Towards a Philosophy of Education, Chapter Five
In Chapter Five of Philosophy of Education, Charlotte Mason outlines a set of "illegal moves" that are perpetrated against children's minds, that trespass on their rights of personality. Some of them are effective, but not morally right. Some of them just waste time. All of them, like too much junk food in the diet, crowd out the right motivation to learn--which, according to Charlotte, and it's the point of these chapters--is "knowledge for its own sake."
If all action comes out of the ideas we hold--in other words, our worldview, our philosophy, the principles that we say ground our lives and our approach to education--then what ideas do we have about personality, personhood, and the value and abilities of children? And then how do we respond to those ideas? As John Holt said, what do we do Monday?
For Charlotte Mason, it all seems to be about relationships. Everybody has rights; everybody has duties. Our duty includes submission to those over us, because we do need a certain amount of authority to make things run.
"More pervasive" ways take good and natural desires, those we discussed earlier such as the desire to excel, the desire for approval, even the desire of knowledge, and corrupt and pervert them by putting them in top position. And again, what's wrong with the desire for knowledge--isn't that exactly what we're aiming at? Here's what Charlotte says: "The desire of knowledge is commonly deprived of its proper function in our schools by the predominance of other springs of action, especially of emulation, the desire of place, and avarice, the desire of wealth, tangible profit. This divine curiosity is recognised in ordinary life chiefly as a desire to know trivial things...incoherent, scrappy information which serves no purpose, assuredly not the purpose of knowledge whose function is to nourish the mind as food nourishes the body." So her answer seems to be...knowledge, misused, is junk food.
Do we believe that children really want to know? Then, says Charlotte, we will teach from and with that conviction, and the rest will fall into place.