Principle 16b & 18
There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, [the second] we may call 'the way of the reason'...
Their way to reason: We teach children, too, not to 'lean (too confidently) to their own understanding'; because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration (a) of mathematical truth, (b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will, in the former case, reason is, practically, an infallible guide, but in the latter, it is not always a safe one; for, whether that idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs.
**Reason = the power of the mind to think, understand and form judgments by a process of logic
To reason is to think. Not only right thinking, but measuring and weighing all sides, because as Charlotte said, "every pro suggested by our reason is opposed to some con in the background". In chapter IX of A Philosophy of Education, Charlotte aims to show us the importance and necessity of giving a variety of living ideas to shape a child's reasoning power or thinking.
We must show the child instances where the outcome was negative even though the desire was strong and so, looked good. Sometimes a child should be taken into the psychology of crime, and he will see that reason brings infallible proofs of the rightness of the criminal act. Charlotte begins with the example of Eve in the Garden of Eden...
We know the arguments before which Eve fell when the Serpent played the part of the 'weird Sisters.' It is pleasant to the eye; it is good for food; it shall make you wise in the knowledge of good and evil - good and convincing arguments, specious enough to overbear the counter-pleadings of Obedience.
She goes on to say...
Children should know that such things are before them also; that whenever they want to do wrong capital reasons for doing the wrong thing will occur to them. But, happily, when they want to do right no less cogent reasons for right doing will appear.
After abundant practice in reasoning and tracing out the reasons of others, whether in fact or fiction, children may readily be brought to the conclusions that reasonable and right are not synonymous terms; that reason is their servant, not their ruler, - one of those servants which help Mansoul in the governance of his kingdom. But no more than appetite, ambition, or the love of ease, is reason to be trusted with the government of a man, much less that of a state; because well-reasoned arguments are brought into play for a wrong course as for a right. He will see that reason works involuntarily; that all the beautiful steps follow one another in his mind without any activity or intention on his own part; but he need never suppose that he was hurried along into evil by thoughts which he could not help, because reason never begins it. It is only when he chooses to think about some course of plan, as Eve standing before the apples, that reason comes into play; so, if he chooses to think about a purpose that is good, many excellent reasons will hurry up to support him; but, alas, if he choose to entertain a wrong notion, he, as it were, rings the bell for reason, which enforces his wrong intention with a score of arguments proving that wrong is right. (p. 142-143)In defense of faulty reasoning, Charlotte suggests logic...
...for logic gives us the very formula of reason, and that which is logically proved is not necessarily right. We need no longer wonder that two men equally upright, equally virtuous, selected out of any company, will hold opposite views on almost any question; and which will support his views by logical argument. So we are at the mercy of the doctrinaire in religion, the demagogue in politics, and, dare we say, of the dreamer in science; and we think to save our souls by being in the front rank of opinion in one or the other. But not if we have grown up cognisant of the beauty and wonder of the act of reasoning, and also, of the limitations which attend it.
We must be able to answer the arguments in the air, not so much by counter reasons as by exposing the fallacies in such arguments and proving on our own part the opposite position. (p. 144)
Children are born with the power to reason. However, this power must be trained. As ideas are planted, one must decide if they are worthy, right or wrong. When we provide our children with a variety of living ideas through history, literature, and mathematics, we give them resources, of which, to draw from in training their power of reasoning. For example, Plutarch's Lives comes to mind as one show of citizenship that could assist in this power of training. When children are read a story of some noble and virtuous character, they are given a measure by which to weigh or reason.
Reason like the other powers of the mind, requires material to work upon whether embalmed in history or literature, or afloat with the news of a strike or uprising. It is madness to let children face a debatable world with only, say, a mathematical preparation. If our business were to train their power of reasoning, such a training would no doubt be of service; but the power is there already, and only wants material to work upon.
This caution must be borne in mind. Reason, like all other properties of a person, is subject to habit and works upon the material it is accustomed to handle. (p. 147)We must give consistent pabulum for the mind in a broad array of subjects in order to build habits of right thinking, or in other words, to train the power of reason. I am going out on a limb here to suggest that once again Charlotte shows advocacy for a liberal arts education versus simply S.T.E.M. training. The broad and varied curricula of a liberal arts education will give a balanced approach providing logic necessary to sustain reason.
We have seen that their reading and the affairs of the day should afford scope and opportunity for the delight in ratiocination proper to children. The fallacies they themselves perpetrate when exposed make them the readier to detect fallacies elsewhere.
What are we to do? Are we to waste time in discussing with children every idle and blasphemous proposition that comes their way? Surely not. But we may help them to principles which should enable them to discern these two characters for themselves. A proposition is idle when it rests on nothing and leads to nothing. (p. 148)
Ratiocination is the process of exact thinking or a reasoned train of thought. The ability to reason to a conclusion of right thinking, or virtuous ratiocination, is an extremely important skill so that our children do not fall prey to every notion that floats by. However, this does not mean we should be talky talky, preaching regularly about morals and high standards, but rather, providing a broad and liberal education, giving ideas, of which, the child may draw from.
Children must know that we cannot prove any of the great things of life, not even that we ourselves live; but we must rely upon that which we know without demonstration.
Once we are convinced of the fallibility of our own reason we are able to detect the fallacies in the reasoning of our opponents and are not liable to be carried away by every wind of doctrine. (p. 150)The last sentence of the quote above is a perfect summary. As humans, it's easy to fall to our sinful nature and faulty reasoning. However, once we see the errant of our own thinking, we can realize the logic of reason. When in doubt, we must encourage our children to pray...
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.