Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Philosophy of Education Vol. 6 Book II Ch. 2

A liberal Education in Secondary Schools

“The real drawback to a teacher’s work and education is the monotonous drudgery of teaching continually what no one wants to learn.” Charlotte Mason.

The first and most important thing to teach the child is the knowledge of God and this should come through the Bible. Second is the knowledge of man, in which the child should learn through “History, Literature, Art, Civics, Ethics, Biography, Drama, and Languages.” Lastly, the knowledge of the universe should be taught. This should be learned from the natural world or nature and the sciences and mathematics. Charlotte Mason then asks “What is Knowledge” and defines it this way: “knowledge is that which we know and the learner knows only by a definite act of knowing which he performs for himself.” But unfortunately in Charlotte’s day, as in our own, she says “an appalling carelessness or neglect blocks the way (to knowledge). Boys and Girls do not want to know; therefore they do not know.”

Her schools discovered with the right materials there was “great avidity for knowledge” in all children no matter aged or social class. They all displayed remarkable attention, retention, and intellectual reaction to the material offered. Charlotte discovered that the mind doesn’t really “know” anything unless it comes in literary forms. She says anyone can get information out of the driest of textbooks for an exam but these kinds of facts don’t appear to touch the mind. She likens the mind to having an outer court, where matter can be “taken in and expelled without ever having entered the inner place where personality dwells.” This is what rote learning is.

Literary learning touches the mind and we know this by hearing the student tell all he has heard in a single reading in the form of narration. Charlotte stresses a single reading because she said we “can’t give full attention to something we have already heard.”

Academic success and knowledge are not the same thing. Many “schools” fail to give the students love for knowledge. A good school should impart knowledge or “high ideals” in a slow and “sinking-in” way. Let the material saturate the mind.

Children educated with this method are a delight to be around. They have many interests and can talk about them freely. Education that truly imparts knowledge produces magnanimous citizens. The teacher has a choice to make; whether education will be just a way to get on in life or the way to higher thinking and plain living that will ultimately benefit society.

Charlotte felt the end of term exams were of great importance because they were not just a test of knowledge but records that could be permanently kept.

The knowledge of God is the “principle knowledge” and the Bible is used to further that knowledge. The children read or are read a passage. If there is a geographical or cultural reference, the teacher points this out before the reading. Then a narration follows.

After knowledge of God- history is the “pivot” on which the curriculum turns. History is so rich- it increases the knowledge of man through lives and events and turns the students mind towards patriotism. The study of one’s own country’s history was always present in each grade but it was studied alone only in the earlier grades.

Literature was not studied separately but alongside history bringing out the current thought of the time period. Poetry from the time period was always included. Civics was taught as a separate subject but is closely tied to history and ethics, which we would call every-day morals, that there is not a big separation.

Science is taught in the same manner using good books putting the children in touch with great inventors or discoverers. Art, Music, and Foreign Languages are also part of the curriculum for all students. The children are not taught drawing put often draw scenes from something that have read about or seen. They learn to read and narrate in French, German, Italian, Latin, & Greek.

This last thought from Charlotte shows good reason to not just “teach for the test”. “Education must be in touch with life. We must learn what we desire to know. If we work for public examinations, the questions in which must be of a narrow academic cast, we get a narrow, accurate, somewhat sterile type of mind. We reap as we have sown.”

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

I never tire of hearing Charlotte's life-giving ideas. What a delight to learn in this way!