Part 2 – Shatsky (1918) ‘First steps towards education through work’

Extracts from Stanislav Shatsky, A Teacher’s Experience (Progress Publishers, 1981)

(p. 176) Prejudices in the way of setting up an education through work establishment There are two deeply rooted social prejudices which stand in the way of our attaining this ultimate goal, these are, firstly, the idea that it is essential to train children for their future life, activity or career (the prejudice regarding social education) and, secondly, the belief in the indisputable existence of a well-defined volume of knowledge strictly laid down for each stage of life…. These two parallel ideas which are mutually supporting have dealt and continue to deal great harm to children and they complicate efforts to think and analyse clearly and sensibly with regard to questions of child care. It is teachers whom these ideas impede most of all.

(p. 178) Progressive thinkers in the field of education … made an emphasis … on the endeavour to achieve as full as possible a life for the child now, without concern for what the future will bring. The threatening spectre of the future is removed, and before us unfolds the actual life of a child with its incredibly rich and purposeful content.

(p. 181) Even if we take it for granted that characteristics intrinsic to children include the urge to move, play, and vividly depict their experiences, it soon emerges as well that when we concern ourselves with their intellectual activity (that which provides the closest link with adult life) children can lead us to the most intriguing of discoveries. In practice we come to appreciate that children investigate, contemplate, examine and test out all objects that come within their orbit with a striking degree of concentration and tenacity.

(p. 182) Our main effort should be aimed at nurturing and retaining all that children start out with. This task however clearly emerges as exceedingly difficult by virtue of its very nature. We obstruct the preservation of those properties so useful to man that are to be found so early on in children through our educational organisations and in particular through our schools. … [I]n  the sphere where the adult should reign supreme, in the sphere of reason, the child possesses an important advantage in his indomitable urge to explore.

(p. 189) School is a place where the findings of our own personal experience are to be processed, systematised and compared with the findings drawn from the experience of others. In this way scope is provided for lively and meaningful mental activity, and natural abilities are developed and exercised…. Schooling through work is constantly extending the range of children’s first-hand experience; yet at the same time through a whole range of activities it summarises that experience, juxtaposing various minor facts of experience to provide an overall picture and thus bringing out the pattern underlying those facts.

(p. 189) I do not reject curricula out of hand; however, I only recognise curricula for learning through action, not curricula that consist of nothing but a catalogue of items of knowledge, disjointed rather than connected and obsolete into the bargain, which in accordance with some strange misconception have to be mastered by children of one or another specific age.



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