I have read all six volumes of Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, and I have read them more than once. Even so, I have not read all of them from cover to cover recently. Since I spent most of the last year very engrossed in the sixth volume, A Philosophy of Education, because of Mind to Mind, I decided recently to read through another volume afresh, and so I began the second volume, Parents and Children, which I have read from but not through for a good while.
And there, almost right in the very middle, I found the clearest statement I can remember reading in which Charlotte Mason makes it plain, herself, that her philosophy of education is rooted in the past. If I ever have occasion to update or revise Consider This, I’ll be sure to include quotes from this section, and I’m sorry they are not there already.
(all quotes are from Chapter XII of Parents and Children)
Charlotte Mason laments, “Probably the chief source of weakness in our attempt to formulate a science of education is that we do not perceive that education is the outcome of philosophy. We deal with the issue and ignore the source.” That, of course, is her recognition that why we pursue education along certain lines is more important than how.
She makes reference to the tradition of studying Greek at the major universities and observes the fear which existed then that something was in danger of being lost, as there was a struggle in educational circles at that time between classical studies and scientific studies. But she is unafraid, because:
…we are beginning to recognise that education is the applied science of life, and that we really have existing material in the philosophy of the ages and the science of the day to formulate an educational code whereby we may order the lives of our children and regulate our own.
Looking backward…and looking forward. This quote really belongs somewhere in Consider This. But she goes further, and emphasizes the fact that educational practices are sound only when they rest solidly on a clear and comprehensive philosophy, and there are two main schools of thought which seek to dominate.
Will education be based upon the premise of naturalism, in which only the material considerations of brain will be given attention, or will education be based upon idealism, in which non-material ideas are given precedence? She has quite a lot to say about this, which I will not attempt to summarize, but if you know Charlotte Mason, you know where this is going to conclude.
You cannot have it both ways (which is why an eclectic mish-mash of philosophical ideas is ineffectual).
Either thought is a process of the material brain, one more ‘mode of motion,’ as the materialists contend, or the material brain is the agent of the spiritual thought, which acts upon it, let us say, as the fingers of a player upon the keys of an instrument.
She goes on to explain the the practical implications of this, and I will not repeat all of that here, but the chapter ends with a call for a unified, synthetic approach to knowledge which I can’t resist quoting.
We must introduce into the study of each science the philosophic spirit and method, general views, the search for the most general principles and conclusions. We must then reduce the different sciences to unity by a sound training in philosophy…
Yes, I really wish I had read this chapter before I wrote Consider This. It doesn’t say anything new, but it certainly does confirm everything I wrote there.