Friday, February 24, 2017

Reflections from Consider This - Chapters 7-9...

Let's continue our discussion of Consider This, Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass by taking a look at Chapters 7, 8, and 9, in which Glass endeavors to show us how Charlotte Mason's Principles relate to the classical tradition.

Chapter 7
The Greeks and Romans did not call what they were doing "classical education", and they did not speak with a single voice. There were just as many conflicting educational methods then as there are now. (p. 49)
In spite of their different approaches or methods, however, the classical educators were generally consistent in one thing. They had in common the goal of producing virtue in their learners, and they understood that the outcome of education was meant to influence character and conduct, not intellect alone. (p. 50)
Charlotte Mason also understood this desired outcome of education and aimed to 'produce virtue'.  Virtue as in a commendable quality or trait; a particular moral, intellectual, physical, spiritual excellence. In What is Virtue?, Andrew Kern gives us a definition of virtue. Ms. Mason did this through religious teaching, the use of quality living books, and through habit training.
For the brain is the seat of habit: the culture of habit is, to a certain extent, physical culture: the discipline of habit is at least a third part of the great whole which we call education, and here we feel that the physical science of to-day has placed us far in advance of the philosopher of fifty years ago. We hold with him entirely as to the importance of great formative ideas in the education of children, but we add to our ideas, habits, and we labour to form habits upon a physical basis. Character is the result not merely of the great ideas,which are given to us, but of the habits which we labour to form upon those ideas. We recognise both principles, and the result is a wide range of possibilities in education, practical methods, and a definite aim. We labour to produced a human being at his best physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually, with the enthusiasms of religion, of the good life, of nature, knowledge, art, and manual work; and we do not labour in the dark. (School Education, p. 99)
The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days. (Home Education, p. 136)
...the habits of the child produce the character of the man, because certain mental habitudes once set up, their nature is to go on for ever unless they should be displaced by other habits. (Home Education, p. 118)
Forming good habits produces character.

In Chapter 7, Glass goes on state that the beginning of classical study is grammar, but grammar meant something very different to the Greeks and Romans, and even the later Renaissance educators, than it does to most teachers today.

According to Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of The English Language, 'grammar' in Greek means from a letter. According to Glass,
Quintilian equates grammar - a word with Greek origins - to literature, a Latin word. If we have learned any Greek and Latin roots, we can see that gram and lit both mean "letter," and call to mind that slightly antiquated expression for someone who was classically educated - "a man of letters" - that is, a man well-read in great books. (p. 50)
Glass further states, Quintilian didn't limit the study of grammar to reading, but also comprehension. Next, she says, The idea that education should begin by reading literature was embraced by the Renaissance educators. However, these Renaissance educators were not native to the Greek and Latin language, which were the classical languages that all books were written in at that time, so in order to study/read any books, they had to study/learn Latin.
Latin was important to them, not for its own sake, but because it was the language of the books - no Latin was the equivalent of being illiterate. (p. 52)
Therefore, Latin was studied because it was the language of original text. As time went on and books were translated, the study of Latin became a "mental exercise in grammatical rules and translation". The purpose of studying Latin changed and according to Glass became more utilitarian, as it went from synthetic to analytic.

This led me to think about whether or not we should study Latin in our homeschool? And, why do I desire my kids to study Latin? Because as Glass points out, if we implement classical practices without the impetus of the classical ideals, we will never achieve those ideals. Given her argument, I really started to see that my reason and desire for my kids to study Latin is utilitarian and pragmatic.

According to Glass, Charlotte Mason also understood the history of Latin and did not want it to be eliminated from the traditional curriculum for purposes of reading and understanding literature. Charlotte didn't refute classical education, but rather knew that it must be used for the right reasons.
Those of us who want to revive a vital education according to the classical ideal in our own times, as Charlotte Mason did, must look past the practices and understand the purposes for classical learning. If we choose to use the traditional methods, such as the teaching of Latin and logic, we must use them for the right reasons and in the right way in order to achieve the desired outcome. (p. 60)
Chapter 8

Glass used Chapter 8 to explain a few of Charlotte's principles and to show how they relate to classical education, including:

Principle 1 - Children are born persons.

Principles 9. 10. & 11 - We must provide food for the mind, which is no mere sac - pabulum.

Principles 5, 6, 7, & 8 - Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.

Glass went into greater detail regarding the PNEU motto stating the classical relations of each, of which I will share my notes below...

Atmosphere - learning environment
  Classical Relation
  1. healthy interaction with world, experience of natural disappointments and failures, triumph of small successes keep a child humble
  2. natural interaction with world and people as well as natural enjoyment of labor, play, and exercise contribute to "poetic knowledge" or synthetic understanding of connectedness
  3. child can begin to put virtues into practice - sharing, helping neighbor, showing considerate behavior

Discipline - habit
  Classical Relation
  1. ordering affections, paving the way for a virtuous life

Life - living ideas
  Classical Relation
  1. diet of ideas must be appetizing and varied - earliest efforts in education were meant to inspire
  2. provide living ideas, not information (p.71)

Glass closes Chapter 8 with,
Everything that a person learns becomes a part of himself, and as his character is formed, he recognizes that he is made up of those experiences he has had, the people he has met, the books he has read, and the things that he has thought. This is not a process that ends with a semester, or a graduation, but goes on and on as long as we are alive and learning.  (p.73)
Chapter 9
In addition to the three instruments of education necessary for children's mental and spiritual growth, Charlotte Mason gave further consideration to that primary goal which was the business of classical education: the formation of character, shaped by the idea that right thinking leads to right acting. (p. 75)
So Glass begins Chapter 9 and continues with explaining Charlotte's Principles 16, 17, & 18 for the purposes of character development.

The way of the will - self-governance

The way of reason - do not lean on your own understanding

These two guides to self-management that were part of Charlotte's program of education serve no direct academic purpose, but do play a role in the shaping that right thinking which it is hoped will lead to right action, or forming a virtuous person. (p. 79)
Again, as in Chapter 6, at the end of Chapter 9, Glass summarized by reviewing the three elements that consistently underlie all of the endeavors of historical, classical education. These being virtue, humility and synthetic thinking. She closed by asserting that Charlotte Mason was indeed a classical educator.
Charlotte Mason consciously places her methods and philosophy within this classical tradition. She, and those who worked with her in the PNEU, deliberately looked to educational philosophies from the past to shape their contemporary practices. We may look at any one of her methods or ideas and see where it finds a place within the service of some part of the traditional classical ideal. (p. 81)
In doing a little further research attempting to flush this out, I found the following words written by Charlotte Mason and couldn't help but think there is some connection here to the classical tradition.
THREE FOUNDATION PRINCIPLES - Three principles which underlie the educational thought of the Union, and the furtherance of which some of us have deeply at heart, are: - (a) The recognition of authority as a fundamental principle, as universal and as inevitable in the moral world as is that of gravitation in the physical; (b) the recognition of the physical basis of habits and of the important part which the formation of habits plays in education; (c) the recognition of the vital character and inspiring power of ideas. (School Education p. 126)

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