Is learning an act of self-interest, a means of merely "improving ourselves?" Charlotte Mason says that what we're really looking for are "tools for the modeling of our lives," such as reverence, gentleness, and a sense of connection with the past (p. 71). These tools are going to increase not our self-interest, but the ability to look beyond ourselves.
Where does she suggest we start? Here's a list:
1. Poetry, preferably spending time with one poet
2. Shakespeare's plays, which "unconsciously mould our judgments of men and things and the great issues of life" (p. 72)
3. Novels, of the sort with characters who "become our mentors or our warnings, our instructors always" (p. 72)
4. Ever-delightful essayists
5. History, including ancient history
6. Philosophy, to allow reason to work upon knowledge
7. Theology, including the Bible (Mason has quite a lot to say about that)
8. The things of nature
9. Science, so that "we no longer conduct ourselves in this world of wonders like a gaping rustic at a fair" (p. 101)
10. Art, approached "with the modest intention to pay a debt that we owe in learning to appreciate" (p. 103)
11. Sociology and self-knowledge, which will get the next blog post to themselves
Mason says our aim is not to become know-it-alls, but to gain a sense of the ought in all this, why we owe it to the world to become people who practice empathy and model compassion, who observe carefully and think clearly, "with gentle, large, and humble thoughts." As the bumper sticker used to say, "Be alert. The world needs more lerts."
And the ultimate result is not graduation, but gratitude (p. 100). Wait, say that again! The end of education is gratitude?? Yes, to the One who created "the beauty, glory, and fitness above our heads and about our feet and surrounding us on every side!"