In Memoriam #1–Thinking and Acting Rightly

I read In Memoriam once, long ago, but so long ago that I didn’t remember much of it. I decided to reread it earlier this year, and I’m so glad I did. It was just full of wonderful things—bits and pieces of history, appreciation for Charlotte Mason, and insights into the thought and work of the PNEU.

For the next several weeks, I’m going to run a blog series and share some of the things I encountered as I read, and the insights that I had while reading. Whether you have time to read it or not right now, I hope these nuggets will whet your appetite and encourage you to put In Memoriam on your “to read” list so that you’ll get the chance to read it someday.

One of the underlying premises of classical education, which I described in Consider This, is that right thinking leads to right acting. Charlotte Mason mentions this herself in her own books, of course. She says that we can “work and love and pray and live righteously,” and that these things are “the outcome of the manner of thoughts” that we think. (School Education, p. 114)

Miss Mason not only thought that right thinking should lead to right acting, she embodied that ideal in her own life, according to her close associate, Elsie Kitching:

It is surely a rare thing that a philosopher should translate his philosophy into practical life as Miss Mason did. Many philosophers are content with the supreme joy of intellectual effort, others are content with making experiments as well, but Miss Mason had put each dictum of her philosophy to the test of daily life and its needs. It lay behind all her actions, for she ever said that right thinking was the most important act in a man’s life. If he thought right he would act right.

Of course, Miss Mason did not assume “right thinking” could be achieved by merely memorizing a code of conduct or a list of rules to follow. She knew that right thinking was the result of a gradual, relational approach to understanding ourselves and our right relations to God, others, and the world. The Bible, robust conscience-building literature, and an outward focus on our duties rather than our rights were some of things she used to develop right thinking in her students.

D.S. Golding, the Headmistress of a girls’ school which used the PNEU programmes (curriculum) and followed the PNEU methods, recollected the way in which the methods—based on principles—created an atmosphere in which children not only learned to do right, but to do it because they loved what was right.

Our Founder never thought, as some think and do not hesitate to say, that “spirit” matters not. One of our aims must be to get the children to work because they love to work; to do right, not because of any reward or punishment which may follow the doing or not doing, but [because] they want to do the right thing; and the principles which underlie the P.N.E.U. methods help us to attain this goal.

How do the principles help with that? I suspect one of the primary principles is “Education is the science of relations.” As Miss Mason told us, our goal is not young people who merely “know,” but people who “care.” Those who care act upon that relationship, and that is how “right thinking” becomes “right acting”—because it is motivated by love. This is ordo amoris—ordering the affections—in action

There’s lots more to come in this series, and I hope you’ll find time to drop in and read more insights from In Memoriam!

If you are interested in reading In Memoriam for yourself—and I hope you are!—you can read the text for free. (That’s where I read it.)

I’m also excited to share that Brandy at Afterthoughts has made a clean, good-quality physical copy available, and included some additional material that will make it more useful for study. I’ll be adding this one to my library! If you want a copy of In Memoriam: A Tribute to Charlotte Mason in your hands, this is the one.



(aff. links)

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