Consider This - Chapter 2 Summary and Think Abouts
It was just recently brought to my attention that the audio link that I had hope would be here, did not post, and of course as life would have it, my computer updated and the link was deleted.
With that being said, I will go back to writing the summary, and post an audio link for the next chapter. (Oh, and thank you for your patience and fortitude as I slowly work through these chapters. I am doing that purposefully so as to slow us down to absorb the information gradually. Human nature drives us to want to eat and eat to brimful not allowing us to enjoy and savor when we have found something wonderful to delight in. So it is good practice to only take on little bites.)
So let's begin...
Karen Glass begins Chapter 2 with the one of the greatest of Charlotte Mason's reflections on the education of children. Charlotte Mason didn't ask "what shall we teach and how shall we teach it?" But instead she went right to the heart of the matter looking more at a fundamental question of "what is a person?" The manner in which a person or culture answers that question will drive its educational practices. If the resounding answer is "man is a machine", for example then education may be directed toward making that machine most efficient and least troublesome. A machine-child must learn what he needs to know in order to perform with optimum efficiency those tasks which fall to him, and little else is needed except perhaps some entertainment to keep him content between tasks."
But if the answer to the question, "what is man?" with "man is a living soul created in the image of God," our educational task will be much difference as we seek to discover all the potential in each child so that he can become everything that God meant him to be. All that we give him will not be too much nor go to waste. Charlotte Mason understood this, and she knew that every philosophy, including every philosophy of education, must begin and develop naturally around a chosen understanding of man and remain consistent with that conception.
This was not the thinking of the time though. The scientific trends were being widely embraced and were effecting the educational aspects at the turn of the twentieth century. Concepts such as the new science of evolution affected the cultural thought of Miss Mason's time in different ways. First, it was widely disseminated that at birth children were less than person - akin to oysters- and not yet capable of thoughts and feelings that belong to a person. It was imagined that babies did not merely grow, but evolved in the womb and was not complete even at birth. Charlotte Mason did not agree that children were incomplete and without mental capacity so she was emphatic about children being from the very beginning complete persons who deserve respect.
Miss Mason also rejected the scientific idea of hereditary determinism that replaced an older superstition regarding fate. This new determinism supposed that a person was born good or born bad, and that education or habit training could not change his nature. You do not need to look far in the literature of her time to find evidence of this thinking. In Pride and Prejudice you read about the main character referring to someone in the story as "naturally bad" as if the person were "born bad", and there was nothing that could be done to prevent the person from acting according to her nature. This was meant to "console" the parents of this person and allow them to not bear the weight of responsibility as it is not their fault, they could not change the dear's nature.
But Charlotte Mason view was different, quite counter cultural. She felt all possibilities lie within a child - and educational endeavors must be taken to assist them. If a child's character has possibilities for both good and evil, then care must be taken to lay a foundation of good principles and nurture them, while at the same time helping the child to see and correct his own character faults. Nothing may be taken for granted. Wisdom and virtue must be a primary goal in education was Charlotte's vision, and although hereditary determinism is not widely discussed today, remnants of it do affect our contemporary thinking.
Think About's: Here are some questions to consider as you ruminate on this post.
1. Charlotte Mason wrote her first two principles to make her view of man (or a child) clear to her contemporaries. Can you express your view of man in a sentence or two which would speak to our culture today? What cultural ideas might we need to refute in our principles?
2. Why and how does the way we view a person affect our educational philosophy? What does it mean when David Hicks in the book Norms and Nobility says "No education is innocent of an attitude toward man and his purpose."
The next chapter is going to look at the plague of utilitarianism in our modern education. Stay tuned.