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The Wild Boy of Aveyron Paperback – May 16, 1979
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A brilliantly-researched history that really reads like a novel...a model of living scholarship...It is a unique contribution to the history of medicine, psychology, and education. (Clara Claiborne Park Washington Post)
The Wild Boy of Aveyron represents a unique case of total cultural deprivation, of mortal nakedness: a human being stripped of education, custom, dignity, brotherhood, sex, almost of humanity itself. Lane's book succeeds in sustaining the human interest along with scientific scrutiny. The intellectual space it occupies has been empty too long. (Roger Shattuck New York Times Book Review)
Harlan Lane does an engaging and at times compelling job...He uses original documents, historical accounts, later scientific writings, and not the least, his own capacity as a first-rate narrator to tell us what the wild boy was like and what he prompted various psychological and educational theorists--psychiatrists like Phillippe Pinel or, later, physicians like Maria Montessori--to make of man's possibilities or limitations. (Robert Coles Natural History)
This charming and moving book raises, sometimes directly and sometimes tangentially, important questions about the nature of human beings. (Carl Sagan New Republic)
In 1800, the boy of the title was a child of perhaps twelve or thirteen who had been wandering alone in the mountainous forests of southern France for an unknown time before his capture. Like other children who have grown up without human contact, the lad, who was later named Victor, behaved in peculiar ways. Most importantly, he could not speak. Victor was discovered at a period when philosophical investigations into human nature had begun to affect medicine, psychology, and pedagogy. He was brought to Paris and turned over to a young doctor, Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard...Dr. Lane tells us how a whole new kind of education descends from Itard's lifework--first, the training of the physically handicapped, then the training of the mentally retarded. (Before modern times, both kinds of people were regarded as useless and unteachable.) Finally, through Maria Montessori, Itard's concepts were applied to teaching ordinary youngsters, and Dr. Lane points out how his difficult discoveries have become everyday assumptions. His book is an exceptionally readable, intelligent monument to one of humanity's benefactors and to his successors, who carried on in Itard's spirit of scientific curiosity, kindness, and doggedness. (New Yorker)
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Top Customer Reviews
His book though is optimistic as for the « victory » of these ideas and principles. The debate, at times conflictual, is still raging in our school systems that are not enough socialised, i.e. open onto society at large, and that are not based on self-education in a socially structured and stimulating school environment. Too often we relapse in narrow guidance if not replacing the autonomous efforts of the students with the superior frame of learning imposed by teachers. He also does not emphasize enough on the need for a strict and compelling behavior of the teachers who must not in any way accept to substitute their knowledge to the individual and collective search for knowledge among the students, in spite of all resistance that comes from the very second principle of Seguin's method. It is a natural tendency among children and teenagers to resist such a course of action because it is a lot more exacting, it requires a lot greater effort on their part. This natural tendency to do as little as possible is slightly overlooked. Autonomy is costly on the side of the students and is challenging on the side of the teachers who are not the only source of knowledge any more.
A great book that should be the starting point of any educator in any field and at any level because it shows that motivation is the only engine of learning as for students, and that motivation is varied among students and contradictory with the natural tendency to do as little as possible, to rely on a pre-digested source...
The inclusion of the deaf-mute discussion, while not everyone's cup of tea, illustrates two important points. First, questions of "human nature" were being approached from a number of directions simultaneously even 200 years ago, and some of these insights actually bore some fruit. Some of them were silly and even insulting, but people did not yet know what was what, so they had to try a lot of things. Second, out of the study of children like the wild boy, and deaf-mute children, some really innovative and important teaching methods emerged. Again, people had no idea how to explain or intervene with these cases until recently, and a few brave and thoughtful individuals began to find humane and effective treatments and training methods that we all benefit from today.
Everyone interested in human nature or the early days of social science should grapple with this book.