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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Extracts from "Progressive Education"

By Mme Necker de Saussure, 1828
Translated by David Tulis
Volume 1, 1890/91, pg. 31


If the student-to-be shall remain master of his own conduct, it's necessary to have him follow two apparently contradictory regimes: One of subjection, to accustom to repress his capricious desires; the other of liberty, so that there forms in him an independent will. It's here a difficulty that one rarely contemplates; and perhaps above all in the most careful forms of education, there develops little in the way of pronounced character.

It is a duty that is well understood by the child, and which initiates him little by little in the knowledge of all the others, which is to say that obedience towards those to which heaven has entrusted his sort. It is to them to exercise the influence with softness and firmness. The problem to resolve in their government presents itself in all possible forms. It's always about conciliating the greatest form of individual liberty with the most perfect submission to the law.

What's necessary to avoid in attaining this end: Half-given commands, duties half imposed; these would be insinuations, tacit solicitations -- the pretense of letting the child become master of his path while one envelops him with a thousand little threads.

Eager to discover the indications of God's providence, wise schoolmasters respect the spirit of each respective age. They know how to draw it out and purify it. One isn't taken up with the idea of envisaging with a somber defiance the effect of diverse influences to which the student must be exposed to acquire the most necessary knowledge; one considers the actual world as a school where the soul is called to form itself, to learn, to fill one day a superior destination.

What is the role of education? To sanctify human life, to discover, to put into motion the treasures of heaven so that the hand of God has deposited in his earthly creation.

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What's still lacking for the advance of this art of education? There lacks this: that one doesn't consult experience soon enough; there lacks these numerous observations -- very precise ones -- which alone give a solid base to reason.

It seems surprising to me that while one bears along in the sciences observations to admirable constancy, one hasn't studied childhood methodically. The most important problem is perhaps that to which one has given the least attention. That men armed with a telescope would be able to verify night and day the predictions of astronomy! That others take an exact count of the wind, of heat and of rain! What tireless notemakers! And in this number there is not found a father who has deigned to state with care the progress of his own child. Even for the physical part which seems to have to fall most immediately under the inspections of the wise, that there are still more uncertainties!

I exhort most vividly young mothers to make a detailed daily journal describing their children's development. When they wouldn't have a general point of view, always would they find a big advantage in this work. It will give altogether to their ideas a fixity toward their projects. They would be well accustomed to look well and to explain what they are seeing.

(For those who prefer to read this article in its original French, page images are included below.)

page 31 image in French
page 32 image in French


Translated and typed by David Tulis, Oct 2015