Monday, January 21, 2013

No more paper pizza: Philosophy of Education, Chapter Two

Do you like imaginary food?
In Towards a Philosophy of Education, Chapter 2, Charlotte Mason describes a teacher who is suddenly enlightened about the agile, hungry, wondrous minds of children.  He sees that he has been giving his students only "stale commonplaces."  He understands that they "hunger for knowledge, not for information."  And certainly he "would not invite a parcel of children to a Timon feast of smoke and lukewarm water."

Or paper pizza, playdough cookies, and lime punch made from a half-melted candle.  Such food is fun for dolls.  It made a great New Year's party for Dollygirl's dolls.  But human beings certainly couldn't make a meal of it.
Charlotte Mason says, “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh, we are told; but we have forgotten this great principle in our efforts at schooling children. We give them a 'play way' and play is altogether necessary and desirable but is not the avenue which leads to mind. We give them a fitting environment, which is again altogether desirable and, again, is not the way to mind. We teach them beautiful motion and we do well, for the body too must have its education; but we are not safe if we take these by-paths as approaches to mind.” In other words, we have found the road to caring for the needs of the physical body, and even the physical brain; but the “spiritual mind” (the whole non-physical person, not limited to a theological sense of spirituality) is quite a different creature.
"Our business is to give children the great ideas of life, of religion, history, science; but it is the ideas we must give, clothed upon with facts as they occur, and must leave the child to deal with these as he chooses.”

And if it doesn’t work? Then, says Charlotte Mason,  our error "is rather want of confidence in children.”


The teacher “bores his scholars with much talk.” We show them too many pictures. We try to read between the lines for them. We try to learn for them.

"This is how any child's mind works, and our concern is not to starve these fertile intelligences. They must have food in great abundance and variety."   We need to provide intellectual meat:  "History must afford its pageants, science its wonders, literature its intimacies, philosophy its speculations, religion its assurances to every man, and his education must have prepared him for wanderings in these realms of gold."  And real art: "pictures by great artists old and new....Perhaps we might secure at least a hundred lovely landscapes too,––sunsets, cloudscapes, starlight nights."  "To hear children of the slums 'telling' King Lear or Woodstock, by the hour if you will let them, or describing with minutest details Van Eyck's Adoration of the Lamb or Botticelli's Spring, is a surprise, a revelation. We take off our shoes from off our feet; we 'did not know it was in them,' whether we be their parents, their teachers or mere lookers-on. And with some feeling of awe upon us we shall be the better prepared to consider how and upon what children should be educated."

That's her teaser for the next chapter.  How and upon what?  If textbooks, lectures, and our own good intentions are so much paper pizza, then what is the real food we should be serving?

1 comment:

amy in peru said...

thanks for sharing these thoughts, mama squirrel. :) i've thoroughly enjoyed ruminating on this chapter... i'm looking forward to what's next :)