CMason, Books, Ideas, and the Teaching of Virtue

The instructed conscience knows that Temperance, Chastity, Fortitude, Prudence must rule in the House of Body. But how is the conscience to become instructed? Life brings us many lessons––when we see others do well, conscience approves and learns; when others do ill, conscience condemns. But we want a wider range of knowledge than the life about us affords, and books are our best teachers. There is no nice shade of conduct which is not described or exemplified in the vast treasure-house of literature. History and biography are full of instruction in righteousness; but what is properly called literature, that is, poetry, essays, the drama, and novels, is perhaps the most useful for our moral instruction, because the authors bring their insight to bear in a way they would hesitate to employ when writing about actual persons. Autobiographies, again, often lift the veil, for the writer may make free with himself.

And
The way children make their own the examples offered to them is amazing. No child would forget the characterization of Charles IX as ‘feeble and violent,’ nor fail to take to himself a lesson in self-control. We may not point the moral; that is the work proper for children themselves and they do it without fail. The comparative difficulty
of the subject does not affect them. A teacher writes (of children of
eleven),––”They cannot have enough of Publicola and there are always groans
when the lesson comes to an end.”

When we were discussing this post and we talked about stories and morals learned from books, one of my grown girls recommended:
Winnie The Pooh
and
Shakespeare’s Sonnets

 

As Charlotte mason wrote:
Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual
origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food. Probably he will reject nine-tenths of the ideas we offer, as he makes use of only a small proportion of his bodily food, rejecting the rest. He is an eclectic; he may choose this or that; our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety and his to take what he needs. Urgency on our part annoys him. He resists forcible feeding and loathes predigested food. What suits him best is pabulum presented in the indirect literary form which Our Lord
adopts in those wonderful parables whose quality is that they cannot be
forgotten though, while every detail of the story is remembered, its application
may pass and leave no trace.
We, too, must take this risk. We may offer children as their sustenance the
Lysander of Plutarch, an object lesson, we think, shewing what a statesman or a citizen should avoid: but, who knows, the child may take to Lysander and think his ‘cute’ ways estimable! Again, we take the risk, as did our Lord in that puzzling parable of the Unjust Steward. One other caution; it seems to be necessary to present ideas with a great deal of padding, as they reach us in a novel or poem or history book written with literary power. A child cannot in mind or body live upon tabloids however scientifically prepared; out of a whole big book he may not get more than half a dozen of those ideas upon which his spirit thrives; and they come in unexpected places and unrecognised forms, so that no grown person is capable of making such extracts from Scott or Dickens or Milton, as will certainly give him nourishment. It is a case of:

“In the morning sow thy
seed and in the evening withhold not thine hand for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that.”

This entry was posted in Books. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*
*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



  • Amazon: Buy our Kindle Books

  • Search Amazon


    Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

  • Brainy Fridays Recommends:

  • Search:
    Christianbook.com