Sunday, August 1, 2010

Philosophy of Education Vol. 6 Ch. 7

“How we make use of our mind”

Herbart was a German philosopher that had developed a system of education that believed that children were “empty vessels” waiting to be filled by the teacher. Charlotte begins this chapter by pointing out that “our business is not to examine the psychology of Herbart…but rather to consider how Herbartian methods work out practically in education.” She begins by stating that Herbart’s psychology is attractive to teachers that want to “magnify their office” and how rewarding it is when the child graduates as the new creation of his teacher. This method is summed up as the teacher selects the “ideas” and then shows the student how they relate to each other. The work is complete and the ideas” enter the mind and grow and those that are the strongest rule and if they are “good” the “man is made”. Next she gives a detailed description of a lesson plan from a school using this way of educating that resembles a unit study approach where every subject is based in that unit. She points out that while it may look like much has been accomplished it really is setting the child up to be bored with learning. We already have learned that the mind needs ideas to feed upon. It may be that children appear to like easy lessons and abridged story books but in Charlotte’s words, “they like lollipops but cannot live upon them.” And yet there are schools that are trying to “supply the intellectual , moral, and religious needs of children by appropriate ‘sweetmeats’” When children are given books of great literary quality the mind takes the ideas presented and sorts, arranges, selects, rejects, and classifies the material all by itself.
Herbartian philosophy puts the burden of education on the teacher, which then exalts the teacher as the “chief agent” in education. This method appeals to teachers who hope to change the world with the children they have raised to a higher level. It also is appealing to education committees and administrators. They are relieved because the responsibility can then fall on the teachers to educate, because teachers can just turn on the faucet and out will flow the knowledge. They like the fact that the lessons are pleasing to watch and listen to. Lessons that are planned in this format may not show flaws in the practical working of the method, however, later, it “gives rise to dismay and anxiety among thoughtful people.”
Next we are introduced to a Mr. A Paterson who wrote a book criticizing the schools of the day. Charlotte Mason quotes him extensively in this section but basically he found problems with a system where the boys were given extensive lessons but were not trained to do the thinking themselves. Many were found struggling in their jobs because prior to graduating, the “thinking” had been done for them.
It was common in her day to educate young people according to their chosen vocation. They, too, had “trade” schools. She makes the point that employers have said that workers that had education specific to the trade did not produce any better than a boy who was a hard worker and learned doing the job. We put so much effort educating for profession because we believe that this is how young people will become beneficial to society but we forget that “man should not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, shall man live.” The Spiritual life of man is far more important. The spiritual life also requires the food of ideas. Charlotte Mason concludes “like the old saying goes knowledge is a virtue and knowledge informed by religion will result in seeing that righteousness exalteth a nation.”

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