Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Sacredness of Personality...CM Principle 4

Principle 4

These principles (i.e., authority, and docility) are limited by the respect due to the personality of children which may not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire. 
A couple of weeks ago, our CM Study Group met to discuss Charlotte Mason's 4th Principle.  I'm embarrassed to say, as the leader, I was not able to finish the reading prior to the meeting....and, to my humiliation, the reading I did beforehand was from the wrong chapter.  Thankfully, we have a wonderful group of homeschool moms who all understand what it means to be stretched thin and I was given much grace.

I'm happy to report, I have since finished the correct assigned reading, Chapter 5, of Volume 6, A Philosophy of Education, in which Charlotte explains Principle 4.  This principle appears to be a continuation of Principle 3, regarding authority and docility.  

In Principle 4, Charlotte cautions us against using fear and love to coerce our children into the world of academia.  She states...
...fear is no longer the acknowledged basis of school discipline; we have methods more subtle than the mere terrors of the law.  Love is one of them.  The person of winning personality attracts his pupils (or hers) who will do anything for his sake and are fond and eager in all their ways, docile to that point where personality is submerged, and they live on the smiles, perish on the averted looks, of the adored teacher.  Parents look on with a smile and think that all is well; but Bob or Mary is losing that growing time which should make a self-dependent, self-ordered person, and is day by day becoming a parasite who can go only as he is carried, the easy prey of fanatic or demagogue.  This sort of encroachment upon the love of children offers as a motive, 'do this for my sake' ; wrong is to be avoided lest it grieve the teacher, good is to be done to pleasure him; for this end a boy learns his lessons, behaves properly, shows good will, produces a whole cataloge of schoolboy virtues and yet his character is being undermined. 
She further goes on to explain the child's detrimental desire for approval... 
...he is not happy unless mother or nurse approve of him...Nay, this desire for approval may get such possession of him that he thinks of nothing else; he must have approval whether from the worthless or the virtuous.
While reading, I greatly appreciated Charlotte's recommended avoidance of material rewards... 
...In the intellectual field, however, there is danger; and nothing worse could have happened to our schools than the system of marks, prizes, place-taking, by which many of them are practically governed.  A boy is so taken up with the desire to forge ahead that there is no time to think of anything else.  What he learns is not interesting to him; he works to get his remove.
...But so besotted is our educational thought that we believe children regard knowledge  rather as repulsive medicine than as inviting food.  Hence our dependence on marks, prizes, athletics, alluring presentation, any jam we can devise to disguise the powder.  The man who willfully goes on crutches has feeble incompetent legs; he who chooses to go blindfold has eyes that cannot bear the sun; he who lives on pap-meat has weak digestive powers, and he who's mind is sustained by the crutches of emulation and avarice looses that one stimulating power which is sufficient for his intellectual needs.  This atrophy of the desire of knowledge is the penalty our scholars pay because we have chosen to make them work for inferior ends. 
This system of rewarding a child with stickers and prizes for doing an assigned or expected task, is a great peeve of mine.  It brings on an attitude of not wanting to do something unless there is material compensation.  In essence, we handicap the child, giving a false sense of responsibility.  Rather, Charlotte calls us to guide our children to the natural desire for knowledge, saying,
But knowledge is delectable.  We have all the 'satiable curiosity' of Mr. Kipling's Elephant even when we content ourselves with the broken meats flung by the daily press.  Knowledge is to us as our mother's milk, we grow thereby and in the act of sucking are admirably content.  
Oh, that last line is beautifully poetic to me!  To think that knowledge would be pursued satisfyingly by our children for its own sake is indeed nourishment to one's soul.   I can't wait to read more to find out how Ms. Mason suggests the practical application of going about this.       

For further reading regarding Principle 4, see Brandy's article titled, Ideals: Loving Knowledge for its Own Sake.  I'm also pondering Brandy's thoughts on the word "suggestion" in her article, Charlotte Mason and Suggestion

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