Category Archives: Jean Piaget

Every Time We Teach a Child Something, We Keep Him from Inventing It Himself

Jean Piaget? Apocryphal?

sand07Dear Quote Investigator: Jean Piaget was an influential developmental psychologist who studied the learning strategies of children. I am trying to determine if he said the following:

When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.

I have not seen a precise citation for this. Would you be willing to help?

Quote Investigator: QI has not found an exact match for the expression above, but Jean Piaget did make a similar remark in an article “Some Aspects of Operations” published in 1972 in a symposium titled “Play and Development”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Children should be able to do their own experimenting and their own research. Teachers, of course, can guide them by providing appropriate materials, but the essential thing is that in order for a child to understand something, he must construct it himself, he must re-invent it. Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself. On the other hand that which we allow him to discover by himself will remain with him visibly…

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading


  1. 1972, Book title: Play and Development: A Symposium with Contributions by Jean Piaget, Peter H. Wolff and Others, Editor: Maria W. Piers, Article title: Some Aspects of Operations, Article author: Jean Piaget, Start Page 15, Quote Page 27, Published by W. W. Norton & Company, New York. (Verified on paper)

Goal of Education: Create People Who Are Capable of Doing New Things, Not Simply of Repeating What Other Generations Have Done

Jean Piaget? Eleanor Duckworth? Apocryphal?

learn07Dear Quote Investigator: The following popular quotation appears on a large number of websites in the educational domain. The statement is attributed to the famous developmental psychologist Jean Piaget:

The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.

Some websites list a citation in 1988, but Piaget died in 1980, and no information is provided about when or where it was spoken or written. Would you please examine the provenance of these words?

Quote Investigator: In November 1964 the journal “The Arithmetic Teacher” published an article by Eleanor Duckworth titled “Piaget Rediscovered”. Duckworth had worked with Piaget as a student, and she served as an interpreter for the Swiss psychologist during some U.S. conferences in 1964.

Piaget had recently attended two gatherings on cognitive research. One was held at Cornell University and the other at University of California, Berkeley. Piaget’s responses to questions from participants were recorded and translated by Duckworth. An instance of the quotation appeared in one of these responses.

The inclusive phrase “men and women” was not used; instead, the designation “men” was used to encompass both. The phrase “in the schools” was absent. Oddly, the word “principle” was used instead of “principal”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men who are creative, inventive, and discoverers.

The second goal of education is to form minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered. The great danger today is of slogans, collective opinions, ready-made trends of thought. We have to be able to resist individually, to criticize, to distinguish between what is proven and what is not.

So we need pupils who are active; who learn early to find out by themselves, partly by their own spontaneous activity and partly through material we set up for them, and who learn early to tell what is verifiable and what is simply the first idea to come to them.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading


  1. 1964 November, The Arithmetic Teacher, Volume 11, Number 7, Piaget rediscovered by Eleanor Duckworth, Start Page 496, Quote Page 499, Published by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (The original text contained the phrase “principle goal”. The phrase probably should be “principal goal”)(JSTOR) link