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The word “integral” applied to education, comprises the three terms: physical, intellectual and moral. It is more complete in that it indicates some continual relations between these three divisions.
Integral education is not the forced accumulation of an infinite number of notions about all things; it is the culture, the harmonic development of all the faculties of the human being: health, vigour, beauty, intelligence, kindness.
It rests exclusively on experimental realities, and takes no account of metaphysical conceptions that are based on‘ imagination or sentiment alone. Education is an art illuminated by a concrete science, applying to human training the data of all the abstract sciences, and notably of biology and sociology.
Formerly, as today, the educators of the old school proceeding from ideas founded a priori on tradition, on some pretended revelations of imaginary beings superior to man, thought they knew everything. The great science of integral educators is to know that they know little; but what they do know they know well, and they are in the true way of discoveries.
Physical education comprises muscular and brain development; it satisfies the need of exercise of all our organs, passive and active, a need indicated by physiology as a law.
To follow this development and to learn to guide it with prudence, they have commenced a. series of observations, of experiences, of anthropometrical measurements. These useful practical studies will occupy some special laboratories, and will be pushed very far by a truly scientific instruction,
The exercise of the senses, the calculations relative to games, to physical exercises of every kind, running, handicrafts, etc., touch intellectual education, some parts of which are often considered repulsive on account of the unskilful manner of approaching them, are in this way made attractive.
Intellectual education bears on two kinds of absolutely distinct matters: questions of opinion, variable, disputable, often causes of quarrels, of antagonisms, of rivalries; questions of fact, of observation, of experience, to solutions identical for all beings and allowing of no differences of opinion. '
To diminish as much as possible the number and importance of the first for the benefit of the second is the great desideratum.
The study of nature in nature, of industry in the practice of the workshops, of sciences in the laboratories and the observatories (theoretical study in the books only coming after the inducement given by the real practice, to complete, to arrange the elements which the latter has furnished), gives to the brain a harmonious development, well balanced, and a great correctness of judgment. From this agreement in the appreciation of real facts there results, necessarily, a tendency to agreement on all the other questions, the true social peace, so rare an exception in our age.
For all branches in which dogmatic teaching preponderates, such for example as the means of communication of thought (languages, writing, music, plastic arts) to employ the most rapid practical processes, systematically neglected by officials who, not having invented them, have no personal profit in causing them to be applied: rational, phonetic, perfect writing (the shorthand of Aimé, Paris), straight and simple writing, Robertson's analytical method for the acquisition of languages, the model method or Galin Paris-Cheve for music, exercises of diction, conferences with discussions, theatre, collections, museums of all sorts, of natural history, industry, mathematics, etc.
Not to forget that physical and intellectual education ought to comprise science and art, knowledge and practice. A true integral man is at the same time theorist and practical man; he re-unites the two qualities systematically separated by official routine, comprising on the one hand primary and professional instruction, and, on the other, secondary and superior teaching: he is at once the brain that directs and the hand that executes, the scholar and the workman.
There remains moral education.* Although its importance is supreme, we have not space to detail at length the programme of it. It is that morality, the same as reason is a resultant, it is part of the whole. The part of teaching is here of small account. Let the child assimilate to himself, in the measurement of his intellectual development, the notion of individual equilibrium and development, of social justice and reciprocity; but moral education is, above all, the work of influence, the consequence of a normal existence in a normal medium. The physiological law is one of the principal elements of it; next, in another order of affairs, the general direction given to the thoughts by the sum total of the teaching. From the first, the exclusion of false and demoralising ideas, of deceitful prejudices, of alarming impressions, in fact of everything that can throw the imagination outside the truth, into trouble and disorder; absence of unhealthy suggestions, of incitement to vanity, the suppression of the causes of rivalry and jealousy; the continual view of calm, well-ordered, natural things: a life simple, occupied, varied, animated, between work and play; the gradual use of responsibility, the example of the instructors, and above all, happiness.
It is here that we must place, by virtue of an element of this moralising medium, the co-education of the sexes in a constant, brotherly, family-like intercourse of children, boys and little girls, which gives to the whole of their morals a particular serenity, and far from constituting a danger, becomes, in the wise conditions in which it ought to be established a guarantee of preservation.
This education, so truly liberal, is immediately applicable to children of good general average. Certain temperaments of prudent reserve are useful, at least temporarily, for ordinary children from their birth, or in consequence of the demoralising education which they may have already received in a. corrupting medium. As to the inferior children, backward, degenerate ones, they are moral invalids who must be cared for with compassion, from whom we must hardly expect anything. We must undoubtedly take precautions, with all possible humanity, that they do not injure the others; but we must take care to guard ourselves from believing that we have a right to punish them for a nature for which they are not responsible.
The only ones to blame, unwittingly also, are the parents who have foolishly called them into life.
To give birth only to children who have the greatest possible chances of being happy and useful, is a veritable new dogma. Only well born children will derive all the benefit possible from integral education.
Good birth, then, is the first and most important chapter of human regeneration, of which the second, good education, has just been sketched here.
A generation well born, well brought up, will arrive without trouble at the necessary understanding to attempt and succeed in social organisation: based on science, on the liberty of each one. This will then be the definite era of human happiness, of which the acquisition is summed up in three words : good birth, good education, good social organisation.
* Manifesto to partisans of Integral Education, 1892.
Paul Robin, “Integral Education,” Freedom (London) 15 no. 159 (August 1901): 43.