Monday, March 2, 2015

Defining Charlotte...Morals



Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin moralis, from mor-, mos custom
First Known Use: 14th century

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, morals concern or relate to what is right and wrong in human behavior.  Morality is sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgement.  Ethics is a branch of philosophy, an area of study, dealing with what is morally right or wrong.  Looking at the Latin origin or morals, a custom is an action or way of behaving that is usual and traditional among the people in a particular group or place.  Therefore, being of high moral character is to conform to a standard of right behavior, or the repeated practice (custom) of doing what is right. 

Let's look at what Charlotte has to say on moral training...
Morals do not come by Nature.––No doubt every child is born with a conscience, that is, with a sense that he ought to choose the right and refuse wrong; but he is not born with the power to discern good and evil. An educated conscience is a far rarer possession than we imagine; we are all startled now and then by the laxities of right-minded neighbours in matters the right and wrong of which is patent to ourselves; but probably our own moral eccentricities are equally startling to our friends. The blame rests on our faulty moral education, which has hardly made us aware of fallacious thought and insincere speech; we believe that Latin and Greek must be taught, but that morals come by nature. A certain rough-and-ready kind of morality, varying with our conditions, does come by heredity and environment; but that most delicate and beautiful of human possessions, an educated conscience, comes only by teaching with authority and adorning by example.
Children born neither Moral nor Immoral.––It is curious how educated people are still at sea as regards the moral status of children. Some time ago I was present at an interesting discussion, among the members of an educational society, on the subject of children's lies. It was interesting to notice that the meeting, consisting of able, educated people, divided itself into those who held that children were born true and those who held that they were born false; it did not occur to anybody to recall his own childhood, or even to reflect on his own condition at the present moment. The question lay between children being born moral and born immoral. Nobody reflected that every human being comes into the world with infinite possibilitiesfor good; and, alas! infinite possibilities for evil; possibly with evil hereditary tendencies which may be rectified by education, or with good tendencies which his bringing-up may nullify.
Moral Teaching.––We need go no further than the Ten Commandments and our Lord's exposition of the moral law to find corrective teaching for the spasmodic, impulsive moral efforts which tend to make up our notion of what the children call 'being good,' and nowhere shall we find a more lucid and practical commentary on the moral law than is set forth in the Church Catechism. It was the practice of a venerable Father of the Church, Bishop Ken, to recite the 'duty towards God,' and the 'duty towards my neighbour' every day. It is a practice worth imitating, and it would not be amiss to let all children of whatever communion learn these short abstracts of the whole duty of man. (Vol. 3, School Education, p. 129-130)

The Bible, the great Storehouse of Moral Impression.––Valuable as are some compendiums of its moral teaching, it is to the Bible itself we must go as to the great storehouse of moral impressions. (Vol. 3, School Education, p. 175)

We are aware of more than mind and body in our dealings with children. We appeal to their 'feelings'; whether 'mind' or 'feelings' be more than names we choose to give to manifestations of that spiritual entity which is each one of us. Probably we have not even taken the trouble to analyse and name the feelings and to discover that they all fall under the names of love and justice, that it is the glory of the human being to be endowed with such a wealth of these two as is sufficient for every occasion of life. More, the occasions come and he is ready to meet them with the ease and triumph of the solvent debtor.
But this rich endowment of the moral nature is also a matter with which the educator should concern himself. Alas, he does so. He points the moral with a thousand tedious platitudes, directs, instructs, illustrates and bores exceedingly the nimble and subtle minds of his scholars. This, of the feelings and their manifestations, is certainly the field for the spare and guarded praise and blame of parent and teacher; but this praise or blame is apt to be either scrapped by children, or, taken as the sole motive for conduct, they go forth unused to do a thing 'for it is right' but only because somebody's approbation is to be won.
This education of the feelings, moral education, is too delicate and personal a matter for a teacher to undertake trusting to his own resources. Children are not to be fed morally like young pigeons with predigested food. They must pick and eat for themselves and they do so from the conduct of others which they hear of or perceive. But they want a great quantity of the sort of food whose issue is conduct, and that is why poetry, history, romance, geography, travel, biography, science and sums must all be pressed into service. No one can tell what particular morsel a child will select for his sustenance. One small boy of eight may come down late because "I was meditating upon Plato and couldn't fasten my buttons," and another may find his meat in 'Peter Pan'! But all children must read widely, and know what they have read, for the nourishment of their complex nature.
As for moral lessons, they are worse than useless; children want a great deal of fine and various moral feeding, from which they draw the 'lessons' they require. It is a wonderful thing that every child, even the rudest, is endowed with Love and is able for all its manifestations, kindness, benevolence, generosity, gratitude, pity, sympathy, loyalty, humility, gladness; we older persons are amazed at the lavish display of any one of these to which the most ignorant child may treat us. But these aptitudes are so much coin of the realm with which a child is provided that he may be able to pay his way through life; and, alas, we are aware of certain vulgar commonplace tendencies in ourselves which make us walk delicately and trust, not to our own teaching, but to the best that we have in art and literature and above all to that storehouse of example and precept, the Bible, to enable us to touch these delicate spirits to fine issues. (Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, p. 58-59)

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