Sunday, February 03, 2013

Time for a Story: Philosophy of Education, Chapter 7

Herr Herbart has a story for us.
Here is Herr Herbart's story.

See the teacher.
The teacher has a lot of sponges.
The teacher soaks the sponges in facts.
Facts, facts, facts.
She likes to mix all the facts together ahead of time.
That is a lot of work for her.

Now it is time for the teachers to play a game.
All the teachers play.
They run down the line.
There are pails at the end of the line.
They throw the wet sponges into the pails.
The pails are children's minds.
Throw, teachers, throw.
Throw lots of sponges.  Fill up the pails.  This is fun!
See Charlotte Mason.
Charlotte Mason says, "I do not like your story.  Minds cannot eat sponges.
Minds are like hungry hippos.
Minds need a daily special hot beef sandwich with fries and gravy.
Minds need books full of ideas.
Minds need literary language.
Minds need to munch.
Munch, minds, munch."

But the teachers keep throwing sponges.
Some are different sizes.
Some are different colours.
See how interesting all the different sponges are!

"Still sponges," says Charlotte Mason.  "Minds need to munch."
See Mr. Fisher.
Mr. Fisher writes a story.
It is called the 1918 Education Act.
It says that big girls and boys who work in the day can learn at night.
They can learn for eight hours every week.

"Not more wet sponges!" says Charlotte Mason.
"We could give them a lot of food in eight hours a week.
Real food for their minds.
A daily special hot history sandwich with art and literature.
In our schools, we learn fast.
Fast, fast, fast.
We pay attention.  We read, we narrate, and then we know.  It is not too late."
See these school people.
They have a new idea.
Keep the wet sponges for the little children.
The big girls and boys will learn about work.
Work, work, work.
Then they can work better in the day.

"Minds cannot eat work," says Charlotte Mason.
"Give the boys and girls their good mind food.
They will be so smart and so happy that they can learn their work fast, fast, fast."

"Don't waste minds," says Charlotte Mason.
"Little minds don't need wet sponges.
Bigger minds don't need a school about work. 
All minds need good food.
But we are in a hurry!  Hurry, hurry.  The big boys and girls have only eight hours each week.
Should we give them Latin and Greek food?
No, these minds need food right now.
We have good English food.
We have Milton.  We have Shakespeare.
We even have Bacon. Ha, ha.
Munch, minds, munch."

Which story do the teachers like better?
Will they keep throwing wet sponges into the pails?
Will they stop playing and give the children a turn?

Which story do the school people like better?
Will the big boys and girls get good books?
Will they hire Charlotte Mason as a national continuing-education consultant?
Will there be a little college on every street corner?

Well...Charlotte Mason can dream.

A footnote:   It is true that Herbart's educational approach did include "ideas" as well as facts, although his method of presenting them was teacher-centered.  I think Charlotte Mason says as much in Volume 3.  However, in this particular chapter, she seems to be focusing on the idea of "filling a pail vs. lighting a fire."  She does discuss Herbart's idea of ideas--how they kind of get fired into the brain and then form themselves into "apperception masses," which she believed was nonsense.  Her other big objection was that the ideas, in Herbart's thinking, couldn't get in without the skill of the teacher. In this story, I chose to keep things simple and say that the teacher was providing the facts, but that may not be entirely fair.  You decide.


Nancy Kelly said...

I just love this. Well done!

From joy to joy,

Unknown said...

I enjoyed this to pieces. And as it happens, I've been re-immersed (re-re-re-) in Volume 6 myself. Seems I need a good dunking in it every couple of years.

This, this was delightful. Yes, Charlotte, a girl can dream.

Mama Squirrel said...

I'm absolutely honored to have you both here! And thanks.