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Peller, L.E. (1946). Incentives to Development and Means of Early Education. Psychoanal. St. Child, 2:397-415.

(1946). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 2:397-415

Incentives to Development and Means of Early Education

Lili E. Peller

"Hitherto education has only set itself the task of controlling, or, it would be more proper to say, of suppressing the instincts. The results have been by no means gratifying, … Nor has any one inquired by what means and at what cost the suppression of the inconvenient instincts has been achieved. Supposing now that we substitute another task for this one, and aim instead at making the individual capable of becoming a civilized and useful member of society with the least possible sacrifice of his own activity." (5)


What are the effective means of early education? Wide disagreement as to the answer will be found among different schools of thought. Education is emerging from an empirical to a scientific discipline. When we find it hard to define basic concepts in education, we may turn to parallel areas in medicine in order to gain a frame of reference.

The function of therapy is to initiate, support and/or accelerate the healing process. As medical science progresses, the means of therapy necessarily change. In his diaries, kept during the epidemic of yellow fever towards the close of the eighteenth century in Philadelphia, Benjamin Rush accuses himself because he is unable to make the rounds of all afflicted who need blood-letting. Today we know that his qualms of conscience were unnecessary, because the blood-letting actually undermined the resistance of patients. If Dr. Rush had smoked his pipe with greater leisure, or slept an hour longer, more people might have had a chance to survive the fever.

The function of early education is to initiate, support and/or accelerate developmental processes leading from child- to adult-hood. Means of education considered of central importance yesterday, may be considered unnecessary or harmful today.

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