e. when the word (or label) is attached to its meaning (or concept). cf. Newsletter Vol. III no. 5.
After Studying Hindi
structure of Hindi a part of me. This confirmed for me that the work of paying ogdens is done entirely by the student and is essential to a real acquisition of the language. Had I not done the necessary work to make those words a part of me, I could not have used them to anticipate the end of someone else’s utterance by running, in my mind, ahead of their voice; and if I do not, ultimately, acquire facility in discarding the words for their meaning as soon as they have been spoken, or have become evident to me, as we all do in our native language, I will never become a fluent speaker. There were two incidents, each concerning another student, from which I gained an understanding of ways in which to deal with anxiety — through observation and, later, feedback. In one case anxiety, coupled with pride, were blocking the person concerned from meeting the challenge. Through being made to face her inner state and stay with the problem until it had been mastered, although acutely distressed, she was brought through the block and shown how she could free herself of it. The other case involved another student and was one in which confusion was resulting in anxiety, and blocking. By staying with the task in hand, and stressing it and not the anxiety, Shakti helped the student to by-pass the emotional state, so that it was dissipated and the challenge was met. This led to an understanding that confusion did not need to generate anxiety, and that the latter was inappropriate and could be discarded. I realized that where confusion generates anxiety, anxiety will dominate — in order to sort out confusion one must be at peace with it, as teacher or student, and not invest it with the weight of judging it as either “bad” or “good.” Akin to learning that I needed to shed the expectation of being perfect with the sounds, I realized that I could be quite comfortable letting a question hang in my mind until such time as an appropriate opportunity arose to verify the answer. Throughout all three Hindi courses I was struck again and again by the importance of phrasing and melody as vehicles for meaning. When I lost touch with what I was “saying,” although producing utterances, this was almost invariably due to loss of phrasing. This applied to me also as a hearer; and recognition of individual words was also dependent to a great extent on the stress being in the right place. As soon as the phrasing (and melody) were corrected, meaning would
The Year Of The Child
come back into focus. This pointed very clearly to the facts that structure is more than syntax, and meaning is contained in more than vocabulary; I had previously been insufficiently aware of this in my teaching, tending to regard melody in particular as an embellishment rather than an essential. The times when Shakti spoke in Hindi were very welcome, giving me a chance to test to what extent I had sharpened myself to receive the sounds of Hindi, as opposed to producing it. I found that although I had had the opportunity of listening attentively to my fellow students produce Hindi, this exercise had not equipped me to understand a native speaker. Many sounds entered my field of cognition only then. It therefore opened up a whole new area for me to work on, to which I had not had access before. Charlotte Balfour
1 We have just published a booklet “El Dominio De La Ortografía Española” in which a thorough study of Spanish orthography is offered to teachers, and a large number of suggestions are made to assist teachers in their teaching. It is generally believed that Spanish writing does not present a challenge in any way comparable to that offered by English, because the Spanish Fidel covers an area one eighth of that of the English one, and because there are 32 signs on the first, while there are 400 on the second. Still, as soon as the proper questions have been asked it becomes clear that it is not accidental that so many Spanish — speaking people who are high school seniors or college students still make spelling mistakes. Spanish orthography presents specific problems, which also need to be treated specifically. That is what this text does. It is at one and the same time a scholarly work made available to the general public, and a practical compendium which will be of immediate use to bilingual teachers and to those who teach spelling to natives and to foreigners. Since each language makes different demands on students, no proposal concerning a new language can be a translation of another similar proposal already in existence, nor even a direct adaptation thereof. The work done on three languages (English, French and Spanish) has indeed been undertaken as three separate projects, their only link being the name of the author and the use of the Fidels.
The Year Of The Child
2 One of our new colleagues, Ms. Charlotte Balfour, had an opportunity to introduce The Silent Way to Italian teachers of English in Genoa (Italy). As we have come to expect, the response to her demonstrations with youngsters in schools and the interest shown by adults with whom she spoke, were both positive and keen. We look forward to seeing this new contact develop as have previous ones in other countries. 3 Linda Warren, a former colleague of ours and an experienced Silent Way teacher, was in Geneva in January as a guest of Face Ă lâ€™Education, to teach a 60-hour intensive German course on our behalf. She is known to all those who have studied with her (either English, French, Spanish or German) as a dynamic and demanding teacher. In this last course she tried out the new set of German word charts which represent an improvement on the previous (1969) edition. There are now 12 word charts, with increased vocabulary and improved layout. Two of them in particular represent an innovation, since they are designed to be used as one, and display the means of handling all irregular verbs with much greater ease than was possible before. 4 There is now a new edition of the Italian materials too. In it, certain aspects of the language which the old charts did not bring out explicitly, have been taken into account, coordinating the fruits of our experience of the last eight years of teaching Italian. In particular the two new verb charts (5a & 5b) which, together with #6 for irregular verbs, display the complexities of the Italian verb system, are an invaluable improvement. Our colleague Cecilia Bartoli has been invited to go to Rome in March, by the Comitato Tecnico Linguistico of the National University of Somalia, to present our way of working to teachers of Italian as a second language who have the difficult job of preparing Somali students to enter the University of Mogadishu, where Italian is used for all instruction. The two seminars in Rome may lead to longer-range collaboration between the Comitato Tecnico and us, with the possibility of setting up a pilot program in Somalia.
5 During the conference of the Quebec Association for the Learning Disabled, taking place in Montreal in March as an event for the Year of the Child, Dr. Gattegno will be delivering the keynote plenary lecture under the title “Where Do New Ideas Come From?” This is the second Sam Rabinovitch memorial lecture, commemorating the Montreal leader in the field of the learning disabled, who died in 1974. At the same conference, Dr. Gattegno will be presenting Absolute Visual Reading in at least one seminar. There seems to be renewed interest in this common sense way of teaching reading to the deaf, which has been available since 1973 but has not received the attention it deserves.
About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesnâ€™t require his students to memorize anything, he doesnâ€™t shout or at times even say a word, and his students learn at an accelerated rate because they are truly interested. In a world where memorization, recitation, and standardized tests are still the norm, Gattegno was truly ahead of his time. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1911, Gattegno was a scholar of many fields. He held a doctorate of mathematics, a doctorate of arts in psychology, a master of arts in education, and a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry. He held a scientific view of education, and believed illiteracy was a problem that could be solved. He questioned the role of time and algebra in the process of learning to read, and, most importantly, questioned the role of the teacher. The focus in all subjects, he insisted, should always be placed on learning, not on teaching. He called this principle the Subordination of Teaching to Learning. Gattegno travelled around the world 10 times conducting seminars on his teaching methods, and had himself learned about 40 languages. He wrote more than 120 books during his career, and from 1971 until his death in 1988 he published the Educational Solutions newsletter five times a year. He was survived by his second wife Shakti Gattegno and his four children.
Published on Nov 10, 2009