The Material Question

‘This tendency, as yet ill-defined, which my father inculcated in my nature from my earliest childhood in an indirect way, was later, in the first years of my youth, given a more definite form because the ideas of my first teacher about education turned out to be, in certain respects, in keeping with it; and so, in addition to the fulfilment of my scholastic duties, I practised various manual crafts and skills under his special instruction.

‘The most characteristic educational procedure of my first teacher was that, as soon as he noticed that I was becoming familiar with any particular craft and was beginning to like it, he immediately made me give it up and pass on to another.

‘As I understood much later, his aim was not that I should learn all sorts of crafts but should develop in myself the ability to surmount the difficulties presented by any kind of new work. And indeed, from that time on, work of every kind had sense and interest for me, not in itself, but only in so far as I did not know it and did not know how to do it.

‘In short, owing to their original views on education, these two men, who consciously or even unconsciously—in the present case it does not matter—had taken upon themselves my preparation for responsible age, engendered in my nature a certain subjective property which developed gradually as the years passed and finally became fixed in the form of an urge frequently to change my occupation. As a result I acquired, even if only automatically, abilities of both a theoretical and practical nature for carrying on various manual and commercial occupations. My comprehension also was gradually increased as my horizon widened in various fields of knowledge.

‘I will even add that, if I am recognized today in different countries as a representative of true knowledge in many fields of learning, I owe it in part to this early education of mine.

‘Thanks to the resourcefulness, breadth of view and, above all, common sense, developed in me by correct education, I was able to grasp, from all the information I collected intentionally or accidentally in the subsequent course of my life, the very essence of each branch of learning, instead of being left with merely an accumulation of empty rubbish, which is the inevitable result among contemporary people of the general use of their famous educational method called learning by heart.