Page 1

Looking Back And Then Forward

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno

Newsletter

vol. XII no. 5

June 1983


First published in 1983. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1983-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-314-2 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555 www.EducationalSolutions.com


For the last issue of this volume of our Newsletter, it seemed proper to abandon the studies in depth — which made the last two or three volumes not so easy to read and may have required more time than subscribers wanted to spend on it — and to include here a pre-vacation article. Aimed at provoking prolonged personal examination of one’s life for which the summer break can offer enough time to most of our readers, it presents one such example. Though it will leave so much unsaid and vast areas of experience untouched, it justifies itself in that many of our friends, who keep this Newsletter going, have indirectly asked for it. In fact, they will find the answer to the question they put to themselves more than once: “How is it that solutions to educational problems so successful, so well-tested, so attractive, so inexpensive, and so durable, are only known to so few?” In contrasting this article with the following two reports on Expolangues (mentioned in the February and April issues) readers may have more reasons to be patient in order to get a still better answer — to their question above — from the large group of educators out there, rather than from one of the providers. The news items are indicators of more news to come from openings which just presented themselves and are calling for more research and development. If you want us to continue this Newsletter, let us know as soon as you can by subscribing to the 1983-84 Volume XIII.


Table of Contents

1 I Did It My Own Way.......................................................... 1 2 Expolangues: Two Reports ...............................................15 News Items ......................................................................... 21 1 The ESL Silent Way course in Denver, April 15-17, 1983 ............ 21 2 The Eskimo Project ...................................................................... 24


1 I Did It My Own Way

When is the right time for summing up, for taking one’s bearing and judging how one’s lifetime has been spent? Is it at the end of the year, every year? Many do that. Is it when one is asked to assess for outsiders one’s achievements (or one’s lack of achievements) as a fact sheet about oneself? Many have to do it, but do not do it with total sincerity finding good reasons for telling this and other valid reasons for not telling that. Today, I have my private reasons to sum up my life (which is much longer than I ever expected it to be and is still going on). The summing up will have to be summarized in order to fit into the space allotted it by this Newsletter format. I am ready to make this statement public because I believe readers may welcome it. *** Can the study of my life be done in such a way that my readers would find something in it which throws some light upon their own life? If yes, then it should be done and presented to them. Otherwise, it should be abandoned or done privately, face to face with a tolerant friend. Its appearing here tells of my belief that it is the first which is contained in this article.

1


Looking Back And Then Forward

Nothing of what I did, nor of what happened to me, for years, had any mark of distinction to be taken as a signal by me that I may be doing something with my time which was worthy of being shared with others. I was aware that my skin separated me from the world around and that my inner life was spent within that “bag” which contained not only my bones, muscles, blood, etc. but also my thoughts, beliefs, memories and feelings. When I moved around I took my soma, my mind and their contents and functionings with me. There was a complex unit which I intuited as being myself and I used the word “I” when referring to it. I was aware that others existed, but also that a huge mystery surrounded us all and that trying to come close to it would represent a worthwhile purpose for my living this life. Whether my findings would have any attraction to anyone else than myself, I only truly asked after my twenty-fifth birthday. Even then, I had many reservations. I related mainly with people I endowed with some capacity to inspire in me their sense of greatness. Since these were numerous enough I could easily have been busy with them the rest of my life. Since I had not had a chance of being in an academic environment to receive inputs from minds which were capable of stimulating me in person, or from peers struggling with similar problems, I had to generate all the stimuli myself mainly through reading, occasional lecturing and from teaching whoever was prepared to attend and pay me as their tutor. My main feeling in my relation to the universe of the intellect was that I could only be a parasite, living off the works of the gifted ones among whom I definitely did not count myself. I could not cite a single thought which was of any significance that I could really say was mine. But I could do that on behalf of many many writers and investigators encountered in my readings. At that time the meaning of understanding which occupied my mind was essentially that of reaching what others had found and to be really pleased when that happened. I was also eager to read the lives of the creative minds and to be told how they made their forays into the unknown always thinking that there was need for a special gift to do what every one of the named investigators had done. A special gift I had not received.

2


1 I Did It My Own Way

Thus, I was good at absorbing facts in a number of fields, feeling terribly in debt to so many whose work was all the furniture of my mind. It was so good to be in the company of great people, mainly among the dead, and if alive, far away and inaccessible and who would not deign spare a moment for this uncultured admirer of theirs who felt so small in comparison to all of them. During my thirtieth year, things suddenly changed. Nothing visible to anyone. My life went on along the same tracks, my isolation then barely altered in the circumstances of my life. But I became aware that my life was as unique as that of any one of the heroes that furnished my mind and I asked myself whether there was a source for the truths found by those who expounded them in the writings I so voraciously read. This source, as it came to me, at once was there at my reach. At my reach as easily as at that of anyone else’s. I had not yet found what to say that would resemble what I read but I could write these words (in a very irregularly kept diary): “If others can do it, why not I? If there are views of the world, why not mine?” Was there a view that was mine? At that moment, all I knew was that as long as I kept my lucubrations to myself and did not claim attention for them from others, I could put down what came to me sitting at a desk, or reflecting in my armchair or projecting to my ceiling when stretching on my bed or to the sky at the beach or at the swimming pool. My notes told me at once that “my only laboratory was my life” and because of its uniqueness I could not fail making original discoveries. Original! no doubt. Important! was another matter. For that I needed to find new criteria. It was then that the essential content of my paper on Moses (Newsletter Vol. XII, issue 4) came to me and I knew it was original but needed to be looked into so that I did not make a fool of myself among the biblical scholars and the authorities on time, on theology, on Semitic languages, on history, unknown to me. Forty-three years later — without having consulted these authorities (still unknown to me) — I

3


Looking Back And Then Forward

found I could share my proposals of that time, even if I am found to have fooled myself about the value of this insight. The awareness mentioned above, came at the time I received a book from Paris which I did and still do consider the most influential among the many which affected me deeply. “L ‘Education de Demain” had appeared a few days before World War II, and I was one of the few lucky ones who could spend the war meditating on its content. In December 1945, I met its main author, Jean-Emile Marcault. Five years later its second author, Dr. Therese Brosse, a cardiologist specially interested in the effect of the self on the heart’s behaviors. When I met Marcault, I showed him three papers I had published, which for me were directly inspired by his work. He did not agree that I could claim any affiliation between what I had written and his thoughts and experiences. I had to accept full responsibility for my conclusions which seemed to him far from the source of his thinking. I accepted that, read a great deal more of his writings and still thought him my greatest source of inspiration. We became friends and saw each other occasionally for the next two years. He had presented a book to the Sorbonne as his doctoral thesis, the year I was born, but it was not accepted. From him, I learned what it was to be ahead of one’s time. Marcault still is — 105 years after his birth, 25 years after his death and 72 years after his honoring the Sorbonne in vain. My paper on “The Structures of the Mind” appeared in 1946 in Cambridge, England in Mind. Its editor, the philosopher G.E. Moore, told me that it was particularly fit for his learned journal and that he would publish it in the next issue. But when I sent him a second paper in 1947, he rejected it vehemently writing that he had never read anything as preposterous since Leibniz’s “Monadology.” What he objected to was to become and remain one of the main instruments of my studies since the end of the war: namely that, “my soma is one of the objectifications of my self” (in the way this paper is). I could not imagine that a perennial challenge like the relation of the mind to the body, would not be offered yet another answer, the one I was writing about. The review Mind was not that open-minded then. That paper was never published, but from its content came a number of books of mine which are familiar to my readers.

4


1 I Did It My Own Way

My encounter with Jean Piaget in August 1946 in Paris, at the New Education Fellowship first post-war conference, started a friendship which could only last 6 or 7 years. I had known his work since 1929 and I gave him one of the three papers I gave Marcault, the one in which I had attempted to produce a mathematical (rather topological) model of the mind. While Marcault thought that to use a mathematical model reduces the reality of the spirit to the level of the concepts treatable by present-day mathematics and therefore unacceptable to him, who saw that many sciences are needed to make sense of that reality, Piaget was very impressed. He told me a year later that he kept that paper in front of him when working at his desk and that he found my approach very daring and needing further study from him. Our friendship grew when I produced a few papers on topics he liked to work on himself, and I offered to translate into English some of his books starting with, “Play, Dreams, and Imitation” and “The Child’s Concept of Number.” The papers were about the contents of the mind in some secondary school children in English schools. I used notions Piaget had worked on in his lab at the University of Geneva, but I was using techniques which yielded information about 30 or more children at the same time since they were in one classroom (where my students at the University of London were doing their practice teaching). I could take over some of the lessons and instead of teaching a topic I asked questions to which they would answer orally or in writing providing me with evidence I could collate and send to Journals. All of them were published; between 1947 to 1954 twelve of them in twelve journals, in as many countries. Although quite a number confirmed Piaget’s findings they did not lead me to his conclusions. I had been influenced by Marcault’s vision of an evolving mind and this was not Piaget’s concern. In my post-graduate lectures on Piaget’s work under the title “Psychology of Thinking,” I had the opportunity to present the details of his work to audiences that did not read French, but also to examine it from very close and hence to find the gaps in Piaget’s thinking. With my late friend, Frances M. Hodgson, who was responsible for the correctness of the language, two huge books of Piaget were to appear in English in 1950 and 1951. The first was done almost as an exercise in translation, but the second involved me much more since it was about

5


Looking Back And Then Forward

number and I had already spent between 15 to 20 years studying the subject under many guises. Piaget’s thesis was seductive and many fell for it. I did too at first. But as a translator, I had opportunities of getting stuck at a number of points, so that I suggested to Piaget that Part II of the published study must be different if he wanted the book to be published in English with me as the responsible translator. He yielded to my view and the English translation differs considerably from the original French. Piaget on that occasion did not find the strength to stand for his own belief and became intimidated by my conviction that there was a flaw in his work. A translation of his small book “Psychology of Intelligence” by two staff members of Cambridge University was sent to me at his request to vouch for its accuracy. I had promised to continue with this work of translation of the many volumes of his, not accessible to the English-speaking public, but soon I had to give up, for I found Piaget’s work less and less an accurate description of the same reality I was looking at through the instruments I had been developing since 1940 and which were flexible enough to allow me to accommodate Piaget’s correct findings. I did this until I worked on the translation of his book on time (The Child’s Conception of Time) which I had to abandon when I saw it as being hollow, useless and even misleading in its Fart II. Piaget refused my statement to him and others, that he was mainly concerned with establishing an algebraic model of the mind. This I could document in detail as I did in my 1952 and 1953 lectures on his work. His model appeared legitimate to me and it went as far as it could. But it was utterly insufficient for a true rendition of the mind of the children of the ages he studied and that I was also looking at, he in Geneva and I outside. In 1950, I formed the project of bringing under one roof a group of specialists who could contribute to a better understanding of mathematics and of its teaching. I named it the “International Commission for the Study and the Improvement of the Teaching of Mathematics.” Piaget agreed to be one of its founder members, so did Beth of Amsterdam, Choquet, Dieudonné and Lichnerowicz of Paris, Gonseth of the ETH in Zurich, Fiala of Neuchâtel, and others. Over the years, it has attracted prominent people from various fields. The

6


1 I Did It My Own Way

purpose of the commission, as stated in its foundation papers, was to study at different levels the challenges encountered in understanding mathematics and in making it assimilable by ordinary students wherever they were. This meant that in it there was room and need for working mathematicians; logicians and students of the foundations of mathematics; epistemologists; historians and teachers from university to kindergarten. The first gathering in August 1951 at the Herzberg in Switzerland, had precisely that composition and produced a remarkable launching platform for the work of the Commission, which is still going on 33 years later, with a broader composition spanning several continents. I was its secretary from 1950 to 1960, and I organized fourteen international seminars on its behalf. From 1947 on, I was engaged through another group of people in the investigation of the role of education in maintaining peace in the world. It was an ambitious project involving a new kind of group research and activities which were as broad and varied as life itself. Many new techniques of education saw the light, in one or other of the thirty or so youth and adult conferences organized in Western Europe under the aegis of the “International Training Institute” of which I was the unpaid director from 1947 to 1957. At one of these meetings at the Herzberg, in the summer of 1950, Dr. Therese Brosse (then working with an Institute of Harvard and with UNESCO) came to look at our work on affectivity with adolescents, which was also one of her preoccupations. She had heard at UNESCO of my Institute and the meaning of our investigations in serving as a proper foundation for education of the adolescent. She told me of Alphonse Gay, an electrical engineer from Lyon who had done some work on recording a psychosomatic phenomenon known among psychiatrists as “le Vittoz” because of Dr. Vittoz of Lausanne, who described it first. The following summer we organized a special 3-week workshop for an international group of adolescents and studied a number of matters of interest to Dr. Brosse, but also some others which I designed and Gay recorded. Those hundreds and hundreds of feet of tracings were so spectacular that we decided to produce a monograph which Gay and I authored and which was published in Switzerland in October, 1952. Dr. Brosse hung on to hers but to date none were made public.

7


Looking Back And Then Forward

What struck me most then, was that rather than study the Vittoz, I could use the Gayograph to grasp the dynamics of the mind on which I had been working only through the means of self-awareness and reflection. I visited Gay in Lyon where he used his home for mental patients which he studied using the Vittoz and to whom he gave therapy that disciples of Vittoz had devised. Gay was then also working to find the active element in homeopathic “drugs” and was also studying acupuncture. I became interested in those studies of his and plunged into Chinese medicine by studying the works of Soulié de Morant, the French revitalizer of interest (early this century) for these ancient approaches to health and its breakdowns. Instrumental location of Chinese acupuncture points became so fascinating to me that for months I could think only of them. Using the Gayograph to record the Chinese pulses and the locator to find the points given in the Chinese literature, I realized that I was not rediscovering something known but discovering something obscured by Western prejudices: namely, “the electromagnetic man.” This discovery of 1951, I only wrote about in 1974 in a chapter of that title in Part I of “The Mind Teaches the Brain” and again in the chapter on Chinese Medicine in “Who Cares About Health?” (1978). Universally ignored, it is no less real. Those few years 1950-53 were among the most fertile of my life since I was producing not only a new synthesis of a number of human endeavors but making a number of, what seemed to me, momentous discoveries in a number of fields which justified the scatter of my early studies of the previous quarter century. At the Herzberg in 1951, when Piaget saw all these strange photographic recordings with the yograph, he exclaimed: “It will make a lot of noise” and I said, “I rather hope that it sheds a lot of light.” At Melun in 1952, at a meeting of the Commission, (during an intermission) in an experiment with the Gayograph when Professor Dieudonné was the subject, two onlookers gazing at the microammeter said to him: “Are you silently evoking a Chopin Mazurka?” It was 8


1 I Did It My Own Way

precisely what he was doing. And the instrument was linked to his tibia. There too, Piaget told the group: “Gattegno does not get his information from the instrument, but directly, he is the instrument.” What to do with this information or discovery, I was never sure. In April 1953, on a lecture tour, as the guest of a Belgian province, I presented among other things new phenomena with my portable Gayograph attached to a cathode-ray tube. It all seemed magic since I could exactly forecast what the spot on the tube would do if the subject did this or that. The study of human dynamics was paramount in my mind and I was planning long-term researches which seemed needed to give objective bases to my proposal which started in 1940, that we could develop a synthetic science of man now that we were able to consider complex matters in complex ways. But that was not to be. The knocks at the door to do something else came in unforeseen. First, on that Belgian tour, by accident, I was introduced to Georges Cuisenaire and his rods for teaching arithmetic to those who fail to learn in traditional ways. Then almost 4 years later in Ethiopia, I encountered the challenge of eradicating illiteracy with, in between, finding uses of the rods to teach foreign languages which in 1963 were christened: “The Silent Way.” I wrote a lot about the eye-opener in April 1953 which came to me in two schools in Thuin (Belgium) and resulted in my indoctrinating thousands of teachers all over the world in the uses of the rods for arithmetic. But I rarely spoke of the dilemma I faced during May and June when I saw I had to choose between the call to continue working on human dynamics and the new call which clearly appeared to me like this: who has the right to let millions, if not billions, of children everywhere in the world suffer in their studies of elementary mathematics when it could become a life-giving joy?” I decided, I had not. So I gave myself fully to extending Cuisenaire’s gift to me into one for every child in elementary schools and to their teachers. Every day I learned how to do it better and I contaminated a few people who went on doing it in a number of places.

9


Looking Back And Then Forward

England was still under the war and post-war strict governmental economic control and could not import rods from Belgium. So, to have rods available, I had to solve the many problems of their manufacture. I also had to be registered at the Board of Trade in order to distribute them enabling me to recuperate the investment of a bank loan, guaranteed by my meager university salary. Five years later, there were eight Cuisenaire companies engaged in the same dissemination job in so many countries plus agents in a number of others. At the same time, I wrote the twenty texts and many articles that made explicit my pedagogy with the rods. These were translated into several languages and used extensively; they are still found in various places. My visit to Ethiopia was a fluke, but momentous in my life. During the occasion of replacing a U.N. expert, not liked by someone in power in Addis Abeba, my name was suggested by someone who had heard of me, and I was summoned. I knew nothing of the circumstances of this offer and I accepted to go for a 3-month mission at the end of 1956. I found the challenges there so refreshing that I agreed to return and work on a second mission from September 1957 to August 1958. Instead of asking for a leave of absence from London University as was suggested, I resigned, sure that my place in the field of education was not compatible with my narrow university duties. I learned months later that the U.N. job had been contested and that it was secured in August only merely because the powers for and against my return almost balanced each other. One of the opponents was a colleague who claimed that I did not know how to limit myself to the specifications of my mission and that I trespassed on his turf. Indeed, I did not know how to limit myself and, as a fool, I took my mission seriously. Having discovered how easy it was to learn to read Amharic which uses 251 characters in its traditional form, I offered to share that discovery with the native officials at the Ministry. This was a trespass, but that seemed to me of no importance compared with the cost, in time and money, of the illiteracy campaign obtaining then in a country with 97% illiterates. But that colleague had strong support in the local U.N. mission and at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Still, I was offered a contract for the second mission. These were twelve months of intensive learning and of

10


1 I Did It My Own Way

extensive production, as well as of understanding what it can mean to work on a scale which transcends boundaries of sex, age, nationality, economic level, subject matter. Beyond the many actual solutions of this or that problem, I learned to use my time to get greater yields per hour for myself by allowing the challenges to guide me to their core and by avoiding distractions. After my time there and with no job to report to, I went round the world a number of times, meeting teachers and administrators and giving demonstration lessons, whether I knew the children’s language or not. This too, confirmed that I had found ways of working in education which suited inhabitants of the earth rather than national or regional groups. The huge task in front of me got structured in — 1

what I had to do personally, and was possible for me in my circumstances, and

2 what was to be left to others even if I stimulated them in taking definite steps. So far, I had had no financial support from any quarters and did it through what my lectures and royalties generated. In 1957, I visited the United States for the first time with £100 in my pocket (or $280), the amount the British Government allowed its nonbusiness people to take out of the country in foreign currency plus some paid-up tickets. In New York City, I had time to spend in (free) library seats to look at numerous publications on education. What I learned was that the material wealth of the United States and its free compulsory universal public education has not solved the problems met by teachers everywhere. Here, it was clear to me, that the general acceptance of behaviorism as the only acceptable way of looking at human learning, was leading nowhere. I understood that there was as much need for a renewal of education in this huge youthful and wealthy country as in small, poor and ancient countries. In particular, I was struck by the small trust everyone had in teachers as solvers of the problems in their own classroom. They were made sterile by the educational establishment and this made me very sad. For me, the reform badly needed in education could only be carried out by the

11


Looking Back And Then Forward

millions of teachers each facing a relatively small number of students. So long as the mechanization had not yet reached the level of dispensing with teachers (as in the car-wash business which could dispense with personnel) that was the case. Since there were still millions of teachers in the classrooms of the world, whether unionized or not, they needed to be shown what had not been made obvious to them, namely, that every student must do his or her own learning. Over the years, in the United States and Canada, I offered a large number of seminars and workshops under the title: “Let us increase the yield per hour in‌ math, language arts, foreign languages, etc.â€? They were often well-attended and I learned to serve better every day until, having gone to the United States in January 1966, to become more than a visitor, I learned that that was not enough to make a dent. The seventeen years of residence in the United States brought home the extent of the challenge in front of me. I had given myself to solving problems as if I still were a mathematician, i.e. once written up and checked for accuracy and perhaps significance, it was offered to others. Whenever it was not picked up it either stayed where I left it or I had the opportunity to take it further myself. My duty had been welldefined by myself and to myself, as stated above: do what you can and leave the rest to the others. But it did not prove true. The public, being what it is, expected more from me. I did not quite fathom how a commercial society solves its social problems. I did not jump onto its bandwagons. I closed my eyes to many components of the whole operation I was part of, believing I was entitled to do only what my true gifts and developed talents allowed me to do with my time and my means. I had taken a number of steps in every one of my projects and did not take some others which I suspected existed but could not make them appear as urgent. In a number of ways I was wrong, and I must accept the consequences of these neglects. Although theoretically speaking, it was wise to do what I could do best and not waste my time doing what I had not yet tested as possible for me, I had put myself in a certain complex content and allowed myself to be touched only by part of it. My lot was to do the jobs of a cohort of people and I did not prove to be up to it. My social efficiency was much smaller than it appeared at first. My educational technologies however adequate, attractive, even beautiful, failed to come to the notice of those who would certainly benefit from them and who were lingering in classroom after classroom 12


1 I Did It My Own Way

wasting their time, the substance of their lives. I had left to the word of mouth the job of converting the public. Valid in the expansion of religions and over centuries, such an approach to the public can only succeed in the short run if a large number of favorable circumstances come together, but they did not quite make it in my case. I needed additional awarenesses and the ability to translate these into actions. When in 1969, I became active in the field of video and TV, I seemed to have got a number of good leads to follow in the creation of the proper educational technologies but there too, it stopped short too soon. No doubt that what I did is compatible with the nature of the medium, its enormous powers and the results obtained looked like having enormous potential. There it stopped. When in 1979, I considered the transfer to the newly-born microcomputer, of some of the techniques developed over a quarter of a century, again it proved feasible thus widening the technologies. I could offer to increase yields in education through the subordination of teaching to learning. But here too, the hiatus between creating the adequate response to the challenges in the educational fields and making them known, acceptable and accepted, remains wide. *** As a scientist, I know that only facing the challenges gives me a chance to find answers. As a scientist, I have seen my challenges change and change and become all the time broader but also more precise. I could not avoid leaving working on one thing and embarking upon another, for the meaning of continuity, in my case, was precisely to grasp the next aspect of the fabric of my life and prepare myself to see it reveal itself as it was, and then adjust to it as promptly as I saw it and I could. While this constant change takes place within, I, the scientist, can note for myself and for everyone else, this kind of dynamics and study it. I ran long (90 hour) seminars on difficult topics and used these opportunities to return to my preoccupation with human dynamics although the instrumental part has not yet been taken up. The 1940 model gained a great deal of precision and I see a very close connection 13


Looking Back And Then Forward

between what I spend my time on now and what everyone would have found needed to be gone into if one wanted to advance in one’s studies. In fact, my treatise on the Science of Education, (only partly published as separate chapters) required all that which happened to me in those 42 years beyond the 30 earlier ones. If it had not happened I would have had to make it happen. I find that my general readiness at the end of this life is made of the numerous local readinesses to take up seriously each of the challenges life brings to my notice. What I was more with was the grand design, but the public was not told of it. Instead it was offered: an instrument taking care of the spelling in English; or another, best suited to meet the demands of subtraction of integers or of fluent speech in a foreign language and so on. My general readiness is to make the maximum contribution to what I see as being the meaning of this life for me and that of human evolution. Just as a twister or a lightning brings an end at random to something which belongs to the general fabric of nature, my unforeseen neglects take their tolls and after the event I acknowledge the damage and must live with it whether I like it or not, and whether others do the same or not. There is so much more that is still left around after we discount what has to be counted as gone forever that on the whole, it all looks statistically steady. That is why there is some wisdom in the phrases: “There is nothing new under the sun,” or “Plus ça change et plus c’est la même chose” “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” Taken together, errors and successes balance each other and if we know how to be at peace with both, there is room for a definite meaning in one’s life. In mine this is the case. Caleb Gattegno

14


2 Expolangues: Two Reports

1 Expolangues, an exhibit of all branches related to the business of languages (editors, schools, translators, computer and video companies, etc.) took place at the Grand Palais in Paris from January 28th to February 1st. It was the first international exhibit on languages ever held in France and the first of its size and scope as well. Because of this, no one was sure, at the beginning, of the nature or size of the public we would reach. Nevertheless, it seemed that given the list of participants, the presence of a “Silent Way” stand was imperative. Educational Solutions, New York City and United Kingdom, along with the French associations (Pour l’Education de Demain, Paris; Une Ecole Pour Demain, Lyon; Une Ecole Pour Demain, Besançon); Face à l’Education, Geneva; L’Ecole Internationale de Genève; York House, Barcelona; and the Abon Language School, Bristol; all participated in representing the “Silent Way” which was both the collective name and the “raison d’être” of the stand. The stand, although small and simple, was attractive and colorful, thanks to the charts of Spanish, English, French, Hebrew, Chinese and German which were exposed. We rented video equipment and had tapes of the “Silent Way” English or Hebrew series constantly playing. The youngsters of the Hebrew tapes seemed to draw people better than the adults of the English series. However, of all the video tapes played at other stands, the “Silent Way” series were the only ones in which the

15


Looking Back And Then Forward

learners were on the screen learning. This was pointed out to us several times by visitors to our stand. In all, some 27,000 people came to Expolangues and we figure that we saw easily over 1,000 people a day. Most of the visitors to Expolangues were from the Paris area; 60% were professionals and 40% were from the general public. The news media were well represented too and the “Silent Way” appeared briefly in a few magazine articles as well as on two news spots on national television (Channels 1 and 3). Most of all, what attracted visitors to us were the colorful charts and the great activity at our stand. From the time the doors opened on Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. to past the closing hour (19:00) each day, we were constantly welcoming crowds of people, asking for explanations, demonstrations, and addresses. Although we learned ways to express in a few words what we felt was fundamental to distinguish the “Silent Way” from other ways of learning, we saw how much more efficient it was to work with people on something in one language or another. This was useful because it engaged people in activity immediately and gave them something concrete to ask questions about afterwards. Teachers found it very “convincing” to see “students” working. Often people came to our stand saying that they had never been able to pronounce certain sounds or to grasp a particular structure in a language before. After working on these problems with them for a while, they left happier and we had a stronger understanding of the need for this type of problem-solving work here in Europe where so many learners are non-beginners. We all noticed that the trend now in France seems to be more learneroriented than even a couple of years ago. Teachers speak with more concern about their students’ learning and less about the content of lessons, even though in practice, really helping learners is still difficult to achieve. Many of the stands around us displayed computer games and language tests which made the “Silent Way” stick out even more as an approach to learning through perception. Many fellow exposers saw the “Silent 16


2 Expolangues: Two Reports

Way” as an interesting “complement” to what they were offering and sent people over to see us. Participating in Expolangues was worthwhile in that it brought the “Silent Way” to many people who were looking for something to help them in language learning or in their teaching, but otherwise would never have heard about it. The general attitude to the “Silent Way” was very enthusiastic. So many visitors, especially teachers, could not believe that the “Silent Way” has been around as long as it has without their knowing about it. Participating in Expolangues also put the “Silent Way” in a more serious context than it has been in, here at least. This made it easier for people to listen. Once they do really listen, the job is a delight. Expolangues brought many new contacts, some of which are very promising. We have been asked, in Paris, to do several demonstrations in the next few months. Moreover, people are asking for further information on language study in their area or summer study “abroad” in the “Silent Way.” Now it seems necessary to try to meet the demands to a larger extent than we have been able to do in the past (more courses, more languages, a more varied timetable). As the interest grows, it is important that we all be able to satisfy, within reason, the demand for further contact with the “Silent Way.” Barbara Villez (Paris) 2 For 4 days at the end of January, 1983, an exposition of language-teaching methods, materials, machines, centers and organizations, all billed as Expolangues, was held at the Grand Palais in the center of Paris. Several schools and associations in Europe, all of which are actively involved in working with the Silent Way, collaborated with Educational Solutions (USA and UK) in sponsoring, organizing, and staffing a small Silent Way stand. Teachers from all the cooperating organizations helped run the exhibit, explain the Silent Way materials, and give demonstrations in English, French, German, Hebrew, Mandarin and Spanish. Video cassettes from the two series English, the Silent Way and Hebrew, the Silent Way, were also shown continuously, thus allowing visitors in front of the stand to work alone, 17


Looking Back And Then Forward

while other demonstrations were going on in different languages inside. According to Expolangues organizers some 27,000 people visited the exposition, one of the high points of which — once again according to the organizers — was the Silent Way. As one of those who staffed the Silent Way stand, I can say that several thousands stopped by the exhibit and many of them participated in short classes, left their names and addresses and took away brochures. The “classroom space” or stand measured only 9m2 or about 90 square feet and was decorated with Silent Way charts in various languages. As they were the only “equipment” needed by someone with a pointer and access to a box of rods, there were often as many as four simultaneous demonstrations in as many languages going on. Crowds formed in front of the stand, and while some visitors worked using the video tapes, others pressed closer and began participating in one of the other demonstration lessons. Initial reticence and perplexity frequently turned into involvement in solving the problems posed by the movement of the pointer, teachers’ gestures, rod situations, or another participant’s confusion. Often participants switched from one language to another, changing games in the process. Children and adolescents worked with adults, and sometimes beginners had a chance to try something out on groups of native speakers, who happened to be in the stand at the same time. Other native speakers, who wandered in to ask about “All those colors,” found themselves involved in trying to work out the different colored “s” ‘s on the first English chart or the tone system on the Mandarin charts. Most people I saw, met or worked with, opened up, helped those around them, broke into smiles or laughter, left their addresses and asked for a brochure. One woman came rushing up to the stand, chanting, “Finally, I’ve found you.” She told the story of having met a Swiss couple on a small Greek Island who had given her an address which was no longer valid. She had been trying to track down the Silent Way for 10 months. She stayed to work in Chinese and came back the next day to work in English. Two young boys, 10 to 13 years old, were 18


2 Expolangues: Two Reports

invited to work in Mandarin. A Chinese delegation happened in just after the beginning of the demonstration, and they were astounded and very pleased to see two obviously European children reading Chinese characters. The boys worked on a series of short phrases and different verbs and pronouns in Mandarin and were asked to include the Chinese in what they were doing. Finally, in French, a Chinese woman said, “It’s very interesting, that they don’t know what they are saying.” At which, one of the boys turned to her and said, “But It’s obvious. It means take a red thing and give it to me or to him or to her.” A group of French graduate students at the Institute of Oriental Languages also heard about the stand and came over to find out more. We worked together on exchanges possible with words from the first Mandarin chart, and I found myself in a very comfortable conversation with them. There was a French teacher of Russian, who had just observed a demonstration and who wanted to know how to get the Russian charts. There were French teachers of German, wanting to know how one dealt with declensions. Business people wanted to know how long it took, teachers wanted to know how you learned how to do it and children wanted to play. In general, everyone was delighted to have fun. In fact, there were so many people wanting to do and doing so many things so constantly that working from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. went by in a flash. To outsiders it must have looked like a madhouse. I lost track of chronological time for hours on end and upon noticing it, realized that it was 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. and that I forgot to have lunch. On the last day, it seems that those staffing the exhibit simply had to start taking the charts off the walls to convince the visitors that it really was over. And now that it is, what conclusions can be drawn? 1

Even under what seems to be very unfavorable conditions (crowds’, noise, confusion), the Silent Way can be an enjoyable and efficient way of working.

2 Under those same conditions, it will even attract people to come in and ask questions and ultimately work on a language. It even permits total strangers in an exhibition to start speaking to one another, to help one another and

19


Looking Back And Then Forward

to work together on a common problem without giving importance to whether they should be or not. 3 The Silent Way allows students to gain mastery of a limited domain rapidly and to extend that mastery to other areas. Students can see what has to be done, see that they can do it and will do it if the teacher is sensitive enough. 4 The materials of the Silent Way can engage students of any level of proficiency in a language and often students of vastly different level simultaneously. 5 Teachers, using the Silent Way, do not have to be native speakers of the language they are teaching for their students to impress native speakers. But they do have to be at peace with what they are doing and remain attentive to the varying registers of feedback they receive from their students during a lesson. 6 They only require summary wall space to be used. 7 Working efficiently with the Silent Way can alter one’s perception of time because of one’s involvement in the activity. It is similar to seeing a good movie or reading a good book. A teacher or participant can become aware of it and use it as feedback to increase his efficiency . 8 Working with the Silent Way can make more sensitive to other areas of potential (e.g. participating in an exhibit, helping organizing it) and he or she can accept peacefully and readily.

a participant responsibility to finance it, responsibility

9 Because of this, groups working thousands of miles apart can present the Silent Way attractively in a common exhibit at a comparatively reasonable cost (the cost depends on the organizer). 10 Persons staffing such an exhibit can enjoy themselves. Allen Rozelle (Geneva)

20


News Items

1 The ESL Silent Way course in Denver, April 15-17, 1983 Organized by two educators who wanted to give an opportunity to their colleagues in the area to work with the creator of the Silent Way, they found the fees by asking three professional associations to contribute one-sixth each and invited seventy-five participants to contribute the rest. More than 100 registered. They were mainly ESL, bilingual and foreign languages teachers. The few exceptions were students or visitors in the area who accompanied their friends. The Friday evening sessions were taken by a study of the acquisition of one’s native tongue. In this way it became possible to introduce all those teachers to the basis of the subordination of teaching to learning. Accustomed to taking notes and to thinking that learning requires a teacher, they struggled a great deal with the idea, new to them, that no baby acquires his mother tongue by doing what they believe is demanded by all language learners: imitating the people around. But the majority managed to become sensitive to the remarkable feats of the very young to crack the code of their spoken language. The number of new facts brought to their attention was sufficient to make them change their perception of that field. Saturday was dedicated to the acquisition of new languages via the Silent Way. Thirty participants using the Sound/Color Fidel of Greek worked for 80 minutes and managed to utter statements they never

21


Looking Back And Then Forward

heard before and which were considered very similar to native utterances by three Greek-speaking people present. Another group of about thirty participants took their place for another 80 minute session and the lesson continued as if there had been no replacement of one group by the other. This time the rods were involved and reading Word Chart 1, to discover the words that had been uttered without any presentation of the Greek alphabet. Thus, sixty of the participants could experience — 1

that it is not necessary to have a native model the new language for the students to know what they have to do and to it very well;

2 that the pointing at colored rectangles is sufficient to trigger the proper sounds; 3 that the essential of an oral language is made of the energy distributions over the duration of the utterances provided the stresses are translated into more energy and the words are merged into phrases and these modulated by a melody. Intonation as energy added to the melody provided a new insight into how babies solve by themselves the creation of the receptacle in which words will be placed in time; 4 that the spoken vocabulary represents above all a number of specific combinations of the sounds of that language; 5 which are made to correspond to some perceptions which then give those their meanings. The after-lunch session was given to the experience of IĂąpiaq: the Eskimo language. Twenty participants formed the class. The Sound/Color Fidel was quickly mastered because of what had been done in the morning, proving once more that learning by proxy is possible and helpful. Then the word chart for numeration was hung on the wall and read without any reference to anything. Following that the very special Eskimo system of counting was proposed by simply pointing at the words on Chart #N and at the digits written in turn on the chalkboard to correspond to their Eskimo names. In less than one hour the majority in the class could provide the names of three figure numerals which require as many as nine words merged together and to

22


News Items

find it all logical in spite of the newness of the components. For example: 758 is read as, five-two five-twenty, two-twenty ten, fivethree, or in Iùupiaq (tallimat malguk tallimakipiaq sisamakipiaq qulit tallimat piùasrut) with only the experience of naming the numerals in the usual Silent Way array. A person from Alaska who was assisting Dr. Gattegno in the lesson by passing or not what was being shown to the students commented at the end, that much of what she heard was very respectable in terms of pronunciation and as flow of words. Not counting that everybody in the class understood what was being said. At the final feedback session of the workshop one of the participants volunteered that she woke up on Sunday telling the Eskimo names she was certain she would never remember and feeling powerful because of this selected retention. This session was a true experiment since it was the first time Dr. Gattegno gave a lesson in Eskimo, a language he barely encountered four weeks earlier. The last session of Saturday was an eye-opener. The class was made of two men, a German and a Moroccan, who were fluent in English but had the need to improve their pronunciation. It was to form the first of a series of studies of English for the rest of the workshop, the one concerned with the Sound/Color Fidel. For more than an hour Dr. Gattegno tried to make them relate to the colors of the vowels as triggers of specific sounds. The German student managed after a while to get the connections right but not the Moroccan, who seemed not to be able to hold more than two connections for good. Hence no real learning took place as far as these two men were concerned. But for the class it became a great lesson, for, indeed, there we had an experienced teacher striving the best he could to find how to establish something which generally works so easily, and not succeeding at all. The teacher’s experience, imagination, concentration, effort, were of no avail. Clearly, only if the student does what is needed learning takes place. By refusing to do the little required, this student proved the paramount part he plays in transforming teaching into his learning. There was only that little absence of that discipline which is required to work pinpointedly and it became everything. The student had all the other endowments, of intelligence, imagination, linguistic skills (he speaks four or five languages) needed but did not allow himself to do the job required here. Nothing else served.

23


Looking Back And Then Forward

The Sunday sessions were used respectively to learn a little about the techniques associated with the Sound/Color Fidel, the spelling Fidels and the Word Charts in conjunction with the rods. A few participants were given a chance to actually use Visual Dictation with the Fidels and the charts but all were mobilized by the exercises with the Word Charts which revealed so much of the English language which was new to almost all the ESL teachers present. The technical side of the Silent Way became clear to most. The foundations of these techniques and these materials were not treated at sufficient length to let participants leave ready to try their hands at once with their respective charges. Still more were impressed with all that has been needed to create this approach and its means of implementation exemplified by the set of 21 ESL Charts. The Friday evening presentation and discussion had ended with the proposal that if a teacher knows how to relate to the baby still alive in every adult, the learning of languages can be effortless and for good. Now, was the time for assessing this contribution of the Silent Way to the study of a language most of those present were teaching. They found that contribution: explicit, wide in range, precise, appealing to all senses, both overwhelming and soothing since for the first time they could encompass the totality of spoken and of written English.

2 The Eskimo Project It all started with an initiative of Mr. John Schaeffer the President of the NANA Regional Corporation of Kotzebue, Alaska. Concerned with the loss of interest of the young generation for their tribal language, he suspected that perhaps it was possible to revive that interest through a new approach to them and the language. He wrote to a person he knew at the top echelon in the United Nations asking for suggestions. That Assistant General Secretary passed on the request to the head of the UNESCO liaison office at the United Nations headquarters who asked Dr. Gattegno to contact Mr. Schaeffer directly if interested. Such requests are welcome but work on it could only start when —

24


News Items

1

Dr. Gattegno would know he could do the job properly, and

2 Mr. Schaeffer would accept to commission him to do it. The first point was met when a package of books and a tape came from Kotzebue. The second, when a native was sent to New York City to examine the work done and decided to recommend the project. Mrs. Sampson went to Denver to attend the Silent Way workshop after 3 days of work with Dr. Gattegno in New York City to ensure that the content of the charts was usable by her in the high school of her village where she can have a class of adolescents to involve with the kind of teaching she saw demonstrated in Denver. It is difficult to convey in a few words what this language is. Its study coming soon after those of Lakota and Hungarian (a few weeks earlier) demonstrated that if we manage to become aware of the work done by the creators of language it is easy to link that work to the ways babies use to acquire their mother tongue and come up with some appropriate answer that displays its principal features on the Silent Way charts. The multiple revisions of the various proposed units of the Silent Way materials for iñupiaq ended up with the existence of one Sound/Color Fidel, one Fidel Chart and 12 Word Charts which hold what can be called the essence of the language. It also can display “the spirit of Iñupiaq.” In the Eskimo language, many “things” occur which — although 10,000 years old — will be new to the users of any of the languages we are most likely to have encountered in the commercial societies we know of. To make sense of those “things” requires all the resources we all have as babies. In fact, only in looking for the criteria babies use to penetrate the language in their environment was there any hope in coming up with an answer to the request from Kotzebue. As a result, the dominant role of working simultaneously on the dynamics behind the transformations and on presence to the various distributions of energy, became functional.

25


Looking Back And Then Forward

Most of the items on the charts are not completed words but those bits of words which through some definite algebra produce these numerous very long words which in other languages are sentences. Lakota had already shown the importance of such insights for students and teachers alike. In Iñupiaq it is more so. Hence it is understandable that teaching that language through drill and repetition may end up with failure due to incomprehension and boredom. A number of lessons learned over the years when working with languages like Arabic, Thai and Lakota, which demanded a total renewal of the teacher, brought to the fore the profound need for algebra in order to create those languages. Thus it is permissible to say that they are “mathematical” languages which from little (axioms) and transformations (algebras) produce the totality of each language. This is what helped in finding the little we must give newcomers to Iñupiaq and that which generates the criteria which display the innards of the formation of words as carriers of definite transformations aiming at conveying specific meanings. Of course, the organization of the lessons so that no confusion is generated by the teacher and the time is always effectively used, require teacher preparation. Iñupiaq is the first language for which a summary teacher’s guide has been written to serve users in Alaska to teach their own language to their young generation and give literacy to the old one. *** On May 5th, Ruth Sampson gave a demonstration in Kotzebue Alaska, and made a very brief summary of the event on a telephone call to New York. Apparently the elders were pleased to see their language given a form which can more easily be assimilated than in the past. Those who have been involved for some time in the solution of the same challenge want to have more proof that what was being offered has greater chances of being successful than their present proposals. Hence, a test will be designed and, if possible, carried out before the beginning of the coming school year. 26


News Items

On May 18th, a call from Kotzebue offered a working visit of Dr. Gattegno in Alaska. On June 24th, a one-day seminar with the bilingual teachers of the region will take place (which will be their last day of a three-week long course). Following that a five day seminar in a retreat will involve local guests of the NANA Regional Corporation in an intensive study of education and its renewal. It is hoped that the lessons learned at that seminar will allow a report to be produced for the Newsletter of next September for the benefit of our readers. It certainly represents a first in a number of ways: location, composition of the group, intensity and local significance. *** The ten days May 27-June 5 gave an opportunity to Dr. Gattegno to offer locally to people in Los Angeles, three language classes and one Silent Way teacher-education course. Organized by Roann Altman of the University of Southern California on the premises of its American Language Institute, a French I weekend course of 20 hours for beginners, included people who knew no French at all and others with four years of study of that language in High School and College. It was difficult to decide who was benefiting most from that intense beginner course. Three evening French III 15-hour course aimed at advanced students. The same materials used for I seemed to be as functional for those who came with a vast vocabulary but also with doubts about their production of sounds and structures. The 20-hour Arabic I course left the participants with a distinct feeling that the Silent Way is very powerful for the sane and safe launching of learners into a language which is very demanding because of its script and writing conventions as well as its rigorous (really mathematical) structure. The Memorial Day intensive 12-hour seminar on the Silent Way for ESL seemed not to fatigue anyone and rather convey the essential common sense nature of its techniques and materials.  

27


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.

www.EducationalSolutions.com

Looking Back And Then Forward  

Looking Back And Then Forward