3rd March 1942, midday
Ideas on a curriculum for schools.
I don’t believe there’s any sense in teaching men anything, in a general way, beyond what they need to know. One overloads them without interesting either them or anybody else. It’s better to awaken men’s instinct for beauty. That was what the Greeks considered the essential thing. To-day people persist in cramming children with a host of unrelated ideas.
Do you see the necessity for teaching geometry, physics and chemistry to a young man who means to devote himself to music? Unless he has a special gift for these branches of study, what will he have left over of them later? I find it absolutely ridiculous, this mania for making young people swallow so many fragmentary notions that they can’t assimilate.
If a pupil is particularly brilliant in his speciality, why embarrass him in his studies by obliging him to assimilate notions that are beyond his powers of assimilation? Wouldn’t it be better to help him further in the direction that comes naturally to him?
Forty years ago, the teaching of history was restricted to a dry listing of dates. There was a total absence of principles. What happened when the teacher, into the bargain, lacked the necessary gift forgiving these dead things a soul? Such teaching was a real torture.
Some children have so much vitality that they can’t sit still, and won’t and can’t concentrate their attention. It seems to me useless to try to force them. I understand, of course, that such an attitude annoys the teachers. But is it just to deprive a child of the possibilities that life offers him, simply because he’s unruly?
I remember that on the average I spent a tenth of the time my comrades spent in doing my prep. My selected branch was history. I felt sorry for those of my comrades who never had a minute for play.