96 * THE MONTESSORI METHOD
may arrive at independence. Little children, from the moment in which they are weaned, are making their way toward independence.
What is a weaned child ? In reality it is a child that has become independent of the mother's breast. Instead of this one source of nourishment he will find various kinds of food; for him the means of existence are multiplied, and he can to some extent make a selection of his food, whereas he was at first limited absolutely to one form of nourishment.
Nevertheless, he is still dependent, since he is not yet able to walk, and cannot wash and dress himself, and since he is not yet able to ask for things in a language which is clear and easily understood. He is still in this period to a great extent the slave of everyone. By the age of three, however, the child should have been able to render himself to a great extent independent and free.
That we have not yet thoroughly assimilated the highest concept of the term independence, is due to the fact that the social form in which we live is still servile. In an age of civilisation where servants exist, the concept of that form of life which is independence cannot take root or develop freely. Even so in the time of slavery, the concept of liberty was distorted and darkened.
Our servants are not our dependents, rather it is we who are dependent upon them.
It is not possible to accept universally as a part of our social structure such a deep human error without feeling the general effects of it in the form of moral inferiority. We often believe ourselves to be independent simply because no one commands us, and because we command others; but the nobleman who needs to call a servant to his aid is really a dependent through his own inferiority.