The Rational Education of Childhood

A film by Benoît Labourdette (on a text by Émilie Lamotte, 3’43s, 2019).
3 November 2019. Published by Benoît Labourdette.
Reading time: 2 min  

The most effective educational principles are not the ones we believe. Discovery of Emilie Lamotte’s sharp and constructive thinking.

Émilie Lamotte

Émilie Lamotte was a young pedagogue at the beginning of the twentieth century. She is unknown, yet with an exceptional vision of thought. Her texts are few and far between. The text “The Rational Education of Childhood”, of which this film cites excerpts, probably written in 1908, was published posthumously in 1922 in the libertarian journal “L’idée libre”.

Émilie Lamotte is a worthy ancestor of Céline Alvarez, who, like her, had to leave official teaching to successfully implement new educational methods. A former schoolteacher, she was also a playwright, draftswoman, lecturer, free thinker, promoter of contraception, women’s emancipation, free love... Born in 1876 in Paris, she died in Alès in 1909, at the age of 32.

Full text

Excerpts used in the film

The Rational Education of Childhood

Education in which the child is not the first artisan of his education is more dangerous than profitable.

How to educate the child? How to make him a man and not a slave?

It is necessary for the child to educate himself, not only because forced attendance is harmful to his development, not only because what he has discovered settles better in his mind than what he has learned, but above all because the “faculty of discovery is the first and most precious of all; the one who wants to be cared for, maintained, developed with the most care and respect”.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that providing answers in advance to the child who does not question means stopping the momentum of research, making his mind lazy, atrophying his sagacity.

It is impossible to argue that the current education system has any effect other than to depress the child.

The child must be boldly considered as a genius to whom the material of his discoveries and the instruments of his experience must be provided.

There is no one method that is suitable for all children. Everyone demands an appropriate culture. All faculties, including memory, have their mode of acquisition, varying from one individual to another: he fixes what he hears, he needs to read to retain; he observes when he wants, he observes when he can; he observes exact and limited things, another, imponderables; one child will show equal ability in all branches, while another will mark a tendency to specialize against which the most loyal efforts will fail.

Naturally, we can only rely on the child himself to know in which direction he will embark with joy and passion, that is, with profit.

I know what a smile serious teachers would crush me with if they heard me, but I think that if instead of considering the child as a being to whom we must infuse the science we possess, and as evidenced by diplomas; we boldly considered him as a genius to whom we must provide the material for his discoveries and the instruments for his experiments, the result would be a harvest of geniuses.

So it is a question of resolutely getting out of the rut, of enabling the student to learn, to experiment himself, to be himself the first artisan of his education.

Here you will find educational tools, practical and conceptual. These tools are based on the experiences and thinking that I have been developing in a large number of contexts since the 1990s. I have developed a singular, operative pedagogical practice, inspired by Célestin Freinet’s methods among others, adapted to contemporary human issues and to the tools of the 21st Century.Pedagogy is an experimental practice, which has its theories, its history and its thinkers. It is a central construction tool in the educational field but also beyond, in the framework of professional interactions (...)