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The indoctrinated children

With the arrival of the Renaissance, an essentially humanistic movement, the old hospices changed their role. From this time on their aim was to educate the person as a whole. The origin of the reforms of charitable institutions is found in the book De subventione pauperum (1526), written by Luis Vives, a friend and follower of Erasmus of Rotterdam.

Vives engaged in an endless struggle against begging. His motto was: "…against begging, work…" He proposed that the local councils, that is to say the most powerful families of the cities, should administer efficiently the hospitals, institutions which served both as homes and infirmaries. But this was not all as these institutions were turned into educational centres covering the children's material and spiritual needs as well as teaching them reading, writing and arithmetic.

At the same time Charles I, the Emperor, allocated fifty bushels of Madrid's wheat to "…the rogues, the poor and the orphans…to be taken in and indoctrinated". His son, Philip II, took 34 children from the Convalescents Hospital to the "Home of the Doctrine Children of San Ildefonso", "…to be more of a seminar than a hospital…" where orphans under fifteen were provided with clothing, education and religious instruction. The town council, governed by Vargas y Mendozas, purchased a property between Tabernillas de Parla Street and Carrera de San Francisco and to this they added others that had been donated or expropriated, making up the building where the San Ildefonso children would be educated until 1884.

The institution followed the system proposed by Vives faithfully. The centre was financed with the help of donations and by making the children participate in public ceremonies such as singing at funerals of important people such as Antón Martín, Lope de Vega, Calderón….. This gave rise to a popular folk song sung by the character Gorgolla in Francisco de Quevedo's book "Postrimerías de un rufián":

I shall not pay the doctrine children
for their song;
For this Music I will not hear,
Let him that hears pay.

With the Enlightenment , the XVIII century became the century of education. Charles III promoted the General Charity Plan. The method of education was based on three pillars: subjection, discipline and work. Teaching was carried out by specialized teachers and the pupils were required to participate and share responsibility. The gradual suppression of repressive methods was also proposed. The San Ildefonso school's 1701 ordinances are forerunners of times to come as seven was established as the age to be admitted to the school and the teacher was asked to "…teach the forty children the art of reading, writing and arithmetic so they leave school with skills…" The figures of the Older Brother and the Housewife were created to simulate a normal, family environment.

The Lottery was established in Spain by Charles III in 1763. The 9 March 1771 is possibly the most important date in the school's history, because one of its pupils, Diego López, was the innocent hand to pull out the winning ticket for the "Lotería Primitiva". Thanks to this, the Spanish Treasury donated five hundred "reales" to the institution. There can be no doubt that singing popular songs at funeral processions led to this new task for the schoolboys which consisted of singing the winning lottery numbers.

La falta de trabajo favorecía la explotación de los niños para actividades poco honestas. [ Niños comiendo melón y uvas, Murillo. Pinacoteca Antigua de Munich ].
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