We read this today, from Charlotte Mason’s 3rd volume, posted on AmblesideOnline’s website (used by permission):
Children must Stand or Fall by their own Efforts.––In another way, more within our present control, we do not let children alone enough in their work. We prod them continually and do not let
vol 3 pg 39
them stand or fall by their own efforts. One of the features, and one of the disastrous features, of modern society, is that, in our laziness, we depend upon prodders and encourage a vast system of prodding. We are prodded to our social duties, to our charitable duties, and to our religious duties. If we pay a subscription to a charity, we expect the secretary to prod us when it becomes due. If we attend a meeting, do we often do so of our own spontaneous will, or because somebody asks us to go and reminds us half a dozen times of the day and the hour? Perhaps it is a result of the hurry of the age that there is a curious division of labour, and society falls into those who prod and those who are prodded. Not that anybody prods in all directions, nor that anybody else offers himself entirely as a pincushion. It is more true, perhaps, to say that we all prod, and that we are all prodded. Now, an occasional prick is stimulating and wholesome, but the vis inertiae of human nature is such that we would rather lean up against a wall of spikes than not lean at all. What we must guard against in the training of children is the danger of their getting into the habit of being prodded to every duty and every effort. Our whole system of school policy is largely a system of prods. Marks, prizes, exhibitions, are all prods; and a system of prodding is apt to obscure the meaning ofmust and ought for the boy or girl who gets into the habit of mental and moral lolling up against his prods.
It would be better for boys and girls to suffer the consequences of not doing their work, now and then, than to do it because they are so urged and prodded on all hands they have no volition in the matter. The more
vol 3 pg 40
we are prodded the lazier we get, and the less capable of the effort of will which should carry us to, and nearly carry us through, our tasks. Boys and girls are, on the whole, good, and desirous to do their duty. If we expect the tale of bricks to be delivered at the due moment without urging or entreating, rewarding or punishing, in nine cases out of ten we shall get what we look for. Where many of us err is in leaning too much to our own understanding and our own efforts, and not trusting sufficiently to the dutiful impulse which will carry children through the work they are expected to do.
Shortly before this section there is another bit (which we also read) which talks about how all this external interference can become a crutch.
We discussed this briefly, and moved on. It was time to do grammar. I was frustrated because the children are supposed to come to me daily for grammar, and this is Thursday and it was the first time this week they had done so. I knew this, btw. I was watching to see how long it was going to be, and by Friday, we were going to have a serious, serious, talk. The FYG buried her head and said she knew, she was sorry. The FYB? He pointed his finger at his big sister and said, essentially when menfolk have been saying since the Garden of Eden in one way or the other. His version was kind of like, “That noona, whom YOU gave to me….”
“Yes,” I acknowledged, and I won’t tell you I raised my voice, but you can draw your own conclusions, “this noona did not tell you, but you are 15, you are the only son and will be responsible for your life and several others in just a short while, you have a schedule of your own, and are you telling me you can’t even look at your own schedule on your own? How will you survive when she’s doing her own thing? Is she your crutch?”
“Not at all,” he said. “She is my electric wheelchair.”
Charlotte Mason for the 21st century.
Headdesk. SMH. Etc.