MARCEL Gabriel - Autograph Letter Signed discussing the education of children
Gabriel MARCEL (1889-1973)Autograph Letter Signed (“G. Marcel”) to an unidentified lady, discussing his views on the education of children in some detail, and praising the work of Monsieur Nussbaum of the Foyer school at the Pléiades in Switzerland.
4 pages 8vo in French, n.p., 3 February n.y.
A very interesting letter in which Gabriel Marcel discusses his views on the education of children, in reply to an enquiry from a lady as to the suitability of a school in Switzerland.
Trans: “I hasten to reply to your letter in which you ask me what I think of the Pléiades.
The very interesting experience I had of the Foyer School convinced me of the essential services it can give to children. Not only do I not believe there is any antagonism between the needs of the body and intellectual development, but furthermore I am persuaded that . . . the direct contact with things, the immediate and continual presence of the real can have the most beneficial effects on the minds of children: everything leads him towards concrete and precise experience; it is not the bookish atmosphere of the lycée, the constant interposition created between the child and the book or the class, that is to say the ready-made idea which one must learn rather than discover. . . The child who will have learned to see, to observe, to reflect on his own observations, will be infinitely better able to understand the book, to fathom the meaning and later to assimilate its content, than the child who has always received all his intellectual information from ready-made sources. That is, it seems to me, to be one of Monsieur Nussbaum’s fundamental preoccupations and I cannot overstate how much I agree with him. . . My experience as a professor in Paris goes the same way; among my pupils . . . I see too seldom the concern with understanding what they are saying rather than living their ideas before writing them down; once they are given a topic, too often they will search their memories for phrases which might apply to it, rather than making the effort to question themselves sincerely. . . And it seems to me that tomorrow, after this dreadful ordeal is over, what will matter above all will be to develop people who are themselves, and who think for themselves. . . . “
In a postscript, he adds: “I am sorry that I could not be more explicit regarding Monsieur Nussbaum himself, who I believe to have a spirit the most alive, the most diverse and the best balanced of any I know. I would add that in the question of morality, he is conscience personified; and I would say exactly the same of his wife.”
In his Philosophy of Existence, Marcel describes, at one point, the problem of modern man, reduced to a series of functions, whose existence is reduced to a timetable of work, leisure, sleep and so on. In that context, his endorsement, in this letter, of an education which strives to create a whole man, balanced in his mental, physical and spiritual development seems entirely coherent.
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