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The Year Of The Child The Child In Every One Of Us

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno


vol. IX no. 1

September 1979

First published in 1979. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1979-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-296-1 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555

The last three issues allowed each of us to look afresh at the early years of our lives. This new outlook allows us to meet the best in ourselves, whether we are still living in later years what we were in our youth or have replaced these absolutes by some other one which absorbs all our present energies. In this issue we ask a question that can be answered by all those who remain in contact with themselves: “What have we done with the child and the adolescent we were?” This question, (rather than: “Where has the child in us gone, been lost?” which is one-sided) and its answers, will perhaps teach us something valuable. Must we look at the years which are past as bygone, and at those to come as unrelated to the spiritual work done by us in the first 15 to 18 years of our lives? We have tried to relate as objectively as possible to this question, and we believe the results are of interest. Our readers may have a lot to add, and we hope to hear from them. This Newsletter, when it began at the end of 1971, was a vehicle for internal news to be circulated among our own staff, then operating in California, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. as well as New York. Our staff are now mostly in New York, but our readership has expanded to the extent that is now worldwide. We are proud of the confidence generated in so diverse an audience and are happy to report that libraries in a number of institutions have now put our Newsletter on display for their readers. Perhaps we are reaching many more people even than our mailing list indicates. As always, News Items close this issue.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 : The Child In Each Of Us ...................................... 1 Chapter 2 : Rediscovering The Child In Oneself .................... 5 Chapter 3 : Where Is The Adolescent In Us ......................... 13 3A Quotations From Quest/79 June Issue pp. 23-29 ......................17 Chapter 4 : An Awareness As A Symbol............................... 19 Chapter 5 : Something New On The Silent Way Horizon ..... 23 Chapter 6............................................................................ 29 News Items ......................................................................... 31

Chapter 1 : The Child In Each Of Us

In these nostalgic words the sensitive 17th century writer taught me something that unfortunately I needed to unlearn as soon as I discovered that most people, by growing up, became impoverished. Still, I know I have retained something from Madame de Lafayette’s profound observation. In our youth we are adventurous, we do not wait to act until we have projected the outcome. As grownups we calculate the cost in energy of our moves, and avoid excessive expenses. We then think of ourselves as wise (sage). The noticeable difference between grownups and young people may require more than regrets to be truly understood. In this article, rather than dwell on what separates us from children I will examine the child in myself, though not in the Freudian sense (of the child being the father of the adult) which stresses the burdens we carry in later years from our tender years’ experiences. I have deliberately used clichés above, because it seems high time to me that we stop indulging in sentimentality based on ignorance, and look at our youth with more precise and reliable instruments. Like everyone else, I know that what I am now includes what I was. However, since at some past moments what I was was then described as “what I am,” I can only say that what I am now includes what I was then plus what I became because of what I was then and am now. This last “because” is not as simple as “Ça aoûte cher de devenir sage ça aoûte la jeunesse” cause and effect. It means, rather that I can find as


The Year Of The Child

part of the complex causes of my movements (inner and outer) what I perceive at a given moment. It has a place, though it is maybe not the whole. My vision of myself as someone who has had experience, who is somehow wise in some areas, is valid because I know that I have experienced all the time, that I have been wise all the time but not necessarily about the same things. I must understand why I have given so much of myself, for so many years, with so much passion, to what looks to so many like merely marginal activities which could be dispensed with, but which in fact none of us has ever dispensed with. I am in time. So are all others. I spent some of that time in my mother’s womb. I was born apparently totally dependent, like all others. But a keen observer would have found that there were countless tasks I took care of, never leaving them for others. To enter into these tasks I needed an intelligent guide within, and I found it in my knowing what there was to do, and in doing it until the objective criteria illuminating the activity, the situation and the learning resulting from it were met. So many of my present automatic functionings were produced by myself in the years when I could not be touched by much that existed for others and meant a lot to them. Outsiders only saw that what was meaningful to them had not much significance to me, and saw me as lacking in something which growing up would provide. In doing this, they missed altogether what I was really doing, what the meaning of my life was to myself then. In the first three issues of this Newsletter in The Year of The Child, I tried to propose a lighting on these questions which would justify the several five-year periods which each of us goes through before earning the title of grownup or adult. Here I want to consider what it means to maintain in myself, as an adult, those attributes of being which indicate that there is still alive in me today the baby I was, the boy and the adolescent I was, maintained precisely so that their contribution to my meaningful life can consist in making it meaningful. This I arrived at in two ways. One, by teaching myself what it means to be serious and responsible in achieving what could best be done at a 2

Chapter 1 : The Child In Each Of Us

specific time, and then once and for all; and two, by learning that to live at the level of the challenges one has to encounter is to be with them rather than with the distractions that happen to come along with them. A conscious, serious and responsible learner is what I was then, and have been so often that I know from the inside what it is. This is the case for most others. I am sensitive, selectively, because I cannot cope with everything. But my sensitivities have widened and multiplied by my dwelling in them. And seriousness has not meant joylessness. At first I knew that, being very close to my soma, I could be present in my sensory cells and in the state of my muscle tone. This served me as a way of knowing in the absolute of perception. I could then provide myself with the miraculous instrument of speech, as well as make my sense organs function both synthetically and analytically. Being present in my senses was necessary in order to look, listen, taste, smell, touch and affect the world. I will never have to learn these things again for the rest of my life. This is true of almost every one of us. In this way I gave myself ways of knowing, and since they work well I do not now need to be aware of them. It is in this way that the child and the adolescent in us are alive and well, even if unacknowledged by those who use them all the time. It is the baby in me who studied so carefully how the muscle tone of my lips can be varied pinpointedly to achieve particular ends; that learning is called upon again when I study a new language and want to pronounce its sounds like a native. It is still the baby whom I use when I look to see details against backgrounds where shapes and colors intermingle. The list is endless, and only by keeping the above questions in my consciousness all the time do I find what I consistently owe to my earlier ages. I only gain greater and greater respect for my earlier years (and the role of the absolutes we looked at in previous issues) as I become more sensitive to the remarkable help they gave me in so many circumstances by making me so good at learning. There is nothing “infantile� in ourselves in early childhood unless we are made at later stages to favor behaviors which are at variance with the demands of life on us. We, as children, were as much knowers as we are now, though we needed then to know what cannot be called


The Year Of The Child

social, political and economical. Our intellect was very active although it was not the specific object of our special involvement, as were other things. It was our intellect we used to make sense of the contents of the verbal universe which we needed to acquire. We had to find out, accurately and quickly, that words correspond to concepts, and these to classes, which as adults we now do spontaneously and without any doubt. Activated by the absolutes of the past, the numerous ways of knowing which we developed over eighteen years or so remain in us, at our disposal but wholly integrated and definitely subordinated to the absolute of today. That is why we refuse to acknowledge their value and sometimes even their existence. Having to be fully given to the demands of today that assail us in their novelty, we may find more to impress us in our failure than in all we can do naturally well. We know ourselves as learners in the social, economic and political arenas and all our previous competence in the perceptual, active, affective, and intellectual worlds is taken for granted and not appreciated if we do not manage to be on top of challenges in the new areas we live in consciously. Because we cannot see as clearly what to do to be successful socially and politically we have not time to transfer the qualities of our previous successful learnings to our present ones, and the absolute of our outlook on life does not help either. Still, if we can concentrate for a while on what we owe our earlier years perhaps we can reap unsuspected benefits. The first benefit is that we shall know ourselves as competent, serious and responsible, all qualities required for many jobs in our commercial society. The second may be that we shall know others for what they actually are at the level of living they are in: clumsy learners at the beginning of their exploration, masters of skills at the end of their endeavors. This may produce harmony between the generations.


The third, and the hardest, may be that we shall value the time given to learning and discover the laws of learning and apply them to our present life.


Chapter 2 : Rediscovering The Child In Oneself

When we become sensitive to our remarkable achievements in our own early childhood, we ask ourselves why it is that we cannot match such performances in our own spheres of activity at later stages. Of course, some grownups not only match them but even surpass them, though the majority feel that learning new things, new skills, can be painful and costly in time and energy. It may not be so difficult to begin the search for the lost baby, or the lost boy or girl, or the lost adolescent in us. The first step is the most important and, as it makes its appearance, it tells of an evolution to come. A chance encounter may cause us to take that step and to be struck by the ease with which we suddenly experience that indeed that baby exists in us. To make this search systematic is one of the objective of true adult reeducation until the day when every one of us consistently maintains these ways of working alive within, thus doing away with re-education. A good number of people working on awareness at our seminars have managed to allow that creative aspect of their past to reach the surface and to remain conscious.


The Year Of The Child

The movement is in part intellectual, but only in part for the actual qualities and attributes of learning must be felt and recognized as being those of the energy of one’s self before they can be made available for transfer to the new tasks coming one’s way. Nonetheless, since most adults are intellectually trained and competent, there is no harm in trying that route first. As babies we had to establish the channel between our experience in uttering the sounds we willed and the voluntary somatic system formed by our breathing system, our larynx (in which the muscle tone of the cords can be altered at will to vibrate in specific ways), our tongue, our cheeks and jaws which can be affected as we wish and, finally our lips which are visible as muscles with a tone that can be altered voluntarily. Next we can compare this to our auditory system, which is so little voluntary. A baby can know exactly how to play on the various keyboards of all those muscle tones to produce precisely the energy variations it projects, and know from within that each is achieved. Our self is present in every one of these willed exercises and aware of what exactly has taken place in each case, holding somatic tracks of the amounts expended as well as of their complex combinations. A baby can also educate its ears and make them into the monitors of speech which they soon become and remain forever. Because all babies educate their ears they can trust that if they listen they may hear and learn to apply their somatic criteria to make sense of the “alien” chatter in their environment and thus relate to the language around them. We can now see that intellectually, babies have grasped the temporal hierarchy involved in learning to speak their native language. This is done by first creating “a language” of their own as a unique flow of distinct willed sounds, and by blending them together. Then, in giving that flow the objective attributes of a distribution of energy they can produce a flow similar to the one they perceive in the actual native speech around them, minus the associated meanings. These meanings are mostly associated to sets of sounds in an arbitrary way, so that the sounds by themselves convey only their own structure. 7

Chapter 2 : Rediscovering The Child In Oneself

A baby knows the difference between listening and hearing since the first is concerned with the presence of the self in the auditory apparatus, and the second tells that outside energy has been allowed to reach the eardrums. Babies also know the difference between what is immediately meaningful (energy) because it affects them directly, and what is not so (conventions) but is agreed upon by covenant between utterers and listeners. Babies therefore act correctly and exactly all through their apprenticeship to the language and manage to sort out well and effortlessly one of the hardest tasks of their life; learning to speak. And this is done ordinarily before the age of two. Such an analysis of the use of our powers is not so difficult to understand technically. We see that it only requires awareness to be understood. But it is a little harder to grasp the fact that it is done effortlessly by all babies. This is because we cannot easily imagine that they do things for themselves, not being concerned with pleasing anyone, nor accepting rules that do not make sense to them, nor engaging in games imposed by others. To all these, babies turn their backs saying a symbolic and resounding “No! We do not want to be involved in this.� And they get involved in something else which, to them then, seems the right thing to do. To discover the baby in me is to know that I have a sense of truth that nobody gave me or showed me, and which I cannot do without since it guides all my spontaneous steps and lets me trust all the feedback I receive: from the respondents to my actions, within me, or in the natural and social environments. My sense of truth tells me that I can believe what I distinctly perceive, and, later on, that I can believe what is associated with perception, even if expressed via codes — arbitrary but consistent codes. My sense of truth, being a mark of my awareness of what is, makes it possible for me to guide my own steps, my own learning, and to change course when I am unable to move further. Because of that sense of truth and certain attributes of the self (such as awareness, will, sensitivity, intelligence and so on), I find that in the 8

The Year Of The Child

same way as “no one can eat for me, and I, get fat,” no one can learn for me, no one can replace me in seeing, hearing, observing, noting, interpreting, etc. Therefore I engage most of my time in doing my thing. This is even true if I decide to be passive and let others lead me. For, then too, no one will see, hear, sleep, eat, etc. for me. The baby in me is still at work every-time I sleep, for I have slept every night of my life, and every night kept alive the workings I brought with me into the world ex-utero. So at least during that fraction, of my life which is spent in sleep I remain the baby, I remain the maker of my inner life as a continuum that unifies my life and makes me know myself as one person all through life. The same sleep will be effective in integrating in that same continuum that is me, the activities of the infant, boy or girl, and of the adolescent. Such integration is a complex operation where a great deal of sorting out must take place, and where the past is challenged by the present and by the demands of the future, and in the process changed. Just as we feel fresh and ready to face the coming day after a good night’s sleep, we can recognize that we give ourselves a lot of leeway in how we meet what comes, preparing ourselves for it by the constant sifting and clearing which is our night’s work. This Integration is not a reduction of the unknown to the known — the already existing that comes from what was unknown — but a true dialogue of energies coming to an original compromise which makes life livable. By understanding sleep as the way we maintain our mental health, we see its importance and its need and why it is cherished by all of us. But its existence also tells us that we must integrate the present by letting it illumine our past, constructed daily over the years. By seeing life as something to be lived now, and as producing our past which remains present in us, we project our actions into the future, we realize that the self that does all this all the time has to be — even if in altered forms — the same self, giving itself adequate foundations to be free to meet what comes. This is equivalent to saying: “I am the baby I was, the boy or girl I was, the adolescent I was, the young man or woman I was,” and that now I make discriminate use of the contributions to my present life of each of these periods. Indeed, each


Chapter 2 : Rediscovering The Child In Oneself

is characterized solely by the amount of learning, of awareness, of insight, of wisdom, I extracted from the process of changing my time into my experiences either while everything was happening, or later; or, on reflection, in my sleep. What I am now is clearly what I distilled from the many events of my life and their impacts on me, from the way I molded my way of being so as to take into account what I received from what I was living inwardly as a result of both inner and outer impacts. If I am the baby, the boy, the adolescent etc. I have been, I am also their transforms by their co-presence. I cannot be as innocent as I was as a baby, but I can sense the meaning and power of innocence simply by knowing how much more powerful it made me then in my encounter with what came. I cannot be as involved in the activities that led me to animate my environment and to be a master of many actions as I was when a boy, but I can make myself keep in contact with the process of extending the range of my actions by transforming them into virtual ones, thus remaining linked to actions (to maintain a sense of the constraints of reality) while gaining the freedom virtuality provides. I cannot be the inexperienced adolescent who throws himself into the turmoil of uncharted emotions, but I can feel the value of passion, of enthusiasm, of my affective powers in all my involvements, even though all operate within the boundaries of control generated by reason and the consideration of reality. But I can be the pure intellectual I was in my pre-adult years delighting in the rarefied air of lofty thoughts, all-embracing generalizations, syntheses, analyses, though now within a more consistent project which can be set in any one of the fields into which I have an entry. I can be the social being who endows society with the dynamics which make institutions seem living, powerful, purposeful organisms, comparable to somatic ones, and myself create some institutions to reach ends I perceive are valuable to me and others. By doing this I render homage to the experience of past years, its thoroughness and genuineness, the presence of absolutes, now less compelling, and I understand who I was, why I was what I was, and what all this did to make me what I am now. I can then find space in


The Year Of The Child

myself for all those others who are what they are for very good reasons. I can also think of how to weave the lives of others into my life, without distorting them, but allowing them their color, tone, significance. My impatience of yonder years vanishes. My tendency to flatten the world of complexity into a schema that suits me, is held in check. I see the sun capable of warming all of us equally without any demands from anyone, and that makes a place in the sun the birthright of everyone. I have been so many people in one life, always striving to be myself as I appeared then in my absolute of consciousness evolved to that level, that now I see everyone as many evolving beings capable of making themselves, with passion and labor, whatever their vision tells them they could or even ought to be. Rediscovering the child in us is a process of liberation which comes to us with several concomitant components: one that stresses our sense of truth, another that tells us how much we have already achieved, another that points at the universes to be explored, another at the limitless future, another at the need to be responsible all the time, another at the fun of being engaged with others in meaningful activities, another at the permanence of mystery in our inner life and in our expanding universe, and no doubt many more that point at other ways of being. Because of all this, it seems essential that our re-education not be restricted to learning new things. It would seem, rather, that we should make it a point to aim at the rediscovery of the child in each of us as we reach the state of adulthood, which today, for most of us, still means living in an absolute: the social one. The educators in particular will find it extremely helpful to consider it part of their evolution to live now with all their own absolutes relativized: and not as an idea. In their capacity to evoke the true climate of the genuine experiences of their earlier years, they will find bridges of understanding between themselves and all those who come their way. Today we can say, knowing it to be true, that to serve others — as we must in education — is to be aware of the reality of experiencing as it manifests itself in every one at various ages. The complexity of the situation that results from this awareness guarantees that we are truly


Chapter 2 : Rediscovering The Child In Oneself

of service to others and that we shall not make the many errors which pit generation against generation and lead to despair in education today. Because the infant, the boy or the girl, the adolescent are still alive in each of us the task of rediscovering them in each of us is manageable and that creates a unique and strong hope in the future of education everywhere. It can become a commonplace fact instead of appearing as an ideal as it may well be to many. One by one let everyone of us in education make this very important discovery. There is nothing which it is more important to begin with.


Chapter 3 : Where Is The Adolescent In Us

When we pass beyond adolescence we seem to lose interest in that crazy person we were, and soon we even disown all the “normal” acts of that period characterized by passion and mental lability, as well as strong dedication to ideals. We no longer want to know how it was possible that the stable and practical person that we now are was ever susceptible of being involved in the excesses of those years. It seems that we can quite often kill that person who was us, to the point of not being able to recall the intense years we lived as adolescents. For most, it seems that this state of affairs is the true trend of the evolution of social beings, which humans believe they are. But we could also hold another view and reach very different conclusions in the field of application of our outlooks. In the previous issue of this Newsletter devoted to Adolescence, we have already looked at the absolute which colors all we do in those years: the need to know as thoroughly as possible the universe of emotions and of feelings. Without the stress of that absolute we would not understand why, in the life of every one of us, there is in that period a passion to experiment all the time with one’s feelings and emotions and develop in oneself the categories belonging to that universe and their connections. We said that what we lose of the adolescent when we grow up does not consist of the outcomes of those years, only the passion (that Madame de La Fayette qualified as “jeunesse”). The


The Year Of The Child

outcomes go on being integrated by the next absolute so that it can express itself properly in the world of the intellect or in society. Behind our new purposes in the intellectual and social universes, there remains a tone of being which provides the energy needed to go on studying or acting in social spheres. We do not quite dwell in this tone because we dwell in the contents of our involvements. It is nevertheless there and essential. Our enthusiasms, our excitements, belong to the adolescent in us. Our illusions and our disappointments as well. As soon as we can perceive that, besides the thoughts, ideas, even images, there is energy at work, a dynamic present, we can, without risk of being wrong, say that it is the adolescent in us who shows us that he or she is still alive. One of the common manifestations of the adolescent in us is the readiness in the adult to be touched by the physical beauty of another person. We began looking at its existence in a deliberate manner in our adolescent years and let it put its mark on us as more experience came our way. Indeed, not all of us have the same criteria for beauty in, say, the other sex. All of us have our criteria formed in complex ways over the years but deeply linked to what we discovered to be pleasing at the time of our concentration on the universe of feelings, i.e. during our adolescence. It is also during our adolescence that we debated whether such or such a value would guide our life. Our peers pulled us in some directions, the grownups in others, but essentially we followed our bents and tastes and allowed ourselves to have a course in life that was compatible with our temperament, make-up and environment. The fears of others, and the gregariousness that gangs presuppose, develop at that time because we are centered on our feelings and particularly on our loneliness — which we may not like. It is during our adolescence that the vastness of good causes affects us and changes us into evangelists of all creeds, including the materialistic. Without the sense of gift of oneself, who would become a volunteer in campaigns to defend justice, rights, one’s country, one’s faith? Who would accept to assist in catastrophes if not moved by the 15

Chapter 3 : Where Is The Adolescent In Us

common good? That one takes a glimpse at the common good already tells us that affectivity nourishes our intellect and our social visions — affectivity that became a separate reality during adolescence. Of course, for many people affectivity is not a distinct notion. The word is hardly used in the English literature even in psychological circles. Most people are ready to speak of ideas, of methods, of systems etc., but they do not feel the need to use the language of energy i.e. of affectivity. Still, no one can be moved, can use their mind, without some energy expenditure, and ideas to be “held” ask for some energy too. If one feels “involved,” “engaged,” “part of,” “excited,” does it not tell that the dynamics of being are mobilized at the same time as one perceives a field? Ideas excite, that is, they go beyond an intellectual grasp. The presence of affectivity suggests action, social or otherwise, giving ideas a territory. Hence It is easy to find the adolescent in oneself: it is encountered every time one’s affectivity is known to be present in what one is engaged in, whether in thinking, acting in some social capacity, or in projecting actions in an environment. Mastered workings of affectivity are those which are selected to become an automatic part of one’s functioning in the new activities at the levels where new absolutes are present and at work. The integration of affectivity in post-adolescent living demands that the work on affectivity be completed or almost, and that explains why it is possible not to notice the presence of affectivity in so many aspects of our ‘‘grownup” existence. For those who do notice, the explicit handling of affectivity makes a world of difference even if they never refer to their adolescence. Everyone knows when he or she is in the presence of a radiating personality, of one who has charisma. The radiation, the charisma is a sign that those who possess it have deliberately kept affectivity at the center of things. Every gesture, every utterance, every glance is colored by the presence of the awareness that that person is in contact with something in us that reaches us deeply, that is part of our personality and transcends events and history: our affectivity in fact. The contact is experienced as spiritual because we are made aware that that person lives genuinely beyond the contingent, the customary bookkeeping of a


The Year Of The Child

give for a take, that that contact will make us grow in a manner we find desirable with our whole being. We lose the sense of investment and reach the sense of giving ourselves. We know that our move is justified now, and no sense of the resulting consequences of our gift stops us, or even occurs to us. We feel given, we know the meaning of faith and, unrelated to reason, it sustains us. In looking for a national leader, grownups in a nation tend to use that move. They condemn previous leaders on the results of their actions but they accept new ones on the basis of a sense of their charisma, their as yet unproved power to be better leaders. The public give themselves to the leader of their choice, i.e. do what they did in adolescence: have faith in the one who inspires, who moves one, and participate wholeheartedly in projection, in ideals. The adolescent in each of us is also at work when we endow nature with features that inspire us. The beauty of mountain peaks, of landscapes embraced by hills, woods, valleys, the sense of greatness in large canyons and glaciers is a projection on what is outside, of what flows within. Romantic feelings are re-emergences of adolescent ways of living. Only the driest of the driest would not concede that we are vulnerable to being touched by beauty in one of its expressions: in music, in dance, in art, in architecture, in literature, in love, even in religion, in the sciences and the crafts. In our adolescent years, most of us learned to relate intimately to beauty. The lover in us, in particular, is mainly nourished by the integrated adolescent who has done so much work in that area of living, who has given his or herself the solid basis which will last us the rest of our life. The adolescent in us may make us reckless but it also makes us know what is truly of value in our lives. I see so many people show agreement as soon as they let that truth reach them. For others, adolescence does not seem to be as important a part of their life as we consider it since they are overpowered by the idea that they only really grow as adults within their society by facing the challenges of economic survival and progress. All we can do for them is to hope that they will ask themselves some questions, such as: 17

Chapter 3 : Where Is The Adolescent In Us

1. “When did my eyes see beauty consciously for the first time?” 2. “When did I perceive sadness in romantic music?” 3. “When did I find that I needed a close friend, someone to trust and be trusted by?” 4. “When did I feel that I really fell in love?” 5. “When did I sense that I meant something to myself?” 6. “When did others gain an individual reality for me?” and many other questions that are pertinent to regaining the sense of those important years. Blessed are those who never lose touch with their adolescence and who can say joyfully: “These acts or actions or thoughts are ones which the sensitive adolescent in me made me experience now in a true and genuine manner.” The sensitive adolescent makes the grownup sensible. All of us owe an immense debt of gratitude to the adolescent in us for our capacity to love and to serve. I am sure of it! 3A Quotations From Quest/79 June Issue pp. 23-29 Jules Feiffer . . . . “The premise is that as a child you actually have more control over your life than you do as an adult, because in infancy you are forgiven your many irrational demands. Grownups have to be more sensible, more compassionate, more willing to negotiate.” Charles Addams . . . . “Perhaps this is why children are my best audience: they see their own fantasies in my work, which helps them fight off reality.”


The Year Of The Child

George Booth . . . . “The world of my Missouri childhood is still in my head. It’s not just the ceiling light bulbs and makeshift wiring in my cartoons; it’s the memories of sitting with my mother, who also draws. Before I was big enough to whistle she was doing a caricature of herself with a long nose and a long chin and a strong personality. I turned this character into Mrs. Ritterhouse, the main figure in the musical group I often draw.” Frank Modell . . . . “Then one day when I was sick in bed, I was given pencils, crayons and a sheaf of hotel stationery to keep me amused, so I started to draw. To my surprise, my mother, my father, the family doctor, and the lady who came to clean, all thought my work was wonderful. It wasn’t so much the art I enjoyed, it was the visibility I was getting.” Andre François . . . . “I often draw or permit what I know of things, rather than what I see. That is how children proceed, too.” Reprinted from the June issue of Quest ‘79 by special permission. Copyright © 1979, Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, All rights reserved.


Chapter 4 : An Awareness As A Symbol

Once upon a time, not too long ago and not so very far away, there lived a Capricorn who, true to her goat sign, showed interest in climbing. She would climb one hill because of its peculiar shape, another because of its rocky terrain, and still another because its vegetation attracted her. And so it was that for some time the climbing of these hills satisfied her yearning to be in the loftiest of places. Her eyes gazed at the hilltop, but only to provide her with a grand view of her task. She would begin where she was, never missing a step, always sure of her footing, eyes never fixed to the top of the hill, but always with the task at hand (or at foot, as it were). Because she had acquired a certain mastery for scaling the local hilltops, and since they no longer provided her with challenge, she began her search for loftier peaks. There was much talk of a hill so tremendous that it might possibly take one’s lifetime to scale it. Why, indeed she had never seen anything like it in her life. It was so mammoth that one had to step back away from it to see the top. She wanted to own that mountain. How to reach the top? No amount of bouncing or leaping could get her there. If only she were an eagle.‌


The Year Of The Child

She was not to be discouraged, for lo and behold, there were many with a vested interest in her journey to the pinnacle. To make the climb easier, entrepreneurs at the base of the mountain were selling ladders of success. Now indeed, this should make the climb easier. After all, weren’t the rungs placed neatly and orderly for all to achieve the loftiest of ambitions? All that was required was that one follow the necessary steps. There was great festivity and joyful celebrating. “Buy a piece of the top.” “Free maps. Quickest way there.” And an endless variety of “How to-” books: How to Climb in 10 Easy Steps It’s OK For Me to Climb, It’s OK for You to Climb How to Dress Like a Climber Finally, tucked away among some esoteric literature of the day, she discovered a book which intrigued her. It was called The Common Sense of Climbing, written by the obscure and little known Kay Lubb. It was this book which served to remind her that she could not climb with her back to the mountain. What was she doing with herself when she had climbed hills? She remembered that she had not been concerned with the hilltops themselves, but with the climbing.


Chapter 4 : An Awareness As A Symbol

Right now I am where I am, she thought. And with that she began her upward trek, this time no fixed destination in mind, only knowing that she wanted to climb. And the little Capricorn lived happily, not ever after, but in the now of her being. Valerina Quintana


Chapter 5 : Something New On The Silent Way Horizon

The intuition that learning a new language can be an effortless sequence of intense and lively experiences has found expression a number of times in my writings and seminars. I recall a Silent Way workshop in Paris, two or three years ago, when it became clear to me that we had the means to reach that level of smooth performance, experienced by the individual involved as effortless and by the observer as clearly demonstrating that some part of a language has been acquired. Of course, in teaching, we all meet more often than not: the opposite, it is not uncommon to find many people making huge efforts and still learning very little of a language they have enrolled to acquire. We all have evidence that learning a language is not easy. But we still have no right to conclude from that that learning a language cannot be made into an effortless activity. In fact, during a week long workshop held at the end of August at our headquarters, fifteen language teachers witnessed its truth. In my introductory workshops on The Silent Way, I present its technology through definite exercises rather than through expositions and lectures. The participants are exposed to six or more languages. They discover how the learners are helped by what we ask them to do, 24

The Year Of The Child

by themselves becoming the students of the various languages. Every seminar or workshop is structured not only so as to reveal the properties of the techniques and materials of The Silent Way, but also to allow us to find something new even to the originators of the approach. For myself in particular, every seminar becomes part of my research laboratory. I work on those aspects I need to know better, on the boundaries of The Silent Way as I define them today. When these experiments yield more than we knew already, we know they are valuable and can be integrated in the overall investigation represented by The Silent Way since its inception. Although some people would like to see The Silent Way coming out of a mold and prefer a rigid unfolding of definite exercises, I, who made it come to light, am only satisfied when I see it become more itself and serve, in my hands, to alter itself as some inherent property in it makes itself evident. I therefore come to each teaching situation ready to see anything new which manifests itself, and I make my discoveries while teaching — a very effective way of advancing in one’s research while delivering to those who come what they both expect and pay for. In the aforementioned workshop everything we did contributed to making the truth in the statement that “It is possible to make language learning effortless” come to the fore. We first worked on Arabic for 90 minutes, using the Sound/Color Fidel. A number of the participants not only had to work on uttering sounds as Arabs do, but also to learn the use of this Fidel, which was new to them. The task appeared feasible to most, and all understood the value of the instrument in eliciting from them coherent statements, never before heard by them, in Arabic: observing correctness of sounds, stresses, phrasing and melody. As a result they were ready, only one hour later, to acquire Arabic numeration. This Arabic class showed participants that: 1. they had an entry into Arabic, and a pleasant one;


Chapter 5 : Something New On The Silent Way Horizon

2. a completely new system of numeration could be acquired in one hour; 3. uncertainties could be by-passed; and 4. one’s intelligence and one’s common sense can help one to retain the language better than drill and repetition can. This time I did not present written Arabic as I had done on other occasions. The Sound/Color Fidel and the oral work we did on it were sufficient on their own to produce the basis for a complete survey of numeration up to one billion. In a subsequent experiment with the same participants, the Chinese Fidel (which is a Sound/Color Fidel with white dashes to indicate the tones) was used to give a one-hour lesson in oral Chinese. The novelty here was that a new challenge was grafted upon a foundation which I knew to be shaky, i.e. that the participants had only recently met a Sound/Color Fidel for the first time. The Arabic Sound/Color Fidel was used as an entry into the Chinese one and, to our amazement, we found that what we wanted to do in Chinese could rest on what we had done the day before on Arabic, however uncertain we had been in that new language till then. Knowing that the only acquaintance anyone had had was 2 hours of learning the day before, it could hardly have been expected that such swift progress would take place in Chinese. But it happened. In the next lesson on Chinese Character Chart # 1 was used. Their acquired knowledge of the color code and the practice which had been given them on the tones made it possible to have the class learn, from the chart, how to say an eight word sentence whose meaning could be made clear with the rods. The class was also able to produce, with complete understanding, a dozen alternative sentences by substituting some sounds and characters for others when appropriate. Not a single sound came from anybody but the students. Once again we found that if we know how to involve people’s sensitivity and intelligence they learn much more, much more easily and retain, without knowing how, all that they have been exposed to. The next language was not named. It was also introduced through its Sound/Color Fidel which represents vowels, syllables and consonants,


The Year Of The Child

and as before was approached through the connections this has with both the Arabic and the Chinese Fidels. Statements in that language were produced in the same way as in the other two languages, and soon afterwards they were illustrated with the rods. What was new was that when Word Chart # 1 was hung on the wall the class could read the writing and find the words illustrated earlier by simple scrutiny of the sequences of colors. The language concerned is read from right to left, and those students who found this as a matter of course and without any prompting were able to use the pointer to show the sequence, and to utter the words in the order of that sequence with a truly remarkable pronunciation of Hebrew. The feeling that some extraordinary things were happening electrified the atmosphere. This was intensified when two students, who came in turn to the chalkboard, wrote a statement without hesitation in white chalk that had been read by the class from the charts. Starting on the right, the first student placed four words, one after the other, on a horizontal line in a beautiful handwriting that had never been rehearsed — this we ascertained, since it seemed miraculous. The second wrote a sentence of eight words. The two students maintained that there was nothing to it, that it all seemed easy and logical. To the others, and to me, it truly seemed a revelation, mainly because it was all done so effortlessly, without any explanation or suggestion preceding or accompanying the activity, not even (on my part) a concentration on the words, so that they cannot have been caught by ESP. It was indeed incredible that what happened could have taken place. I was moved by the ability of these grownups — full of prejudices about language learning — to acquire in no time such a mastery of what everybody considers difficult but even more by their inability to see at that time that they had lived something extraordinary. The next day we worked on German in the morning and on Japanese in the afternoon. On both occasions our experiments once more proved very rewarding. In German the statements we worked on involved the three meanings of sie and the verbal forms that go with them, as well as those that go with the other pronouns. They were spoken and written with such ease and assurance that the effortlessness of learning began to be accepted by all, and to be perceived for what it was. The difficulty


Chapter 5 : Something New On The Silent Way Horizon

of the exercise, and the amount of material involved, would never qualify as the contents for a first lesson in German. But there it was, learned very well by five students who had never before been exposed to the language. The rest, who watched, commented that it was so much easier and clearer than they had ever thought it. A native speaker commended the quality of the flow of utterances reached in 90 minutes and acknowledged that such a standard was not reached by her own students except after months of study. The Japanese one-and-a-half hour lesson was still more spectacular — mainly because there were two Japanese teachers among the group, and an American who had been in Japan for 5 years and knew the cost of learning that language even in such a conducive environment. These three were able to assess the lightening progress made by the class of seven students. The Fidel we used only showed Katakana characters. From it we obtained a statement of fourteen words that could be uttered at once in a manner any native would recognize as Japanese. The Word Charts # 1, 2, 3 were placed to the right of the Fidel, and the students were asked to show the words that had been formed by pointing to their component parts on the Fidel. These words were written vertically, and no one had been told this. Since the statement being worked on was already known orally, the student who was pointing knew whether the statement had been completed or there were other words from the statement still left to be indicated on the charts. Just as in the Chinese lesson the day before, someone was asked to write the statement on the board in white chalk. The student in question was surprised to be asked to do something he had never done before, involving a new script and different alignments, but accepted the task. The result, after a few moments, was perfectly legible to anyone who could read Japanese. Only the spaces between words were not as regular as they usually are. The experiment in this case concerned the transference to a new task of the ease acquired earlier with four different languages, studied for about two hours each. It proved that these learners had gained enormous confidence in their ability to enter into a new language and to chew a chunk of it at a pace and with an ease no one had previously suspected possible. The fact that ordinarily, people do not consider


The Year Of The Child

effortlessness, and instead stress difficulty and struggle in learning was brought to the fore as perhaps one of the most important lessons of this experiment. Although there were no spectators all was clearly spectacular all the time. The participants were now sure they had witnessed the cumulative effect of the ease in learning that made the notion of effortlessness a reality. They used that word freely, although it was a new concept and a shocking one in view of the fact that their experience in teaching, had mainly until then, brought everyone’s frustrations to the fore. The last experiment took place with the French language as the object of study for the students. Again in 1 hours of teaching with the Fidel, all the sounds of French (including u, en, on, un, in, oin, gn) were used (without any modeling) with ease, precision and an unmistakable Frenchness. In the next hour this ability was transferred to reading from a book. Evidence that with such brief preparation people can read the very complex French orthography, with its many mute sounds, was, until then, nonexistent. It was uncertain whether anyone would be able to make the transference from color-coded Fidel to black and white. Reading French aloud for the first time was indeed a tall order. But the class within our class managed it remarkably easily. With only “no” uttered by the teacher to draw more attention to the act of looking for clues to solve the problems, each student managed to read two short sentences from the book, and to do it well on the second trial. The main feedback at the end of the workshop (28 hours later) was that so many of the ideas which the participants had brought with them about language learning and teaching now had a doubtful place in their mind. The week’s experiments had proved that effortlessness will be achievable when teachers know what needs to be known to run their classes as these were. “Effortlessness in language learning and teaching” is this not a beautiful theme for meditation by teachers? Caleb Gattegno


Chapter 6

The following text is taken from a paper by a teacher of French in a Massachusetts high school, and was presented as part of the requirements for the Diploma of Advanced Study in The Silent Way. We thought readers might learn some important things from it. You perched up on your desk and told us about the interesting new way you were going to teach us. And yet, it seems like that was ages ago. “This is probably the most you’ll ever hear me talk in one class,” you said, and I wondered what it was going to be like. Then we began, and it was intriguing. And now here I am, and it’s almost over. I’ve learned a lot this year, about French and about other things, and I sit here at my desk, surrounded by books, trying to put it all into words. I think that the most valuable thing I’ve learned in this course is not just a new list of nouns; not just the three new tenses; not even just how to sound perfectly French. This course has shown me that there does exist the learning situation which is calm and relaxed, where there is no tenseness and nobody needs to compete to be as good as or better than anyone else. Where students and teachers work together, as slow or as fast as they need to; helping one another, yet not ashamed to receive help. Where learning is considered a quiet, ongoing process that goes on every second of our lives, and that we don’t need to force it into ourselves; if we can just wait, it will be there. I did not know that such a perfect learning situation could be attained, especially in a public school, and with so many people together. But it


The Year Of The Child

has been attained, and though there is sometimes frustration, sometimes confusion, sometimes even anger — there will always be that, and we must accept it as part of ourselves. And even thought it has been there every so often, this year has been a beautiful and very satisfying experience for me. Sure, I know lots more French, but I also, more importantly, know more about people. I no longer see those classmates whose interests are not mine as snobs or shallow-minded people, but as human beings just like me whom I can try to understand and perhaps someday be friends with. A lot of things bothered me at the beginning of the year that I have learned to accept, if not understand, and I try very hard to enjoy people for what I can; if I can’t understand agree with them on some things, I try to disregard those points. Just like Bey, Alef, and the young journalist. Perhaps they can’t enjoy — or simply can’t understand — some things about each other, but they can still be wonderful friends, each appreciating as much of the other as she can. Oh, I’ve thought so much about appreciation and respect this year! It has become more valuable than ever to me to be able to enjoy what I can of people … but to respect everything. It is so important like the Albatross and the game with Pey, Bey, and Alef.… “Man at his best, like water, Serves as he goes along Like water he seeks his own level The common level of life.” I enjoy the comparison of man with water; both needing to bend — to accept their surroundings — and shape themselves into the forms that fit those surroundings. Thank you for a beautiful year. MJN


News Items

1 From a letter from Exxon about their use of the videotape series, English The Silent Way. “We recently conducted our first of English training in Pusan, Korea from July 2nd to July 14th, 1979. Eleven officers participated. Their grades after the course varied from very good to fair, the average being ‘good.’” 2 There has been a delay in the publication of “Readings in The Silent Way” announced in the last issue of the Newsletter for the Fall of ‘79. The pressure of work on some of us and our reduced numbers during the summer have not allowed us to do all of the many jobs necessary to prepare the text for the typesetter and printers. We hope to have the book on sale by January, and have already received a few orders for it. 3 The restricted printing edition of “Who Cares About Health?” is now at the printers. This important book will be reviewed in the next issue of the Newsletter. Taking the title question as the starting point for his investigation, the author ultimately places the responsibility for our own health in our own hands. Although not strictly a technical book, the text may find readers among professionals as well as among the public of lay men and women who want to know how the elusive concept of health has been handled by different groups of people over the generations.


The Year Of The Child

4 During four weeks in July a practicum for teachers of ESL was organized at Educational Solutions. Sixty students and nine teachers participated in an experiment put together, administered and run by Steve Shuller. Its success encourages us to offer more opportunities of this kind, where teachers of English and other languages can learn to be better users of The Silent Way under direct supervision and guidance. Announcement of future practicums will be sent out in our mailings, and will also appear in the Newsletter. 5 A 20-hour weekend workshop before the San Francisco TESOL ‘80 Conference will be led by Dr. Gattegno, for people who want to know what The Silent Way is all about. Dates: February 29-March 2. Location: (near the Conference site) yet to be determined. Fee: $100 per person, registration with a $50 deposit per person, can be sent in advance to our New York office.    


About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesn’t require his students to memorize anything, he doesn’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.

The Year Of The Child - The Child In Everyone Of US  

Newsletter vol. IX no. 1 September 1979