Intrepid explorers

19th May 2006 at 01:00
It is easy, in the schools, to forget or overlook the strength of the child's spontaneous impulses towards understanding...The thirst for understanding springs from the child's deepest emotional needs, and is a veritable passion.

Susan Isaacs The Children We Teach (1932) University of London Press

"Believe it or not," said Will, "I've never seen a baby being born."

"Never?" Mary was astonished. "Not even when you were at school?"

"Not even at school."

"You never saw anybody dying and you never saw anybody having a baby. How did you get to know things?"

"In the school I went to," said Will, "we never got to know things, we only got to know words."

Aldous Huxley From his last novel, Island, first published in 1962. Will, the hero, has been shipwrecked on an undiscovered Utopian island paradise; Mary is a schoolgirl, assigned to help look after him.

Rather than asking 'What stick or carrot will make children active in certain ways? or 'What will make them go in this direction rather than that?' we would do well to turn the problem round and say: children will go in any case, for it is an expression of their being to be purposeful and energetic.

Robin Hodgkin Playing and Exploring (1985) Methuen

What we desire to see is...less weight on the imparting of an ordered body of knowledge and more on the development of the child's innate powers, less reliance on the artificial life of the classroom, more on the experience to be gained out of doors, and the opportunities for experiment and discovery which close contact with the real world provides.

The Hadow Report (1933)

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