It would be easy to propound the laws of conduct and their scientific base in a series of didactic lessons as one teaches geography or grammar. Any good teacher could accomplish this task. But quite a different method is needed to train children to put these rules into practice. One does not learn to pilot an airplane by taking a course in aerodynamics. Only practice will develop the reflexes which, in all circumstances, will automatically switch us onto the right course. To be perfect, obedience to the laws of conduct should be instinctive. Anyone who has been conditioned from infancy regarding good and evil will experience no difficulty in choosing good and avoiding evil throughout his whole life. He will recoil from evil as naturally as he recoils from fire. Lying and treachery will seem to him not merely forbidden but impossible. If such reactions are to be developed in the individual, there must be an environment where moral precepts are strictly and unremittingly observed. Only example will effectively inculcate the rules of life. Man, like the monkey, has an innate tendency to imitate but he imitates evil more easily than good. The child unconsciously models himself on his companions, teachers and parents; above all, on the movie heroes and the real or imaginary people he reads about. Fenelon said that this imitative tendency in children produces endless evils when they are left to unprincipled people who do not control themselves in their presence. People can only teach things in which they believe and children are never deceived by hypocrisy. To teach others to behave well, one must first of all behave well oneself.
For this reason the technology of existence demands an appropriate milieu, a social group where intellectual, physiological and moral rules are habitually put into practice. Neither the family nor the school has been capable of satisfactorily furnishing this milieu. Today French schools have reduced education to a kind of thin intellectual veneer. The nonintellectual activities of the spirit, particularly the moral sense and the sense of beauty, are unknown to the majority of teachers. The immense effort of the New Education is mainly directed toward the intellectual and social facets of the personality. In the Montessori schools, in those run according to the principles of John Dewey and Decroly and those where the Dalton Plan is applied, there are coordinated processes for developing the individuality of children of all ages. Nevertheless, the majority of these children remain incapable of playing their natural part in society. It is strange that the young people who are today looking on so passively while civilization crumbles are the products of the "active" school. They have proved to be ill-educated, sly, dishonest and lacking in character and moral sense. May not these defects be due to some serious gap in their teaching? How many pedagogues, for example, address themselves to training the will and encouraging self-mastery?
Generally speaking, the family is a deplorable educational milieu, for modern parents know nothing about the psychology of childhood and youth. They are too naive, too neurotic, too weak or too stern. One could almost say that the majority of them cultivate the art of producing defects in their children. They are occupied, above all, with their own work and their own pleasures. Too many children witness bad manners, quarrels, selfishness and even drunkenness in their own families. If they are not initiated into such aspects of life by their parents, they will inevitably be so initiated by their companions.
To sum up, neither the school nor the family is capable nowadays of teaching the young how to behave. Consequently, modern youth reflects the mediocrity of its educators like a mirror. Education which limits itself to preparation for examinations, to a mere exercise of memory instead of forming the mind produces only "donkeys loaded with books." Young people brought up in this way are incapable of understanding reality and of playing their natural part in society.