Cindy at Ordo Amoris is blogging through volume 6 of Miss Mason’s six volume series on education this summer. That’s my favorite. Her introductory post on the project is here. Her first discussion post is here, and her second is here. So you have plenty of time to join in!
Here is the proposed schedule:
Week 1 May 27-June 2- Preface and Introduction
Week 2 June 3-9- Chapters 1,2,3
Week 3 June 10-16- Chapters 4,5,6
Week 4 June 17-23-Chapters 7,8,9
Week 5 June 24-30-Chapters 10 Sections I
Week 6 July 1-7- Chapter 10 Section II, 5 Parts
Week 7 July 8-14-Chapter 10 Section III, 3 parts
Week 8 July 15-21-Book II, Chapter 1
Week 9 July 22-28-Bool II, Chapter 2
Week 10 July 29-August 4-Book II, Chapter 3-4 to the end of the book.
I am out of town this week- traveling to North Carolina for the Child Light Conference. So I will let an old post stand in for my contribution to the discussion unless I have time to add more below. It’s helpful to note that the first several chapters of Volume VI expand on Miss Mason’s foundational principles, the 21 principles expressed at the beginning of each book (with some slight variation).
Each of these principles is a statement in favor of one idea, and at the same time, a rejection of another, prevailing idea of the day.As she explains her educational philosophy, she is also stating how her education differed from that of educational models of the day-
For instance, in discussion of her principle that children are born persons
What you need to do to see Miss Mason’s point is put the emphasis on ‘born.’ Children are born persons. They do not come into the world as empty sacs for us to fill, essentially making the adults around them their creators, because they are already born persons, full persons. They are not blobs of tissue, blank slates, or oysters. They are human beings with minds, of their own, each of them with a soul, and each with a personality. We can influence them, but we do not have blank slates upon which to write, empty mind-sacs to fill, or oysters to help grow up to human-hood.
The young child has imagination and reasoning abilities- what he doesn’t have is experience, and he is eager to get it and learn about the world. His earliest question is often “Why?” and he didn’t just begin to wonder when he learned the word. Rather, the word finally gave him the ability to ask what he has long wanted to know. We give babies far too little credit, says Charlotte.
Unfortunately, nstead of reaching out to their minds, we treat them as though they have no minds, or their minds are unable to deal with real mind food so it must be wrapped up in candy and jam.
“The world”, she writes, ” has concerned itself of late so much with psychology, whose province is what has been called ‘the unconscious mind,’ a region under the sway of nerves and blood (which it is best perhaps to let alone) that in our educational efforts we tend to ignore the mind and address ourselves to this region of symptoms. “
When we do not respect children as having been born with minds and the equipment they need to learn, we end up needing more and more props and stimuli to interest them in learning, and we end up confusing the worksheets, games, and tra-la-la as learning. An educator and author named Cook wrote a book about education the Play Way.
A. S. Neill discussed that book in Summerhill. He objected on the grounds that it turned play into a means to an end, much as today books are seen as a means to an end rather than something valuable for themselves*.
Cook held that
learning was so important that the pill should be sugared with play.
This notion that unless a child is learning something the child is
wasting his time is nothing less than a curse – a curse that blinds
thousands of teachers and most school inspectors.”
I would say that the real danger in Cook’s book is not that he considered learning so important, but that he considered it so unpalatable that it had to be sugarcoated to be taken.
Neill also said:
Fifty years ago
the watchword was `Learn through doing.’ Today the watchword
is `Learn through playing.’ Play is thus used only as a means to an
end, but to what good end I do not really know.
(from Summerhill, by A. S. Neill)
We now have the current view of education- one which sees books as mere delivery systems for various ‘goals and standards’ which can be met without ever actually reading a book, much as in the world of food and nutrition we have moved from seeing food as food, to seeing it as packaged nutrients. This bureaucratic approach has gotten so large and tangled (and so disrespectful of the fact that children are born persons) that collapse may be the only possible form of simplification open to us.
Charlotte has spent some time clearing the ground. She has responded to educational theories and practices common in her day, and explained why they are not effective ways of reaching a child’s mind, which is necessary if we are to respect them as born persons.
Now she will tell what she believes is the most important thing in educating children who are born persons.
This is probably the key point to this first principle of Charlotte’s:
” It is still true that that which is born of the spirit, is spirit. The way to mind is a quite direct way. Mind must come into contact with mind through the medium of ideas.”
The idea. The business of education is to introduce children to ideas.
(Guess I had time to add more)