Thursday, July 03, 2014

Using School Books, Part One

This month's Charlotte Mason blog carnivals are based on her Volume 3, Chapter 16, How to Use School Books.  The first one was posted yesterday at I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto the Hills, but there will be another on the same chapter in two weeks.  So I'm going to work through that topic too, over the next few posts.

Point One:  Charlotte says that first we should have "cleared our minds as to the end we have in view." 

In some cases, discussion could stop right there while we work that one out.  Do we know where we're going?  What's it all about?  But she assumes that, having read and given thought to the previous fifteen chapters, we're good to go.

Point Two: "We ask ourselves––'Is there any fruitful idea underlying this or that study that the children are engaged in?'" The key word here is "idea."  "Some great thought of life."  We are looking for subjects and studies that encourage the development of intellectual habit and "muscle," but (she says about three times here), it's not about "faculties," it's about "persons" and relationships.  Making connections.  Discovering "other minds."

Mr. Fixit and I were watching Foyle's War the other night, and there was a scene in which a character named Willis is being interviewed for a position with the secret service.  The department head turns Willis down because he didn't go to the right schools, but Foyle remarks, "I understand we're looking for people who are astute, with an ability to see the other person's point of view."  (Later in the episode, Willis has the opportunity to prove Foyle right.)   

That's the definition of "education" that this chapter is taking.  You cannot make wise judgments if you do not have the imagination to see that there can be more than one side to an issue.  And you cannot develop that imagination without wide experience, both real-life and through the medium of books (even if it's just Jemima Puddleduck). It is not even, always, an imagination that allows only pleasant, sympathetic, optimistic views of people and their motives.  For fictional detectives like DCS Foyle, Brother Cadfael, and Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, it's imagination that allows them to try to think like the criminal and (usually) solve the case.

But, assuming that we're not applying to MI5, what kind of goals do we have for ourselves and for our children?  According to the next paragraph, we need to care about being:

responsive and wise,
humble and reverent,
recognising the duties and the joys of the full human life.

Charlotte optimistically adds, " I suppose every life is moulded upon [that] ideal."

In her upcoming book, Karen Glass points out that classical education teaches that moral or right thinking must lead to action.  It's not enough just to be imagining ideals and recognizing duties; a verb is implied there. In the Foyle episode, Willis shows exactly what he is made of by risking his own life to rescue someone else. Conversely, Charlotte Mason mentions (years later, after the war) that she is disappointed in the way that "education" seems to fail so many:
"If we ask in perplexity, why do so many men and women seem incapable of generous impulse, of reasoned patriotism, of seeing beyond the circle of their own interests, is not the answer, that men are enabled for such things by education? These are the marks of educated persons; and when millions of men who should be the backbone of the country seem to be dead to public claims, we have to ask,––Why then are not these persons educated, and what have we given them in lieu of education?" ~~ Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education

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