Author’s note: I am a homeschooling father who discovered Charlotte Mason while searching for a way to home educate my children. I am neither a scholar nor an educationalist. But I am a person who has experienced a genuine awakening as a result of engaging with Charlotte Mason’s ideas. As such I have a strong desire to make Charlotte Mason’s message available to everyone. I am personally committed to showing respect for all people, and I believe that this can be done while also being faithful to the pursuit of truth. I ask the reader to join me in respecting others while at the same time evaluating evidence, interpretations, and ideas.

In 1885, Charlotte Mason introduced a new theory of education which changed the course of education in her native England and throughout the world. According to Mason’s own testimony, she based this theory of education on the teachings of Christ, the discoveries of science, and the behaviors of children. While Mason’s influence on education in England has dwindled over the years, the modern homeschool movement in America has launched a dramatic rebirth of interest in Charlotte Mason’s ideas. This renaissance began with the publication of For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in 1984.

The homeschool movement in America also resulted in a rebirth of interest in various models of education described as classical. Over the years, a wide variety of curricula and approaches have adopted the label classical, making it difficult to identify what is precisely meant by this term. However, a common thread appears to be that a classical theory of education is one that finds its roots in the ancient world of Greece and Rome (Glass, 2014a, p. 2). Since the growth of interest in Mason’s method has paralleled the growth of interest in the classical methods, it is natural that some would ask how Charlotte Mason’s philosophy compares to the classical model.

In 2014, Karen Glass published a book entitled Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition. In this book, Glass (2014a) advances the striking thesis that not only is a Charlotte Mason education similar to the classical model, but in fact it is a “particular implementation” of a “classical education” (p. 125). By writing this, Glass makes the claim that Charlotte Mason’s method should be classified as just one of the many diverse approaches that fall under the general label of classical.

Unfortunately, Glass’s book misrepresents the source, purpose, and ideas of Charlotte Mason’s method. In doing so, Glass creates a hybrid model of education that is faithful neither to the classical model nor to Charlotte Mason’s ideas. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that Charlotte Mason’s method is not merely a “particular implementation” of a “classical education.” Rather, Mason introduced a distinctly new philosophy of education that is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition.

I. The Source of Charlotte Mason’s Educational Theory

Glass (2014a) constructs a narrative in which Mason became “dissatisfied by the general trends of education in her time” (p. 8). In order to counter these trends, she “went looking into the past and drew an older conception of education into the present” (p. 8). Drawing primarily on the classical tradition, she allegedly “developed a fresh presentation for some very old ideas. Having put those ideas into practice and found them effective, she began to speak and later write with confidence about what she had learned” (p. 8).

However, this narrative contradicts Mason’s own testimony of how she developed her theory. Mason first presented her theory of education in a series of lectures to mothers to support a building project for St. Mark’s Church in Manningham (Bernier, 2009, p. 41). In the first lecture, which was to become the beginning of her first published work and the foundation of all her future writings, she named the primary source of her educational theory:

Code of Education in the Gospels. – It may surprise parents who have not given much attention to the subject to discover also a code of education in the Gospels, expressly laid down by Christ. It is summed up in three commandments, and all three have a negative character, as if the chief thing required of grown-up people is that they should do no sort of injury to the children: Take heed that ye OFFEND not – DESPISE not – HINDER not – one of these little ones. (Mason, 1989a, p. 12)

Mason (1896) indicates that psychology was her secondary source for these lectures:

The extraordinary leverage which some knowledge of the principles of physiological-psychology gives to those who have the bringing-up of children, had already been brought home to the writer in giving lectures on education to ladies preparing to teach in elementary schools. (p. 50)

She did not hint at any classical source for these lectures or for the method she developed.

At the close of her career, Mason provided her own extended narrative of how she discovered and developed her theory of education. She provides this testimony in pages 9-17 of An Essay Towards A Philosophy of Education (A Philosophy of Education, 1954). The sources Mason carefully enumerated are listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Mason’s (1954) own enumeration of the sources of her theory

Source Derived Principles
Direct observation of children ●      “children are more than we, their elders, except that their ignorance is illimitable” (p. 10)

●      “the mind of a child takes or rejects according to its needs” (p. 10)

●      “children [are] well equipped to deal with ideas, and that explanations, questionings, amplifications, are unnecessary and wearisome” (pp. 10-11)

●      “the wide world and its history [is] barely enough to satisfy a child who [has] not been made apathetic by spiritual malnutrition” (p. 12)

“The Scottish school of philosophers” (perhaps a reference to Enlightenment-era philosopher Francis Hutcheson who lived from 1694 to 1745) ●      “Desire of Knowledge (Curiosity) [is] the chief instrument of education” (p. 11)
Mason’s personal reflection and logical deduction from previous principles ●      “a common curriculum (up to the age of say, fourteen or fifteen) appears to be due to all children” (p. 12)

●      “the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books” (p. 12)

●      “We must read in order to know or we do not know by reading” (p. 13)

Mason’s own “circumstances and consideration” ●      The value of “literary form” (p. 13)
Contemporary psychologists ●      “how to secure attention” (p. 17)

From the beginning to the end, not a single classical source is mentioned in Mason’s own narrative of the development of her educational theory.

Nevertheless, Glass (2014a) insists Charlotte Mason was directed by “her desire to be inspired and guided by the principles of the past” (p. 2). Glass claims that Mason’s primary source was the classical tradition: “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” (p. 81). This claim is reiterated on p. 122: “[Mason] read and understood the educational writings of the classical authors. From them, she gleaned the vital principles of the classical ideal and suggestions about how to realize that ideal in practice.”

On p. 123, Glass (2014a) quotes the following passage by Charlotte Mason from L’Umile Pianta:

If you picked up a bracelet lying by the way it would be no credit to you. It is precisely the case with us. These principles are picked up, found, a find which is no one’s property; they belong to all who have wit enough to take them. (Mason, 1922, p. 14)

Glass (2014a) suggests that Mason found these principles in the classical tradition when she interprets this passage as follows:

Each of us who have chosen to educate in the classical tradition are among those who have had the wit to lay hold of universal principles that are more valuable than any jewelry. We are the torch-bearers, passing on the light to the next generation of children whom it is our privilege to educate. The circle of the classical ideals—the pursuit of virtue, humility, and a synthetic approach to knowledge whereby affections become actions—is a bracelet that still lies by the wayside and may be claimed by any willing teacher. These things are no one’s property—belonging neither to me, nor to Charlotte Mason, nor to the torch-bearers of the past such as Quintilian or Erasmus. They belong to all of us—may we use them wisely and well, and succeed in passing them on to the next generation of learners. (p. 123)

The reader is led to assume that Mason discovered her principles of education from the classical tradition.

In reality, however, the full context of the L’Umile Pianta article quoted by Glass (2014a) on p. 123 actually falsifies Glass’s interpretation. Glass herself quotes the preceding sentence: “We . . . are working on principles not worked on before” (Mason, 1922). How can one assert that these principles were borrowed from the classical tradition if they were “not worked on before”? For the elimination of doubt, Mason (1922) proceeds on the very next page to “summarise briefly the principles underlying the method” (p. 15). These are the very “principles” that she says were “picked up, found” (p. 14):

  1. “We believe the child is a person. From the first he shows his mind and individuality . . . His affections, sense of love and justice, are there from the beginning, and the fact that a baby can blush when reproved shows the moral sense of a person. Enormous provision is made in every child for the individuality of a person.” (p. 15)
  2. “The body requires regular meals, daily food; so does the mind; as in the body the complete processes of assimilation and digestion go on without our knowledge, so do the similar processes of the mind work.” (p. 15)
  3. “It is an error to suppose that the mind lives on exercise.” (p. 15)
  4. “As the mouth opens to receive food, the mind opens to receive intellectual food. Before food enters the mouth, the palate must be titillated and appealed to, to set the juices flowing, the food must smell pleasant and have an agreeable taste. All test books and cram books and extracts fail in this respect and do not feed the mind.” (p. 16)
  5. “It is natural to children not to lose attention; they do not need to pick it up.” (p. 16)
  6. “Quantity, quality and variety are the three things to bear in mind as to the food for the mind.” (p. 17)

These principles closely align with those listed in Table 1 and which Mason says she derived from direct observation, personal reflection, and psychology. These principles are completely unrelated to the principles that Glass (2014a) claims were derived from the classical tradition – “the pursuit of virtue, humility, and a synthetic approach to knowledge whereby affections become actions” (p. 123). Indeed, Mason (1922) closes her article by saying, “We are missionaries and pioneers” (p. 17). A pioneer explores new regions, not regions covered by the classical past.

Unfortunately, Glass (2014a) misrepresents what Mason meant when she said she made educational “discoveries.” Glass implies that Mason made these discoveries from classical sources: “She herself said that she and her colleagues had ‘discovered’ them, because they represent universal truths about education that have their roots in the classical world.” (p. 9, emphasis added) However, the context in Mason’s A Philosophy of Education (1954) makes it clear that her “discoveries” were made from her own firsthand interaction with children: “One limitation I did discover in the minds of these little people . . . But I was beginning to make discoveries; . . . I soon perceived that children were well equipped to deal with ideas . . . ” (p. 10, emphasis added). Note that in this case, the discovery is made from a perception, or observation, of children, not from a classical author. Mason (1954) writes that “One discovers a thing because it is there” (p. 27) again implying the idea of observation of something occurring in the present.

Mason (1954) describes another discovery that she made:

The service that some of us (of the P.N.E.U.) believe we have done in the cause of education is to discover that all children, even backward children, are aware of their needs and pathetically eager for the food they require . . . . (p. 62, emphasis added)

This discovery was not made by reading classical authors but rather by bringing living education to “backward children”. This is related to another discovery that occurred in the active practice of teaching: “This infinite power of attention in every child (and grown-up), our discovery, is one P.N.E.U. principle which puts education on a new footing, and promises the latter-day Renaissance we all long to see” (Mason, 1923, p. 4). Mason encountered many challenging situations and was able to devise solutions that worked because they were rooted in human nature, not in classical sources. She describes this process in A Philosophy of Education (1954): “We have discovered a working answer to these two conundrums. I say discovered, and not invented . . .” (p. 14).

Mason repeatedly emphasized the newness of her theory. She would not do this if she were trying to resurrect ideas from the classical past. For example, Mason (1954) writes that “we have chanced to light on unknown tracts in the region of educational thought” (p. 8, emphasis added). On the same page she writes, “I have enumerated some of the points in which our work is exceptional in the hope of convincing the reader that unusual work carried on successfully in hundreds of schoolrooms – home and other – is based on principles hitherto unrecognized” (emphasis added). If the principles were previously unknown and unrecognized, how could they be classical?

Even when Glass admits that Mason is declaring a principle as “new,” she does not accept Mason’s own testimony to this fact. For example, Glass (2014a) notes that Mason considered the idea that “mind [is] a living, spiritual organism that must feed upon ideas” to be “a discovery of the twentieth century” (p. 72). But Glass overrules Mason’s statement and asserts instead that the “concept of ‘ideas’ and ‘ideals’ at the center of education can be traced back to Plato” (p. 72). Therefore, instead of allowing for Mason to have an original idea, she asserts that Mason “may well have gleaned her metaphor from reading older educators” (p. 72). Here we have Glass determining that Mason is classical, in spite of whatever Mason may have to say to the contrary.

But Glass notwithstanding, Mason (1896) explicitly rules out a classical basis for her theory of education when she indicates that, providentially, it could not have been developed before her time:

How could we, with sincere deference and humility, offer to parents the help of those few principles which seemed a very gospel of education, a gospel, so far depending upon current scientific discovery, that only within the last decade or two has it been an open book.

Mason found scientific answers in the present, not in the past.

Mason also repeatedly emphasizes the Christian basis of her theory. For example, Mason (1893) writes that “. . . our readers are aware that our whole superstructure rests upon a religious, or more precisely upon a Christian basis . . .” (p. 662). Nevertheless, Glass (2014a) relegates a discussion of Mason’s Christian faith to an Appendix. On page 125, she writes that “Charlotte Mason brought a Christian perspective to her philosophy of education” (emphasis added). Glass thus implies that Mason began with classical sources, and then made some modifications or adjustments based on Christian ideas. This dramatically contradicts Mason’s (1989a) own testimony that she had discovered a “Code of Education in the Gospels” (p. 12).

Glass (2014a, p. 1) notes that Mason wrote regarding her own methods that “Some of it is new, much of it is old” (Mason, 1954, p. 27). But not all that is old is classical. The Gospels are old. Glass does not provide evidence to demonstrate that the “old” elements of Mason’s theory were drawn from classical sources.

II. The Uniqueness of Charlotte Mason’s Educational Theory

Glass (2014a) claims that Mason’s educational theory is a “particular implementation” of a “classical education” (p. 125). She writes, “We might consider Charlotte Mason an early advocate for a return to the classical ideals” (p. 90). By contrast, Mason’s (1896) actual claim was that she had discovered and documented a unique and revolutionary method of education with absolutely no historical precedent:

Life is more intense, more difficult, more exhausting for us than it was for our fathers; it will probably be more difficult still for our children than for ourselves. How timely, then, and how truly, as we say, providential, that, just at this juncture of difficult living, certain simple, definite clues to the art of living should have been put into our hands! Is it presumptuous to hope that new light has been vouchsafed to us in these days, in response to our more earnest endeavours, our more passionate cravings for “more light and fuller.” (p. 51)

Remarkably, Mason wrote that her method of education “will some day (not in [her] lifetime) be seen to be one of the greatest things that has happened in the world” (as cited by Kitching, 1923, p. 388). She could not say that, if her method was only “a particular implementation” of a theory that came before.

Mason (1954) emphasizes the uniqueness of her method when she writes, “there happens to be no other comprehensive theory in the field which is in line with modern thought” (p. 32). Mason (1923) also explains that “The P.N.E.U. have taken pains to master a distinctive philosophy of education which some of us believe will do great things for many thousands of children and their homes” (p. 2, emphasis added). Mason (2000) goes as far as to claim that her theory is “revolutionary” (p. 221), something she is hardly likely to do if she were merely an “advocate for a return to the classical ideals:”

I believe that the first article of a valid educational creed — ‘children are born persons’— is of a revolutionary character; for what is a revolution but a complete reversal of attitude? And by the time . . . that we have taken in this single idea, we shall find that we have turned round, reversed our attitude towards children not only in a few particulars, but completely. (p. 221, emphasis added)

Bernier (2009) describes this as an unprecedented and thoroughly Christian philosophy and theology of education:

Mason’s radical claims and challenging proposal for her discovery and the evaluation of the claims of her work as a truly new educational philosophy able to respond to the needs of the English nation were essentially ignored. The philosophical claims and the evidence to validate them which were the fruit of her life work were not debated, they were neither accepted nor rejected. The implications of her work have yet to be assessed either by secular or religious authorities; Her work has yet to be acknowledged as a substantial and original contribution to the theory of Christian education thoroughly developed from an Anglican perspective. (p. 191, emphasis added)

Given that Mason explicitly stated that her foundation was the Gospel of Christ and her own experience as a teacher, it should not be surprising to find that her discoveries were frequently at odds with the classical tradition.

III. A Hybrid Model That is Not Classical

Glass (2014a) describes a model of education that includes elements from Charlotte Mason’s theory and from the classical tradition. The result is a hybrid that is not compatible with either. Glass (2014a) herself provides many examples of how Mason contradicts the classical tradition. These examples serve to undermine and ultimately falsify her own thesis and are enumerated in Table 2.

Table 2: Mason contradicting the classical tradition in Glass (2014a)

Mason’s Idea How it contradicts the classical tradition
The role of philosophy On page 23, Glass (2014a) quotes Mason (1989c) as saying: “The functions which Plutarch claims for philosophy we ascribe to religion, and by so doing, we place life on a higher level. There is this fundamental difference between the two: while philosophy instructs, religion both instructs and enables” (p. 385). This shows Mason contrasting herself from the classical tradition, rather than aligning herself with it. According to Mason, the classical tradition offered philosophy. But Mason’s model of education replaces philosophy with religion, and by so doing enables life on a “higher level” than that available to the classical teachers.
Education for all Glass (2014a) explains that the classical tradition advocates education only for the select few: “Plato prescribed his best educational plan for the elite—the ‘guardians’ who would be the rulers in his proposed Republic—and left the education of the rest to consist largely of training in necessary skills” (p. 57). Glass (2014a) correctly notes that this sentiment is obviously antithetical to Mason’s committed goal of a liberal education for all:

In this [John Amos Comenius] was out of step with most classical educators, but Charlotte Mason joined him in desiring to set forth a method of education which would provide ‘a liberal education for all.’ This is not a traditional feature of classical education, but it does make her educational methods more approachable for the average teacher who wants to partake of the classical tradition. (p. 58)

This admission raises the logical question: How does something that is “not a traditional feature of classical education” enable one to partake of “the classical tradition”?

Nature study One of the most well-known distinctives of Charlotte Mason is her emphasis on nature study. It is a core practice in her model, from school-age children to teachers in training. But Glass (2014a) acknowledges that this has no precedent in the classical tradition. She writes, “The Greek philosophers, if they paid attention to the natural world, did not find it a matter for firsthand exploration” (p. 100).
History Charlotte Mason (1954) wrote, “Next in order to religious knowledge, history is the pivot upon which our curriculum turns” (p. 273). This indicates the foundational importance of history in her model of education. But Glass (2014a) points out that “History was not a traditional part of classical education” (p. 99). Again Mason radically departs from the classical precedent.

Glass (2014a) excuses some of Mason’s departures from the classical model by saying, “it must be remembered that her work is intended mostly for school children. It is not a fully-realized scheme of classical subjects” (p. 59). This statement admits that Mason’s work is not a “scheme of classical subjects” and hence not fully “classical.” Even so, it is incorrect to claim that Mason’s work is intended “mostly for school children.” Under Charlotte Mason, the PNEU developed curriculum for school and home for children through the age of 18 (Parents National Education Union, 1932). This extended to the students attending the practicing school for teachers enrolled in Mason’s House of Education. Mason (1954) writes that the practicing school comprised “ages of scholars from six to eighteen” (p. 15).

Given that Glass (2014a) herself furnishes so many ways that Mason is out of step with the classical tradition, why does she insist that Mason represents a “particular implementation” of a classical education (p. 125)? Why would she say not to “criticize [Mason] too sharply for avoiding certain conventional approaches to classical education” (p. 59)? The reason appears to be that Glass (2014a) betrays an a priori commitment to the preeminence of the classical tradition. This may be demonstrated from several examples from her book.

First, she assumes that her readers believe in the preeminent value of the classical tradition when she writes, “As present-day educators interested in classical education . . .” (p. 20). Glass (2014a) reinforces this notion by writing, “If we want to share in the tradition of classical educators . . .” (p. 20). Again this statement points towards Glass’s (2014a) belief in the superiority of a classical education, because her readers would only value participation in that tradition if they already believed it was preferable.

Two additional quotes from Glass (2014a) that indicate her commitment to the classical tradition while hybridizing Mason into that tradition:

  • “Those of us who want to revive a vital education according to the classical ideal in our own times . . . .” (p. 60)
  • “. . . the degree to which we have faithfully followed her guidelines is the degree to which we have educated our children according to the classical ideal.” (p. 81)

These statements demonstrate Glass’s (2014a) belief that a “vital education” is a classical education, and that to “faithfully” follow Mason is to implement a classical education. Glass (2014a) does not seem to consider the possibility that a Mason education might be different from or better than a classical education. A classical education is simply assumed to be the best. She again assumes that her readers share this same a priori commitment when she writes, “As we educate children in the classical tradition . . .” (p. 121). Glass (2014a) acknowledges this commitment explicitly when she writes: “We who share the goals of the classical tradition should insist that every method of education which would call itself ‘classical’ be based upon this ideal . . .” (p. 47). But what if this ideal is not what Charlotte Mason is committed to?

IV. A Hybrid Model That is Not Faithful to Charlotte Mason

In order to support her thesis that Charlotte Mason is a “particular implementation” (p. 125) of a classical education, Glass (2014a) is forced to interpret and present Mason’s ideas in a way that undermines or distorts their original intent. Each one of these ideas will be treated individually and then summarized in Table 3.

Principle 1. “Children are born persons

Mason famously begins all of her books with her first principle, “Children are born persons.” This phrase has become almost synonymous with Charlotte Mason. Students of Charlotte Mason have always assumed that this was a core and foundational principle to Mason’s philosophy of education. Glass (2014a) disagrees: “. . . if she were alive today, she might choose slightly different points to emphasize . . .” (p. 12) This remarkable statement does not allow Mason to speak for herself. Instead of taking Mason at her word that her first principle is foundational, Glass (2014a) suggests that it was a relative point made only due to her cultural context.

According to Glass (2014a), Mason selected her first principle “in order to make a distinction between her methods and others based on faulty ideas of man” (pp. 12-13). Specifically, Glass (2014a) says that Mason put forth her first principle in opposition to a “prominent, scientific” idea that “drove the philosophy of her time” (p. 13). That scientific idea was that “at birth children were . . . not yet capable of thoughts and feelings that belong to a person” (p. 13). By contrast, Mason insists that “children are . . . from the very beginning, complete persons who deserve to be respected” (p. 14).

Indeed, Mason does assert that children are born persons, and to that extent Glass (2014a) is correct. However, Mason’s writings reveal that she implies much more than that by her first principle. This is clearly shown in her 13-page definitive essay entitled “Children as ‘Persons’” (2000). In this essay she characterizes the personhood of the child as a great mystery:

. . . we [wrongly] regard a person as a product, and have a sort of unconscious formula, something like this: Given such and such conditions of civilization and education, and we shall have such and such a result, with variations . . . . We do not realize what Carlyle calls ‘the mystery of a person,’ and therefore, we do not see that the possibility of high intellectual attainments, amazing mechanical works, rests with persons of any nation. (p. 221, emphasis added)

Let us consider a child as he is, not tracing him either, with Wordsworth, to the heights above, or, with the evolutionist, to the depths below; because a person is a mystery; that is, we cannot explain him or account for him, but must accept him as he is. (p. 225)

According to Mason (1954), because children are persons, all education is essentially self-education:

. . . we are profoundly sceptical as to the effect of all or any of these activities upon character and conduct. A person is not built up from without but within, that is, he is living, and all external educational appliances and activities which are intended to mould his character are decorative and not vital.

This sounds like a stale truism; but, let us consider a few corollaries of the notion that ‘a child is a person,’ and that a person is, primarily, living. Now no external application is capable of nourishing life or promoting growth; baths of wine, wrappings of velvet have no effect upon physical life except as they may hinder it; life is sustained on that which is taken in by the organism, not by that which is applied from without. (pp. 23-24)

Because children are persons, they have individuality. Mason (1922) writes, “We believe the child is a person. From the first he shows his mind and individuality . . . . Enormous provision is made in every child for the individuality of a person” (p. 15). According to Mason (2000), because children are persons, they defy systems and formulas. They are spiritual organisms whose proper food is knowledge. They have God-given rights. They have great potentialities. And most importantly, they have direct access to God:

It is necessary to make children know themselves for spirits, that they may realize how easy and necessary is the access of the divine Spirit to their spirits, how an intimate Friend is with them, unseen, all through their days, how the Almighty is about them to cherish and protect, how the powers of darkness cannot approach them, safe in the keeping of their ‘Almighty Lover.’ (p. 232)

For Mason (2000), her first principle is simply not an incidental detail that had to be emphasized for a specific historical context. It is not some stepping stone towards a higher philosophical idea. Rather, it is the timeless “first article of a valid educational creed” (p. 221). According to Mason (2000), “by the time . . . that we have taken in this single idea, we shall find that we have turned round, reversed our attitude towards children not only in a few particulars, but completely” (p. 221, emphasis added).

Why would Glass (2014a) claim that Mason asserted her first principle merely to challenge the scientific idea that “at birth children were . . . not yet capable of thoughts and feelings that belong to a person” (p. 13)? One can only assume that the extra implications of the first principle were not outlined by Glass because they are not found in the classical tradition.

Principle 2. “[Children] are not born either good or bad”

Mason’s (1954) second principle is that “[children] are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil” (p. xxix). Glass (2014a) claims that Mason emphasized this second principle also to challenge a scientific idea: “The new determinism, based on ideas about biology and heredity, supposed that a person was born good or born bad, and that education could not change his nature” (p. 14):

. . . but when we see from popular literature alone just how pervasive the idea of inherited nature (determinism) was, it is easier to understand why [Mason] felt the need to be explicit about it, because there is a vital educational principle at stake. If you believe that a child is born ‘bad,’ and no education will change his nature, you might very well leave him alone to reap the consequences as they come, and the sooner he is out of the way the better. (pp. 15-16)

. . . [Mason] had to reject the premise that character is inborn, and so her second principle is very precise—although somewhat obscure to current readers, because hereditary determinism is not widely discussed today, although remnants of it do affect contemporary thinking. (p. 16)

Glass’s (2014b) blog goes as far as to claim that this second principle is not in any way a theological statement:

When we read Charlotte Mason’s statement that children are not born ‘either good or bad’, it is easy to imagine that she is making a theological statement. But, in fact, she is not addressing the sin nature or spiritual condition of the child.

It is hard to imagine how a statement by a Christian writer about good and evil could be said to not be theological. In fact, Mason’s exposition of her second principle in chapter 3 of A Philosophy of Education (entitled “The Good and Evil Nature of a Child”) focuses on theology and says nothing about hereditary determinism. There is no evidence that Mason was trying to counter the notion that “some children are born good and other children are born bad.” Rather, Mason (1954) is trying to counter the twin errors that “all children are born all good” and “all children are born all bad”:

A well-known educationalist has brought heavy charges against us all on the score that we bring up children as ‘children of wrath.’ He probably exaggerates the effect of any such teaching, and the ‘little angel’ theory is fully as mischievous. (p. 46)

Later in this chapter, Mason writes that “in every child there are tendencies to greediness, restlessness, sloth, impurity” (p. 48). How could a statement about an inborn tendency to “impurity” not be considered to be a theological statement? It strains credulity to suggest that Mason was trying to counter a scientific assertion that “greediness” only affected lower-class people with tainted genes.

The theological nature of the second principle is also demonstrated by an early advocate of Mason’s writings. The Ven. Richard Frederick Lefevre Blunt (1890) wrote in The Parents’ Review:

There are two methods of training children in the things of God, two lines of thought to support these methods, perhaps two classes of Christians who sympathize exclusively with one or the other. Each represents one side of the truth; our danger is lest we exaggerate the one and pass by the other. There is the tendency in some minds to overstate the effects of the Fall, in others to overlook the Fall in the Redemption. Some teachers ignore altogether the intuitive impulses of the child towards good; others exaggerate them. Some would “esteem it the height of enthusiasm to look for any religion except as the result of direct teaching,” others would trust entirely to what has been called “the devout intuition of the human mind,” and would only preserve the child from moral taint. The one class read the Lord’s command as if he said, “Make little children like yourselves,” forgetting that he really said, “Become yourselves like little children”; while the other would forget that we are bidden to “train up a child in the away he should go,” and the principle which underlies it, that Divine grace is no substitute for human action. The representative of the former is to be found in Locke; of the latter in Wordsworth. In a word, the one class believe exclusively in tuition, the other in intuition.

Now the course of wisdom lies here, as elsewhere, not in a safe via media, but in a due recognition of both truths. If “grace is not tied to means,” God’s work cannot be limited by ours. With our aid, or without our aid, He is always seeking to form in each of His children His Divine image. It is His work apart from us that we are to further, as well as His work through us which we are to accomplish. In fact, we are not to treat a child as if he were a block of marble which we are to hew into a statue, but as a plant of God’s planting which we are to nourish and develop. So He bids us work and bids us pray, filled with reverence for Him and love for His little ones. (pp. 723-724)

Archdeacon Blunt has captured the intention behind Mason’s second principle. Mason is not emphasizing the Fall at the expense of Redemption, or the Redemption at the expense of the Fall, or a safe “via media.” Instead, Mason (1954) shows that by asserting the complete truth that all children are born with both good and bad elements, we can build a more healthy view of education:

We are no longer solely occupied in what an Irish woman called ‘saving yer dirty sowl.’ Our religion is becoming more magnanimous and more responsible and it is time that a like change should take place in our educational thought. (p. 46)

It is true that Mason discusses hereditary determinism in Parents and Children. But she does so only briefly and without any mention of her second principle. Instead, Mason (1989b) explains that habit (instilled during the process of education) has the power to overcome negative propensities: “The child’s future depends not upon his lineage so much as upon his bringing-up, for education is stronger than nature” (p. 159). By contrast, her explicit exposition of the second principle in chapter 3 of A Philosophy of Education (1954) is filled with theological language:

There are good and evil tendencies in body and mind, heart and soul; and the hope set before us is that we can foster the good so as to attenuate the evil; that is, on condition that we put Education in her true place as the handmaid of Religion. The community, the nation, the race, are now taking their due place in our religious thought. (p. 46)

It is the context within Mason’s own writing that makes it “easy to imagine that she is making a theological statement.” And if we let Mason speak for herself, we find that she is speaking of theology and religion.

It is not clear why Glass shies away from the obvious theological nature of Mason’s second principle. Perhaps it is because the overtly Christian meaning of the statement does not mesh well with pre-Christian classical ideas.

Principle 3. “The principles of authority . . . and of obedience”

Mason’s (1954) third principle is, “The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental.” Glass (2014a) derives a definition of humility from this principle, defining humility as “docility before just authority, not a false humility, which is only pride turned inside-out” (p. 126). She also connects humility to this principle when she writes, “Charlotte Mason also examined humility within the context of the principles of authority and docility” (p. 29).

The problem with this claim is that the chapter in Mason’s Philosophy of Education (1954) on authority and docility does not mention humility. In fact, the chapter states just the opposite: “. . . the drawback to an indirect method of securing this result [of an ordered freedom] is that . . . children fail to learn that habit of’ ‘proud subjection and dignified obedience’. . .” (p. 70).

Glass (2014a) insists that the teacher must provide “Lessons in Humility” (p. 27). Glass (2014a) introduces this topic on page 28 by supplying a warning from Mason (1989b): “The note of childhood is, before all things, humility” (p. 282). But this quote does not support the idea of “lessons in humility.” Mason’s point is that the child is a natural model of humility. The context (Parents and Children, page 282) says, “A child is humble” (emphasis added). It is the “note of childhood”, because it is exhibited by children, not taught to children.

Again, Glass (2014a) quotes Mason without the full context: “There is no reference to above or below in the humble soul, which is equally humble before an infant, a primrose, a worm, a beggar, a prince” (as cited pp. 28-29). She omits the very next sentence: “This, if we think of it, is the state natural to children” (Mason, 1989b, p. 283). Glass (2014a) insists that training in humility is essential: “we must find a way to instill this attitude in ourselves and in our pupils” (p. 30). By contrast, Mason (2000) envisions humility as the child’s natural estate. Rather than trying to instill humility into the child, we should give the child “many delightful things to think of” (p. 230). According to Mason (2000), we should “find out ways to give [the child] all his rights, and he . . . will not allow himself to be troubled with himself” (p. 230).

Glass (2014a) says that humility “is actually the little secret of classical education” (p. 30), but insists that a child must know his “ignorance” (p. 29) and avoid “intellectual pride” (p. 30), a phrase that Mason never uses. Rather, Mason insists, “Humility does not think much or little of itself; it does not think of itself at all. It is a negative rather than a positive quality, being an absence of self-consciousness rather than the presence of any distinctive virtue” (p. 284).

By incorrectly linking humility with Mason’s third principle, Glass gives the impression that Mason advocates lessons in humility. Glass lays out a view of humility that may harmonize with a classical model, but it has little to do with Charlotte Mason’s ideas.

Furthermore, by linking humility with the third principle, Glass neglects to mention Mason’s deep Christian theology of authority. Mason (1905) wrote that one of the “Three principles which underlie the educational thought of . . . The Parents’ National Educational Union . . .” is “The recognition of authority as a fundamental principle” (p. 126). But for Mason, authority is always grounded in the person of God. Mason (1905) writes:

It is in their early years at home that children should be taught to realise that duty can exist only as that which we owe to God; that the law of God is exceeding broad and encompasses us as the air we breathe, only more so, for it reaches to our secret thoughts; and this is not a hardship but a delight.

Mason’s third principle is fundamentally about understanding the authority of God, not about being humble enough to be a good learner.

Principle 9. “The mind is . . . a spiritual organism”

Mason’s (1954) ninth principle is:

We hold that the child’s mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs. (p. xxx)

Glass (2014a) admits that, “This perception of the mind as a living, spiritual organism that must feed upon ideas seems to be one that is truly Charlotte’s own rather than borrowed from the past” (p. 72). Glass’s only other comment on this principle is that the “concept of ‘ideas’ and ‘ideals’ at the center of education can be traced back to Plato,” and that Mason “may well have gleaned her metaphor from reading older educators” (p. 72).

But in order for Glass to claim this, she must completely ignore Mason’s educational catechism (found in Parents and Children). It is not surprising that Glass’s book never mentions this catechism. In this catechism especially, Mason (1989b) casts aside all notions of a classical system in favor of the powerful Person of Jesus Christ:

Does this doctrine of ideas as the spiritual food needful to sustain the immaterial life throw any light on the doctrines of the Christian religion? Yes; the Bread of Life, the Water of Life, the Word by which man lives, the ‘meat to eat which ye know not of,’ and much more, cease to be figurative expressions, except that we must use the same words to name the corporeal and the incorporeal sustenance of man. We understand, moreover, how ideas emanating from our Lord and Saviour, which are of His essence, are the spiritual meat and drink of His believing people. We find it no longer a ‘hard saying,’ nor a dark saying, that we must sustain our spiritual selves upon Him, even as our bodies upon bread. (p. 246)

The idea of education as “nourishment” is in fact novel to Mason, and precisely because its origin is in Christ, a Person unknown to the classical sources. In Mason’s (2011) theology, the soul ultimately feeds not on words or ideas but on Christ Himself:

But life, like the tabernacle in the wilderness, has its three courts. There is the outer court where living things blossom and bear fruit, eat and drink, and sleep and play; and this life is holy, and disease and fever do not extinguish, but liberate, the principle of life. There is the Holy place where not all living beings walk but only mankind, because men are able to think and love; this life also is sustained upon Christ, who is our life. Within, there is the Holy of Holies, where man communicates with God and consciously receives in Christ the life of his spirit. (p. 165)

Here we find definitive proof that Mason built her philosophy of education not upon the ideas of men but upon the Gospel of Christ. Such a philosophy is decidedly not “classical” – it transcends “classical” as surely as Christ transcends the world.

Principle 12. “Education is the Science of Relations”

Mason’s (1954) twelfth principle is:

Education is the Science of Relations;” that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of –

           “Those first-born affinities
“That fit our new existence to existing things.” (p. xxx)

Mason (1954) further elaborates: “‘Education is the Science of Relations,’ is the principle which regulates their curriculum; that is, a child goes to school with many aptitudes which he should put into effect” (p. 31). The measure of whether a child has put an “aptitude into effect” is not “how much does [he] know? . . . but how much does he care?”

John Muir Laws (2016) gives a modern account of how the science of relations works in practice:

I painted nearly three thousand watercolors of the plants and animals I encountered. By the time I was done drawing a plant, I felt I had forged a relationship with it. It felt wrong to pick a plant, draw it, and leave it wilting by the side of the trail. Instead I would sit beside it, draw it to scale, add my watercolor, and then stand up and fluff up the grasses where I had been sitting. (p. 2, emphasis added)

Through nature study, Laws put his aptitude into effect. He developed a relationship with the flowers of God’s creation. At the end of this process, he knew a lot; but more importantly, he cared even more.

Mason (1905) protects herself from misinterpretation when she writes:

What is education after all? An answer lies in the phrase – Education is the Science of Relations. I do not use this phrase, let me say once more, in the Herbartian sense – that things are related to each other, and we must be careful to pack the right things in together, so that, having got into the brain of a boy, each thing may fasten on its cousins, and together they may make a strong clique or ‘apperception mass.’ What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future – with all above us and all about us – and that fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of. (pp. 185-186)

Mason leaves no room for doubt. The “relations” are between the student and the fields of knowledge. The “relations” are not between one field of knowledge and another.

Glass (2014a), however, claims that the science of relations refers to the unity of knowledge:

If we can grasp the vision of wholeness that synthetic thinking offers, if we can shake off the chains of analysis-first that our modern education has imposed upon us, we will better appreciate Charlotte Mason’s unifying premise that “education is the science of relations.” We will place her among the long tradition of classical educators who saw and understood knowledge as a whole, and most importantly, we may learn from her how to revive synthetic thinking in our own educational endeavors. (pp. 40-41)

But Mason never uses the phrase science of relations to describe the connections between one field of knowledge and another. Glass is confusing Mason’s stress on a diverse and comprehensive curriculum with the idea of the interconnectedness of all knowledge. In other words, while Mason is calling for a curriculum with a comprehensive list of subjects, Glass misrepresents this by claiming that Mason is asserting that all these subjects are interconnected and that education is ultimately about discovering these interconnections. Glass (2014a) claims, “[Charlotte Mason] made it part of her philosophy to revive the older habit of learning to develop real relationships with knowledge and understand it as whole” (p. 36). While the first part of the statement is undoubtedly true (“learning to develop relationships with knowledge”), the second part is unsubstantiated.

Glass (2014a) asserts the following: “The classical educators understood that knowledge was a matter of connections. They did not analyze or dismantle knowledge, but strove always to present a unified understanding of the world” (p. 39, emphasis added). While that may be true of some classical authors, Mason does not explicitly advocate a “unified understanding of the world.” Instead, Mason illustrates the significant differences between the various fields of knowledge. For example, in Ourselves (1924), Mason describes each field of knowledge as a different land that is traversed in a different way (pp. 35-44). For example, whereas Imagination is indispensable for “journeys with travellers in the ways of Science” (p. 36), “Reason is [the] chosen comrade” for travelers in the land of Mathematics. Mathematics is “a Mountainous Land” (p. 38), but in the land of Philosophy, the traveler “does not find the same firm foothold as he whose way leads him through the Principality of Mathematics” (p. 39). Mason’s science of relations is learning how to visit each field of knowledge; not how to find some way to correlate each field of knowledge to another.

Glass (2014a) points out the danger of specialization. She writes that “all too often, an expert in one narrow field is unacquainted with the relationship between his specialty and other areas of knowledge” (p. 39, emphasis added). Mason did point out the danger of specialization. But Mason’s solution is not to figure out the relationship between the specialty and other areas of knowledge. Rather, her solution is to connect the knower to more kinds of knowledge. Mason (1954) explains it as follows:

It is even possible for a person to go into any one of the great fields of thought and to work therein with delight until he become incapable of finding his way into any other such field. We know how Darwin lost himself in science until he could not read poetry, find pleasure in pictures, think upon things divine; he was unable to turn his mind out of the course in which it had run for most of his life. In the great (and ungoverned) age of the Renaissance, the time when great things were done, great pictures painted, great buildings raised, great discoveries made, the same man was a painter, an architect, a goldsmith and a master of much knowledge besides; and all that he did he did well, all that he knew was part of his daily thought and enjoyment. (pp. 53-54)

Nothing in Mason’s writings connects the idea of the science of relations to the idea of a relationship between various fields of knowledge.

For Glass (2014a), “‘Education is the science of relations’ is the exact opposite of ‘fragmentation’” (p. 114). But for Mason, “Education is the science of relations” is the exact opposite of apathy and ignorance. For the child to experience life, he or she must form personal connections with a wide range of knowledge. What is at stake is not synthesis, but life.

Principle 15: “Children have naturally great power of attention”

Mason’s (1954) fifteenth principle is: “A single reading is insisted on, because children have naturally great power of attention; but this force is dissipated by the re-reading of passages, and also, by questioning, summarizing, and the like” (p. xxx). As indicated previously, the power of attention was one of Mason’s key discoveries which led to the formulation of her theory of education. Glass (2014a) only makes two passing references to the habit of attention (pp. 67, 105). Presumably this is because the habit of attention is not an important idea in the classical model.

Because Glass (2014a) does not focus on the habit of attention, she incorrectly identifies pride as the reason that Mason discourages the use of prizes:

Pride in our intellectual achievements, hubris, is a death knell to the kind of real education that produces virtue, and children are susceptible to being drawn into this kind of pride, as are their parents. Our educational system of grades, prizes, contests, tests and ‘My child is an honor student’ bumper stickers has a tendency to make educational efforts more a matter of performing well than of achieving wisdom. (p. 26, emphasis added)

In fact, Mason (1954) objected to prizes not because of pride but because it was not a good motivator: “Marks, prizes, places, rewards, punishments, praise, blame, or other inducements are not necessary to secure attention, which is voluntary, immediate and surprisingly perfect” (p. 7).

Mason’s discussion on prizes has nothing to do with preferring bumper stickers to wisdom. Rather, it is all about igniting “the Desire of Knowledge, knowledge-hunger being natural to everybody” (Mason, 1954, p. 14). Mason’s virtuous cycle is how the desire for knowledge strengthens the habit of attention, a concept that Glass does not attempt to connect to the classical tradition.

Principle 18. “The way of reason”

Mason’s (1954) eighteenth principle is:

The way of 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. (p. xxxi)

Glass (2014a) acknowledges that this principle is not emphasized by the classical sources. “This second function of reason is not widely considered, but Charlotte draws attention to it by way of warning,” she writes (p. 77). Interestingly, other theologians do find this principle, but they find it in the Anglican reformers, not in the classical thinkers. For example, Dr. Ashley Null (2001) states, “According to [Anglican reformer Thomas] Cranmer’s anthropology, what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” Contrary to Glass’s (2014a) thesis, we see again that Mason derives her key ideas from the Gospel tradition, not from the pre-Christian classical thinkers.

Principle 20. “the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits”

Mason’s (1954) twentieth and final principle is:

We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life. (p. xxxi)

When Mason proclaims that the Holy Spirit is the child’s Continual Helper, she is especially referring to the activity of learning. For Mason, the Divine Spirit is an active agent in all education. This is the truth behind what Mason refers to as the Great Recognition. Mason (1989b) declared that God Himself is our personal teacher:

‘God doth Instruct.’ – In the things of science, in the things of art, in the things of practical everyday life, his God doth instruct him and doth teach him, her God doth instruct her and doth teach her. Let this be the mother’s key to the whole of the education of each boy and each girl; not of her children; the Divine Spirit does not work with nouns of multitude, but with each single child. Because He is infinite, the whole world is not too great a school for this indefatigable Teacher, and because He is infinite, He is able to give the whole of his infinite attention for the whole time to each one of his multitudinous pupils. We do not sufficiently rejoice in the wealth that the infinite nature of our God brings to each of us. (p. 273)

Glass (2014a) discusses the Great Recognition, but assigns it a different meaning. Glass claims that the Great Recognition is an assertion that all knowledge is interconnected. In doing so, she omits the point about the personal activity and agency of the Holy Spirit in the education of every individual child. Commenting on the Great Recognition, found on p. 271 of Mason’s Parents and Children, Glass (2014a) writes, “This understanding . . . of the interconnectedness and wholeness of knowledge . . .” (p. 33). Glass (2014a) describes God as the source of knowledge, but not as the personal teacher: “Firenze’s fresco that showed how the liberal arts could be considered outpourings of divine knowledge” (p. 113).

This redefinition of the Great Recognition by Glass (2014a) effectively eliminates an essential (and non-classical element) of Mason’s method. Mason repeatedly asserts the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in the act of learning. For example, in her educational catechism, Mason (1989b) writes:

The Supreme Educator –Then the spiritual sustenance of ideas is derived directly or indirectly from other human beings?

No; and here is the great recognition which the educator is called upon to make. God, the Holy Spirit, is Himself the Supreme Educator of mankind.

How?

He openeth man’s ear morning by morning, to hear so much of the best as the man is able to hear.

In things Natural and Spiritual – Are the ideas suggested by the Holy Spirit confined to the sphere of the religious life?

No; Coleridge, speaking of Columbus and the discovery of America, ascribes the origin of great inventions and discoveries to the fact that ‘certain ideas of the natural world are presented to minds already prepared to receive them by a higher Power than Nature herself.’

Is there any teaching in the Bible to support this view?

Yes; very much. Isaiah, for example, says that the ploughman knows how to carry on the successive operations of husbandry, ‘for his God doth instruct him and doth teach him.’ (pp. 245-246)

Mason (1989b) believes that God is the personal teacher even of technical matters such as grammar:

We recognise this in what we call spiritual things, meaning the things that have to do more especially with our approaches to God; but the new thing to us is, that grammar, for example, may be taught in such a way as to invite and obtain the co-operation of the Divine Teacher, or in such a way as to exclude His illuminating presence from the schoolroom. We do not mean that spiritual virtues may be exhibited by the teacher, and encouraged in the child in the course of a grammar lesson; this is no doubt true, and is to be remembered; but perhaps the immediate point is that the teaching of grammar by its guiding ideas and simple principles, the true, direct, and humble teaching of grammar; without pedantry and without verbiage, is, we may venture to believe, accompanied by the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit, of whom is all knowledge. (p. 274)

Since Glass (2014a) ignores this aspect of the personal agency of the Holy Spirit, she classifies grammar as a lifeless study: “. . . but ‘grammar’ as a scientific analysis of language has lost the living heart that made the study worthwhile in the pursuit of the classical ideal” (p. 54).

Furthermore, Glass (2014a) misses the connection between living books and the Great Recognition. Mason (1989b) writes, “We are told that the Spirit is life; therefore, that which is dead, dry as dust, mere bare bones, can have no affinity with Him, can do no other than smother and deaden his vitalising influences” (p. 277). Here Mason lays out the theological justification for the concept of living books. Glass (2014a) defines living books by describing their inherent attributes: “Simply put, a living book is one that conveys living ideas. It should be of the highest literary quality and should present its subject in a way that engages both the mind and the heart of the reader” (p. 97).

By contrast, Mason (1905) writes that living books are books that cooperate with the Holy Spirit. An expert cannot predict whether or not a book will turn out to be living. The only definitive test is how the book is actually received:

A book may be long or short, old or new, easy or hard, written by a great man or a lesser man, and yet be the living book which finds its way to the mind of a young reader. The expert is not the person to choose; the children themselves are the experts in this case. A single page will elicit a verdict; but the unhappy thing is, this verdict is not betrayed; it is acted upon in the opening or closing of the door of the mind. (p. 228)

Of course the idea that the Holy Spirit is the personal educator of each individual child presupposes the New Testament revelation about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. These revealed truths were unknown to the classical world. Hence it is not surprising that Glass (2014a) neglected to mention this important aspect of Mason’s theory of education in her book.

Table 3: Summary of Glass’s misinterpretations of Mason’s principles

Principle Glass’s Emphasis Mason’s Emphasis
1. Children are born persons Opposition to the scientific idea that at birth children were not yet capable of thoughts and feelings that belong to a person. Because children are persons, they defy systems and formulas. They are spiritual organisms.
2. Children are not born either good or bad Opposition to the scientific idea of hereditary determinism. We can foster the good so as to attenuate the evil, on condition that we put Education in her true place as the handmaid of Religion.
3. The principles of authority and of obedience The importance of instilling humility. All authority is derived from God.
9. The mind is a spiritual organism The concept of ideas at the center of education can be traced back to Plato. Ideas emanating from our Lord and Saviour, which are of His essence, are the spiritual meat and drink of His believing people.
12. Education is the Science of Relations The importance of finding links between all fields of knowledge. The measure of whether a child has put an aptitude into effect is not how much does he know, but how much does he care?
15. Children have naturally great power of attention Prizes encourage pride. Prizes are not needed to secure attention, which is voluntary, immediate and surprisingly perfect.
18. The way of reason No classical precedent. Precedent found in Christian theology.
20. The Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits Understanding the interconnectedness and wholeness of knowledge. The Holy Spirit is the Supreme Educator who works individually with each single child.

V. The Purpose of Education

Glass (2014a) repeatedly states that the purpose of education is virtue – right behavior. For example, she quotes David Hicks as saying, “The purpose of education is not the assimilation of facts or the retention of information, but the habituation of the mind and body to will and act in accordance with what one knows” (as cited on p. 18). She also asserts that in the classical model, “education was intended to result in right action,” and “all areas of education were brought into service for this single goal—to teach children to think and act rightly” (p. 19, emphasis added). Glass (2014a) is clear that the aim of education is “most importantly—bringing that knowledge to bear on actual conduct” (p. 20, emphasis added).

According to Glass (2014a), this motivation for the classical educators includes all types of academic study: “They pursued all areas of knowledge—even arithmetic or grammar—as a part of the process that would lead to wisdom, and ultimately, character and virtue” (p. 23, emphasis added). Glass (2014a) attempts to show that Mason also believed that the purpose of education is right action. Quoting Mason, she writes that “[the formation of character is] the ultimate object of education” (as cited on p. 24). The problem with this quotation is that the full context of Mason’s (1989b) statement is: “Suppose the parent see that the formation of character is the ultimate object of education” (p. 83, emphasis added). In other words, the sentence is hypothetical and not a definitive statement of Mason’s official statement on the goal of education.

Glass (2014a) also cites Mason’s focus on habit formation (her seventh principle) as evidence that Mason saw right action as the primary goal of education: “So we find that even the discipline of habit serves to further the classical ideal by ordering the affections and paving the way for a virtuous life” (p. 69). However, Mason never refers to a “classical ideal” in her discussion of habit. And in Mason’s model, habit is about more than right action, or virtue, as will be seen shortly.

In actual fact, Charlotte Mason transcends this belief that action is the ultimate goal of education. Finding her inspiration in the Gospel, Mason (1905) lays out the true, grace-filled goal of education: “. . . the culmination of all education . . . is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection” (p. 95). For Mason, the goal of education is not the achievement of virtue but rather the knowledge of and intimacy with God. Christ defied the classical teachers when He revealed that God is eminently knowable, and to know Him is eternal life (John 17:3).

Mason (2011) is very clear that action is subordinate to knowing Christ in a personal way:

Christianity is not merely the following of Christ, but is chiefly, the knowledge of Christ, to be attained by a constant, devout contemplation of the Divine Life. Hence, the primary importance of meditation for the Christian soul. We cannot grow into the likeness of that which is unknown to us, and we cannot know except by that process of reflective contemplation which we name meditation. (p. 18)

Mason (1954) cited the prayer of St. Chrysostom as another way of expressing the true goal of education:

By degrees children get that knowledge of God which is the object of the final daily prayer in our beautiful liturgy––the prayer of St Chrysostom–– ‘Grant us in this world knowledge of Thy truth,’ and all other knowledge which they obtain gathers round and illuminates this. (p. 64)

Mason (2011) further elaborates on this prayer:

Day by day we are taught to pray, by way of summing up all our requirements in this life, for “knowledge of Thy truth” – the prayer in the Liturgy which seems to summarise most fully our Lord’s teaching. But our practice hardly keeps pace with our prayer; we are apt to put two or three legitimate desires before what should be our primary aspiration; to have good – the cult of prosperity – is the prayer and effort of the natural man; to be good – the cult of sanctity – is the desire of the spiritually-minded; to do good – the cult of philanthropy – sums up the “religion of humanity”: these things we should have, be and do, but we are becoming aware that there is a further duty which we may not leave undone. (pp. v-vi)

Virtue is good, but it is secondary to the knowledge of God.

Even habit formation is, in its highest form, about knowing God, not changing outward behavior. The greatest habit of all for Mason is described in School Education (1905):

To keep a child in this habit of the thought of God – so that to lose it, for even a little while, is like coming home after an absence and finding his mother out – is a very delicate part of a parent’s work. (p. 141)

Indeed, the thought of God, not virtue, is what sustains the life of the child:

It is not what we read or what we hear that sustains us, but what we appropriate; what we take home to our minds and ruminate upon, — reading a passage over and over, or dwelling, again and again upon a thought, rejoicing in a ‘fresh thought of God’ as a thing to be thankful for, a quickening influence to make us alive and active when a palsy of deadness and staleness appears to be creeping over us. We all have a spiritual life to sustain and we all need the periodic nourishment of new, or newly put, thoughts of God. (Mason, 2011, p. 36)

In summary, Mason is careful to place all discussion about virtue in its proper place relative to the knowledge of God. For example, Mason (1905) writes:

One caution I should like to offer. A child’s whole notion of religion is ‘being good.’ It is well that he should know that being good is not his whole duty to God, although it is so much of it; that the relationship of love and personal service, which he owes as a child to his Father, as a subject to his King, is even more than the ‘being good’ which gives our Almighty Father such pleasure in His children. (p. 136)

While the goal of a classical education may be virtue, the goal of a Charlotte Mason education is the knowledge of God.

VI. Synthetic Thinking

Glass (2014a) uses the phrase “synthetic thinking” 47 times in her book. (She uses the word synthetic more than 100 times.) Glass (2014a) writes that one reason she chose the term “synthetic thinking” is because Mason used the word synthetic (p. 33). However, in all of her writings, Mason never uses the phrase “synthetic thinking.” In fact, she only uses the word synthetic in four distinct sentences across the entire extent of her published writings. Those sentences are listed in Table 4.

Table 4 – Mason’s use of the word “synthetic”

Reference Phrase Meaning
Mason, 1989c,
p. 341
“The boy’s synthetic mind found the Juden-Deutsch fragmentary and unsatisfactory. He must needs add Hebrew to his list of languages, and his father succeeded in securing lessons from Dr Albrecht, the Rector of the Gymnasium.” (emphasis added) The boy (Goethe) wanted to learn the pure Hebrew language rather than a German-Hebrew hybrid.
Mason, 1954,
p. 166
(this identical sentence is repeated in other works by Mason)
“We are at present in a phase of religious thought, Christian and pseudo-Christian, when a synthetic study of the life and teaching of Christ may well be of use.” A study of the Gospels is needed that treats individual passages in the context of the overall Gospel narratives.
Mason, 1989c,
p. 380
“the first three lustres belong to what we may call the synthetic stage of education” There exists a “synthetic stage” of education.
Mason, 1989c,
p. 385
“the two stages of education, synthetic and analytic, coalesce”

 

Mason refers only to a synthetic mind, a synthetic study, and a synthetic stage. Neither phrase aligns closely with synthetic thinking, so we have to turn to Glass (2014a) for a definition of this phrase. Glass (2014a) defines the phrase as follows: “Seeing the universe as a wholeness, and understanding that all things are connected to all other things, and ultimately to God, and to yourself, might be called synthetic thinking” (p. 33). But Mason never challenges her students to understand “that all things are connected to all other things.” Therefore it is not surprising that Mason does not use the phrase synthetic thinking.

Mason (1954) does state that the mind “absorbs facts only as these are connected with the living ideas upon which they hang” (p. 20). But of course this is vastly different from discovering a path to connect “all things” to “all other things”. Furthermore, Mason describes this as the normal state for how the mind absorbs facts. It is certainly not a learned skill, such as learning to think “synthetically” as opposed to “analytically.”

Glass (2014a) says that the opposite of synthetic thinking is analytical thinking (p. 34). Mason never uses this phrase either. However, Mason does use the word analyse, and sometimes treats it as synonymous with criticise (Mason, 1954, p. 166). Mason (1989c) indicates that children should simply consume knowledge and not analyze it first:

Let us who teach spend time in the endeavour to lay proper and abundant nutriment before the young, rather than in leading them to criticise and examine every morsel of knowledge that comes their way. Who could live if every mouthful of bodily food were held up on a fork for critical examination before it be eaten? (p. 295)

According to Mason, since children are born persons, they can self-educate and derive spiritual nourishment when they consume knowledge directly. Training children to analyze before consuming interrupts this process and erodes curiosity. The irony is that intentionally pushing children towards synthetic thinking has just the same side effect as pushing them towards analytical thinking – it pushes children to think about what they are consuming, instead of just consuming. When consuming a great piece of literature, children should not do a synthetic study of how the ideas connect to other categories of knowledge. Rather, they should just consume the ideas, and their natural ability to learn will “digest” those ideas. Through Glass’s extensive and detailed treatment of synthetic thinking, she has developed a new model for education which may have precedent in the classical tradition, but it has little to do with Charlotte Mason’s ideas.

What, then, of Mason’s use of the word synthetic? The first two references in Table 4 can be understood with the straightforward definition of the word. Since Goethe had a synthetic mind, he wanted to understand Hebrew, not just the Juden-Deutsch dialect. Furthermore, since most commentaries exposit individual passages, there is a need for a synthetic study which shows how portions of the Gospel narratives relate to the others.

But what does Mason (1989c) mean by a “synthetic stage of education”? Mason introduces this concept with the following passage:

It follows that the first three lustres belong to what we may call the synthetic stage of education, during which his reading should be wide and varied enough to allow the young scholar to get into living touch with earth-knowledge, history, literature, and much besides. These things are necessary for his intellectual life, and are especially necessary to give him material for the second stage of his education, the analytic, which, indeed, continues with us to the end. It is in this second stage that the value of the classical and mathematical grind comes in. (pp. 380-381)

To understand this passage, we must begin by clarifying the phrase “the first three lustres.” According to The Free Dictionary, the word lustre simply means “a period of five years.” It is used exactly the same way as the word decade. For example, “Lawn tennis in its first decade or perhaps its first three lustres: sporting and social” (Patridge, 1973, p. 5174). Note how decade and lustre are used interchangeably in this sentence. “Three lustres” is just an idiomatic way of saying “fifteen years.” Mason’s paragraph could be modernized as follows:

It follows that the first [fifteen years of the child’s life] belong to what we may call the synthetic stage of education, during which [the child’s] reading should be wide and varied enough to allow the young scholar to get into living touch with earth-knowledge, history, literature, and much besides. These things are necessary for his intellectual life, and are especially necessary to give him material for the second stage of his education, the analytic, which, indeed, continues [from age 15 on to the end of his life].

It is important to note that “three lustres” does not mean “three phases.” It simply means fifteen years.

It is fascinating to see how Mason (1989c) describes the two stages. The “synthetic stage” is characterized by reading that is “wide and varied” (p. 380). However, this reading is orderly, definite, and purposeful:

If we perceive that knowledge, like bread, is necessary food, we see also that it must be taken in set portions, fitly combined, duly served, and at due intervals, in order to induce the digestive processes without which, knowledge, like meat, gives us labour rather than strength. In other words, desultory reading affords entertainment, and perhaps an occasional stimulus to thought. Casual reading – that is, vague reading round a subject without the effort to know – is not in much better case: if we are to read and grow thereby, we must read to know, that is, our reading must be study – orderly, definite, purposeful.

The “analytic stage” is characterized by technical activities such as Greek translation, mathematical drills, and exam preparation (Mason, 1989c, p. 381). However, in this stage, “the student is well nourished by the continued habit of wide reading” (p. 382). Neither stage is characterized by a particular style of thought, “synthetic” or otherwise. The two stages are illustrated in Table 5.

Table 5 – Comparison of Mason’s (1989c) synthetic and analytic stages

Stage Synthetic Characteristics Analytic Characteristics
Synthetic Wide reading Discipline: orderly, definite, and purposeful
Analytic Wide reading Discipline: classical and mathematical grind

Table 5 illustrates Mason’s startling conclusion: the stages are really one and the same. Hence Mason (1989c) concludes her discussion on the two stages by saying, “In this way, what I have called the two stages of education, synthetic and analytic, coalesce; the wide reading tends to discipline, and in the disciplinary or analytic stage the mind of the student is well nourished by the continued habit of wide reading” (p. 382). The stages coalesce because children are born persons. Nourishment and discipline are necessary for persons of all ages. After all, education is both a discipline and a life.

In her discussion of the coalescing stages, Mason certainly does not stipulate that a child must meet some developmental requirement before he or she can advance from one stage to the next. In particular, she does not specify a requirement to acquire skill in a particular style of thinking. Nevertheless, Glass (2014a) insists: “Once the unity of all knowledge is comprehended and many relationships formed, we are able to employ analytical thinking without harming those relationships” (p. 40, emphasis added). Glass (2014a) develops this concept without supplying adequate supporting evidence from Mason’s writing.

In fact, Mason’s approach to curriculum seems to contradict Glass’s (2014a) model. Glass (2014a) writes: “. . . the mere division of our schools into ‘subjects’ such as history (or the more modern social studies) and biology and geology, and so on, contributes to the disconnected approach analysis brings to knowledge . . .” (p. 38) But we know that Mason divided her school program into subjects such as history and biology. In doing so, she violated the very principle that Glass (2014a) advocates and attempts to attribute to Mason.

A comparison of Glass’s model of synthetic thinking to Mason’s model of a synthetic stage indicates that Glass has developed a model of education that is different from Mason’s. Whatever merits this model may have, it is foreign to Charlotte Mason’s theory of education.

VII. Conclusion

This paper demonstrates that Glass (2014a) is performing eisegesis (interpreting texts in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions). The evidence shows that Glass is advocating “classical ideas” using Charlotte Mason’s vocabulary. A final example of this is when Glass (2014a) attempts to find support in Mason’s writings for her “closed circle” (p. 47):

circle

The problem with associating this “closed circle” with Charlotte Mason is that when we look at Mason’s writings, we find a different conception of the goal (the knowledge of God, not virtue), a different conception of the science of relations (the relationship of the child to many fields of knowledge, not the unity of knowledge), and a different conception of humility (the absence of self-consciousness, not the removal of intellectual pride).

From lowly beginnings, Charlotte Mason burst onto the scene in England and launched an educational renaissance. She codified principles “hitherto unrecognized” and showed the world that “the souls of all children are waiting for the call of knowledge to awaken them to delightful living” (Mason, 1954, p. xxv). In my own life, Charlotte Mason’s ideas burst from the page and enabled me to build living relationships with nature, music, art, literature, and the Triune God. Charlotte Mason achieved this by preaching the educational code found in the Gospels, and by observing the beautiful mystery of the human being. Mason did not achieve this by repackaging ideas from the Greek and Roman past.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17, RSV, 1971). Mason’s own testimony is that she offered the world new wine in the form of her philosophy of education. Let us not attempt to fit that wine into the old wineskins of the classical model. Let us open fresh wineskins, so that the wine may be preserved.

References

Bernier, B. E. (2009). Education for the kingdom: An exploration of the religious foundation of Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. Raleigh, NC: Lulu.

Blunt, R. F. L. (1890). Reverence for the work of the Holy Spirit in children and the young. In The Parents’ Review, volume 1, number 10 (pp. 721-731).

Glass, K. (2014a). Consider this: Charlotte Mason and the classical tradition. Publisher: Author.

Glass, K. (2014b). Why did she have to say that? Retrieved from http://www.karenGlass (2014a).net/why-did-she-have-to-say-that/

Kitching, E. (1923). The beginning of things. In The Parents’ Review, volume 34, number 6 (pp. 386-410).

Laws, J. M. (2016). The Laws guide to nature drawing and journaling. Berkeley, CA: Heyday.

Mason, C. M. (1893). Editor’s note. In The Parents’ Review, volume 4, number 9 (p. 662).

Mason, C. M. (1896). Editorial. In The Parents’ Review, volume 6, number 1 (pp. 50-57).

Mason, C. M. (1905). School education. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.

Mason, C. M. (1911). The Saviour of the world, volume 5: The great controversy. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.

Mason, C. M. (1922). Our principles. In L’Umile pianta, June, 1922 (pp. 14-17).

Mason, C.M. (1923). In memorium: Charlotte M. Mason. London: Wadsworth and Co.

Mason, C. M. (1924). Ourselves: Book I, self-knowledge. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. (Original work published 1905).

Mason, C. M. (1954). An essay towards a philosophy of education. London: Lowe & Brydone.

Mason, C. M. (1989a). Home education: Training and educating children under nine. Charlotte Mason Research & Supply. (Original work published 1886)

Mason, C. M. (1989b). Parents and children: The role of the parent in the education of the child. Charlotte Mason Research & Supply. (Original work published 1896)

Mason, C. M. (1989c). Formation of character: Shaping the child’s personality. Charlotte Mason Research & Supply. (Original work published 1905)

Mason, C. M. (2000). Children as ‘persons’. In E. Cholmondley, The story of Charlotte Mason (220-240). London: Wadsworth and Co.

Mason, C. M. (2011). Scale How Meditations. Raleigh, NC: Lulu.

Null, A. (2001). Dr. Ashley Null on Thomas Cranmer. Retrieved from http://acl.asn.au/resources/dr-ashley-null-on-thomas-cranmer/

Parents National Education Union (1932). Programme 123: Forms VI and V. Retrieved from http://charlottemason.redeemer.ca/Term-Prog-Exams/PDFs/Form5-6/f5-6p123cmc96.pdf.

Patridge, E. (1973). The Routledge dictionary of historical slang. Routeledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.

RSV. (1971). The revised standard version. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

The free dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/lustrum


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206 thoughts on “Reconsidering Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Art Middlekauff

  1. Seriously, don’t people have better things to do than write a 41 page argument over basically nothing? Who cares if Charlotte Mason is classical or not? Sheesh. Seems we have come to a stage where CM is a new idol.

  2. Pingback: The Sources of Charlotte Mason’s Theory of Education

  3. I am thankful for the rich discussion that has transpired in these comments. I would like to clarify and emphasize a few key ideas in a final comment.

    1. It is a mistake to suppose that all references to “a liberal education” in Victorian England are references to a “liberal arts education.” The Victorian debate between Thomas Huxley and Matthew Arnold was real and sustained, but they both had the same objective. According to Paul White (University of Cambridge), the agenda of both men “involved promoting science and literature as complementary parts of a universal culture.”

    Huxley was not a champion of utilitarian education. Rather, he “consistently subordinated the practical value of science to its moral and intellectual value.” He promoted “science as part of ‘liberal’, rather than ‘technical’, education.” “He repeatedly lectured … on the value of science in forming the intellect and character: science conferred a respect for observation and experiment than authority; it taught the value of evidence, and instilled a firm belief in immutable moral and physical laws. Science was a ‘moral discipline’, it success depending on the ‘courage, patience, and self-denial’ of the practitioner.”

    Huxley and Arnold were united in opposition to schemes that would provide only “useful knowledge” to the lower classes. They opposed the “payment by results” scheme that hounded Mason as a young teacher. They both “introduced a single model of culture in both public and private institutions… as foundations of English society, made available at all levels.”

    If one insists that Mason’s emphasis on a “liberal education for all” embeds her in the classical tradition, then one proves too much. One must then open the door and make room for Thomas Huxley too. Would anyone really feel comfortable saying, “Huxley continues important elements of the classical, Christian tradition of education; in some important ways he also departs from it”?

    2. It is a mistake to suppose that all who oppose specialization and utilitarian education are classical. The educational schemes of Rousseau and Pestalozzi are not utilitarian. Gerald Gutek, author of “Pestalozzi and Education,” wrote, “Fearing the harmful effects of industrial specialization, Pestalozzi cultivated the model of the generally educated person. Despite some methodological eccentricities that crept into his work, he never lost sight of his vision of the generally educated natural human being.”

    In this way, Pestalozzi, Huxley, Arnold, and Mason all shared a common overall vision: “the generally educated … human being.” This “general education” is a “liberal education.” If one insists that any educational theorist who resists specialization and utilitarian education is embedded in the classical tradition, then one proves too much. One must then open the door and make room for Pestalozzi as well.

    3. It is a mistake to suppose that Mason’s emphasis on living books is the same as the CCE emphasis on the classics. In the Parents’ Review (volume 17), Oscar Browning wrote: “I mentioned above that there appeared to me to be four possible curricula in these modern days—the classical, the mathematical, the scientific, and the modern literary. The last of these has yet to be created; but I believe that if it were properly developed it would be found to be in educative effect and instructive value in no way inferior to the other three.”

    Mason’s curriculum more closely resembles the “modern literary” rather than the “classical” curriculum. PNEU curriculum expert Jennifer Spencer wrote, “Almost all of [the books Mason’s forms] were contemporary books.” Mason insisted on the “literary form” — even for science texts. In fact, Conyers Alston, PNEU leader in South Africa, wrote, “Charlotte Mason … has been a power in education because she was the first person to base her gospel on the training of the child’s mind chiefly by means of good literature.”

    If one insists that Mason’s emphasis on living books embeds her in the classical tradition, then one proves too much. Mason will not push the curriculum “ad fontes.” CCE theorists write, “the return to these sources of our tradition … must be a long-term goal of the movement” — and Mason is not going to take them there.

    4. It is a mistake to suppose that Mason’s principles can be sprinkled like salt to enhance the flavor of some other educational method. H.W. Household wrote in 1926 that the piecemeal adoption of Mason’s method inevitably results in disappointment:

    “If you regard the Charlotte Mason method as a bag of tricks of which you can select one or two for adoption, leaving the rest, you will have nothing but disappointment. It is the outcome of a philosophy of education, and you must take all or none. You cannot use her methods and books for teaching literature and developing Composition, and use other methods and other books for teaching, say History and Geography. You cannot encourage the boy to get knowledge from the book for himself in one lesson, and insist on pumping textbook stuff into him the next; you cannot rely upon interest, a single reading, concentration and narration to-day, and upon slow wearisome preparation of dry facts followed by questions . . . to-morrow. The programme hangs together as a whole.”

    Mason insisted that her selection of living books (her programmes) were useful only if used in accordance with her principles. Elsie Kitching wrote, “[Mason] did not care to send the programmes for payment only, but only on condition that they should be carried out in the light of the Philosophy of Education which has been her contribution to the cause of education.” In 1926, a teacher wrote the PNEU and said, “I subscribed for the material for one year so that I could see what value it had to offer to us… I was unable to get any particular value from it.” Elsie Kitching responded, “A subscription for a year’s programmes is of no value… There is no intrinsic merit in Miss Mason’s method apart from the principles on which it is based.”

    This same teacher did not see anything distinctive in Mason’s emphasis on “living books.” Evidently this teacher thought they were just “great books.” The teacher wrote, “I should be sorry indeed if our classes were not also stimulated to a wide use of such books. I do not feel, however, that this feature is a ‘Mason feature,’ despite the fact that it is made the centre of their system.” Elsie Kitching’s reply is similar to mine: “It is the principle that counts as regards ‘living books.’” Kitching concluded: A “school which is open-minded to the best of everything” is apt to become a patch-work of good plans without any unifying principle.

    5. It is a mistake to suppose that Mason derived her ideas from the classical tradition. Dr. Thorley is the man who preserved the Charlotte Mason archives. He personally reviewed handwritten letters and collected them for future generations. He prepared lectures on these writings from the archives. He if anyone should be believed when he writes, “Charlotte Mason herself, though she was undoubtedly aware of the classical and medieval educationists, as far as I can see never specifically says that she is basing her ideas on theirs.”

    6. It is a mistake to suppose that Mason held virtue to be the ultimate goal of education. To claim that she continues this CCE attribute is to ignore what Mason wrote. For example, Mason wrote, “Let teachers believe that knowledge is the sole concern of education, that knowledge is life, and that knowledge of God is eternal life, and education will advance by leaps and bounds, personality will develop, and the children we bring up will be, as we would have them, greater and better than ourselves.”

    7. It is a mistake to suppose that Aimee Natal can be ignored. I did not recently “find” Aimee’s articles. I have been aware of them since 2008, and these articles are symptomatic of a tension between Charlotte Mason and CCE that has existed for two decades. Natal has delved deeply into Mason’s writings beyond just the TPE. She has read the biography of Mason’s life and pondered what it means. She has contemplated the implications of Mason’s training at the the first school in England devoted to advancing the methods of Pestalozzi. She has realized that Mason called her first principle a “child’s Bill of Rights.” She has situated Mason in the tradition of Rousseau and Pestalozzi who were “taking part in the sway amongst educators from traditional, formal, classical schooling primarily for boys, towards a universal and more informal education for all children in all classes of society.” She has given careful consideration to Mason’s theory of education relative to the classical tradition. No one should casually cast aside her analysis.

    I echo Natal in noting that at ages 18 to 19, Charlotte Mason received her formal education at the Home and Colonial Training College in London. From her Pestalozzian teachers, she observed that educational methods need not be based on tradition. She observed that educationalists can propose new theories of education based on the nature and needs of children and in conformance with natural law. She observed that children of all social classes could be educated, and this education could bring about the progressive improvement of mankind. However, she also observed many flaws and imperfections in the Pestalozzian method.

    Six years later, Mason developed a friendship with Emily Brandreth that would change her life. Brandreth asked Mason to help care for the three children of her brother who was on a tour of duty in India. Mason chronicled her experience of caring for these three insatiably curious children in pages 9-17 of TPE. Mason drew many insights from her observations of these children. She synthesized these insights with the latest discoveries of brain physiology and with the truths she was uncovering from her lifelong study of the Gospel record. Less than two decades later, she would unveil this synthesis in a series of lectures, the public debut of her theory of education.

    Some thought that perhaps this was just a “particular implementation” of a Pestalozzian education. But Mason resisted this error to the extent of seeking legal advice. She insisted that her method was decidedly new. She wrote that “the factors of education we have to deal with … is the new wine which cannot be put into old bottles.” She would not be submerged into the Pestalozzian tradition. “This teaching, be it remembered, is no mere patch on an old garment; it covers the whole scope of Education in every respect.” Mason’s self-understanding is breathtakingly revealed in her private letter from 1904:

    “When there have not been a dozen original thinkers upon education in the world; when England has hardly had 3 or 4 — how can the P.N.E.U. believe that one of these has fallen to its share? Indeed I can hardly believe it myself and am continually comparing and enquiring to see if I am after all offering anything worth while. The answer always seems to be ‘yes’ but I am truly willing to leave the question to the ‘modesty of time.’ At the same time, it will be a joyful and delightful thing to see the P.N.E.U. such an educational society as the world has never known; and there really is, I think, something to be said in favor of a person of even average intelligence who has given about 40 years of incessant consecutive, progressive, thought to the one subject of Education and who has tested every point laid down by many experiments and much investigation of principles.”

    And yet squarely in the face of this astonishing claim of originality, Glass writes that Mason “went looking into the past and drew an older conception of education into the present.”

    Here we are a century later, and Mason is no longer misperceived as a “particular implementation” of a Pestalozzian education. Instead, we are told that she was actually a “particular implementation” of a classical education! Instead of differentiating her ideas from Pestalozzi, we must now differentiate her ideas from Plato! A question that never came up in her own lifetime must be settled now in the twenty-first century. But settle it we must, in order to determine the relevance and application of her ideas today.

    How is it that an educational theorist who wrote, “We are progressive,” is said to be classical? How is it that a woman who referred to “Locke and Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Froebel” as “the Fathers” of education is said to be a child of Plato, Quintillian, or Cicero? Mason did not differentiate herself from these “Fathers” by appealing to the classical tradition. Rather, she wrote of “having our own definite ideas on the lines of which we advance.”

    In an earlier comment, Dr. Perrin wrote of Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Hall: “All three of these figures have been ‘fathers’ to the modern, progressive education that we see all around us.” We will find that Mason fits squarely in that progressive stream, if we would only listen to her words in history.

    This discussion took a most ironic turn. In an interview with Sonya Shafer, Glass said, “[Mason] wouldn’t have identified herself [as a classical teacher]… However, I would say with confidence that she was, indeed, a classical educator.” Nevertheless Glass contends that Mason “went looking into the past and drew an older conception of education into the present” — and called it “progressive”!

    Glass writes, “Charlotte Mason … was dissatisfied by the general trends of education in her time… the distortion of classical education as it was widely practiced was inadequate to meet the needs that she saw in the children she taught.” Dr. Perrin wrote, “[Mason] is ‘revolutionary’ in respect to the calcified Victorian education of her time, not to the entire tradition of classical education.” So words have been turned upside down. Dr. Perrin and Glass claim that what was called “classical” in Mason’s day actually is not classical, whereas what Mason developed and called “progressive” actually is classical. Something strange is amiss, but it behooves anyone committed to truth to investigate it further. Dr. Perrin once wrote the following about recovering classical education:

    “I find myself catching glimpses of things that I know are part of a great whole, as if I once knew that whole but can’t quite remember it. When another book restores some part of that whole, I put that part into place with a flash of recognition— as it fits into place I recognize that I once knew it. Who will restore to me the whole? How can I remember what I once knew?”

    I remember as a child working on large jigsaw puzzles. Sometimes I would find a piece that I thought for sure would fit in an empty spot on the puzzle. But when I tried to press it into place, it wouldn’t fit. I would push harder. But eventually I realized that one of two things would happen. Either the piece would tear, or the open hole in the puzzle would become deformed.

    It seems that CCE theorists have a conception of the classical ideal and they look into history to find the pieces that fit into the holes that remain in their jigsaw puzzle. But the question “How can I remember what I once knew?” amounts to an almost professed commitment to eisegesis. Some CCE theorists have noticed Charlotte Mason and have found a spot where they think she fits. But just like my experience as a child, they too will find that forcing together pieces that do not belong together will either compromise the individual piece or the overall puzzle.

    Mason did not derive her ideas from the liberal arts tradition. But the CCE “classical ideal” is based on that tradition. Mason did not see virtue as the highest goal of education. But virtue is the goal of Christian classical education. I appeal to my readers not only on the basis of logical arguments and debate. I appeal to them as brothers and sisters. Anyone committed to truth, wisdom, and virtue is also committed to being true to the facts, true to history, and respectful of all people, even those who have departed. I am concerned that if the CCE paradigm causes one to gloss over the important differences in Mason’s theory of education, the casualty will be truth. I don’t think anyone would want that.

    Christian educators are all united against a common enemy — secularism and unbelief. But is it essential that we converge our strategy and tactics? Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, “In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” God in His providence has permitted multiple methods of Christian education to unfold and prosper. Can we each sow our respective seed in faithfulness to our respective traditions as we understand them? Can we leave it then to God to bless the harvest? Does blurring distinctions and definitions really advance our cause? Is adherence to a least common denominator our best path forward?

    Trying to equate “progressive” with “classical” does a violence to words and will either truncate Mason’s vision or truncate the “classical ideal.” Before making a hasty judgement, I urge my readers to please review everything I have posted here, review Aimee’s article, and review Mason’s writings. Why not take a more cautious approach to adopting Mason’s methods into classical schools? Why not take more more time to ponder the words of Doctors Thorley, Benier, and Smith?

    Mason herself urged against fragmentation and hybridization. She wrote, “Those who do not regard education as a vital whole, but as a sort of conglomerate of good ideas, good plans, traditions, and experiences, do well to adopt and adapt any good idea they come across. But our conception of education is of a vital whole, harmonious, living, and effective.” Her advice is similar to that of a medieval saint, also a woman of humble origins. In the 14th century, St Catherine of Siena wrote the following:

    “But just as God’s servants have different ways even though they are all motivated by charity, so they teach differently. So when people look to too many of them, they find themselves wanting to model themselves on all of them, and then in the end you find they have nothing from any one of them! So it is better, and even essential, that you settle on one, and try to be perfect in [following] that one, even though you may like the teaching of every one of them.”

    It seems to me that CCE theorists have settled on “one” – the classical ideal. As they survey all of history to fill in the remaining gaps in their CCE tapestry, I urge them to think carefully about which teachers they choose to weave in. If one looks to too many teachers, he may find that he has nothing from any of them.

    Of course ultimately as brothers and sisters in Christ, we join hands in service towards our one and only King. One of the great pleasures of this service is the opportunity it affords to exchange ideas and perspectives with fellow servants. “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,” wrote Solomon, “and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” Thank you to everyone who posted comments here. Your earnest counsel brought joy to my heart.

    Respectfully,
    Art

  4. Dear Dr. Perrin,
    I too have enjoyed the intelligent debate over the past two weeks on this subject but I would also join with Melanie in saying that the tone of the discussion on your part has changed. In your last comment to Art, you sounded condescending and even arrogant in your accusation that he has failed to make his point. I strongly disagree. His premise was clearly stated at the outset that he was showing that Karen Glass’ book was in error and despite the way that several people from the classical camp tried to turn it into a personal issue, he accomplished his task and did so with utmost respect and courtesy toward Mrs. Glass and her supporters. You accused him of not having sufficient knowledge of classical education to intelligently argue his point and yet you were arguing your position having just dabbled in a few of Mason’s works. That is using a double standard.
    In the beginning of the discussion, I made a reference to Dorothy Sayers’ essay, as well as Doug Wilson and Susan Wise Bauer. Very quickly someone jumped in and cried foul, saying that those three did not represent what was currently meant by Classical Christian Education. This was also done without specifically defining at that point what is meant by classical education. In the ensuing course of discussion, we have had several comments that have enlarged the definition of classical, but it has taken some time to get there. Some of the commenters reject Wilson, Sayers, and even Wise Bauer as representing what is meant by CCE. But in today’s educational theories that claim “classical” as part of their focus there is a continuum, from Classical Conversations on the low end to full blown classical schools on the other. And in the middle are a range of people who want to hybridize and add to their mix, which is exactly what Art, Ben, Carroll, Jen Spencer, et. al. have tried to avoid. As I pointed out in an earlier post, Charlotte herself resisted emphatically the mixing of her approach with others and as a result cut loose the London PNEU group because they were unwilling to remain pure. That is what we also are trying to avoid. If you admire Mason and wish to borrow and add some of her principles to your brand, fine, but just don’t call yourself CM, and don’t try to justify it by going back and trying to make her into a classical pioneer. I would be willing to concede that in her own education, since variety was limited back then, she herself may have been the recipient of some vestige of what could be called classical training since one of her teachers may have been the recipient of classical influence. But as Art has repeatedly stated, take Mason at her word in where she came up with her views. I believe that Art has successfully accomplished what he set out to do—prove that Mason is not a version of CCE, but instead an original and brilliant educator who revolutionized how we educate children.

    • Scott,

      I disagree with you that Dr. Perrin is being rude to Art. I see Dr. Perrin as trying to hold Art to answer the questions that have been posed. I have felt quite frustrated with Art not answering some of Dr. Perrin’s questions. I too, think a podcast interview/debate would be wonderful and is probably needed.

      From the very moment that I read Art’s post I immediately realized that he did not seem to understand what Glass meant by a classical education, and his view is obviously is quite different than what I know Karen Glass’ definition to be, as well as many Christian Classical Educators. The problem is that many of us do not agree with Dorothy Sayers, Classical Conversations and the “neo-classical” movement. If you read Consider This, Karen even states that she is NOT following this neo-classical movement that has erupted in the homeschool community over the past 50 years and I believe THIS is the essence by which many people following this thread are using to compare.

      On page 18 Glass says “But intellectual prowess was not the primary concern of the classical educators. Their reason for education had an altogether different goal. When we understand what motivated their educational efforts, we will see that there is a sharp difference between the historical, classical approach to education and our modern one [neo-classical]. It is not a difference merely of methods, but a difference of purpose.”

      Glass is inferring that her definition departs from these neo-classicists.

      For instance, The Core (book which represents a neo-classical method) defines children and human machines. This obviously is in stark contrast to the classical definition that Karen Glass, Dr. Perrin and I hold. We hold to the definition that would align with Andrew Kern’s Circe Institute. Circe is purposing to restore the Christian Classical definition that would have been put forth by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and this is in stark contrast to these neo-classicists. In fact, the Liberal Arts Tradition by Jain and Clark even talk about this in the introduction of their book. They mention that the Christian Classical movement in the past 50 years has departed from what it was meant to be because basically, they were trying to re-build something without understanding all the facts. As Jain and Clark begin to describe these facts they have uncovered about what a truly Christian Classical Education should look like, much of what they discovered aligns with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy! Wow! I about dropped my book when I saw what they were saying and they had no clue and had never even read CM!

      On page 8 of Consider This, “Charlotte Mason,too, was dissatisfied by the general trends of education in her time. Progressive practices had made education utilitarian and mechanical, while the distortion of classical education as it was widely practiced was inadequate to meet the needs that she saw in the children she taught.” This quote supports what I said to Art in one of my first comments. I mentioned that CM had a bad experience with the current trends of classical education and how it had essentially strayed from its intended methods. If that is what her exposure to classical was at the time, this could explain why she seemed to “disassociate” herself from the classical movement. In reality, she was reviving much of the true ways that a Christian Classical education should look like. I doubt that she even realized that is what she was doing, but don’t hold me to that. It is my opinion and I do not have time to dig and find support, but I probably could.

      I bring all of this up because you seemed perturbed that Dr. Perrin dismissed your definition of Dorothy Sayers, etc. I understand why he did this and I hope my explanations above help you to understand the perspective from which we are coming. They Sayer’s definition does not work for Glass’ book because she purposed to refute that definition and it is clearly NOT the definition upon which she wrote her book.

      Living in JOY,
      Adrienne

      • Dear Adrienne,

        I am sorry that my comments on this thread have infuriated you. To the best of my knowledge, I have diligently answered every question that Dr. Perrin has asked me, except when he asked me to list the books I have read.

        I also am sorry that you think I have misread Glass’s book. I have used the utmost care with every quotation I have taken from Glass’s book, checking and re-checking the context. If you feel that I have misrepresented Glass’s writing in any way in my article, please point out the specific case. I took extreme care to use Glass’s words and her words alone, precisely so that no one could dismiss my article by saying I had misunderstood “classical.” I urge you to please grapple with Glass’s words and mine, and not conjecture that this is somehow just a misunderstanding about neoclassicism.

        You claim that “CM had a bad experience with the current trends of classical education and how it had essentially strayed from its intended methods.” There is simply no historical evidence to support that assertion. I have provided a mountain of evidence to show that Mason was offering a new philosophy of education based on the Gospels, the discoveries of science, and the new light of providence. It flatly contradicts the historical record to say that she was simply trying to provide a course correction to an otherwise sound and vital classical tradition.

        Respectfully,
        Art

        • Art,

          Did I honestly say I was “infuriated?” That’s a strong statement and I don’t think I said that. I have felt frustrated, but that is very different than infuriated. If I said that, I apologize. I don’t have time to sift through posts.

          There’s a lot of references in CM using exsmples of failed pedagogical practices that infer that she was countering against the “classical dehumanizing” methods of her day. For instance when she talks about Larin drills and doing Latin as a drill rather than for the beautiful sake of learning. This “kill/drill” method was common in “classical” schools during Her era, and in many neo-classical schools today. I am confused when you say “there is no evidence” that she was against the “classical” methods of her day. There are numerous references and inferences towards her frustration with the schools in England. These were “classical” schools.

          • Adrienne,

            I apologize. You merely wrote, “I have felt quite frustrated.” I wrongly construed that as “infuriated.” Please forgive me for imputing this to you.

            Mason was not countering the “classical dehumanizing” methods of her day. Regarding the teaching of Latin, Mason wrote, “Latin and Greek we learn in the usual ways…” (TPE). In volume 5, she noted that after the age of 15, “the value of the classical … grind comes in.” Ben’s comment from May 27, 2016 at 8:12 pm explains well that “Mason never asserted that the great public schools of England were widely practicing a distortion of the classical model, and classical training was not one of the needs Mason identified in the children she taught.”

            I am afraid that Glass’s book has led to confusion about the focus of Mason’s progressive educational vision.

            Respectfully,
            Art

      • Adrienne,

        The purpose of Art’s post was to show that Miss Mason came up with a new kind of education. Her methods were based on 3 different things: the Gospels, science, and her personal observation of children.

        Because you keep bringing up the definition of Christian Classical Education, I want to point to 2 sources from the Institute that seem to show that CCE do not even have a true definition of what classical means.

        At the link below Circe has listed as helpful organizations and networks for classical educators Classical Conversations (the “child” of Leah Bortins who wrote The Core, Trivium Pursuit and even The Well-Trained Mind. These are all products of Dorothy Sayers’ essay.

        https://www.circeinstitute.org/resources-organizations-schools/organizations-networks

        In this podcast, Andrew Kern attempts to define neo-classical. His definition does not fit your definition.

        https://www.circeinstitute.org/podcast/ask-andrew-ep-8-what-does-neo-classical-mean

        I too have studied both Charlotte Mason and Classical Education. I see the ways in which that overlap, but I appreciate their differences.

        I love the idea of Teaching from a State of Rest. I adore the shared interests in living books.

        In your latest post, you said that in reading The Liberal Arts Tradition you discovered much of Mason’s philosophy lined up. That means not all of it matches up and that is okay, they are not the same.

        The area where I have personally struggled the most about adopting CCE is in the area of Plato’s dualism. I have found the book, Assumptions that Affect Our Lives to be very helpful.

        I love Charlotte Mason’s educational methods. I believe her educational philosophy was divinely inspired. They are truly good and beautiful

        • Michelle,

          Thank you for posting this comment. I am delighted to hear that you love Charlotte Mason’s educational methods, and that you have found these methods to be truly good and beautiful.

          Also thank you for sharing your concerns about Plato’s dualism. I think Mason’s worldview corresponds to the Hebrew worldview, as describe by N.T. Wright:

          “But the meaning of ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ in the Bible, … is quite different from what Plato had in mind. For a start, we have already learned that Jesus has gone, still as a fully human being, into the world of heaven—something Plato could never have allowed. ‘Heaven’ is not, in the Bible, simply a ‘spiritual’, in the sense of ‘non-physical’, dimension; it is God’s space, God’s realm, which interlocks with our realm, our world (‘earth’) in all sorts of ways.”

          Commenting this explanation, Stephen Kurt notes:

          “Wright argues that the sacraments are to be understood as special points, established by Jesus and used by the Holy Spirit to bring God’s presence and new creation into the world. Such a sacramental theology is based on the biblical world-view of heaven and earth being understood as interlocking dimensions of the created order rather than distant from one another.

          “The ordinary and earthly nature of the sacraments is an indispensable sign of the goal of Christian salvation being a renewed and transformed earth, rather than escape from it. This understanding of baptism and the Eucharist in turn points to a world full of sacramental possibilities, as every good thing that God has created can potentially anticipate the new creation and become a channel of the presence of the risen Jesus.”

          Mason also saw a world full of sacramental possibilities. She writes:

          “But perhaps we fail to realize that … nature teems with teaching of the things of God, that every leaf on every tree is inscribed with the divine Name, that the myriad sounds of summer are articulate voices, that all nature is … sacramental. Realizing the close correspondence and interdependence between things natural and things spiritual, that God nowhere leaves Himself without a witness, and that every beauteous form and sweet sound is charged with teaching for us, had we eyes to see and ears to hear…”

          When Mason encourages us to do nature study, she is not encouraging us to look at objects that are but dim reflections of Platonic forms — instead, she is encouraging us to look at the inscription of the divine Name.

          In 1922, the Reverend Claude Jenkins preached a sermon at Gray’s Inn entitled, “Things New and Old.” He noted the great challenges of his day, and saw the answer in education. His sermon, reprinted in the Parents’ Review, includes this line:

          “… the remedy is to be sought in the Advancement of Learning … And progress will be achieved by a new method, new to many in our age but yet a very old one, that which our Lord taught to His disciples when He bade them severally Follow Me.”

          In the same turn of phrase, Mason wrote in 1913, “I have attempted to unfold… a system of educational theory… Some of it is new, much of it is old.” Some have interpreted the “old” to be a reference to Plato. It is not. Mason is with Rev. Jenkins. The “old” is a reference to Christ.

          Respectfully,
          Art

          • Art,

            I think the “old/new” quotation from CM is interesting, but I don’t think (not yet anyway) it is not sufficient on its own to make either my (both/and) case or your (radical departure) case. At present, I think it favors my case (no surprise)–but I welcome the attempt to convince me otherwise, and I think I could be convinced.

            I have not read Rev. Jenkins case about the Christ’s old “follow me” method. Was he in any way making a comment on CM’s method or the “old/new” quotation you reference from 1913? Are you assuming that they are talking about the same thing (the gospel method of teaching) or citing Jenkins as evidence that this is what CM meant?

            In my opinion, two thing casts your interpretation in doubt:
            1) When she says about her method that “Some is new/Much is old” she in context clearly does not identify “old” with the “gospel method.” It is not in the surrounding context either. That does not mean it isn’t possible that she meant the gospel code, but there is no direct evidence in the passage itself that this is what she meant. In fact in the preceding sentence, as you know, there is a reference again to that confounded Plato: “…that severest criterion set up by Plato to ‘run the gauntlet of objections, and is ready to disprove them, not by appeals to opinion, but to absolute truth.” She also make reference to her “system of education” contained in “various volumes.” When she says “some is old/much is new” I believe it is fair to think she is referring back to her “system of education” mentioned in previous sentence that cites Plato’s criterion of “rational demand.” I note just the small irony that she is willing to submit her theory of education to a rational standard set up by Plato. I say that with a smile, knowing that you will likely note some irony in my own writing!

            To cite Rev. Jenkins as a helpful interpreter of this passage is to cite someone quite far away. To be fair here, I am not sure that is what you intend by citing Jenkins. Clearly, to interpret this “some is old/much is new” passage as referring to the gospel code, we must bring some assumptions to this text that we get elsewhere. It would be helpful if you could cite any other passages that show that she thinks that much or most of her method consists in the gospel code. I open to that, and I know that you have read more of CM than me over a longer period of time.

            2) She does say that MUCH is old. This seems to me to require that CM must think that the greater quantity of her teaching, or that most of her methods consists in the gospel code of teaching discerned in Jesus. Is that your view? Or do you have another way of interpreting “much?” By an inverse relation, if the gospel code consists of much or most of methods, then the rest of her methods should consist of a smaller amount of the whole. Is that how you read it? Or do you take “some/much” not to refer to quantity but to importance?

            With appreciation,
            Chris

            PS: I owe you a response to another post, to which I will now turn. Thanks for your patience.

          • Chris,

            Thank you for the engaging tone of your comment, and thank you for inviting me to “cite any other passages that show that she thinks that much or most of her method consists in the gospel code.” To be clear, Mason wrote that “much of it is old,” so I will not change “much” to “most.” I will provide 9 lines of evidence to support my interpretation that this is a reference to Christ’s teachings in the Gospels.

            1. Mason first unveiled her theory of education in a series of lectures in 1885. The first lecture began with an exposition of specific teachings of Christ. In that way, she began her method both chronologically and structurally on the teachings of Christ. These lectures are captured in volume 1 of the Home Education series. Pages 12-20 contain her exposition of the key Gospel passages that are foundational to her entire theory of education. She begin this exposition by saying that she had “discover[ed] … a code of education in the Gospels, expressly laid down by Christ.”

            In these pages, she brought an innovative interpretation to several statements by Christ. Ben pointed out in one of his comments, “As far as I know Mason was the first, Christian educator to highlight these set of teachings of Christ as a code of law setting the boundaries for the education of children) shedding light upon the role of Mason’s Christian commitment in the formation and proper understanding of her key concepts.”

            Many key elements in Mason’s 20 principles can be tied directly back to the implications Mason saw in the Gospel record of Christ’s teaching, as exposited in pages 12-20 of volume 1.

            2. Mason’s close associate Agnes Drury wrote, “[Mason] has herself told us that she has drawn her philosophy from the Gospels, where we may study and note ‘the development of that consummate philosophy which meets every occasion of our lives, all demands of the intellect, every uneasiness of the soul.’” This testimony from a member of Mason’s inner circle is powerful and takes precedence over later inferences and conjecture.

            3. Mason wrote a six volume poetic commentary on the Gospels. She entitled this “The Saviour of the World.” In the Parent’s Review, she included a press cutting about a volume of the series, and wrote: “The following press cutting will indicate more fully the character of a work which the author would gladly see in familiar use in P.N.E.U. households, as it goes to the root of that which we commonly describe as ‘P.N.E.U. thought’…” In saying this, she indicated that the Gospels serve as a primary source of her theory of education, which she sometimes refers to as “P.N.E.U. thought.”

            4. Mason wrote that old methods of education have failed: “… what has failed us is philosophy, and that applied philosophy which is called education. Philosophy, all the philosophies, old and new, land us on the horns of a dilemma…” She wrote that the answers are not found in tradition: “we want a new scale of values… The beautiful little gowns that have come down as heirlooms would not fit the ‘divinely tall’ daughters of many a house where they are treasured…” Instead, she wrote that the answers are found in a fresh interpretation of the Gospels: “Now, all our exigeant demands are met by words written in a Book, and by the manifestations of a Person; and we are waiting for a Christianity such as the world has not yet known.”

            5. Mason said that the ultimate source of the progressive and transformative power of her theory of education is found in a “profound Christianity” which is based on a direct and unalloyed reception of Christ’s teaching. She wrote: “We of the P.N.E.U., if we be minded to advance in our thousands with one heart and one purpose, are strong enough to bring about a Twentieth Century Renascence, more glorious and permanent than that of the Middle Age, because its ultimate source shall be a profound Christianity, in lieu of the poisoned springs of Paganism. We have the one thing to offer which the whole world wants, an absolutely effective system of education covering the whole nature of a child, the whole life of man.” (Parents’ Review, volume 23, p. 811)

            6. Mason wrote that “. . . our readers are aware that our whole superstructure rests upon a religious, or more precisely upon a Christian basis . . .”

            7. Mason’s use of Plato as the criterion in the close context points away from Plato as the source of what is “old.” If she had gotten her system of educational theory from Plato, she would not say it could stand up to his criterion. That would be tautological.

            I could make an analogous statement: “I have attempted to unfold a theory from deductive science which seems to me able to meet any scientific demand, even that severest criterion set up by Darwin.” If I were to say that, it would no more make me a Darwinist than Mason’s statement makes her a Platonist. In fact, the statement as written implies I am not a Darwinist. It says that I have developed a theory that is different from Darwin’s but that meets his toughest standard. In the same way, Mason is saying that she has developed a theory that is different from Plato’s but that meets his toughest standard.

            8. Mason’s reference to “old” cannot be Plato, since Mason did not attribute her ideas to the classical tradition. John Thorley, a CM expert and the last president of Charlotte Mason college, wrote, “Charlotte Mason herself, though she was undoubtedly aware of the classical and medieval educationists, as far as I can see never specifically says that she is basing her ideas on theirs.”

            9. The Jenkins quote shows that in Mason’s social, historical, and progressive context, when speaking of new vs. old, one may use “old” as a shorthand for the teachings of Christ.

            Regarding relative weight, I say that Mason based her theory of education on the teachings of Christ, the discoveries of science, and the observed behaviors of children. The first of these is “old,” the second is “new,” and the third is both: the behaviors are “old,” but Mason’s observations are “new.”

            One final note: I said “dramatic departure,” not “radical departure.” (Although Ben’s 2009 publication refers to “Mason’s radical claims.”) Again, some calibration would be helpful here. I would love to understand how you characterize the departure of Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Hall from the classical tradition. Would you say it is mild, dramatic, radical, or absolute?

            Respectfully,
            Art

        • Michelle,

          I wanted to make one more reply to your comment. You wrote, “I believe [Mason’s] educational philosophy was divinely inspired.” Mason teaches that the Holy Spirit, “the the supreme Educator mankind,” conveys original ideas and insights directly to individuals. Therefore, she ascribes “the origin of great inventions and discoveries to the fact that ‘certain ideas of the natural world are presented to minds already prepared to receive them by a higher Power than Nature herself.’” Mason believed that her theory of education was one of those ideas — although in humility, she added the qualification “perhaps”:

          “… the principles and methods of that science of education which is yet in its infancy, which is, perhaps, the divine revelation given to our own day, and which opens most glorious prospects for the elevation of the race.”

          Respectfully,
          Art

      • > In page 8 of Consider This, “Charlotte Mason, too, was dissatisfied by the general trends of education in her time. Progressive practices had made education utilitarian and mechanical, while the distortion of classical education as it was widely practiced was inadequate to meet the needs that she saw in the children she taught.”

        The above characterization by Glass, of Mason and her context is in need of careful clarification, as it asserts claims which do not correspond to the historical context of Mason’s work and are therefore misleading when read from our modern context.

        Yes, Mason was dissatisfied with the general condition of education in her time, but not with the general trends. Mason like almost everyone else thought that education was in need of serious reform; Nevertheless, Mason perceived also with others, general trends for reform based upon the development of science, which were promising an overall improvement to the general state of education in England and founded the PNEU to contribute towards the spreading of awareness concerning the latest developments on the educational field (at the time such would be termed “progressive”), hoping that through the PNEU, Parents could have access to what she considered best among these new developments.

        The quote also makes the claim that “Progressive practices” had made education utilitarian and mechanical. It must be asked what “progressive practices” and what period this observation is attempting to describe? Yes, there was a danger of reducing education to utilitarian and pragmatic considerations, and Mason opposed that tendency, but many of the reforms Mason approved of, could be characterized as “progressive”. For example, Mason approved that education ought to be reformed based upon the actual observation of the way children really learn, ie. She favored the discipline of ‘child-study’; she also favored co-education, ie that both girls and boys should be educated with a shared curriculum (regardless of it being a boys or a girls school, or a mixed class). Also she favored education by “things” as well as books. i.e. she was not opposed to the introduction of object lessons and even the kindergarden (with due cautions); with others she was opened to these as well as other “progressive” innovations. Vocational training was also regarded as useful and necessary, although it was debated how much of a literary course would be appropriate for members of the working class and also for women.

        These views were seen as “progressive” during her time, relative to the classical model of the “public” school which Matthew Arnold, with an ironical phrase had characterized as “the grand old fortifying classical curriculum.”

        The clergy and the upper classes, in general had access to this “grammar” and “public” school, which were the institutions providing classical training since time immemorial (this is why they were called grammar school, since they taught Latin, they were also called “public”, (although we would called them private), because they were understood to foster the common good of general society, even though general society did not had access to it and they were not necessarily paid for by the government). These institutions had a high reputation, (they are usually referred to as our “great Public schools”) and were not perceived as failing because the practice of a “distorted classical education”.

        Yes, they were originally designed for the training of the secular (ie not monastic) clergy taking pupils from among the poor for free. But the training they offered was the same classical training from the middle ages and was not intended to provide popular education in general. From the beginning in keeping with the ideals of the medieval classical model these schools were limited in both the curriculum and the number of students. Over time they accepted members of the noble class and eventually became the educational institutions for the ruling class.

        Yet, Mason never asserted that the great public schools of England were widely practicing a distortion of the classical model, and classical training was not one of the needs Mason identified in the children she taught.

        This notion of a distortion of the classical ideal by the classic school of Mason’s time, as far as I can tell, is a modern construct that has no basis in the history of the PNEU or the development of Mason’s work or philosophy.

        To the contrary, public or grammar schools were generally hailed as the crown achievement of British culture and suitable to accomplish what they were supposed to do in order to foster the culture of the ruling class and create scholars for the university, (and although the majority of the pupils were upper class, they always kept open access for the lower or middle class to become members of the clergy.)

        Yes, during the Victorian Era this classic system was subjected to severe criticism in view of the new demands upon culture imposed by the progress of science and general knowledge, and because of this it reluctantly had to expand its traditionally narrow classical curriculum.

        For the first time these institutions had to begin to justify the claims that a classical education, that which was based upon the study of the grammar and literature of Latin and Greek languages from an early age, in a boarding school, was indeed the best and most suitable way to train the mind and character of a young boy destined to become a member of the ruling class or the Church; and that that training was preferable to other alternatives like studies in the mother tongue and the study of science.

        Nevertheless, this system was generally criticized only by members from within it, when its graduates or headmasters reflected upon the experience of years of following it both as pupils or headmasters, some argued in favor of keeping it with minor modifications, others advocated an expansion of the curriculum and methods, but the shared presupposition was that this system was good at what it did in order to satisfy the social and cultural expectations of the elite constituting the ruling class of England and to provide the best candidates for scholarly study at the university.

        This educational world which followed from time immemorial a narrow classical curriculum was also dominated by men and it was only as “progressive” ideas began to take root and put pressure upon it, that it did begin to incorporate modern subjects, and, also slowly, to offer opportunities for the training of girls, but Mason was not one of them.

        Mason was mostly self-trained, She was an amateur, at the time when it was still possible for amateurs to make a name for themselves based on merit, apart from institutional accreditation and respectability provided by the old “public” school; (a window which was closed more and more towards the end of her life as the college level professional accreditation became the new standard and college education began to be more attainable by people outside membership within the upper class and less centered in the classical standards). If Mason had been born a few decades later and in more favorable circumstances, she probably would have attained a college level education of the more modern kind and would have encouraged her governess to do the same.

        Anyway, Mason did not have access to formal classical training. She did not attend a public school and never cared to sit for examinations to enter any university, (neither did her trained governesses at the HOE were encouraged to do so).

        As a young teacher of a poor school, Mason’s pupils were not expected to sit for examinations to enter into the universities, which held to the old classical standards the longest, putting pressure from the top down as was observed by one of the Headmasters in a PNEU lecture on this subject:

        “It may come to some of us as a shock of sharp surprise to learn that the entrance bars to those venerable Universities are practically the same now as they were before the Reformation. But because this is so, the same crystallized system is forced on our boarding public schools—we are dominated from above—inasmuch as the prizes offered at the universities are (three quarters of them) confined to proficiency in the two dead languages.” Rev. H. B. Gray D.D., “The position of the Great Boarding Schools in the Educational System of the Country.” Parents’ Review, Vol. 19. No.12 1908 Dic. p. 884.

        As you can see, this was still true by 1908. All this time Mason had been working towards the improvement of general educational reform, and her goal and inspiration was not to correct or amend the classical tradition of the public school. Her pupils were not expected to enter university, so they did not require classical training. Those that did, could go to the public school and that is why originally, Mason focused on the training of girls at home.

        So the liberal education which Mason advocated included two elements which were not part of the classical tradition: universality of persons and universality of subjects (following a child-based methodology), these were progressive ideas. In this she was making a radical departure from the classical model, which was always restricted to a small group and with a narrow curriculum and with a methodology to which the child was sacrificed.

        Mason’s work grew with the growth of popular educational reform in England and saw her work as part of that movement of progressive general reform and as a contribution to the improvement of general culture.

        So, Mason, was not opposed to “progressive” ideas in principle, neither was she opposed to the public school system; she did not discourage practical training; she did not have a bad experience with classical education, nor did she observed a classic ideal the public school was failing to attain, the classical ideal did not include a broad curriculum nor popular education. (Also remember the criticism of any failure of the public school was generally voiced only by graduates and families within the system, as it would have been perceived as presumptuous for amateurs to speak against or above their social superiors, something Mason was careful not to do) and most of the children she originally taught had little need for a classical education as understood in her context.

        I am sorry that this post turned out to be much longer than I expected, but I think this clarification is important for our discussion of Mason’s relation to classical education by attempting to place it in its proper historical context.

        Thank You,

        Paz y Bien

        Ben

        • Ben,

          Thank you for this great post providing a clear statement both of Mason’s biography and her historical-educational context. I think it is very well done. In particular, I like the way you have offered proportion and noted some complexity in her educational context, indeed even in her own biography and life. Not all was black and white in that era (in any?)–it was a heady time of challenge and change. One example of your proportioned thinking is revealed in this sentence:

          “Yes, Mason was dissatisfied with the general condition of education in her time, but not with the general trends.”

          At any rate, I appreciate this post on several levels.

          I can only imagine that Art would grant all that you present here. I think this context gives us a terrific place to examine the relationship of CE/CCE and CM.

          There is not much to dispute in your post, from my perspective, other than to ask a clarifying question or two:

          1. It sounds like you do agree that CM was concerned with education that was aimed primarily at utilitarian or vocational ends. Am I reading you right on that score? Could you clarify that a bit further?

          2. Would you be willing to further clarify how you think CM uses the phrase “liberal education” throughout TPE?

          3. Could you offer any further description of what you regard “progressive education” to be in CM’s era?

          Bravo,
          Christopher

          • > .. a clarifying question or two:

            > 1. It sounds like you do agree that CM was concerned with education that was aimed primarily at utilitarian or vocational ends. Am I reading you right on that score? Could you clarify that a bit further?

            Yes, she with the PNEU in general, although happy that new avenues of vocational training were being opened, worried that these would follow the German model of education, which in their view did not provide the full range of scope proper for a person, but was designed in principle to foster a class of efficient workers and soldiers. (after the war there are many references in the Parents Review connecting WWI to the materialistic scope in German education).

            She advocated “liberal” education instead, one proper for a person covering the full range of needs corresponding to the sanctity of a person created in God’s image and called to the knowledge and service of God and fellow man. (this also relates to your second point for clarification about Mason’s use of “liberal”)

            So the tendency to reduce education to its material uses was resisted wherever it appeared, and unfortunately it was appearing more and more as the New Psychology from Germany (Wundt, et al), based on evolutionary theory, ie. based upon the materialistic premise that “spirit” does not exist, among other secularizing tendencies, began to make headway into the English system.

            > 2. Would you be willing to further clarify how you think CM uses the phrase “liberal education” throughout TPE?

            I think the best way to grasp what Mason called “liberal education” is by examining her writings in relation to the phenomenom of the use of the PNEU curriculum and method by teachers in state schools in some poor districts of England which began to happen during the war. She wrote a series of articles which were later collected, as “The liberal Education for All” movement, the proven success of which she presented as valid evidence that her educational discoveries were correct. So the testimonies of schools in various poor districts being transformed by the PNEU curriculum adapted to these new circumstances were repeatedly documented and made reference to, and are the context for the Last volume of the series, (written almost 20 years after the others) which was designed to bring the PNEU achievement to the level of academic discussion, as evidenced by the fact, that copies of it were sent to university professors of various universities inviting review, so that it could be recognized as a distinct contribution to the philosophy of education.

            Unfortunately, in the meanwhile, Mason died and the volume appeared soon after her death taking the character of a Memorial tribute, so the reviews of it, outside the PNEU circle, as an academic contribution were understandably few and far between; So the recognition of Mason’s work as a serious philosophical contribution happened much less than expected and eventually the PNEU was relegated to become a footnote, often ignored, in English educational history drowned in the midst of the many changes brought about by post-war secularising tendency of modernity in England.

            > 3. Could you offer any further description of what you regard “progressive education” to be in CM’s era?

            I have not much more to offer on this, apart from pointing out that as materialism in Science began to prevail over the previous model, “progressive” began to take another tone, which Mason resisted. This for example can be seen in her response to the Montessori method.

            For Mason any theory or method of education which did not take into account the child as a person, ie a sacred, spiritual being, better than us in many fundamental ways, who is a mystery to us and who deserves our utter respect, was bound sooner or later to be harmful to the children regardless of the good intentions by which it may have been conceived.

            Apart from the authority of the Gospel, Mason was very careful not to allow anything into her thinking about children or methods by definition, inconsistent with this Gospel derived premise and would do so only after examination and test.

            One last comment concerning the old and the new. In issues like life and learning, there is hardly anything that is really new, since life and truth have always being the same; the only thing that changes is our level of understanding of what has already being there from the beginning and our consequent ability to interact with reality in more effective ways.

            There is nothing really new under the sun, and this is particularly true of education; but what is new and make changes is that when we finally begin to better understand the principles underlying natural (which includes spiritual) processes and their necessary implications, then we are able to begin to reach unprecedented levels of attainment, as Mason demonstrated.

            Thank you, Paz y Bien,

            Ben

          • I would like to add a note, in line with what Art has already highlighted on this subject, concerning the meaning of “Liberal”, as used by Mason and the PNEU in reference to the Liberal education for all.

            In an article published in 1920 in reference to the experience of the Whitby Gathering, when PUS children spend a week together there, titled “A Liberal Education for All, Impressions Gathered at Whitby and Elsewhere, (Parents’ Review, Vol. 31. No. 7, July 1920, p. 499.) Mason’s writing on Parents and Children on the Great Recognition (1897) is highlighted again as a basis for understanding the “liberal Education for all” they were witnessing.

            I want to highlight from there a quote that I think summarizes the sense in which “liberal” was intended in this connection by Mason and the PNEU:

            “Once the intimate relation, the relation of Teacher and taught in all things of the mind and spirit, be fully recognized, our feet are set in a large room; there is space for free development in all directions, and this free and joys development whether of intellect or heart, is recognized as a Godward movement.” P. 502

            “Liberal” means Spirit led, intimate, personal, free, all inclusive, open ended, joyous and Godward.

            Paz y Bien
            Ben

        • Ben,

          Thank you for pointing out that in Mason’s day she was considered “progressive.” That was her self-understanding as well. She explicitly wrote, “We are progressive.” In that same document, she spoke of the “Fathers” of education:

          “The Fathers (why should we not have Fathers in education as well as in theology), worked out, for the most part their educational thought with an immediate view to the children of the poor.”

          But these Fathers were not Plato, Quintillian, or Cicero. Mason wrote in this document that the Fathers in fact were “Locke and Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Froebel.” But even from these progressives, Mason differentiated herself, saying, “we believe we have scientific grounds for a line of our own.”

          Respectfully,
          Art

    • Scott,

      Thank you for your endorsement of my thesis. Also, it means a lot to me that you say I showed respect and courtesy toward Mrs. Glass and her supporters — that was my intention from beginning to end.

      Your note about how Mason “may have been the recipient of some vestige of what could be called classical training” reminded me of how we all tend to speculate about Mason’s life. But so much of it is recorded for us in history. Many don’t realize that Mason learned how to teach at age 18 from a college dedicated to the educational philosophy of Pestalozzi. She could have been inculcated into the Pestalozzian way. But she found a better code of education — in the Gospels.

      Respectfully,
      Art

    • Scott (and Melanie):

      I appreciate your comments about my tone. I have prayed about this and will try to do my best to show my respect for Art, even while I engage his ideas. Sometimes a quick post just focusing on a logical fallacy and asking for evidence leads me to appear dry and cold. I am sorry for that tone.

      I do regard some outstanding issues with Art’s thesis unresolved and unanswered. By restating them in different ways, I don’t mean to be a clanging gong, though without proper care I certainly could appear to be that. I will try not to clang, or beat my own drum, but focus on the ideas. Here is what remains unresolved for me after carefully reading his thesis quote below:

      “Unfortunately, Glass’s book misrepresents the source, purpose, and ideas of Charlotte Mason’s method. In doing so, Glass creates a hybrid model of education that is faithful neither to the classical model nor to Charlotte Mason’s ideas. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that Charlotte Mason’s method is not merely a “particular implementation” of a “classical education.” Rather, Mason introduced a distinctly new philosophy of education that is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition.”

      1. Art, so far, has conceded that he is not well-read in the classical tradition. This is not a fault or criticism. Who is well-read the classical tradition or classical Christian tradition? Very few. It is only a fault when such knowledge is necessary to substantiate a thesis. He cannot prove that CM is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition without knowing what it is. He nowhere even tries to describe what it would mean “to be faithful to the classical tradition”–and this is natural, because he only very basically familiar with what that tradition is.

      Do you see how important it is that we define just what CE is? If we define it one way, CM certainly is a dramatic departure from it.

      For example let us define CE as: An approach to education sourced in the poisoned springs of paganism (non-Christian books, philosophies and ideas), that contaminated Christian education until the Reformation. Then Art’s thesis will hold water–CM has departed from THAT. Of course, we can define CE such that the overlap with CM becomes more evident–and of course I do define it that way (I believe). So one critical issue in this debate is just what will be stipulate as an acceptable definition of CE and CCE? I hope to post something about this in the next couple of days if time allows.

      Scott, what do you think “classical education” is? When you read Art’s thesis statement, do you have clear idea of what is involved in the comparison? Where do you come upon that idea? Is it common knowledge– what CE is? If you are not sure what it refers to, how will you know when someone has departed from it or embraced it?

      Is it truly satisfying to you think that CM is just dramatically departing from a theory of education “rooted in Greece and Rome?” If so, do you see that you are satisfied with a knowledge that goes as far as Webster’s Dictionary? That is fine for informal conversation, but do you see that it does not rise to the level of an academic exchange? Especially when there are many books on the subject that describe CE in far greater detail?

      If I were to describe CM’s philosophy (in my own comparison) as “a new approach to education rooted in turn-of-the-century secular psychology” I think you would cry foul and say that I have misrepresented CM and/or don’t have an informed idea of her theory–she has after all written six books on her philosophy!

      But I note this: For someone to generalize about CE is more understandable, because it is so little studied and known in our generation, and because it requires a long study. For someone to generalize about CM is less understandable, because it requires far less study to become familiar with it.

      Does this help at all?

      Finally, I want to show some charity to everyone regarding the definition of CE and CCE. It is a difficulty–because CE and CCE represent a wide, broad stream of educational ideas over many centuries, making it difficult to summarize, just as it his difficult to summarize the Christian church (with all of its denominations, splits, expressions, etc.) to someone who knows virtually nothing about the Christian faith and its history. Despite the immense variety of the Christian faith, there is an abiding unity in the midst of so much diversity, is it not true? CCE is rich and varied, with theme and variation and hard to get to know quickly–especially since we have been immersed in it for the last 75 years or so. And like the church, CCE has had its corruptions, is periods of health and periods of decay. But for some 1500 years our brothers and sisters have struggled and labored to education their children well… The Holy Spirit was present then as now, and much good was done, much goodness that can enrich us today. Should not our brothers and sisters from the past–writers, scholars, pastors, educators–should not their voices still be consulted and heard? While consulting them takes much study and many a difficulty, we should consult them, for they are still members of the same church. Was the Spirit active in those centuries? Was He present in his church, despite the many corruptions and challenges of the church? Can we learn something about education from Augustine, Benedict Justin, Clement, Gregory, Chrysostom, Bernard, Alcuin, Cassiodorus, Isadore, Thomas, Luther, Sturm and so many others? I think the answer is, yes, but I also think it was severe of me to point this out in the manner I did in some earlier posts and I apologize for the condescending tone.

      What I mean is this: I do think that Art’s thesis contains a claim it cannot prove; I also think it is unrealistic of me to insinuate that he should possess anything other than a generic, basic understanding of CE and CCE–we are almost all unaware of the tradition of CCE because of the generation in which we have been raised. I wish I had been clear on that, while keeping a respectful tone.

      Pax,
      Chris

      • Dear Chris,
        Thank you for your personal response to my earlier comment. I appreciate your humility concerning how your tone came across to me. I echo Art’s feelings that we are all brothers in Christ and I am grateful for you and what you have brought to this discussion.
        Let me give a brief outline of my own personal experience with CCE. My wife and I attended our first homeschool conference in 1985 and began home educating our eldest daughter a year later. Yes, it was illegal back then! I suppose you could say we were pretty eclectic in those earlier years but eventually became familiar with Dorothy Sayers’ essay, The Lost Tools of Learning. My wife was given a copy of For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer-Macaulay sometime in the early 1990’s, but we did not become CM devotees just yet. In the late 1990’s we read Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind, and began educating our children classically. We also read Doug Wilson’s Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. I realize that many who have sided with you have argued that these three works do not represent what is understood as Classical Christian Education today. I recognize that these works take a developmental approach to a child’s education based on three distinct stages in how a child learns and this does not necessarily represent where you or your colleagues stand. However, we quickly became frustrated with the rote memorization methods that were emphasized. We were frustrated with the drilling and pedagogical nature of instruction and the lack of enthusiasm that was produced in our children. The love of learning aspect was missing. It was at that point that we re-discovered Mason through the concept of living books.
        As an aside let me say that I appreciate your statement that CCE is a broad stream that spans at least 1500 years of church history. However, in reading many of your posts I have been left with the impression that CCE is so broad that it loses distinctiveness. In other words, to borrow and re-coin a phrase, “If everything is special, then nothing is special.” In the same way, if everything is classical then nothing is really classical. You obviously like several things about Charlotte Mason’s theories, and see great similarities in what is your classical view of education. It is natural therefore that you would want to adopt her and make her one of your own. Actually, as we were transitioning from classical to CM in our own home, I myself kept trying to define Mason as a form of “classical” education. It took me a few years to realize that she was different, and that is what Art has been saying. Charlotte herself says where she got her ideas and in no way does she attribute it to classical education. In that sense, I believe Art has very aptly proven his premise in refuting Glass’ claims. Furthermore, his article was so well-documented, as has his ongoing responses, that he has defended his views in the highest scholarly terms. Some of his detractors have responded emotionally, but he has always brought it back to directly attributable sources, using Charlotte’s own words and citing chapter and verse. His detractors have not risen to the same level throughout this debate.
        Also, I think too much has been made about his so-called ignorance of “CCE”. It is evident that he knows more than he has been given credit for. While he and Carroll have emphasized the dualism of Plato’s thinking and stated that this is at the heart of CCE and you and your colleagues have stated that CCE goes far beyond this, at least some of their criticism remains standing, in my opinion. You have stated that what you are referring to as valid CCE is not what has been defined in the past 50 years, implying that CiRCE and others are the understood spokesmen for the classical camp. Yet that is simply an assertion. On what authority do you and your colleagues make that claim? I think Sayers, Wilson and Wise-Bauer are just as valid in claiming that place. Sayers wrote well before the last 50 years and there are many in the classical camp who still teach classically, based on this definition.
        In summary, by your own admission, classical is a broad stream, perhaps an almost eclectic stream. In contrast Mason is not. I have already written of her refusal to allow her London PNEU group to adopt eclectic views. Art has written that Glass’ book constitutes a hybridization of CM with CCE and I believe his point sticks. He has even said that if someone wants to adopt a hybrid approach that’s fine. We are simply saying; don’t try to call the result consistent with Mason’s approach.
        Again, I thank you for your gracious reaching out to mend any misunderstandings. We are all brothers and sisters here and want the best for His kingdom.
        Sincerely,
        Scott

        • Scott,

          I thank you for sharing your experience, perspective and thoughts. My understanding of the perspective of the CMI community is growing! There are several things that you say in your post with which I sympathize and agree. Some of my agreements I would qualify somewhat though while sharing some of you concerns and thoughts.

          For example, I share your concerns about some expressions of CCE. One element in particular: you mention “the rote memorization methods that were emphasized.” I think some traditional/classical methods of recitation have been distorted into lifeless recitation drills that can become deadening to children’s souls, quenching wonder.” On a related point, I am have always been very much opposed to awards, prizes and the like, and was delighted when I read that so is CM. I find commendation clearly evidences in Scripture, but not “commendation ceremonies” complete with assemblies, ribbons, medals and trophies.

          I respect the fact that you and other at CMI want to preserve what you regard to be the distinctive aspects of CM’s educational philosophy. I also note (again) that most of do not really know what we are referring to when we utter or write “classical education” or “classical Christian education.” This applies to many who say they are advocates of CE or CCE. What this often means is that they have joined a school or co-op that calls itself “classical” and have grown to appreciate the experience and various components of the school or co-op. Then such people begin to say that the like “classical education” or “classical Christian education.” But they have done no study, read no books, etc., and when pressed to describe what makes an education “classical” they say some very general things like, “we read the great books” or “it’s a rigorous education and the students study Latin and logic” or “students study the trivium, which includes grammar, logic… and one other subject I can’t recall.” This is no fault of these noble Christian adults, they have simply not been educated to know what CE or CCE is, and everyone has to start at the beginning. Nonetheless, such ambiguous generalizations about what CCE is only perpetuates vague and shallow notions of what CCE was and could be.

          You should be encouraged (despite our remaining differences of view on certain matters) that Classical Academic Press, The Society for Classical Learning (generally) and the Circe Institute are three “classical organizations” that share many of your concerns, ideas and practices. Even if we think the CE tradition is also source for these ideas! Classical Academic Press advocates a restful learning approach (scholé) that was evidenced in the monastic tradition (at least in several branches of the monastic tradition) and continued in various ways (though fragmented) to the present. The Circe Institute under Andrew Kern’s leadership has been researching the tradition of CCE for almost 20 years now. Circe shares many ideas and practices found in CM it seems to me. Other CM leaders (like Bill and Maryellen St Cyr) have cautiously approached some of us representing these more “CM-friendly” expressions of CCE and found a good deal of agreement–enough to start collaborating. Bill and Mary Ellen have spoken at the Society of Classical Learning conference (just last year) and this year Maryellen speaking at the conference of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools on “The Charlotte Mason Distinctive.” This despite the fact that Art found a paper on the ACCS website critical of CM! Things are changing…more people in the CCE renewal are starting to read CM and consult with CM leaders. In my view, you and other CMI leaders should have a voice in this conversation.

          There is more to address in you post, but let me at least comment on your question, “On what authority do you and your colleagues make this claim?” The answer: broad, deep and sustained reading and study. 25 years ago when Douglass Wilson published his book and Susan Wise Bauer published hers, virtually no one (perhaps with the exception of David Hicks) had done sustained study in CE and CCE. Ask any professor with a doctorate in education if they studied CCE apart from passing references in a survey course–most have barely scratched the surface. The ignorance about how the church educated its sons and daughters through the centuries is astonishing. What’s more, many don’t even care to know–but for good reason: it hard to educational archeology while we trying to work and raise our own families. It is hard for education professors to redo their college and graduate programs again in midlife–and into what grad program will you enroll? All the education programs (at Christian colleges too, with a few exceptions) don’t have any professors who have been required to study the CCE tradition in their own academic training. Ask Carroll! Ask Jen! They scarcely exist. If you will learn the CCE tradition, you must learn it on your own (that is slowly changing, but it is generally true).

          So we are ignorant of the heritage that our own brothers and sisters created. I state again, that Art’s limited knowledge of the CCE tradition is not something for which he is culpable. 95 out of 100 education professors will admit the same limited knowledge.

          Only one thing remains culpable: to continue to ignore our own tradition, to continue to prevent our brothers who preceded us from having a voice. They too, should be heard.

          Reading Sayers’ “The Lost Tools of Learning” is not enough. If anything, it should be a prompt to read what she read–at least for those of us who believe we are called to educational leadership, Christian educational leadership.

          Andrew Kern, David Hicks, Ravi Jain, Kevin Clark, David Diener, Stephen Turley, Jason Edwards (I could name several others) are people who have been reading, thinking and discussing the tradition of CCE for about 20 years, when precious few were. They have that authority at least. And they largely agree…

          Thanks again for your thoughtful post.

          Pax,
          Christopher

          • Dear Chris,
            I don’t think it can be denied that we are all products of our own educational and life experiences. Therefore we are on a journey and each of us has taken a different path, even though we are hopefully bound for the same destination. Each of us has been exposed to and instructed by the writings of certain people and this influences how we see the world. However, sometimes the danger is when we get insights or develop values and then try to superimpose them on to figures or the historical past. For example, we all accept that slavery is wrong, and yet 150 years ago many godly people accepted it as normative. Today some would wish to condemn everything about those forebears, despite many godly and righteous qualities in the rest of their lives. The same can be said about how we view the Bible. Without a historic and social understanding of the original audience we frequently superimpose biblical truth onto our own specific circumstances instead of gleaning and applying the principles given to the original audience to our life experiences. It is a subtle difference. I fear that you and your colleagues are doing much the same with the issue of CCE and CM.
            You say that it is important that we do research to learn “how the church educated its sons and daughters through the centuries.” When your research turns up educational techniques and methods that the church used in the past, how do you determine which ones of these fall under CCE, and which ones fall under non-classical Christian education? Was there even a non-classical discipline available at that time? And in doing that research, are you using the glass of today’s understanding and then superimposing onto the church fathers motives and methods that fit into your presuppositions? Just how many daughters were educated by the classical fathers? Was it even viewed as important that women were educated? As I read history, it looks like the education of women was the exception rather than the rule. And it also looks like the education of the common boys was also the exception. How did historical CCE change that or did it? Mason certainly did and I think we all admire her for it.
            Now I’d like to address the subject of applying her educational principles to American children instead of the original audience of British children. For years I have been an admirer of John Taylor Gatto’s writings, even though he is viewed as an “unschooler”. His free online essay, Bootie Zimmer’s Choice, would be a good place to start for anyone unfamiliar with him. He speaks of America as being the great democratic experiment and when Alexis de’Tocqueville came here in the 1830’s he was amazed to find almost universal literacy among the citizenry, even so far as to see farmers plowing their fields with a book in their hand – oftentimes reading Aristotle or Cicero in the original languages! No European country could claim this level of literacy among the common people. Gatto tells how the industrialists of the late 1800’s were the ones responsible for importing the Prussian model of education, which intentionally had a great dumbing down effect since intelligent thinking people do not make good factory workers. That is what has been playing out in our educational system ever since. There can be no doubt that some of America’s earliest educational experiences were influenced by the study of the classics. But it was also influenced by parents or a teacher in a one-room school house teaching children to become literate, productive citizens in whatever capacity or vocation they found themselves. For me, CM is a logical continuation of that tradition. CE is not. Why do I say that? Because CE has always been about training the children of the elite to join the ranks of the ruling classes. CM has always been about educating all children, from poor to rich.
            You have made the case throughout this conversation that CE is a “broad stream”. But you have made it so broad that the reader is left with the conclusion that CE is just about anything that you want to make it. Even as an “amateur”, Charlotte Mason laid out a very a very distinctive and organized method for educating children. You argue for a synthetic model. Again, we have made the case why this cannot be so and still be CM. It’s not about legalism or exclusivity. Her methods have to be taken as a whole and not synthesized with something else. Some believe they can have a better system by combining CM with their methods or adding to her theory. Art, Ben, Carroll, and Jen have shown over and over why this cannot work and still be CM.
            In the end it really is about choices and I do not judge or condemn anyone who chooses CE(CCE) in educating their children. We simply choose Mason without a synthetic blending with classical philosophy.

        • Scott,

          Thank you again for reminding us of the Lady Isabel controversy. I do believe it is relevant to this discussion. In an effort to resist the dilution of her theory of education, Mason actually sought legal advice and obtained a written legal opinion. It is interesting that Mason appealed to the rule of law in order to protect the integrity and identity of her theory of education.

          Mason wrote a letter to circulate the received legal opinion (which was in her favor). In this letter, she noted:

          “Within our own time the science of Education has been absolutely revolutionised, not by educationalists, but by Physiologists, who have made the brain their specialty. Any real education depends upon the possibility of setting up good records, obliterating evil records, in the physical substance of the brain.”

          For Mason, education had not been “partially” revolutionized or “somewhat” revolutionized. She wrote that education had been “absolutely” revolutionized.

          Some readers of my article have dismissed my assertions on the grounds that I am not learned enough to have an option on this matter. I closed my article with a reference to Matthew 9:17: “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” Some would say that my opinion is not even worthy of consideration. I will not argue with this because I refuse to be my own advocate.

          But it is curious to me that these same readers apparently dismiss Mason’s assertions as well. Is Mason not competent to assess the relationship of her theory of education to the classical tradition? I still find it difficult to understand why someone would claim that Mason’s theory of education is a particular implementation of a classical education, but at the same time claim she was not competent enough to realize it.

          In her communiqué, Mason also quoted Matthew 9:17:

          “… the physiological culture of Habit, the potency of the Idea which initiates the evolution of every habit, these are the factors of education we have to deal with, and this is the new wine which cannot be put into old bottles.”

          I am simply replaying Mason’s own words. In these comments we quibble about “extending” or “ continuing” the classical tradition. We quibble about Art Middlekauff’s qualifications. Can we focus our attention on Charlotte Mason’s qualifications? She added a reference to Matthew 9:16 as well:

          “This teaching, be it remembered, is no mere patch on an old garment; it covers the whole scope of Education in every respect.”

          It is a strange way to honor Charlotte Mason to say that she is competent enough to bring us narration and nature study, but that she is not competent enough to understand her place in the history of education.

          Respectfully,
          Art

      • Chris,

        I know this comment was intended for Scott and Melanie, but I would like to respond to a few points.

        > [Chris:] “Art, so far, has conceded that he is not well-read in the classical tradition.”

        I do not recall doing so. Could you please share with me precisely when and how I conceded this?

        > [Chris:] “I do regard some outstanding issues with Art’s thesis unresolved and unanswered.”

        I am not sure which I have missed. I do note, however, that you have not responded to many of points.

        > [Chris:] “Is it truly satisfying to you think that CM is just dramatically departing from a theory of education ‘rooted in Greece and Rome?’”

        Please note that it has been quite satisfying to many of Glass’s readers to think that CM actually in fact *represents* “a theory of education ‘rooted in Greece and Rome.” I am not sure if you realize this, but every time you criticize my definitions, you are also criticizing Glass’s, who is a respected leader in the homeschool community.

        > [Chris:] “He cannot prove that CM is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition without knowing what it is.”

        That is not true. A blind person can prove that the sky is blue. How? By referring to authorities. Let us assume that Glass knows the classical tradition. Then section 3 of my article proves my point on the basis of Glass’s authority.

        Let us assume that Charlotte Mason knows the classical tradition. Then section 2 of my article, along with many other excerpts from her writings (that I have shared in these comments), proves my point.

        Let us assume that Aimee Natal knows the classical tradition. Then her writings prove my point. I have shared with you her writings in these comments, but you have been conspicuously silent about them.

        I fear that your repeated insistence on a single path of argumentation is causing you to ignore large amounts of evidence which it behooves you to consider. As a leader in the CCE movement, you have a responsibility to maintain the purity of that tradition. Are you sure you want to incorporate Mason’s ideas? You may want to check with Natal first.

        Respectfully,
        Art

  5. Chris,

    I apologise to you for posting last time as Admin rather than Carroll. I am the one who approves the comments before they go live. We do that to make sure no profanity or distasteful language is used.

    I am still confused as to why some Christian educators today have connected themselves to such a broad spectrum of thinkers to obtain their educational methodologies. Chris, you defined classical education this way, “Classical education has had a history of about 2500 years and for most of that time it was a self-consciously Christian education–from about the time Augustine to 1850.” Just to be clear, in this comment I understand classical or classics to refer to the ancient Greek and Romans which seems to be different from yours. However, all definitions of the classics or classical that I have seen on college websites refer to the ancient Greek and Romans. If the church fathers are thrown into that group then you have changed the definition of classical as it has traditionally been viewed when referring to the time period before the middle ages. I wonder why classical Christian educators don’t leave off the ancients and just include the Church Fathers and then call their system of education Judeo-Christian. Why leave off the ancients? Well here is another reason along with the ones I have already posted.

    First, Plato taught that man could come to the truth by his own reason. Well, I think we all can verify where that leads us. Gnosticism is another reason.

    Second, Gnosticism was a part of the early church and is so still today. Gnostics believed that we are trapped in our evil physical bodies and we must escape from them. Gnosticism seemed to have started in the second century church and if you notice their teaching sounds very similar to Plato’s. Educationally, the line of thinking that came out of Plato and Gnosticism leads to the same place: the physical world is left off and that includes the body. Thus the physical development of children has been neglected by many classical educators in favour of the mind — intellectual elitism.

    Why would Christians identify with a classical Christian education rather than a Judeo-Christian education? For example, why would Christians aim for telos or eudaimonia (human flourishing) rather than shalom which seems carries a much more relational character than telos or eudaimonia. It have gotten my definition from a local Rabbi and from other writers. This choice of identifying as classical puzzles me. I know that much of the New Testament was written in Greek, but that doesn’t make the writers Greek. If I could write in French, I don’t become French by writing in French. I grow up being a part of the culture and it being a part of me. If I write in French, I am writing in French as a person from the United States. It seems as though the classical portion of the title misdirects people away from a Christian education towards a pagan one. Certainly a person cannot go in both directions. But let’s look at another problem with classical education.

    Virtues for the ancients did not have the same meaning as they do for us. As Wright (After You Believe) and others, have said Christian virtue “is not a self-centered goal, the completion of a human character which is then able to stand on its own . . . .” No because the ancient couldn’t think in terms of the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ reflects the relational nature of all of life so therefore, virtue would have a relational meaning not just a “self-centered” meaning. Lewis (The Discarded Image) says that virtue in the ancient world “does not mean moral excellences but rather ‘efficacies’, as when we speak about the ‘virtues’ of a magic ring or a medicinal herb” (p. 72).

    I suppose what puzzles me is why we would want to direct people towards the ancients and many all the way up through the Middle Ages who believed these same ideas even some in the Platonized church. It seems to me to misdirect people away from what should be our all in all, Jesus Christ, just isn’t the thing to do. This, of course, includes education. Are we to direct children towards a character of self-centeredness or towards a character of caring, loving, forbearing, etc. To study the classics is one thing—to apply their thinking in the realm of education is another.

    We can’t just say that Plato believed in truth and end it there. Again, as Lewis and others have said, “we must go to the texts with an open mind and learn from them what the word fairy meant to our ancestors” (p. 123). He was speaking about the derivation of the word Longaevi. I bring this up because it seems to me that we must make sure that people who read behind us and follow us understand what is the original intent of the writing of a person whether in the present or from the ancients. Without this, people can be misinformed.

    I write this and quote these things from Wright, Lewis and others (in past comments) because classical education is still an undefined term to me in this discussion so far—particular classical Christian education. As an educator I have read some Plato, some Aristotle, Rousseau’s Emilé, Comenius and others. I only consider the ancients classical. To identify classical Christian educators as those who have participated in the great conversation for the last 2500 years is a bit broad for me. With such a broad definition, it truly ends up being meaningless.

    It seems to me that when one seeks to adapt to the “classical” there is a misdirection in their educational process. As I wrote in my last comment, Glass’ direction with Mason in her new book, “Mind to Mind” is an indication of what happens. It is also interesting to watch what happens with titles, “Mind to Mind” or the “Well-Trained Mind” – these are clues that speak to the dualistic impact that Plato’s ideas are still having on our culture and I am unashamedly saying these ideas are not Christian.

    Lewis talks about the cyclical nature of the ancient Greeks’ understanding of history. According to him, “To the Greeks, we are told, the historical process was a meaningless flux or cyclic reiteration” (p. 174). Ideas have consequences and when we adapt to the thinking of the ancients, that will allow us to drop the context out of which Mason speaks. Further on Lewis says, “The Hebrews, on the other hand, saw their whole past as a revelation of the purposes of Jahweh. Christianity, going on from there, makes world-history in its entirety a single, transcendentally significant, story with a well-defined plot pivoted on Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Judgement” (p. 174). Therefore, as Christians we must not disregard history or a writers historical context.

    But alas, let’s allow Mason to speak for herself. Art has already quoted this. But it is worth quoting again. She says in the Parents’ Review, volume 23, page 811, in an article entitled, ‘Three Educational Idylls’, “We of the P.N.E.U., if we be minded to advance in our thousands with one heart and one purpose, are strong enough to bring about a Twentieth Century Renascence, more glorious and permanent than that of the Middle Age, because its ultimate source shall be a profound Christianity, in lieu of the poisoned springs of Paganism. We have the one thing to offer which the whole world wants, an absolutely effective system of education covering the whole nature of a child, the whole life of man” (p. 811).

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Many thanks,

    Carroll

    • Greetings Carroll!

      These are good questions, and I think it is VERY important to define terms in this discussion. I did offer a definition “classical education” as it is often used in the ongoing renewal of it. The truth is, we “classical educators” can sometimes fall into ambiguities in conversation, because when we say “classical education” we almost always mean “classical Christian education” and take most of our inspiration from the classical CHRISTIAN educators from the time of Augustine to about 1850 0r 1900.

      As you can imagine, our brothers and sisters from say 500 AD to 1850 AD were not just sitting on their hands parroting Plato, Quintillian and Cicero. They created literary and educational classics of their own. Augustine himself wrote and important piece on education… so did many other Latin and Greek fathers, so did the Puritan John Milton. They were very much aware of the issues surrounding pagan thought and influence…

      For someone like me who has spent 19 years reading through the classical Christian tradition of education, it is sometimes challenging to hear people pass off almost 1500 years of Christian thinking about education as just so much Platonic dualism, and not worth bothering about. I respect Art a great deal (he is is sharp as a knife); he has just over-reached with his thesis by making the Christian classical tradition and CM wholly separate and distinct. The truth is, CM both continues and departs from the classical tradition. Her claims to novelty must be taken in light of the broader context of the educational world she lived in, her own life and education, and her own writings. Standard literary analysis does not render her separate and distinct in every respect from the birth of Plato to the present.

      Since your are the Administrator (head bow) I am very open to your guidance on how to proceed in this discussion. I see that it can become tedious, and I don’t want to weary readers or create unnecessary controversy. I would be glad to bow out and leave this forum in peace, if you think that wise. I did not expect this to roll out the way it has, and sometimes a forum is not the best way to have these kinds of discussions. For example, we could do a podcast in which Art and I actually talked about these matters. I am sure he is a merry fellow and that we would enjoy one another. He is a specifier and will track every point, and I fear I am keeping him up later at night than he might wish.

      I note at bottom our larger agreement: we all think CM has some remarkable insights to employ. I simply see (as a reader of the classical tradition) the clear both / and relationship where I think others like Art will insist on an binary either / or understanding.

      When Mason “speaks for herself” she evidences my claim to a both /and approach when other see the either / or. For example, in you quotation above, she mentions her hope for a “Twentieth Century Renascence, more glorious and permanent than that of the Middle Age.” What was the Renaissance? A rebirth or return (ad fontes) to the wisdom of the ancients… When she says “more glorious” she assumes that the Middle Age did in fact have glory. Yes, she speaks of a profound Christianity, but she suggests here that there was a Christianity in the Middle Ages, though not a profound one… she wants something deeper, better… but she argues for a difference by degree not by kind. More glorious, and a profound Christianity. That is what the Reformers said as well. As for the poisoned springs of Paganism… this does make note of something sorely lacking in Pagan thought. But that is nothing new in the classical Christian tradition, and a source ongoing debate and discussion. How to treat the pagans–much must be filtered out, but yet all truth is God’s truth. At any rate, this comment in context is more complex than maybe it appears; remember as well how at the end of TPE says such things as “but the medieval mind, had as we know, a more satisfactory conception of knowledge than we have arrived at” and the like.

      At any rate I don’t know the discontinuities in CM from the classical Christian tradition; I just note the continuities as well.

      Chief among them is her ongoing refrain of wishing to bring a “liberal education” to all the children of England.

      One central theme in her educational program is the reading of great books–that beget great thoughts and cultivate and feed the mind. This theme is a classical and a classical and Christian theme found throughout the centuries; her deep reading is not unlike lectio divina and the ongoing emphasis of contemplative reading in the monastic schools of the middle ages…

      I could go on an on, but must stop (it’s late).

      I know I have left some of your points above unaddressed, but I must retire for now.

      Pax,
      Christopher

      • Chris,

        Re “I am sure … [Art and I] would enjoy one another”: on that point, I am happy to say we agree! If I meet you in person, I will call you brother and greet you with a hug!

        Respectfully,
        Art

      • Chris,

        I do feel the need to comment on one assertion that you make in this comment. You write, “One central theme in [Mason’s] educational program is the reading of great books–that beget great thoughts and cultivate and feed the mind.” That is a common misconception about Mason’s theory of education. She does not insist on “great books,” where great books are books that have certain inherent attributes, such as that they “be of the highest literary quality and … present [their] subject in a way that engages both the mind and the heart of the reader” (Glass). Rather, Mason insists on “living books.” It is a misreading of Mason to equate “living books” with “great books,” but it is a natural misreading if one assumes that she is encompassed by the classical tradition.

        Mason chose the books to study based on the principle of “life.” She did so due to her theology of the Holy Spirit and her sacramental view of education and all of life. There is an almost mystical dimension to this. Mason said that a book could only be determined to be living based on the reaction of the children. She wrote, “The expert is not the person to choose [which books are living]; the children themselves are the experts in this case.”

        Respectfully,
        Art

        • In my quiet time this morning, God brought me Matthew 19:13 and put it on my heart to share:

          ‘but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”’

          It strikes me that these Words of Christ endorse Mason’s belief that “the children are the experts in this case”.

          God bless,
          Paul.

          • Paul,

            Thank you for sharing this verse. It is the first Bible verse quoted by Charlotte Mason in her first “Lecture to Ladies,” which became the first volume of her education series, and the first unveiling of her theory of education. Mason had asked herself, “What if … two or three vitalising educational principles could be brought before parents?” She sensed “the extraordinary leverage which some knowledge of the principles of physiological-psychology gives to those who have the bringing up of children”; but she began her lecture by noting the child’s estate as articulated by Jesus Christ Himself.

            I have never noticed the connection between Matthew 19:14 and Mason’s doctrine of living books. Thank you, Paul, for showing how this closes the loop in a way. Both the Holy Spirit and the children recognize living books, because to such as both of these belongs the kingdom of heaven.

            Respectfully,
            Art

        • Art,

          This is from TPE, 19:

          We have left behind the feudal notion that intellect is a class prerogative, that intelligence is a matter of inheritance and environment; inheritance, no doubt, means much but everyone has a very mixed inheritance; environment makes for satisfaction or uneasiness, but education is of the spirit and is not to be taken in by the eye or effected by the hand; mind appeals to mind and thought begets thought and that is how we become educated. For this reason we owe it to every child to put him in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is, of those who have left us great works; and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.

          I don’t dispute that these great works and worthy books are also called living books. Great books can be living books, they can be both at the same time.

          Pax,
          Chris

          • Chris,

            The fact that you consider great books and living books to be synonymous means that you have misunderstood Mason’s doctrine of living books. It is unfortunate, but that is one of the dangers of submerging Mason into the classical tradition.

            Respectfully,
            Art

    • Lewis (and Brittney):

      Somewhere in this vast thread, I did post my working definition of classical Christian education for the purposes of this discussion… Found it:

      Classical education is broad, deep, long and consists of theme and variation—making it very hard to define (maybe this is why you did not attempt a definition, understandably!). Any definition of something so large will leave something out, but here is a working definition.

      CCE is a traditional approach to education rooted in western civilization and culture, developed by the church, employing the historic curriculum and pedagogy of the seven liberal arts in order to cultivate men and women characterized by wisdom, virtue and eloquence.

      If you want more, see my blog post here: https://classicalacademicpress.com/once-more-what-is-classical-education/

      I could add some other elements in my definition too, but I tried to keep it basic. Here is a more extended definition for you. Note that CCE stands for “Classical Christian Education” which I sometimes refer to as “classical education” but probably should not do very often in this thread!

      CCE is a traditional approach to education rooted in western civilization and culture, developed by the church, grounded in piety and governed by theology and the Lordship of Christ, employing the historic curriculum and pedagogy of the seven liberal arts and the great books in order to cultivate men and women characterized by wisdom, virtue and eloquence.

      I have asked Art to engage me and my ideas and arguments for my synthetic view of CM and CCE (Classical Christian Education).

      This is my synthetic view:

      CM continues important elements of the classical, Christian tradition of education; in some important ways she also departs from it.

      Pax,
      Chris

      • Thank you Chris for engaging in this discussion. It has been good of you to have this discussion with us.

        I suppose that I don’t accept your definition of classical education nor do I even accept the classical curriculum (Trivium and Quadrivium) as good education. The Trivium and Quadrivium still smack too much of Plato. These are the seven liberal arts developed out of a Platonized medieval church which again shows that ideas have consequences and these consequences are not often easy to eradicate. Yes, Mason distinguished her methodology clearly from what had gone before her for lots of reasons. Plato’s dualism and Aristotle’s rationalism (just two) are still having negative effects on all of life and education is no exception–unless you push back against it as Mason did. I suppose I am trying to say that I do not accept CCE especially when defining curriculum for example by limiting it to the classical seven liberal arts. At its root it is defective. I think we should be working for shalom not telos and that we should be working towards defining education based on a Trinitarian God not the Platonized medieval church. This requires Mason’s three domains of knowledge: of God, of Man and of the Universe and this last one (the sciences, technologies, etc is missing in the Trivium and the Quadrivium) and her methodology requires a different way of thinking about teaching and learning.

        You mentioned bowing out and leaving the forum in peace. This is completely up to you, but I do want to say thank you for engaging with us. It is always good to discuss ideas, clarify them, disagree with them but in the end as Christians we are to show the world we can do this and still love one another. You are welcome to continue the dialogue or you may bow out, but I do want you to know that those of us working in the Charlotte Mason world love our Christian brothers and sisters in the CCE world.

        Many Blessings to you,

        Carroll

      • Thank you for reminding us of your definition, Chris. I have been following the discussion from the beginning and just wanted to point out my personal difficulty here.

        Because Mason was Christian, advocated a ‘liberal’ education, and produced men and women of virtue, her methods may be able to fit into a CCE program, depending on the broad interpretation. The problem for those of us who are committed to a CM paradigm is that implementing her methods without knowledge, understanding, and commitment to her principles will not produce the same results. Mason did not recommend that we implement her methods ‘more or less’ within any philosophy. She recommended that we adhere ‘strictly to the principles and practices’ that she laid out for us. Those principles that we adhere to ‘strictly’ are often in conflict with those of traditional CCE, as Art and Carroll have pointed out so eloquently.

        Therefore, while those committed to CCE may see no problem using CM methods and calling the two unified, those committed to CM see that the core of her philosophy, i.e. her principles, which we are to adhere to ‘strictly’ are being minimized. Any curriculum that uses her curriculum or methods without her fundamental principles would not be a CM education.

        Regards,
        Danielle

        • Thanks Danielle for restating these important points that give us unity in the discussion.

          I appreciate your concern not to have CM swallowed up by some vague notion of “classical education” that might compromise her distinct practices and ideas–that is a legitimate concern, and I share it.

          We must make clear distinctions when addressing this matter so that some of CM’s distinct ideas are not smothered or compromised.

          I do, think, however, that we can make some distinctions that will prevent the CM from being submerged into some kind of loosely defined “classical education.”

          I did offer a definition of Classical Christian education (CCE) in my first post that I thought might help preserve those distinctions, but in retrospect I wish I had did this even more clearly and forthrightly, for I see that there is a lot of confusion about just what the phrase “classical education” might refer to.

          I also wish I had more clearly stated my view of CM and CCE in my first post which is this, because I do think CM differs from CCE in some important ways. My view of CM and CCE is this:

          CM extends classical Christian education in some ways; in some ways CM departs from it.

          Though I have stated it in recent post, my working definition for CCE is this:

          CCE is a traditional approach to education rooted in western civilization and culture, developed by the church, grounded in piety and governed by theology and the Lordship of Christ, employing the historic curriculum and pedagogy of the seven liberal arts and the great books in order to cultivate men and women characterized by wisdom, virtue and eloquence.

          I realize that others are free to define “classical education” and “classical Christian education” in other ways than I have. If we define it loosely as “a theory of education rooted in Greece and Rome” then I too think we have a definition so vague that it makes any comparative analysis between CE and CM virtually meaningless.

          One VERY important thing to do in this discussion therefore is to clearly define what we mean by CE and CCE. Not to do so will keep us boxing with shadows.

          Our brother and sisters in Christ thought deeply about how to respond to learning from the Greeks and Romans and debated this for some time, filtering elements from the Greek and Roman writers, accepting some rejecting others. Our brothers and sisters who did this for some 1500 years have a lot to teach us cannot be generalized as Platonized Christians who should be read or heard. Many, many thoughtful Christians, pastors and scholars considered how to best educate in light of the Greco-Roman past and did wonderful work educating the sons and daughters of the church. Do they not deserve a hearing in this discussion? Or are they all contaminated and unworthy of our study? How would we know this to be true?

          If we don’t what they said, then we don’t really know what the Christian classical tradition of education is yet…. Their views were certainly more than a “theory of education rooted in Greece and Rome.”

          Pax,
          Chris

        • Danielle,

          This is very well-said. Mason did indeed see a close interdependence between the curriculum, methods, principles, and purpose of her theory of education. She explicitly cautioned against, for example, merely incorporating her selection of books. She wrote:

          “On us lies the serious duty of preserving [our philosophy of Education] intact, of acting on it ourselves, and of spreading it… Other methods may use the reading but they do not make the same use of narration. They have not understood the principles under which it is carried out.”

          God bless you for your own efforts to preserve that philosophy.

          Respectfully,
          Art

      • > Those of us who are classical CHRISTIAN educators sometimes use the term “classical” or “classical education” as a kind of shorthand–but we almost always mean classical Christian education (CCE)–or forms of education that were developed from about 500 AD to 1850 AD. To be accurate in this ongoing exchange, I would want to speak of the classical-Christian elements in her philosophy and not merely her “classical” (as in Greek and Roman thought) elements.

        Thank you for the clarification for the use of “Classical Education” as a shorthand for Classical Christian Education and the definition of CCE. I think a substantial part of our disagreement on the assessment of Mason as “classical” or not springs from a disagreement upon the elements this definition ought necessarily to entail.

        John Thorley has nailed the problem underlying this discussion:
        “The problem is that the concept of the ‘Classical Tradition’ as used in educational circles in North America is a fairly modern construct, composed of selected elements from the ancient and medieval worlds.”

        I will like to point out the selective nature of the definition of CCE as proposed, by pointing out some of the elements avoided, when it is defined as a traditional educational approach developed by the church during the period of 500 AD to the middle of the nineteenth century in western civilization teaching a “Historic Curriculum,” and “pedagogy of Seven liberal arts” with the goal of cultivating men and women of wisdom, virtue and eloquence.

        First, let us ask what church was that and where that curriculum and pedagogy comes from?

        Since apostolic Christianity the church spread throughout the world, and Christian education was adapted and developed in various ways with various emphases in various places. Not every early father of the Church, nor early Christian, was classically trained. So the tradition of “classical” Christian education must have a reference to a prominent place to classical, Greco-Roman literature, style and ideas in antiquity, or it defines nothing different from Christian Education in general and there would be no reason to limit it to the particular dates offered as a time frame. Further more it must be acknowledged that the church which did this was the Roman church within the time period pointed out which roughly coincides with the period when the primacy of the Roman church began to be asserted and matured into what we may call the Medieval period in the western world, giving this form of education a very strong authoritarian character.

        So when we examine where this “historic” curriculum and pedagogy of seven liberal arts comes from and what type of pedagogy it generally fostered, it becomes clear that the “classical” adjective points to that tradition rooted upon the educational ideal and practice of pagan Greece and Rome, around the languages and literature of Latin and Greek authors, as adopted by the Roman church during a period of time when generally speaking the laity was eventually prevented from worshiping and reading Scriptures in the modern tongue and when education became restricted to the uses and authority of that Church in the west. This tradition of education also included within it a strong ascetic element as it was practiced within the monastic orders.

        In general this educational tradition only began to change substantially as a result of the ideals and values fostered by the Protestant reformation, which were based on emphasizing the authority of Scriptures and the priesthood of all believers, with freedom of conscience and freedom of enquiry, over the authority of the church.

        This switch of emphasis implied a radical departure and a before and after into what became known as modern education and modern society.

        There is a reason these ideals although present in early Christianity, did not begin to flourish until after the Reformation and within Protestant countries, and that the educational system which was developed upon each particular period is distinctively different as each respective ideal prevailed.

        Mason’s work falls squarely within the Protestant tradition as received within the English Church during the modern period. Her emphasis upon Scripture and Christ, and the freedom and sanctity of the individual person, sets her apart from the medieval model in which the authority of the church had the prevalent role.

        One may argue that this has no importance for our definition of CCE, and as Thorley points out that is fine, but it should be made clear that in such a case one is using a “modern construct” and as Thorley also points out it has no more than very general links with Mason’s philosophy, and as Art has showed it requires an exercise of eisegesis in order to apply it to Mason.

        Thorley concludes his article observing: “In summary, though Karen’s book is interesting as an exposition and a defense of ‘classical education’, she has shown only tenuous and very general links with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education. This I suspect is at least in part because the modern concept of ‘classical education’ is difficult to pin down, and its links with the reality of Greek, Roman or medieval education are neither clear nor educationally productive.”

        In my opinion Art’s article has simply exposed in detail the weakness of this attempt, which involves a selective appropriation and idealization of historic classical Christian education out of its historical context and then the use of that new construct to read and interpret Mason’s philosophy in order to claim it as one of its own.

        Paz y Bien
        Ben

        • Ben,

          This is a helpful contribution to the conversation which I appreciate.

          If I could replay the entire discussion, my second post would have be to more fully describe “classical” and “classical Christian education” (CE and CCE) as you are exploring here. I see from reader responses that there is a good deal concern, confusion and ambiguity about the words and meaning. I would have done well to give a brief historical survey and described in at least some detail some of the contemporary attempts to renew CCE in our country.

          It is fair for you to point out the varied history that CCE has had, and to note the way that historical concerns and debates regarding the interaction of the “classical” and the “Christian” in the development of CCE. As you know well, that discussion is virtually one way of studying church history!

          CCE is a therefore a broad river with many branching streams, and those streams with several branching creeks. By analogy, the Reformation is a broad river–that has turned into quite an interesting variety of churches that despite an abiding unity, quarrel a great deal about just what the Scriptures teach.

          I can see that I should read Thorley’s article… I appreciate the excerpt you have shared. There are several modern re-appropriations of CE and CCE, what I think he calls “constructs,” making matters complex and a single definition or understanding of contemporary CCE “hard to pin down.” In my opening post, I mentioned some of these flavors or constructs that have emerged in the last 30 years. I also listed my working definition in an attempt to let readers know what I was thinking of when I said CCE.

          There some good reasons why there are several varying expressions of CCE in the U.S. right now:
          1) There has always been varying expressions of CCE through out history. It was not a static re-hashing or Plato, Homer, Aristotle, Virgil and Quintillian. It was the church (at around 500 AD) that organized some of the elements of Greco-Roman education into the seven liberal arts–NOT the Greeks or Romans. You mention some of the variation that occurred in the development of CCE from the ancient church to the medieval church to the Reformation–and you are correct to do so. But there was a great deal of variation. You mention Reformation education: Was not Reformation education an appropriation of the medieval CCE–with some important modification? Johan Sturm, Luther’s great educational reformer is just a case in point–his program was undeniably a continuation of the medieval model of CCE in central ways–with Sola Scriptura undergirding the whole. Theme and variation. But the CCE themes from the medieval model continued.

          2) We are doing educational archeology. Since CCE all but disappeared in the last 75 years, we have been working for that last 25 trying to learn what it was and how recuperate it. We have been doing this slowly in several different quarters, in fits and starts, with trial and error. We have learned a lot, but essentially we have been trying to give to our students what we were not given ourselves. Of course modern constructs are therefore hard to pin down.

          The only thing I take issue with your post is your last paragraph when you write:

          “In my opinion Art’s article has simply exposed in detail the weakness of this attempt, which involves a selective appropriation and idealization of historic classical Christian education out of its historical context and then the use of that new construct to read and interpret Mason’s philosophy in order to claim it as one of its own.”

          A few comments about it:
          1. I don’t think your description of what Art’s article seeks squares with his statement of purpose or thesis. His stated purpose is to show that ““CM’s method is not merely a particular implementation of a classical education” but rather “is a dramatic departure from it.” His article may have shown numerous weaknesses in Karen’s book, but he certainly NOT demonstrated his thesis. Karen’s book (hypothetically) could be the sham work of a 13 year old. He has NOT shown that CM has dramatically departed from CCE.
          2. You cannot charge Karen with a “selective” and idealized application of CCE until you (or Art) are willing to state what it is. You know that is x is an idealized version of y only if and when you know what y is. But Art has not gone on record with what CCE even is in his paper–apart from a mischaracterization of even what SHE said. He has since expanded his definition of CCE, but only in response to my asking for it. In his paper he did venture to give his readers his own definition of CE or CCE at all–yet he purposes to show that CM has departed drammatically from it.
          3. But I am weary of all that. Your post points out how very important it–and in this case how difficult it is–to define terms. We will not make any progress in this discussion until we do. I want to say that I, who purport know something about CCE, have a responsibility here, and I think I have not served as well as I could. I would like to apologize for not turning the conversation forthrightly to more description and discussion about what CCE has been and the various ways it is being renewed. You are doing that here and I thank you.

          Finally, one more comment about Art’s paper. I think it only fails at the beginning, because it claims more than it can prove. After noting that, there is much he says that is thoughtful and insightful. I do not think all of counter-arguments to Karen succeed, but some certainly do.

          For the time being he has adopted and “exclusivist” view (CCE and CM are disconnected) where as I have advocate a synthetic view (in some ways CM continues the tradition of CCE; in some ways she departs from it. Please note that I do not hold the “inclusivist” view (All of CM is a continuation of CCE).

          I think that once we do a better job of describing and defining CCE, we might find a meeting place generally comfortable for most of us.

          Paz,
          Christobal

          • Chris,

            I know this comment was intended for Ben, but I would like to respond to a few points.

            > [Chris:] “Karen’s book (hypothetically) could be the sham work of a 13 year old. He has NOT shown that CM has dramatically departed from CCE”

            1. Glass is widely considered to be an expert on Charlotte Mason’s theory of education. On the basis of that reputation, many will accept her assertions uncritically. Therefore, I felt it was my responsibility to challenge those assertions.

            2. Glass’s book is the only published work I am aware of that attempts to embed Mason in the classical tradition. As such, she is the revisionist, and the burden of proof is on her to show that previous scholars of Charlotte Mason were wrong.

            > [Chris:] “But Art has not gone on record with what CCE even is in his paper–apart from a mischaracterization of even what SHE said.”

            1. To put it simply, CCE is not a topic of Glass’s book or my article. Glass relegates Mason’s Christian faith to an appendix. I have not gone on record with a definition of monitorial education either. Why should I? Neither Glass’s book nor my paper is about monitorial education. On the other hand, I *have* restated both Glass’s definition and the common definition of the classical tradition multiple times in this thread.

            2. Please let me know what Glass has said that I have mischaracterized.

            > [Chris:] “I do not think all of counter-arguments to Karen succeed, but some certainly do.”

            I would be interested to know which counter-arguments of mine you think succeed and which you think do not succeed.

            > [Chris:] “For the time being he has adopted and “exclusivist” view (CCE and CM are disconnected)”

            That is a straw man. I wrote, “Mason introduced a distinctly new philosophy of education that is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition.” Your straw man version of my thesis can easily be refuted by pointing out that both Charlotte Mason and the classical tradition advocate the use of books.

            Respectfully,
            Art

  6. I have been following along since the beginning and, while the conversation did get a lot more interesting since Chris Perrin joined, it has also gone in a different direction.

    Chris, I have noticed that you are offering a lot of criticism, but not many answers (Socratic arguing, yes?). I would appreciate a straight definition from you on what classical education is, especially if you are going to separate it from the Greeks and Romans. Additionally, I am interested in knowing what the role of a teacher is in a classical education. Please enlighten us. I would also appreciate some answers related to Karen’s book. Do you think she rightly interprets classical education? Do you think the ways she has likened Mason’s ideas to classical are accurate? I also find it noteworthy that you criticize Art’s knowledge of classical education, but you have only read one of Mason’s books. Maybe that is why you are able to deny Mason’s own testimony of the origin of her philosophy.

    You accuse Art of eisegesis, I believe you are guilty of the same when you say that the “old” Mason refers to is from the classical tradition. Reading through Mason’s work, there is no doubt that the Gospels are the dominant influence in her writing and her thoughts. In School Education, page 116-117, Mason says,

    “A third fallacy, which lies at the root of our thinking and therefore, of our education, is, that while nature, morals and theology may be more or less divine in their origin and relations, not only is intellect man’s proper and peculiar sphere, but knowledge,– the knowledge of witty inventions, of man and nature, of art and literature, of the heavens above and the earth beneath,–all this knowledge is man’s proper discovery. He has found it out himself, thought it out for himself, observed, reasoned, collected, labored, gathered his forces, altogether for his own will and for his own ends and as an independent agent. Now, this pride of intellect also comes of the arrogance of man; not only in our age. . . but in all time, it is our nature to lift up our heads and say, ‘We are the people ; before us there were none like unto us, neither shall there be any more after us.’ But when we come to ourselves we realize that our Author and Father has not in this way made over any single vast realm of our lives into our own hands.”

    Ironically, Chris, I think you have missed the “poetry” of Mason’s philosophy.

    Through this conversation and the subsequent research I have done because of it, I am only more certain that the differences between Mason’s philosophy and the classical tradition are stark. I don’t deny overlap in ideas, but in implementation, purpose and method. I also believe more strongly than before, that it is very important to maintain the integrity of Mason’s work as separate from classical and any other educational philosophy. The classical tradition has plenty to gain by adding and learning from Mason’s ideas, but I believe her work, if not preserved, would only be diluted and disembodied from the context, as Carroll has already said.

    I look forward to your answers!

    Brittney

  7. Art,

    I am writing to you at the top of the thread, because there was no “reply” option left at the end of a long string of comments upon comments!

    Art Middlekauff: “CM’s method is not merely a particular implementation of a classical education” but rather “is a dramatic departure from it.”

    This is a bold, sweeping and controversial claim that you have failed to substantiate. I have recorded several reasons why, and I won’t take time to record them here, but numerous criticisms I have made of your thesis remain unanswered, and so I must either assume you have conceded those points or you will answer them forthrightly. I realize that it is difficult to track so many comments and on this thread (thanks for your late hours!) but the onus does fall on you who has made the claims in an academic paper to address pointed criticisms.

    I don’t mean any offense, and I don’t mean to “move the goal posts” in this conversation. My last post on your “Mason Hermeneutic” was a rather dry list, but I thought it would help bring clarity to what I regard to be the dubious premises that characterize several assumptions you make while interpreting Mason. I want to state those clearly, and perhaps they sting a bit, but I mean them in the spirit of iron sharpening iron. I welcome the same kind of frank scrutiny of my ideas.

    You make many assumptions about how language is working in CM, and fail to define important terms such as “revolutionary,” “source,” but most significantly fail to define clearly the very thing you say you insist is not a source of CM—“classical education.” In an academic setting, this is a fatal error, and your professor will hand back the paper demanding that you “define your terms.”

    Your thesis begins with a fallacy that dooms it from the start. What is that fallacy? You simply cannot engage in a meaningful comparative analysis about two things, one of which you are ignorant.

    “Let us compare the shark to the giddymorker. What is the giddymorker? I don’t really know, except that it is found in the waters off the coast of Greece. However, the giddymorker differs dramatically from the shark. Now let consider what Charlotte Mason has said about the shark… and note that she does not say anywhere that the shark evolved from the giddymorker….”

    You might respond: “I am not doing a comparative analysis, I am just showing that Glass does not establish her thesis given a reading of CM.” But then read your own opening thesis again. You readers are right in asking you to establish this claim, and right to point out that you have not done so and in fact cannot do so without 1) defining what classical education is 2) being familiar with it yourself.

    In your post, you remind me what Glass says about the classical tradition. May I remind you that you did not include any of this description in your paper, but characterized her view of classical education only as “a common thread seems to be a theory that has its roots in Greece and Rome.” May I also remind you that it was I who brought this deficiency to your attention (it turns your thesis argument into a straw man). I find it ironic that you now are “reminding me” of what you failed to note in your own article—and to what in fact I brought to your attention.

    I noted in my first response to you that you mischaracterized Glass’s view of classical education and respectfully charged you with portraying her position in a poor light, thus creating a straw man argument. It is easy indeed to show that CM departed from a loose theory “rooted in Greece and Rome.” In fact, we could point to many examples of Christian classical education that departed from such a nebulous idea of classical education. You have yet to admit that this was a mischaracterization and misrepresentation on you part.

    When you did, at my request, give a “definition” of classical education, you resorted to the Webster’s definition of “classical” then cited on sources that also referred to as connected to the architecture, and civilization of the classical world. That does help the discussion, and I thank you for it. It shows, however, that your understanding of classical education is elementary and minimal, which is no fault of your own. It does, however, disqualify you from having a serious academic opinion about it. Unfortunately for this discussion, you have written an academic paper in which a thorough understanding of classical education is required. We certainly can’t expect you to discern the elements of the classical tradition in CM when you don’t know that tradition yourself. When it comes to reading CM in light of the classical tradition, you are reading with one eye closed and lack the full vision to be a reliable guide—simply because you just don’t know the terrain.

    For the sake of our discussion about your claim that CM is a dramatic departure from classical education, let’s assume that I concede that several of Glass’s arguments for finding classical education in CM are not compelling and characterized by generalizations and inaccuracies. Let’s assume that the same is true for the way she represents some of CM ideas. I will concede these points.

    You may want to keep the discussion about her Glass’ deficiencies, whereas I want to discuss some of yours. You too have made claims, and we readers have a right to question them.

    I kindly ask you to address not Karen’s evidence for the classical tradition of education in CM, but mine. Several of my arguments have gone unanswered, and so have my requests for statements or clarification. I find myself in an awkward position: I am trying to show you the elements from the classical tradition in CM, but yet you don’t know that tradition. How is that going to work out? How will you see what I see, even when I point it out to you.

    You are likely overwhelmed keeping up with this blog, so I don’t fault you for this! I am impressed that you are keeping up as you are. Still, I am keeping a record and will keep gently pushing for answers with a spirit of respect and appreciation for you and this important topic.

    I write this with respect and appreciation for you daring effort, I would not have the courage to do it myself.

    Pax,
    Chris

    • Chris,

      I would like to review where we have come so far. At this point you now grant (taken from your previous comments):

      – Mason “in some important ways … departs from” the classical tradition.
      – Mason had a substantial “dependency on the nascent psychology of her time.”
      – Mason’s theory of education “was distinct and new in several respects.”
      – Mason introduced elements “never before seen.”
      – Mason believed that “there happens to be no other comprehensive theory in the field which is in line with modern thought.”
      – “Several of Glass’s arguments for finding classical education in CM are not compelling and characterized by generalizations and inaccuracies.”
      – “The same is true for the way [Glass] represents some of CM ideas.”

      I am very pleased that this discussion has led you to these conclusions.

      Next I would like to comment on the 8 arguments you attributed to me in your comment dated May 20, 2016 at 6:31 pm. I recognize that you do not seem to be interested in discussing Glass’s book. That is problematic, since my article is a response to her book. I am evaluating her claims. Although that topic is not interesting to you, it is fundamental to the design of my article, and thus cannot be ignored.

      To add clarity to that discussion, I would like to model the issues being considered.

      Let A = the classical tradition
      Let Ag = Glass’s definition of the classical tradition
      Let B = Charlotte Mason’s theory of education
      Let Bg = Glass’s interpretation of Charlotte Mason’s theory of education
      Let (AB) = The relationship between A and B
      Let (AgB) = The relationship between Ag and B
      Let (AgB)g = Glass’s interpretation of the relationship between Ag and B

      We may consider (AgB)g to be the core topic of Glass’s book. In my article, I attempt to refute (AgB)g on the following basis:

      D1 = Mason’s testimony about (AgB) does not align with (AgB)g.
      D2 = Mason’s testimony about B does not align with Bg.

      One sub-point of D2 is that it is much harder to reconcile B with Ag than it is to reconcile Bg with Ag. So two key takeaways from my article are:

      E1 = If one accepts (AgB)g, then one is likely to read Mason’s writings with an interpretive bias that pushes one towards Bg instead of B.
      E2 = B is a “dramatic departure” from Ag.

      My biggest concern is E1, because I believe that proper stewardship of Mason’s legacy involves the responsibility to preserve B. If it weren’t for E1, I would have been less motivated to write my article. It is E1 (and D2) that in my view makes this such an important discussion.

      The main topic I avoid in my article is the relationship between A and Ag. In other words, I have not evaluated whether A and Ag are identical, or whether Ag is too narrow or too vague. I avoided this because I am challenging Glass’s book, and the angle I have chosen to do so is D1 and D2. Note that A plays no part in either D1 or D2. Since the relationship between A and Ag is irrelevant to my argument, I have carefully avoided it in my article and in the subsequent discussion.

      John Thorley took a different angle with regard to Glass’s book. He focused on the relationship between A and Ag. If you are interested in that angle, perhaps you may want to start a conversation there:

      https://www.charlottemasoninstitute.org/a-book-review-by-dr-john-thorley/

      Thorley’s focus on A vs. Ag was interesting, but in my view did not lead to a decisive discussion within the community about Glass’s overall thesis. Therefore, in an attempt to encourage a more fruitful evaluation of Glass’s book, I have advanced D1, D2, E1, and E2, all of which utilize Ag. I think that is acceptable given that the difference between A and Ag is largely a matter of definition.

      With that background, I will comment on the 8 arguments you have attributed to me.

      For Argument 1, it seems to me you are being facetious. It is hard to imagine that anyone would base an argument on ignorance. But you actually suggest that my argument 1 is based on a self-admission of personal ignorance about the classical tradition. The only things I have said about my knowledge of the classical tradition are:

      – I have not read “Poetic Knowledge” by James Taylor.
      – “I am not qualified to judge the extent to which CM ‘fits into a Classical pedagogy,’ in the sense of to what degree the methods and principles of CM might ‘work’ in a classical education context.”

      Every other assertion about my knowledge of the classical tradition has been made by other commentators on my article (including you). It seems that you have projected these onto me as a self-admission. The reason I have not departed from Ag is because the relationship between A and Ag is irrelevant to the angle I have chosen to challenge Glass’s book which is D1 and D2. I have chosen this angle specifically because of my higher aim which is to preserve B, and so it important to me to highlight E1.

      Furthermore, if you assert that Ag is too vague to assert anything meaningful about (AB), then that assertion is as damaging to Glass’s book as it is to my article. Again, both Glass’s book and my article assume Ag. That is a design feature for my article and my argument.

      You write, “Though Art offers no specific content for what the classical model contains, he is confident that Glass has not offered a model faithful to it.” Please note that in section III of my article, I list Glass’s own admissions about the relationship between Ag and Bg as my supporting evidence for this point.

      Since your characterization of argument 1 seems facetious to me, I struggle to understand why you propose it. I suspect an ad hominen fallacy. Or perhaps you just wish to needle me.

      For arguments 2 through 4, you are missing the difference between a list of sources and the narrative of a thought process. Let me give you an illustration. At some point in my life, I became convinced that Christianity is true. When I have attempted to convince other people that Christianity is true, I have at times cited Josh McDowell’s “More than a Carpenter” as evidence. If you were to look at my writing on this, you might conjecture that since I cite Josh McDowell, he must have been instrumental in my own conversion experience. But if you read my testimony in which I describe the thought process by which I came to faith, you will see that neither Josh McDowell nor his arguments played any role. My own testimony of my thought process takes precedence over later citations and allusions in my writing.

      By analogy, Mason’s narratives in which she describes *how* she reached her conclusions are the most authoritative statements of the sources for her theory of education. The same analogy applies to Galatians 1:12. I wonder how willing you are to grant St. Paul’s claim in that verse?

      Just as I cite Josh McDowell, Mason cites many other thinkers to (1) explain her ideas or to (2) provide evidence to convince her readers. But she does not credit them as the source of the ideas when she explains the story of the development of her theory. You highlight that Mason noted a child inspired by Plato. What does that prove? For Mason, a child may be inspired by any living book. She loved books by Sir Walter Scott. Does that make Sir Walter Scott a key source for her theory of education?

      In May of 1914, Agnes Drury wrote that Mason “has herself told us that she has drawn her philosophy from the Gospels, where we may study and note ‘the development of that consummate philosophy which meets every occasion of our lives, all demands of the intellect, every uneasiness of the soul.’” Direct firsthand evidence of this kind takes precedence over second-hand conjecture.

      For arguments 5 and 6, please note my argument D1, viz. Mason’s testimony about (AgB) does not align with (AgB)g. The important thing for D1 is whether Mason believed her philosophy to be a new discovery and to be revolutionary. Glass asserts that Mason consciously found her theory in the classical tradition. If Mason believes that she made a new discovery, then this refutes Glass’s assertion. If someone later discovers an Egyptian hieroglyphic that emphasizes the habit of attention, that does not suddenly submerge Mason into the classical tradition. Again, the important thing is Mason’s belief about whether she was revolutionary or whether she was recovering lost gems from the classical tradition (as Glass implies).

      Another important point that has not received sufficient attention in this discussion is the implication of the fact that Mason knew the classical writers. You have rightly stressed that she knew the classical writers. If Mason knew the classical writers, then:

      1. Why then didn’t she expressly state that she had recovered “lost tools of learning” à la Dorothy Sayers and the CiRCE Institute? Neither you nor Glass have attempted to explain that.

      2. Isn’t she qualified to assess whether her theory is a new discovery and is revolutionary? On the one hand, you grant that Mason knew the classical writers. On the other hand, you don’t grant that she is qualified to assess herself whether she has departed from them. I give her more credit than that.

      In fact, Mason distances herself from the “old philosophy”: “… what has failed us is philosophy, and that applied philosophy which is called education. Philosophy, all the philosophies, old and new, land us on the horns of a dilemma…” For her, the answers are not found in tradition: “we want a new scale of values… The beautiful little gowns that have come down as heirlooms would not fit the ‘divinely tall’ daughters of many a house where they are treasured…” For Mason, the answers are found in the Gospels: “Now, all our exigeant demands are met by words written in a Book, and by the manifestations of a Person; and we are waiting for a Christianity such as the world has not yet known.” (TPE)

      Mason even more precisely states the relationship between her theory of education and the classical tradition. She writes:

      “We of the P.N.E.U., if we be minded to advance in our thousands with one heart and one purpose, are strong enough to bring about a Twentieth Century Renascence, more glorious and permanent than that of the Middle Age, because its ultimate source shall be a profound Christianity, in lieu of the poisoned springs of Paganism. We have the one thing to offer which the whole world wants, an absolutely effective system of education covering the whole nature of a child, the whole life of man.” (Parents’ Review, volume 23, p. 811)

      Recall that Grafton, Most, and Settis define the Western “classical tradition” as the reception of classical Greco-Roman antiquity by later cultures. It is hard to interpret this quotation by Mason in any other way than that she specifically associates the classical tradition with poisoned springs. She proposes a new way, based on a “profound Christianity.”

      You have an interesting predicament in that you want to assert that Mason knew the classical writers so well that they were actually her source, while at the same time you must assert that she did not know them well enough to properly assess the relationship between her theory of education and theirs. You say that I am to ignorant to assess this relationship. Is Mason also too ignorant? Then why do you wish to claim her for the classical tradition?

      A final note on argument 6 is that Mason’s contemporaries also judged the revolution. We don’t have Mason’s word alone:

      – “As a speaker remarked at the Annual Conference of Educational Associations in January, 1920: ‘Miss Mason’s method is a revolution of our attitude to wards children and education in general. For this reason it has come to stay.’” (PR 32, p. 680)

      – Shortly after Mason’s death, the London Times called her a“pioneer for sane education.” Note the word “pioneer.” This is the same word used in modern textbooks to describe Rousseau and Pestalozzi.

      – Mason’s colleague Francis Steinthal seems to describe something like the Millennial Kingdom when she contemplates what Charlotte Mason’s theory of education will do for the children of England: “Think of the meaning of this in the lives of the children, – disciplined lives, and no law – less strikes, justice, an end to class warfare, developed intellects, and no market for trashy and corrupt literature! We shall, or rather they will, live in a redeemed world!”

      – In 1923,R.A. Pennethorne wrote, “It may be — who knows? — the inspiring spirit of a new Renaissance when men will no longer dismiss as ‘high-brow’ a longing for the best and highest, or squabble over means to an end when they have realized that wisdom is above ‘kingdoms and thrones,’ namely, the marks, rewards, prizes and scholarships of the conventional scholastic career, which are indeed ‘added unto’ the true student who has sought first the true Kingdom.”

      For arguments 7 and 8, I did not claim that all of Mason’s ideas were absolutely unique. Rather, I identified the three primary sources for Mason’s core theory (her twenty principles and the purpose of education). I said that these represent a dramatic departure from the classical tradition.

      As we continue the conversation, I would like to be clear on the specific topics of discussion between us:

      D1 = Mason’s testimony about (AgB) does not align with (AgB)g — It seems that you are not convinced by my arguments, but I ask you to reconsider that in light of what I have said above.

      E2 = B is a “dramatic departure” from Ag — This one is more complicated. To see what I mean:

      Let Ap = Your definition of the classical tradition
      Let E2p = B is a “dramatic departure” from Ap

      It seems that you are interested in discussing E2p rather than E2. To do so:

      1. You need to supply your definition for Ap.

      2. We need to properly characterize B. In your comment, you assert that Mason “seldom contradicts the classical model,” and you say that I have not given an account for Mason’s use of the phrase “Liberal education.” The intention behind my comment dated May 14, 2016 at 6:11 pm was to begin that discussion. I wrote, “In some respects, your question is the very subject of my entire article. Mason’s theory of education speaks to the ‘who’ (the child, the teacher, the Holy Spirit), the ‘how’ (the methods), the ‘what’ (the curriculum), and the ‘why’ (the knowledge of God). Is there a particular element of this that you are asking about?” I am still waiting for your answer to that question.

      3. We need to calibrate the scale. You wrote that Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Hall are not classical. Could you provide your assessment on a scale of 1 to 10 of how far each of those three departed from the classical tradition? Let us say a “1” means a mild departure, a “6” means a dramatic departure, an “8” means a radical departure, and a “10” means an absolute departure. Please also give a few key reasons why you assign each rating to each of these educationalists.

      On a final note, perhaps one of your own statements exemplifies an important difference between the classical tradition and Charlotte Mason’s theory of education. You say that my credentials “disqualify [me] from having a serious academic opinion about” this topic. Perhaps the classical tradition imposes such criteria for participation in the grand conversation. Charlotte Mason does not.

      Respectfully,
      Art

      • Art,

        The purpose of your paper is stated as seeking to show:

        “CM’s method is not merely a particular implementation of a classical education” but rather “is a dramatic departure from it.”

        Would you please respond to these claims from my previous post?

        1. Your thesis begins with a fallacy that dooms it from the start. What is that fallacy? You simply cannot engage in a meaningful comparative analysis about two things, one of which you are ignorant.

        If you don’t claim ignorance, please stipulate your level of familiarity with the classical tradition and the classical Christian tradition from 500 AD to 1500 AD. A list of books read would be helpful.

        2. I noted in my first response to you that you mischaracterized Glass’s view of classical education and respectfully charged you with portraying her position in a poor light, thus creating a straw man argument. It is easy indeed to show that CM departed from a loose theory “rooted in Greece and Rome.” In fact, we could point to many examples of Christian classical education that departed from such a nebulous idea of classical education. You have yet to admit that this was a mischaracterization and misrepresentation on you part.

        3. Would you please answer this outstanding question from previous posts: What do you think CM means by “liberal education” as she uses it in TPE?

        Our readers should note regarding the list of things you say I now grant: I have always granted these, with the exception of the credit I give this exchange for helping me see more of her dependence on psychology. Our readers should note that this comports with my synthetic view of Mason’s philosophy in connection with classical Christian tradition, as follows. Perhaps we can call this the PST (PERRIN SYNTHETIC THESIS) or the BOTH/AND THESIS.

        PST: In her educational philosophy, CM in some significant ways continued the tradition of classical Christian education; in some important ways she departed from it.

        This thesis allows for much of what you say about the new educational ideas CM proposed. It also allows for the evidence that shows she continued the classical tradition of education in various ways.

        4. This is my fourth question (sorry!) repeated from a previous post. Can you agree to the PST?

        After you have addressed these claims and questions, I will be happy to address the new material raised in you post.

        Pax,
        Christopher

        • Chris,

          1. You misquoted my thesis. I wrote, “Mason introduced a distinctly new philosophy of education that is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition.” The term “classical tradition” is a common term and I have provided a standard definition: the reception of classical Greco-Roman antiquity by later cultures.

          I am surprised that someone who claims to stand in the classical tradition would ask something as absurd as that I provide you a list of books I have read. That diversionary tactic puts the focus on me instead of my arguments and allows you to evade the mountain of evidence I have provided from Charlotte Mason’s own writings that you have yet to deal with.

          2. Glass’s thesis is that Mason drew from the classical tradition. She essentially restated the common definition of the classical tradition and referred back to it throughout her book. I have neither mischaracterized nor misrepresented it.

          3. Every occurrence of the phrase “liberal arts” in Mason’s six volumes is in conjunction with a description of the fresco in the Spanish Chapel. Whenever she speaks of her curriculum, however, she speaks of a “liberal education.” I assert she make that distinction intentionally. In 1868, Thomas Huxley wrote an essay entitled “A Liberal Education.” He defined it as follows:

          “That man, I think, has had a liberal education who has been so trained in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will, and does with ease and pleasure all the work that, as a mechanism, it is capable of; whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic-engine, with all its parts of equal strength, and in smooth working order; ready, like a steam engine, to be turned to any kind of work, and spin the gossamers as well as forge the anchors of the mind; whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the great and fundamental truths of Nature and of the laws of her operations; one who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions are trained to come to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience; who has learned to love all beauty, whether of Nature or of art, to hate all vileness, and to respect others as himself. Such an one and no other, I conceive, has had a liberal education; for he is, as completely as a man can be, in harmony with Nature. He will make the best of her, and she of him. They will get on together rarely; she as his ever beneficent mother; he as her mouthpiece, her conscious self, her minister and interpreter.”

          For Huxley, a liberal education was distinct from the liberal arts of the classical tradition. Mason was familiar with Huxley’s views on education and science. She rejected his scoping of a liberal education, but she did propose that the scope of a liberal education could be derived from human nature:

          “If we succeed in establishing a similar standard which every boy and girl of a given age should reach in a liberal range of subjects, a fair chance will be afforded to the average boy and girl while brilliant or especially industrious young people will go ahead. We labour under the mistake of supposing that there is no natural law or inherent principle according to which a child’s course of studies should be regulated; … But what if in the very nature of things we find a complete curriculum suggested? … We must give consideration to this question because the answer depends on a survey of the composite whole we sum up as ‘human nature,’ a whole whose possibilities are infinite and various, not only in a budding genius, the child of a distinguished family, but in every child of the streets… It is a wide programme founded on the educational rights of man; … We may not even make choice between science and the ‘humanities.’ Our part it seems to me is to give a child a vital hold upon as many as possible of those wide relationships proper to him.” (TPE)

          That is why, for Mason, the scope of a liberal education is inseparably linked to her belief that education is the science of relations: “a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of — ‘Those first-born affinities That fit our new existence to existing things.’” For Mason, a liberal education is one that makes valid as many as possible of the affinities that every child possesses by virtue of his being a person created in the image of God.

          However, if one assumes that Mason is embedded in the classical tradition, then one may read “liberal arts” where Mason writes “liberal education,” and thus miss the different spring from which Mason’s curriculum rises. That is one of the reasons why classification is so important: it affects our hermeneutic.

          4. I do not agree to the PST as stated: “In her educational philosophy, CM in some significant ways continued the tradition of classical Christian education; in some important ways she departed from it.” Please read my post dated May 23, 2016 at 7:05 pm. I am interested in your take on what Aimee Natal has written. If Mason so significantly continued the tradition of classical Christian education, then why does the web site of the Association of Classical Christian Schools host an article that says, “Classical educators may at first be attracted to Mason’s advocacy for Great Books and the use of original sources, but to then proceed to buy into her educational methods, usually on the word of another, is folly.”

          It puzzles me that you are so zealous to incorporate Mason into the classical tradition, while your fellow classical educator is so zealous to reject her. You may disagree with Natal. But it is at least worth taking a pause to review her arguments.

          Now you are free to address the new material raised in my post.

          Respectfully,
          Art

          • Art,

            I want to say a word about my tone. I fear that, given the nature of writing in these forum posts, that I may be coming across and sniping and arrogant (someone has read me this way). This has led me to pray and contemplate my role in this discussion and do all I can to show you respect and love as someone who is in many ways seeking the same things I am in this cultural moment. I don’t want to become your enemy.

            I am quite used to the academic interchange and believe with Chesterton that the principal objection to a quarrel is that it ends a good argument. To argue means to seek truth together.

            You are a logical person, so I have adopted a logical tone in some ways, but I don’t intend to personally insult you. I am engaging your ideas not your person the best I can.

            I have tried to answer you in kind: you press for logical connections between ideas, I am doing the same. The fact that we are doing this in a public forum charges the atmosphere I think, and raises stakes. I don’t always think public forums, therefore, are the best way to have these kinds of interchanges, but they have their advantages too.

            I will stay on this forum for another week, and try to be as clear and respectful as I can. I realize that this your turf, and I want to respect both you and the CMI. I really like what you are doing.

            I want to say one more thing at this point: I do have my own flaws, and am very capable of various misreadings, generalizations and fallacies of irrelevance! I hope to admit to them when you point them out with a merry laugh. I retain my limited neurology, sinful nature and feet of clay.

            I thought I would just say that for now. However we end our engagement I want to regard you as a brother in arms.

            For now a good night to you and a peaceful rest.

            Pax,
            Chris

          • Chris,

            I thank you for the conciliatory note, but I have not complained about your tone. I simply refused to answer a question that I feel to be tangential.

            The bonds that tie us together as brothers in Christ can withstand much greater testing than the cordial and robust dialog we are sharing in this forum.

            Respectfully,
            Art

    • Chris, thank you again for speaking up
      For us. This post was needed. I appreciate you brining it back around to the original fallacy that I too posted. The lack of understanding a classical pedagogy is the root problem with this entire article. We both have suggested a few great books, but in all honesty, attending a Circe conference was one of my first recommendations to Art. It took me a few years to See CM in classical. I had such wrong ideas of classical for so long! Thank you again for being our voice of reason.
      Adrienne.

    • Hello Mr. Perrin. First I want to say that I have so enjoyed reading your discussion with Mr. Middlekauf. While I tend to lean more towards his side of the argument, your comments have been enlightening and interesting to read.

      However, it seems that your tone has changed in your latest post and the discussion has taken a bit of a turn for the worse. I hope the original tone of this conversation can be regained for the sake of future discussion.

      It seems that the two sides of this discussion have come to an impasse. Each side is simply restating itself over and over again.

      The thesis of this article is that the author disagrees with the premise of Karen Glass’s book so it makes perfect sense to keep the conversation to that context. Mr. Middlekauf has not made statements concerning your particular definition of classical education vs. Charlotte Mason which is what you seem to be defending.

      I have no desire to enter into an intellectual debate with the likes of you! You are way out of my league and I would only flounder in such a discussion. I simply wanted to share what I see so clearly from the outside looking in.

      I hope we can regain the original amiable tone of this discussion and stick to the article and topic at hand (Karen Glass’s book) rather than expanding into a topic (the definition of classical education)that is beyond the scope of this particular article and discussion platform.

      Warmly,
      Melanie

  8. Dear Mr. Middlekauf,

    First of all, let me thank you for the excellent post. I have to admit that at first I was taken back by the whole idea of rejecting classical education since so they do overlap in many areas, and I have spent much of my spare time in the last few days reading your article and looking up all references in all of Charlotte Mason’s works (that I have) and also re-reading those portions in Karen Glass’ book, which I read when it first came out. I have really enjoyed the back and forth discussion between you, Drs. Perrin, Spencer, and Bernier and others. Lots to read and ponder – to the point that I finally printed it out so I could jot down questions and ideas as I read.

    I have read much more of CM since that initial reading of Consider This and really understand that CM was anxious to make sure that we teach that all knowledge is from the Lord and that we worship Jesus Christ as our Savior and King. There is absolutely no doubt that was her worldview and it is indisputable (and indispensable) when reading any of her words.

    During her lifetime – an era when science was making huge discoveries and exciting advances were being made in many areas – she was very well read and she took time to think deeply about those things she studied. As a result of her dedication, she was far ahead of her contemporaries as she developed her philosophy. I really appreciate that about her. It is obvious that she was able to accept true ideas from all people and use those in explaining and developing her philosophy (TPE, page 10). It is really hard for me to think that she was able to utterly reject everything that the Greco-Roman world produced. Even the writers of scripture were influenced by them as well as the Christian Church of the Middle Ages. We are still influenced by them today. I would think that it would be safe to say that she might have been influenced by all that history as she wrote her ideas, even if she didn’t embrace their ideals, and even as she was studying the Gospels, reading science/educational journals, and interacting with/observing children and using that experience as her model.

    One point that I would like to make in regards to the conversation concerning our end goals of education: I am convinced that our worldview is what informs us as to “right thinking and behavior.” As I read and think about virtue, I know that it goes hand in hand with Knowledge of God. There are many examples in Scripture that show Knowledge of God isn’t sufficient, it must be acted upon with virtue – think of Cain, the 12 Tribes and the Golden Calf, Saul, David, or Solomon, for example. They had Knowledge of God, but at times failed to act with virtue. Daniel and Esther had Knowledge of God AND acted with virtue based on that knowledge. As Christians, do we not try to teach (by our own actions) virtue as a way to live and show our Knowledge of God? Properly learned and acted upon, virtue is acting on the Knowledge of God we have acquired. If we truly believe that God is our Lord and Savior, does that not reflect in all that we do, say, and teach? Does not the Spirit reveal the goodness, the beauty, and the truth in all things as we are prepared to learn and accept those teachings? Can this not be a part of a Charlotte Mason Education in its fullest Christian sense? Here, too, I am trying to understand why virtue as a goal of education must be rejected if I am using CM as my educational model.

    I do not think that she would place herself in the Classical world. However, 100 years later, after John Dewey and others revolutionized our educational system, demolishing the idea that our educational goal would be facilitating the education of a whole person: heart, mind, body, and soul; instead promoting the idea of obedient worker bee, would it be safe to say that she deserves a chance to rise and shine, standing on the shoulders of the more familiar classical model, a beacon of hope and enlightenment – a veritable invitation to really take education (knowledge) to its most personal level, and thus, to its highest levels? The apostle Paul used the familiar ideas of his day to get an audience’s attention and use this shared knowledge to teach, correct, and invite people to Christ. This, I think, is where a Venn diagram would be such a blessing to those of us trying to share her insights with others as to how/why her methods are so different and yet so effective. If we have the ability to clearly show a level of understanding and yet invite others to explore and learn of Charlotte Mason’s unique philosophy and methods, we should make the most of it.

    Obviously, I am still reading, thinking, and studying and will continue to do so.

    Again, thank you for the article and subsequent discussion(s). I’m loving it! =)

    • I agree, it’s a fascinating discussion. I’m not 100% sure about this, but “virtue” has very different meanings in the Bible, from the way it is seen in other cultures value systems.

      When we consider the ideal man, it’s not the same in the Bible at all. We see shepherds and artisans, not just aristocrats or soldiers. God the father sent His son to be a carpenter, and the disciples had dignity and strength that came from the Spirit, not from worldly success or a noble rank. Also, women are far more prominent and celebrated in the Bible.

      My impression is that the early Christians were accused of “turning the world upside down” because they actually did just that!

      • Anthea, This is one of the problems for me with calling Mason classical. Lewis and others have clearly said that words from the classical time period do not mean the same for the ancient as they mean for Christians and especially in terms of how words are used today. For example, virtue does not have the same meaning. Another example is even the word God. The ancients were not referring to the Judeo-Christian God that we refer to.

        • I do know and understand the difference between the ancient gods and our Judeo-Christian God. =)

          Also, I do think that moral rightness (virtue) is interpreted in most cultures based on their religion and/or political beliefs (worldview), which results in different sets of acceptable moral standards throughout the world.

          I am trying to understand this, so please bear with me: What is your working definition of virtue as applied to this situation? Because I still don’t understand why virtue – the “moral excellence; goodness; righteousness” of our Christian worldview beliefs is incompatible with a Knowledge of God. I have not read Lewis and really want to understand what the difference is so I can wrap my head around the rejection of virtue as desirable in our ultimate educational goals. =)

        • Admin,

          I think you would enjoy reading Lewis’s book The Abolition of Man on this subject–if you have not already. The section at the back of the book (“The Tao”) is a place where he shows the moral elements that all the world’s major religions have in common.

          As well, Paul in Romans 2 points our that the law of God is written on every human heart (Christian or not) so that those who violate that law are without excuse. While becoming a Christian deeply changes one’s understanding of the moral precepts of God’s law (such that we love his law and seek to obey it from the heart out of gratitude), there is nonetheless a sense in which non-Christians also really know God’s law.

          Do you know of a place where Lewis talked about the different meaning that virtue took on after the time of Christ? I would enjoy reading that.

          You likely know that the classical or cardinal virtues of courage, justice, prudence and temperance were adopted by the church but supplement and completed (so Christians thought) by the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. These became the seven virtues that were often set agains the seven vices (or deadly sins!). The coming of Christ did turn virtue in many ways into holines, pointing out that what the pagans could discern about truth, goodness and beauty without special revelation would only find it fulfillment in Jesus. I for one think that the pagans via natural revelation (e.g., Psalm 19) came to know some true things about virtue, but lacked the full significance of say “justice” that only Christ can supply.

          In a later post, I will offer what I hope may be a helpful description of what “classical” means to many classical Christian educators. Those of us who are classical CHRISTIAN educators sometimes use the term “classical” or “classical education” as a kind of shorthand–but we almost always mean classical Christian education (CCE)–or forms of education that were developed from about 500 AD to 1850 AD. To be accurate in this ongoing exchange, I would want to speak of the classical-Christian elements in her philosophy and not merely her “classical” (as in Greek and Roman thought) elements.

          Pax,
          Chris

      • Anthea,

        Thank you for sharing your reflections on “the ideal man” in light of the Bible. Christ speaks of “the blessed man.” Here is Mason’s lovely poetic meditation on the Beatitudes:

        “Blessed are the poor, for theirs the kingdom is;
        Blessed are the mourners; they shall enter bliss
        Blessed are the meek. What shall they have of Me?
        The earth they did not seek for, theirs in fee!
        Blessed are the hungry souls; they shall be filled;
        Their thirst be satisfied; their craving stilled.

        “Blessed are the merciful, whose tender art
        Knows how to make their own a brother’s part;
        Though they be sinners, mercy at My hand
        Claim they; because they mercy understand.
        Blessed are the pure in heart; for them the sight
        Isaiah saw — God throned in His might!
        Blessed are they who heal up strife; theirs, a new name, —
        Them, sons of God, the angel-hosts acclaim!
        Blessed ye, when persecuted for My sake;
        Kingdom of heaven, then, rise up and take!”

        Respectfully,
        Art

    • Sheila,

      Thank you for commenting on my article. I am delighted that my article has motivated you to look up passages in Charlotte Mason’s writings and to carefully reflect on these topics. I am pleased that you refer to Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methods as “unique,” and that you say she deserves a chance to “rise and shine.” Also I am encouraged to see you write that you do not think Mason would place herself in the Classical world.

      I do want to comment on some specific points that you raise. You write, “It is really hard for me to think that she was able to utterly reject everything that the Greco-Roman world produced.” That is not what my article claims and I am not asking you to think that. Rather, my article attempts to refute Glass’s claim that Mason’s “philosophy of Education” — [the] “bracelet” that Mason “found” — is “the circle of the classical ideals.” I argue that Mason’s philosophy of education was not a recovery of the classical tradition, as Glass claims. That is a far cry from asserting that Mason “utterly reject[ed] everything that the Greco-Roman world produced.”

      Second, you write, “I am trying to understand why virtue as a goal of education must be rejected.” I am not saying that virtue as *a* goal of education must be rejected, nor would I claim that Mason said that either. Rather, I am saying that virtue is not *the* goal of education. Mason does not discount the importance of virtue. Rather, she puts it in its proper place. For Mason, virtue is not some abstract ideal. Rather, virtue is understood in terms of our relationship with God. In chapter 12 of volume 3, Mason clarifies her teaching on these points. She closes the chapter by writing:

      “Candour, fortitude, temperance, patience, meekness, courage, generosity, indeed the whole role of the virtues, would be stimulating subjects for thought and teaching, offering ample illustrations. One caution I should like to offer. A child’s whole notion of religion is ‘being good.’ It is well that he should know that being good is not his whole duty to God, although it is so much of it; that the relationship of love and personal service, which he owes as a child to his Father, as a subject to his King, is even more than the ‘being good’ which gives our Almighty Father such pleasure in His children.”

      Notice how Mason identifies our “duty” towards God as a “relationship of love and personal service.” Some people refer to Mason’s philosophy of education as “Relational Education.” This is a helpful label because it brings out Mason’s emphasis on the relationship between the child and different kinds of knowledge. But it also brings out the relationship between the child and God. That is the most important relationship of all, and it is only in the context of this relationship that, according to Mason, virtue has any meaning.

      This important element of Mason’s thought is also brought out in this famous passage from the last chapter of Mason’s first volume:

      “The Essence of Christianity is Loyalty to a Person. — Christ, our King. Here is a thought to unseal the fountains of love and loyalty, the treasures of faith and imagination, bound up in the child. The very essence of Christianity is personal loyalty, passionate loyalty to our adorable Chief. We have laid other foundations — regeneration, sacraments, justification, works, faith, the Bible — any one of which, however necessary to salvation in its due place and proportion may become a religion about Christ and without Christ.”

      For Mason, virtue flows out of a loving relationship with Christ. And we can only be in a relationship with Christ if we know Him. Hence Mason writes, “. . . the culmination of all education . . . is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.” A by-product of this relationship is virtue; another by-product is a cultivated beauty sense; a disposition of joy; etc. But the foundation comes first. Let us lead our children into the knowledge of God, so that when they meet Him, they may fall in love.

      This discussion is another illustration of why the Venn diagram we have been discussing would be so difficult to produce. We might find the word “virtue” in the area of overlap. But at what cost? We would run the risk of losing the depth of meaning and nuance of interpretation that Mason attaches to that word.

      I am so encouraged that you wish to “invite others to explore and learn of Charlotte Mason’s unique philosophy and methods.” May God bless you in this effort. But I am not sure that a diagram is the way to do it. Don’t get me wrong — I love charts and diagrams. But ultimately, Mason wrote that the mind prefers “knowledge conveyed in literary form.” The last chapter of her first volume will do more to invite others to explore and learn of Charlotte Mason’s methods than any chart.

      Respectfully,
      Art

      • Art,

        You have stated in your article that CM’s educational approach is “a dramatic departure” from the classical model of education. You can see how such a claim (made at the beginning of your article) would lead some (like Shiela) to wonder just what elements from the classical tradition you think that CM would affirm. To my knowledge you have never affirmed any elements from the classical tradition of education that you think CM affirmed. Could you kindly submit a list?

        It would be helpful if you could submit a list of elements from the Christian classical tradition (not merely the tradition limited to the Greeks and Romans) of education anywhere from say 500 AD to 1850 AD. Just a few elements would really help this conversation in my opinion. Could you do this for your readers–even though that was not the point of your original article?

        Pax,
        Chris

        • Chris,

          Your request is noted. However, in order that our conversation not fork into too many separate threads, could we please continue the thread that is already in progress? I am looking forward to your reply to my comment dated May 20, 2016 at 8:32 pm.

          Respectfully,
          Art

        • Chris,

          There is one thing I would like to share from the Christian classical tradition. However, it is a contribution from someone who is still living. She is a Christian classical educator named Aimee R. Natal. She has a B.S. in Education and an M.A in Teaching. She currently teaches at a parochial high school. She spent a lot of time studying Charlotte Mason. I would like to highlight two papers that she has written about Mason which are still available online (as of 5/23/16). One of them is hosted by the Association of Classical Christian Schools. Natal’s evaluation of Mason reflects her classical perspective.

          In Natal’s paper entitled “Charlotte Mason: education, atmosphere, habit and living ideas” (http://infed.org/mobi/charlotte-mason-education-atmosphere-habit-and-living-ideas/), she beings with a summary of Mason’s biography. Natal notes that “at age 18, [Mason] moved to London and entered the only teacher training college in England at the time, The Home and Colonial School Society. The Home and Colonial School Society, established by Elizabeth Mayo and her brother Charles Mayo in 1836, was the first school in England devoted to advancing the methods of Swiss educational reformer Johann Pestalozzi.” Of course, you and I are in agreement that Pestalozzi is not a classical educator.

          Natal notes that “In Charlotte Mason’s day in England, the thoughts and ideas of Kant and Descartes, Rousseau and Pestalozzi were all taking part in the sway amongst educators from traditional, formal, classical schooling primarily for boys, towards a universal and more informal education for all children in all classes of society.” According to Natal, these non-classical thinkers had a strong influence on Mason:

          “Charlotte read widely and was trained in the educational methods of Johann Pestalozzi . Pestalozzi (1712-1778), an ardent follower of Jean-Jaques Rousseau, wanted children to learn using their senses and ‘things,’ not ‘mere words,’ and is responsible for coining the term ‘object lesson.’ From this and other influences, Mason formed her own philosophy of education, spelled out in her 20 articles of education (also known as her child’s Bill of Rights [Cholmondeley 1960: 227]) and in her 6 educational volumes, especially her last, An Essay towards a Philosophy of Education (Mason: 1923).”

          According to Natal, Mason’s thought evidenced an affinity with Rouseeau: “Echoing Rousseau, Mason felt too much interference from either persons or things to be detrimental, trampling ‘spontaneity or personal initiation’ on the child’s part (Mason 1886: 190). Rather, Mason believed a child, as much as possible, should be left to Nature, the great Educator. ‘it is the wisdom of parents to leave children as much as may be to Nature’ (Mason 1886: 186). ‘There are few things sweeter and more precious to the child than playful prattle with her mother; but one thing is better– the communing with the larger Mother, in order to which the child…should be left to themselves’ (Mason: 1886: 79). ‘…our part in the education of children should be thoughtfully subordinated to that played by Nature herself’ (Mason 1896: 193).”

          Natal correctly spotted Mason’s dependence on the psychology of her day: “Heavily interested in the science of the times, Mason utilized the physiological theory that repeated thoughts leave an impression, or ‘rut,’ upon the physical substance of the brain. She believed undesirable behaviors could be eradicated by replacing the thoughts with those that lead to desirable behaviors, repeated and reinforced until good behavior was habitual.”

          Natal also spotted Mason’s optimism for how her unique theory of education could change the world. “Mason was optimistic about … the progression of humanity, and believed this notion of discipline of habit to be not only one of the keys to the character of each man, but to our progress as a race.” Natal highlights Mason’s emphasis on the power of attention, the ability of the child to consume ideas, the sustaining power of ideas, and the importance of living books.

          In Natal’s second paper, “Charlotte Mason: For Whose Sake?” (http://www.accsedu.org/filerequest/3281.pdf), Natal recognizes the uniqueness of Mason’s theory of education: “Mason did however, compose 18 fundamental ‘articles of educational faith’ which are exclusively hers.” Natal evaluates Mason’s theory of education relative to the interests of classical educators. Natal’s evaluation is decidedly negative: “It is upon a careful and thorough reading of these volumes, that one begins to seriously question the popularity of Mason’s philosophy among Christian educators, classical, home schooling, or otherwise.” She goes on to write, “Classical educators may at first be attracted to Mason’s advocacy for Great Books and the use of original sources, but to then proceed to buy into her educational methods, usually on the word of another, is folly.”

          Why is it folly? I will quote Natal at length:

          [beginning of extended quote]

          “It is folly because Mason’s methods approach the child as a neutral entity, born only with some hereditary tendencies towards good or evil, in disregard of the child’s sin nature. Scripture teaches we are born in sin, and dead in our sin, and that our nature is not good, but evil.

          “It is folly because Mason assumes the child is born with a power of attention such that no other motivators are necessary or should be used, such as illustrations, object lessons, grades, rewards or punishments. God shows us in Scripture that man needs motivators, and He employs the use of reward and punishment throughout His dealings with man past, present and future. God also uses illustration and object lessons in His teaching of His people Israel in the Old Testament, and through Jesus Christ’s lessons and parables in the New Testament.

          “It is folly because Mason assumes the child is born with a yearning for what is good, knowledge, and that that desire alone, along with good books, is all the child needs upon which to act, to learn. One has to trust that the child will want to know what is good, and that the child will actually learn what he has read after reading it, hundreds of pages, on his own initiative, week in and week out, with no other incentive or motivation than his own desire.

          “Scripture teaches that our sin natures cannot be relied on to desire what is good. God knows we often need to defer to authority in knowing what is good for us. He requires us to act in obedience, giving us the incentive of reward or punishment. Further, God saw it necessary to not leave us with just a written book, the Law, but sent the Great Teacher to teach us by example and through questioning and illustration. After studying Charlotte Mason’s six volumes, a Christian should conclude that her educational philosophy is not for the children’s sake.”

          [end of extended quote]

          In light of such a scathing evaluation by a classical educator, one must assume that Glass felt intense pressure to water down Mason’s principles in order to blunt these indictments. Hence we see Glass downplaying the first principle and reinterpreting the second principle. Glass downplays the importance of the habit of attention, the motivating desire for knowledge, and the importance of self-education.

          Unfortunately, Natal missed Mason’s dependence on the Gospels as a key source of her theory of education. I would also disagree with Natal on some finer points of her interpretation of Mason. But I appreciate the fact that Natal spotted and highlighted Mason’s dramatic departure from the classical tradition. You may want to reflect on Natal’s assessment of combining Mason with classical education. She says it is folly.

          Respectfully,
          Art

      • I need to clarify a few things regarding my previous posts:

        We have been using CM’s philosophy and methods for 6 years now – and all during those 6 years I have read and studied CM. I listen to the amazing podcasts and read inspiring blog posts and I am learning! There is still so much to learn, but what an exciting journey! I LOVE where we are going and what we are experiencing as a family in our educations and feel that the Lord led me to this remarkable place. And I love sharing her with people I meet – and I love discussing it with other people who are familiar with her work.

        Sometimes as readers we need specific definitions when reading trying to make informed points, questions, or observations. And often, we do not have time to dedicate hours and hours to studying a subject that we would like to. To that end, I asked for a clarification of a term. So, thank you for your response to my virtue question. I was not raised as a traditional Christian, so sometimes when reading posts, I want/need definitions of distinctly Christian terms so that I really understand things the author alludes to or references, which is why I asked about “Biblical virtue” as opposed to just “virtue.” I looked up Bible verses (KJV) that talked about virtue and found them edifying. I particularly appreciated 2 Peter 2:15 “…add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge” and Philippians 4: 8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

        I stated that I didn’t think that Charlotte Mason would have classified herself as “classical” the way it is being stated that Karen Glass advocated – as near as I can tell. But I need to say that I did appreciate Karen Glass’ book because whether or not I now agree with everything she wrote, it made me sit and think through why do I want to homeschool using Charlotte Mason – and once I have my why, I have my what to teach. No experience needs to be wasted.

        As Chris (I believe) mentioned, that “classification” of education did not exist when CM was writing. She may not have had a lot of privileges in her own upbringing, but she certainly had a liberal (well-read and widely read) education by the time she was writing her philosophy and methods. This is why I believe that she stands on the shoulders of classical education. She was embracing whole concept of a liberal education – a Classical Education idea – and here is the shoulders part: she proposed that ALL children (revolutionary indeed) should receive this education and to that end, she made it possible by her tried and proven methods to anyone who cares enough to learn those. A very distinct part of the philosophy was her insistence that we should know our Lord and Savior as an intimate friend. Taking all of it together, it is a remarkable and unique approach and when taken seriously and used as she teaches, it is very effective. We will not get the results she did if we pick and choose what we want from CM, which I think is the heart of what Art is getting at. I truly believe that.

        Anyway, as I see the points of merit in both sides of this discussion, no matter where she is classified, I am still going to use her ideas and methods and thank the Lord that we have them. =)

        • Dear Sheila,

          I am so happy to hear of how Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education has brought richness and joy to you and your family.

          I think there is general agreement that, as you say, Charlotte Mason would not have classified herself as “classical.” Glass indicated this in an interview with Sonya Shafer when she said, “[Mason] wouldn’t have identified herself that way.”

          It is interesting that you (and others) assume that Mason’s use of the term “liberal education” is to be identified with a “a Classical Education idea.” (Dr. Perrin wrote that “‘Liberal education’ a common phrase for indicating the education entailed in the classical tradition of education.” But Mason used two different phrases. She spoke of the “liberal arts,” and she also spoke of a “liberal education.”

          Every occurrence of the phrase “liberal arts” in Mason’s six volumes is in conjunction with a description of the fresco in the Spanish Chapel. Whenever she speaks of her curriculum, however, she speaks of a “liberal education.” Did she make that distinction intentionally?

          In 1868, Thomas Huxley wrote an essay entitled “A Liberal Education.” He defined it as follows:

          “That man, I think, has had a liberal education who has been so trained in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will, and does with ease and pleasure all the work that, as a mechanism, it is capable of; whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic-engine, with all its parts of equal strength, and in smooth working order; ready, like a steam engine, to be turned to any kind of work, and spin the gossamers as well as forge the anchors of the mind; whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the great and fundamental truths of Nature and of the laws of her operations; one who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions are trained to come to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience; who has learned to love all beauty, whether of Nature or of art, to hate all vileness, and to respect others as himself. Such an one and no other, I conceive, has had a liberal education; for he is, as completely as a man can be, in harmony with Nature. He will make the best of her, and she of him. They will get on together rarely; she as his ever beneficent mother; he as her mouthpiece, her conscious self, her minister and interpreter.”

          For Huxley, a liberal education was distinct from the liberal arts of the classical tradition. Mason was familiar with Huxley’s views on education and science. She rejected his scoping of a liberal education, but she did propose that the scope of a liberal education could be derived from human nature:

          “If we succeed in establishing a similar standard which every boy and girl of a given age should reach in a liberal range of subjects, a fair chance will be afforded to the average boy and girl while brilliant or especially industrious young people will go ahead. We labour under the mistake of supposing that there is no natural law or inherent principle according to which a child’s course of studies should be regulated; … But what if in the very nature of things we find a complete curriculum suggested? … We must give consideration to this question because the answer depends on a survey of the composite whole we sum up as ‘human nature,’ a whole whose possibilities are infinite and various, not only in a budding genius, the child of a distinguished family, but in every child of the streets… It is a wide programme founded on the educational rights of man; … We may not even make choice between science and the ‘humanities.’ Our part it seems to me is to give a child a vital hold upon as many as possible of those wide relationships proper to him.” (TPE)

          That is why, for Mason, the scope of a liberal education is inseparably linked to her belief that education is the science of relations: “a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of — ‘Those first-born affinities That fit our new existence to existing things.’” For Mason, a liberal education is one that makes valid as many as possible of the affinities that every child possesses by virtue of his being a person created in the image of God.

          However, if one assumes that Mason is embedded in the classical tradition, then one may read “liberal arts” where Mason writes “liberal education,” and thus miss the different spring from which Mason’s curriculum rises. That is one of the reasons why classification is so important: it affects our hermeneutic.

          Sheila, you are in alignment with Mason when you write, “We will not get the results she did if we pick and choose what we want from CM, which I think is the heart of what Art is getting at.” In 1923, H.E. Wix tried to get at the “secret” of Charlotte Mason’s theory of education. He wrote, “What is the secret of this? I do not know. What we cannot do with Miss Mason’s ideal is to reduce it to lowest terms, and just in so far as we try to, so far we misrepresent it, and misunderstand it.”

          Respectfully,
          Art

          • Can we also make the distinction that Mason’s wanted a “liberal education for all” not just a “liberal education” and not just a liberal education for wealthy men. Poor families did not get an education unless someone taught them at home, hence Mason’s PUS (Parents’ Union School). This was true up into the 1800s. A liberal education only means what was offered although because of Platonic influence the sciences and technologies were frequently not a part of the “liberal education.” The trivium consists of grammar, logic and rhetoric and the Quadrivium was comprised of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Notice what is missing – remember the earth is a bad and evil place. I would not calls these a liberal education, I would call these a classical education.

          • Thank you for the responses. I have been listening to/reading the various CM/CCE blogs and CM resources on the web, along with some books, so maybe it is a variety of things over the years that have cobbled together in my mind the wrong way. Who knows?

            I am glad that I decided to stop being intimidated by publicly airing my lack of knowledge and ask a question! =) I really appreciate the definitions and clarifications. They are very helpful. And, if Art would not mind helping me one more time, I would love to know the page number(s) of the quote in TPE so I can locate it in my actual book, I would very much appreciate it.

            I am looking forward to the CMI Conference in June! I see there are several opportunities for me to expand my understanding of the topics discussed here. 😉

          • Sheila,

            I am so glad you posted your questions here! The quotes I took from TPE are from pages 154-157.

            Respectfully,
            Art

  9. Thank you for the time and thought that you have put into this analysis, Art. Thank you for generating discussion on this topic. Thank you for your continued dedication and passion to the philosophy of education brought to us through Charlotte Mason.

    I have often been the lone dissenter on this topic and did not feel educated or experienced enough to adequately argue that Mason’s philosophies are unique from a classical education. Being that I was never married to the idea of a classical homeschool, I convinced myself that it did not matter to me. Reading your analysis has reminded me that it does matter because the heart of this discussion comes down to the belief that educating within this philosophy is a God-given vocation.

    It also reminds me of a problem that I encountered in my earliest days as a home educator. I remember spending time and money as a new homeschooler on various curricula that labelled itself as “Charlotte Mason”. Most of these were only utilizing a few of her methods or were only loosely inspired by her or were attempting to blend her methods with something else (perhaps not even intentionally). This was exceedingly frustrating. I have also been saddened to know a few friends who have been turned away from a Mason education because they have used such curricula without reading Mason’s own works. They did not recognize how her methods were being misrepresented and wrongly implemented and, therefore, came to the conclusion that a Mason education must not be for their children. So, I do agree that it is important for us to be clear about what a Mason education is and is not and to encourage careful and continued study of her words.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have renewed my spirit for continuing study and have encouraged my pursuit of a fuller understanding of this vocation. I hope to have the opportunity to chat with you at conference again sometime!

    Peace and goodness,
    Danielle

    • Danielle,

      Thank you so much for sharing this comment. I am delighted to hear that your spirit has been renewed for study and you have been encouraged to pursue a fuller understanding of your vocation. Charlotte Mason wrote, “Fathers and mothers, this is your work, and you only can do it.” May God bless you in your high calling.

      Respectfully,
      Art

  10. Chris,

    Thank you for your comment. I appreciate this conversation and hope those reading will ask questions and share their thoughts. I appreciate your feedback to my comment.

    I have pasted here your list of items that you appreciate about Plato.

    Here are some Platonic teachings that most Christians have appreciated about Plato:
    –He taught that truth exists and is knowable
    –He taught that humans have a soul and that it is eternal
    –He taught that are are moral truths and moral goodness that we can know and to which we should conform our lives

    –He taught that beauty is real and the attractive radiance of truth
    –He taught that children should learn by play
    –He taught that children should be introduced only to the morally best and most beautiful music and literature

    The point for me isn’t whether or not we appreciate a particular point that Plato made or held dear to his ideas. The point for me is how his thinking became DNA for subsequent ideas and thinking after him. Ideas have consequences. This has been a problem for the church noted by people from various dominations both liberal and conservative and I believe it is a problem for education.

    I gave one example of how it effects education promoting, as Plato did, an intellectual elite.

    To your comments above I can only say that I don’t believe a list such as this is criteria for using Plato. Mohammed believed that truth existed and that he had the truth. Most people believe that truth exists and they have the it and that is why they do what they do.

    I don’t believe Mason was a classical educator or should even be put inside that camp. I have only mentioned Plato in this discussion so to make my point, I will stick with him. I believe that the DNA in Plato’s thinking makes an impact on those who read him and frequently they are not aware of the impact he has on them. Let me give you a current example.

    Let’s go back again to Karen Glass. Ms. Glass, according to her website, has created a new book. You can read what she says about her new book here: http://www.karenglass.net/mind-to-mind/. There is a problem with what I see Ms. Glass has done in her new book. Again, the DNA of Plato’s thinking is showing up in her actions related to this book as well as “Consider This”. But first let me remind our readers that Plato believed in two realms of reality. One was the visible or the material (such as our bodies or a chair) and the other was the invisible, the ideas behind our bodies or the chair. These ideas were the most important. Thus Plato believed that humankind was in two parts: the physical body or the rational/spiritual soul. Humans were to seek to leave the body behind because it was part of the material realm which as Lewis tells us, was considered the dust bin of creation. So in Christian thinking this works itself out in the desire to leave this body and this world behind and go to Heaven. We then become disembodied people. We are not to seek being planted where we are and doing God’s work on a daily basis. For Plato the material world—and the body is part of that material world—were considered evil and we should seek to rid ourselves of the material. So with this division in mind, I would like to comment on Karen Glass’ new book “Mind to Mind.”

    First, while she wants to make Mason easier for people to understand, it is interesting to me that: “I have not abridged the vital material about Miss Mason’s methods and philosophy—the parts that you would most want to read. I have removed the outdated references to books, people, and political situations that are not relevant for us today. They illustrated and illuminated her ideas when she was writing to her contemporaries in Great Britain, but they often confuse and bewilder a modern reader.” This is, in my mind a perfect example of what happens with Platonic thinking. She is disembodying Mason’s work, that is, she will remove it from its British context and leave the “vital material about Miss Mason’s methods and philosophy—the parts that you would most want to read.” By disembodying Mason’s work from its context, she has given the reader the “vital material” of Mason in what she sees as its purest form (Plato’s idea of ideas and forms) so that the reader doesn’t have to deal with the context (the physical body). When you disembody a work and leave only the “vital” ideas you will remove it from its cultural context which provides it with shape and structure. It provides it with shape and structure because we cannot, according to Christian thought, be separate—we are embodied beings. Not to understand the shape and structure provided by her cultural context is to be misinformed about Mason and her ideas. Mason cannot be separated from her context and her beliefs about the world around her, just as Scripture has to be studied in its context. This is a perfect example of Plato’s dualistic beliefs working their way out into the modern West. The physical body (Mason’s context) is unimportant and only what we truly need are the ideas behind that context (Plato’s forms) not the context itself. What I believe Ms. Glass has done in “Consider This” and in her new book is to take the first step towards a Platonized Mason. All of her reasons for doing so sound great, but the problem is that she will disembody Mason. This is also what happens when Mason’s ideas are placed inside the classical tradition.

    Best wishes,

    Carroll

  11. This is in reply to the comment from Christopher Perrin, dated May 17, 2016, at 5:55 AM.

    Dear Chris,

    I am very happy to see you delve more deeply into Charlotte Mason’s writings. I hope you continue to do so, and that you go beyond volume 6 (TPE). Her other five volumes, her meditations on the Gospel of John, and her poetry volumes are deeply edifying, and I think you will find it rewarding and beneficial to read them.

    Charlotte Mason was not a Platonist. She held to an essentially sacramental worldview and made no attempt to harmonize that world view with Plato’s metaphysics. She was familiar with Plato’s ideas, but she developed her theory of education on a different foundation.

    Since many of Mason’s references to Plato are in the context of her discussions about “ideas,” I would like to summarize her theory of ideas and how it relates to Plato, and then comment on the other references to Plato that you cited.

    I note in my article that according to Mason’s own testimony, she based this theory of education on the teachings of Christ, the discoveries of science, and the behaviors of children. This can be seen in, for example, how she developed her theory of ideas.

    1. From the teachings of Christ, she reflected carefully on John 4:32, John 6:35, John 6:48, John 6:60, and Matthew 4:4 4. She paraphrased the words of Christ as, “I am bread, and ye must eat or die! 
I am sole Sustenance of all the world!” She contemplated that the sustenance of Christ extends beyond just eternal life or spiritual life; she asserted that the sustenance of Christ extends to intellectual life and even physical life.

    2. From her observations of children, she perceived that “that the mind, in fact, requires sustenance––as does the body, in order that it increase and be strong; but because the mind is not to be measured or weighed but is spiritual, so its sustenance must be spiritual too, must, in fact, be ideas” (TPE, p. 10). This is in her firsthand, chronological account of the development of her theory (TPE pp. 9-17 – “Let me trace as far as I can recall them the steps by which I arrived at some of the conclusions upon which we are acting…”). The context clearly indicates that this perception was made through her personal and direct observation of children.

    3. From the discoveries of science, she understood that ideas result in physical changes to brain tissue. For Mason, this discovery opened up new vistas for the practice of education. Education was no longer a purely immaterial activity. Education actually involved material change in the real world. Mason reconciled this physical reality with God’s activity, and saw the whole scheme in the light of God’s providence:

    “… from the beginning, Nature was prepared with her response to the demand of Grace. Is conversion possible? we ask; and the answer is, that it is, so to speak, a function for which there is latent provision in our physical constitution, to be called forth by the touch of a potent idea. Truly His commandment is exceeding broad, and grows broader day by day with each new revelation of Science.” (volume 2, p. 61)

    Mason synthesized her findings from these three sources into a coherent theory of ideas that is summarized in her educational catechism (volume 2, pages 244-247). Some key points of this theory of ideas as outlined in her catechism include:

    – “ideas are spiritual emanations from spiritual beings”
    – “ideas may be conveyed through picture or printed page; natural objects convey ideas, but, perhaps, the initial idea in this case may always be traced to another mind”
    – ideas may be conveyed directly from the Holy Spirit (and not just spiritual ideas)
    – “ideas of evil also are spiritually conveyed”
    – “ideas emanating from our Lord and Saviour, which are of His essence, are the spiritual meat and drink of His believing people”
    – “as the material life is sustained upon its appropriate food from without, so the immaterial life is sustained upon its food,––ideas spiritually conveyed”

    While trying to explain the scientific discovery about ideas impacting brain tissue, she searched for various metaphors. One that she chose was Plato’s concept of the idea. She said that Plato was right in that ideas have power; but not in the way that Plato envisioned (TPE, p. 105, cited in your comment).

    Furthermore, Plato’s “idea” is a “form”. But Plato’s forms do not have the attributes that Mason associated with ideas. To avoid confusion, Mason needed to make it clear that her concept of an “idea” is different from Plato’s. Mason’s final published work was volume 6 (TPE). To avoid confusion, she clarified what she meant by “idea” on p. 10:

    “…the perception that, whether in taking or rejecting, the mind was functioning for its own nourishment; that the mind, in fact, requires sustenance––as does the body, in order that it increase and be strong; but because the mind is not to be measured or weighed but is spiritual, so its sustenance must be spiritual too, must, in fact, be ideas (in the Platonic sense of images)” (TPE, p. 10, cited in your earlier comment)

    Mason is saying that her concept of “ideas” is somewhat similar to Plato’s concept of “images”. In saying this, she is not saying that she derived her concept from Plato, nor is she saying that she accepts Plato’s metaphysics. She is simply saying that her “idea” is similar to Plato’s “image”: it is a symbolic representation of something else. Of course, she doesn’t drag in everything else that Plato had to say about “images”; she held true to her conception of an “idea” as laid out in her educational catechism.

    For Mason, the scientific era meant the end of the Platonic metaphysic. This is evident in her statement about M. Fouillée: “M. Fouillée Neglects the Physiological Basis of Education –– In a word, M. Fouillée returns boldly to the Platonic philosophy; the idea is to him all in all, in philosophy and education. But he returns empty-handed.” For Mason, the physiological basis of education was one of the key pillars of her method. She saw the human person as a physical-spiritual fusion. She organized her theory of education around this fusion, including her theory of ideas. She did not adapt or adjust Plato’s idea; rather she synthesized information from the Gospels, her own observations, and the discoveries of science.

    Mason found that the science of the brain at times confirmed some observations that Plato had made. For example, Mason noted that “Reason, like all other properties of a person, is subject to habit and works upon the material it is accustomed to handle” — due to the physiology of habit. She notes that, “Plato formed a just judgment on this matter, too, and perceived that mathematics afford no clue to the labyrinth of affairs whether public or private” (TPE, 148, cited in your comment). Mason’s source for her understanding of habit is brain physiology, not Plato. The very fact that Mason felt she was in a position to approve or disapprove Plato on certain points shows that she was not submitting to his teaching or tradition as a special authority in her life.

    Mason often quoted respected writers to add support for her assertions. One of her assertions is that the imagination should be protected from “Unclean Imaginings” (volume 4, p. 52). Therefore, she felt that certain portions of readings should be excluded. She noted that Plato did the same thing: “Plato, we know, determined that the poets in his ‘Republic’ should be well looked after lest they should write matter to corrupt the morals of youth” (TPE, 340, cited in your comment). That does not mean she is Platonic.

    Mason wrote of “the Platonic axiom, ‘Knowledge is virtue’” (TPE, 235, cited in your comment). However, she did not accept Plato’s view that sin is due only to lack of knowledge. She recognized that sin was a choice of the will. She was simply citing Plato to support her emphasis on the importance of knowledge.

    It is evident that Mason thought that Plato was a great thinker. So do I! No doubt he was a genius. So when Mason writes: “We labour under a difficulty in choosing books which has exercised all great thinkers from Plato to Erasmus, from Erasmus to the anxious Heads of schools to-day…” (TPE, 187, cited in your comment), that no more embeds her in the classical tradition than it does me.

    Some of Mason’s references to Plato have no bearing whatsoever on her esteem for Plato. When she writes, “One small boy of eight may come down late because ‘I was meditating upon Plato and couldn’t fasten my buttons,’” (TPE, 59, cited in your comment) she was simply noting that “No one can tell what particular morsel [of learning] a child will select for his sustenance.” Obviously she was simply using Plato as an illustration.

    The final example you cite is when she writes, “I have attempted to unfold (in various volumes) a system of educational theory which seems to me able to meet any rational demand, even that severest criterion set up by Plato” (TPE, 27). If she had gotten her system of educational theory from Plato, then why would she say it could stand up to his criterion? Wouldn’t that be tautological?

    I could make an analogous statement: “I have attempted to unfold a theory from deductive science which seems to me able to meet any scientific demand, even that severest criterion set up by Darwin.”

    If I were to say that, it would no more make me a Darwinist (I am not) than Mason’s statement makes her a Platonist. In fact, the statement as written implies I am *not* a Darwinist. It says that I have developed a theory that is different from Darwin’s but that meets his toughest standard. In the same way, Mason is saying that she has developed a theory that is different from Plato’s but that meets his toughest standard.

    In this discussion, I have commented on each citation of Plato that you have provided. In each case I have shown why Mason made that citation. Mason embraced the discoveries of science and integrated them with the teachings of Christ to form her distinctive theory of education. She did not derive this theory from Plato or from the classical tradition, as claimed by Glass.

    Respectfully,
    Art

    • Art,

      Thank you very much for this thoughtful reply! I appreciate your detailed analysis through these threads and your attempt cite evidence and reasoning for your conclusions. I appreciate your commitment to consistency–yet I think that this is part of your challenge in this discussion. You want to remain consistent to your method of source and validation, and that method is what I question.

      I will take some time later to respond to this clearly and as succinctly as I can. I think this is an important issue in this discussion because it bears on your method of “source and validation” which I find problematic.

      My claim is not that these quotations prove that CM is “embedded in the classical tradition”–just that she admired a classical thinker and some of his ideas. My claim is that CM admired Plato in several ways, had read Plato, considers him a great thinker, approves of children meditating on Plato and connects him to some of her educational ideas and practices (like the cultivation of virtue). My claim is that she is a Plato-admirer, and that Plato is a clear reference for some of her ideas. I further claim that your paper fails to show that CM’s philosophy is “dramatic departure from the classical tradition of education” which is half of your thesis. CM’s admiration of Plato (citing him for support for her ideas) is just one (of many examples) that shows she admires thinkers and ideas that come from the classical tradition. This makes your assertion of a “dramatic departure” suspiciously overstated.

      I think you have locked yourself into a hermeneutic that is leading you into your own form of eisegesis so that you cannot see valid sources for some of CMs thinking that resides in the classical tradition and thus feel compelled to explain away all favorable references to it in CM. To me a fair reading of CM indicates that in some ways she admires the classical tradition and seeks support from it; in some important ways she departs from it. I think we can both agree with that statement–don’t you?

      It seems to me (and I hope to show later) that you have demonstrated this form of eisegesis above as you try to untangle yourself from the CM’s own testimony of respect for certain elements in Plato.

      My claim is not that CM “is a Platonist.” My claim is that CM appreciated certain ideas in Plato and rejected others.

      I think you have restricted your use of the word “source” to such narrow confines that you are going to have reject as “sources” what others can plainly see are “sources.” More on this later, because your entire paper and argument stands or fall on this issue.

      I note once again that despite our differences over specifics (that can get a bit pedantic for some readers I am sure) that we are happy agreement that classical educators can employ CM’s idea in a hybrid form that blesses children, parents and schools. This is what matters to me most–the rest is secondary, often semantic, though worth discussing. Thanks for your respectful tone and charitable spirit!

      Pax,
      Chris

      • > My claim is not that CM “is a Platonist.” My claim is that CM appreciated certain ideas in Plato and rejected others.

        If I may interject an observation on this point which ties to my previous post. I have to say that Mason did this process of active apprehension, taking and discarding, as needed as a matter of methodological principle, applying it to all educational thinkers and schools of thought she explored; as she once remarked, she would not have an educational “pope”; Mason derived this methodological principle from her religious conviction that Christ is the light of the world who illuminates all and every men.

        This conviction led her to seek and appreciate Truth wherever she found it and to discard whatever, and whenever, was not.
        And notice that because her criteria for truth is not formal, but personal, ie truth is a person, (remember that what a person is, is a spiritual mystery to us) and knowledge of that person is the ultimate goal for education, this gives her resulting philosophy and method a very peculiar character and place in the history of Christian education.

        • Ben,

          This is an accurate description of what many classical Christian educators did through the centuries, beginning with the church fathers. You place her method squarely within the method deployed by our thoughtful predecessors through the centuries. I can’t imagine that you think that classical educators did not filter, keep and discard in light of the wisdom and revelation in Christ? This began with Tertullian’s questions “What has Jerusalem have to do with Athens?” and has never stopped.

          I am not sure that you meant to do this, but you placed CM within the tradition by this observation, not without it. If this is one of your reasons for placing her outside the tradition, I cite it as a reason for placing her in it.

          Do you claim that the tradition of classical education did NOT entail this kind of filtering and discernment??

          Pax,
          Chris

          • > Do you claim that the tradition of classical education did NOT entail this kind of filtering and discernment??

            Pax,

            Dear Chris,
            Again, thanks for the opportunity to clarify my claim.

            Yes, no doubt Mason’s falls within the wide range of the tradition of Christian Education in the western world, (which as I asserted may be widely characterized as classic, just because it has been around for a long time and has many excellent features within it). As you well have observed these questions have been addressed and answered from the beginning in the history of Christianity as the faith grappled with the implications of the light of the Gospel in relation to heathen knowledge.

            But, the point in discussion is if Mason’s original contribution to the theory of education is an implementation of the classical ideal of education (in the sense of being rooted upon, taking its standard from and giving great emphasis to Greek and Latin authors and languages and educational ideals, as for example much of medieval education, and the grammar school did after that, up to modern times), so that her resulting philosophy may be properly characterized as an implementation of classical education in the restricted sense of the word.

            No doubt, Plato and Aristotle etc., speculated and contributed to our understanding of Truth, and yes, the Early Fathers ponder to what extent their contributions applied to the revelation of Christ, and interacted with them with more or less sympathy. And yes Mason’s work follows along the lines of Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria’s positive appropriation of heathen knowledge, but as far as the particulars of Mason’s distinctive contribution to the philosophy of education goes, as has been well argued by Art according to Mason’s own description of her philosophy and method, are her own and were not developed rooted upon, taking its standard from, or giving overall emphasis to the ideals of classical authors nor by emphasizing the works of the Greeks and the Latins as the necessary standards for style and knowledge.

            So, with Art, my answer to this question is no. And I have advanced various reasons why. For example at the conclusion of the previous post, I called attention upon Mason’s concept of Truth as fidelity and knowledge of the Person of Christ. This emphasis on personal knowledge and fidelity to Christ, (rather than formal or abstract concept of truth) although present to various degrees in other Christian educationalist, as far as I know, was not articulated as a foundation and ultimate goal and methodological key, intentionally followed at every stage to develop and confirm a method through observation and experimentation, as it was done by Mason. And this is why, I believe her realized philosophy is a unique contribution within the family of Christian educators.

            Paz y Bien,

            Ben

      • I am the least qualified of all to comment on this thread, as I am not experienced with either Charlotte Mason or classical education.

        But this morning in my quiet time God brought Psalm 19 to me, and put it on my heart to share.

        “The heavens are telling the glory of God;
        and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
        Day to day pours forth speech,
        and night to night declares knowledge.
        There is no speech, nor are there words;
        their voice is not heard;
        yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
        and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

        What I read Art saying in his blog is that CM wrote that her approach was developed through the working of the Holy Spirit in her (through the Gospels, and through her observation of God’s creation – the precious children that she taught, and the marvels of the physical world including the aspects that the science of her day was shedding light on), and that her approach is built on that same foundation of the Holy Spirit working in children, and what they observe.

        In other words, she *knew* God as a living Person, and He inspired her with an educational approach to help children *know* God in that way too.

        If that is the case, then it strikes me that the differences being talked about here are more than semantic.

        As an aside, this thread is the most remarkable example I’ve ever witnessed of deep debate grounded in love. It is an honour to read all of this exchange, and to make a small contribution to it.

        In Christ’s love,
        Paul.

        • Paul,

          Thank you for sharing your reflection from Psalm 19. Although (as you say) you are not experienced with Charlotte Mason, you bring out an important truth that she emphasized: ideas are suggested by the Holy Spirit. “He openeth man’s ear morning by morning, to hear so much of the best as the man is able to hear.”

          Mason did indeed claim that God in his providence had provided something new:

          “How timely, then, and how truly, as we say, providential, that, just at this juncture of difficult living, certain simple, definite clues to the art of living should have been put into our hands! Is it presumptuous to hope that new light has been vouchsafed to us in these days, in response to our more earnest endeavours, our more passionate cravings for ‘more light and fuller.’”

          The record of history is that it was not presumptuous after all.

          Respectfully,
          Art

      • Chris,

        By way of reminder, the purpose of my article is to evaluate Glass’s claim that “Charlotte Mason consciously place[d] her methods and philosophy within [the] classical tradition.” Glass claims that Mason herself knowingly (consciously) placed her theory of education inside (within) the classical tradition (the reception of classical Greco-Roman antiquity by later cultures, especially the post-classical West). Glass claims that Mason “gleaned the vital principles of the classical ideal and suggestions about how to realize that ideal in practice” from “the educational writings of the classical authors.”

        Glass claims that “the circle of the classical ideals—the pursuit of virtue, humility, and a synthetic approach to knowledge whereby affections become actions—is [the] bracelet” that Mason “found,” which is Mason’s “philosophy of Education” and her “principles not worked on before.” In Glass’s words, this makes Mason an “advocate for a return to the classical ideals.” In my article, I argue that this misrepresents the source, purpose, and ideas of Charlotte Mason’s method, and leads to a hybrid model of education that is not faithful to Charlotte Mason’s ideas.

        The question of whether or not Mason admired Plato is a red herring. Mason says that “one who returns boldly to the Platonic philosophy … returns empty-handed.” Yes, Mason referred to Plato as a “great mind.” However, she referred to Rousseau as a “great teacher” and “a preacher of righteousness.” That would seem to elevate Rousseau above Plato in Mason’s estimation. But these statements do not make either Plato or Rousseau the source of Mason’s distinctive “philosophy of education.” To determine the source of Mason’s “bracelet” we must pursue a different line of inquiry.

        Please note that I did not say that “most of her ideas or philosophy consists of the code of education in the gospels.” Rather, I said that Mason “based [her] theory of education on the teachings of Christ, the discoveries of science, and the behaviors of children.” I did not attempt to assign a relative portion to these three sources.

        In any event, it is not important whether or not *I* say that Mason discovered a code of education in the Gospels. It matters whether *she* said it. And she did say it. She wrote, “It may surprise parents … to discover … a code of education in the Gospels, expressly laid down by Christ” (volume 1, p. 12). It is not important whether or not *I* say that Mason derived her philosophy of education from personal observation and science. *She* says it in pages 9-17 of TPE (“Let me trace as far as I can recall them the steps by which I arrived at some of the conclusions upon which we are acting…”).

        Mason’s other statements are consistent with this testimony. She said her method was “revolutionary,” a “discovery of the twentieth century,” a “new light,” “a very gospel of education,” “only within the last decade or two … an open book,” and “one of the greatest things that has happened in the world.” I simply cannot reconcile these claims by Mason with Glass’s assertion that Mason was simply unearthing this philosophy of education from the classical tradition.

        I do claim that Mason’s philosophy of education is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition. How else to describe something “revolutionary”? I lay out many examples of departures from the classical tradition in section IV of my article. Mason herself writes, “there happens to be no other comprehensive theory in the field which is in line with modern thought.” Mason herself referred to it as “a distinctive philosophy of education.”

        You accuse me of eisegesis — interpreting texts in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions or biases. I will confess my bias: I prefer Mason’s own testimony over inference and speculation. When she says she made a “discovery of the twentieth century,” I believe her, despite the fact that she has as many as ten references to Plato in her complete set of writings. I will not abandon my bias to trust Mason’s own words, because by following these words, I have discovered the “source of … fuller life.”

        Respectfully,
        Art

        • Art,

          I am enjoying our interchange, and admire your tenacity, consistency and charity. This conversation has caused me to dig deeper into CM, which has been rewarding. Reading her again with your ideas in mind has enabled me to see more clearly some of the ways she departed from the classical tradition–and I have you to thank for that! You have helped to see, for example, a greater dependency on the nascent psychology of her time than I had recognized before.

          I also want to give you credit when you emphasize that CM’s philosophy of education was distinct and new. That is important to note and not lose in this conversation. It was distinct and new in several respects, but not in every respect. Her approach was not universally and completely distinct and new. Our question (I believe) is: What elements in CM are distinctly new and never before seen and what elements are continuations of a tradition that she inherited and admired? Answering this question clearly will remove quibbling about whether CM “is” or “is not” classical.

          In regards to the classical tradition of education, I continue to see both continuity and discontinuity in CM. I think she certainly compliments the classical model, sometimes extends it and seldom contradicts it–but more on that later perhaps. I think next week we could both agree on elements in CM that are “never before seen” and those that are “continuations of an inherited tradition.” That is where we can build a healthy, collaborative conversation in my opinion.

          CM clearly advocates for giving children a “liberal education.” I have yet to hear you give an account of that. “Liberal education” is a common phrase for indicating the education entailed in the classical tradition of education. Please address this for me at some point.

          At any rate, I understand well that your article is an assessment of Glass’s book. But this has led you into a discussion in which you have made several claims or arguments yourself, which I find problematic, and I think you must defend to maintain your criticism of Glass. Here they are below, summarized as arguments/claims that include what I regard as assumptions you make. I apologize in advance for some likely inaccuracies in summarizing your thoughts, but I am trying to summarize a good deal of your writing!

          Your 40 page response to a 120 page book makes many claims, but can be boiled down to at least these several:

          ARGUMENT ONE-A (general thesis)
          • Art is not familiar with the classical tradition of education.
          • Art does not offer his own definition of classical education, but represents Glass’ view by stating that “a common thread appears to be that a classical theory of education one that finds its roots in the ancient world of Greece and Rome.”
          • Art argues that CM’s philosophy is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition ( define only as “a theory of education that one finds in the ancient world of Greece and Rome).
          • Art asserts that CM is dramatic departure from a “classical education” referred to only as “a theory of education that one finds in the ancient world of Greece and Rome.”

          COMMENT: Since the classical education “theory” is not defined at all except to mention a geographical and chronological reference (Greece and Rome), “classical education” for Art means “some theory, the particular elements of which we do not know.” Though we don’t know what it is, we do know that CM dramatically departs from it.

          ARGUMENT ONE-B
          • Art is not familiar with the classical tradition of education and offers no definition of it but only attempt to summarize Glass’s view by stating that “a common thread appears to be that a classical theory of education one that finds its roots in the ancient world of Greece and Rome.”
          • Art asserts that Glass “creates a hybrid model that is faithful neither to the classical model nor to Charlotte Mason’s ideas.”
          • Though Art offers no specific content for what the classical model contains, he is confident that Glass has not offered a model faithful to it.

          ARGUMENT TWO (It must be directly stated)
          • For a CM’s philosophy to be rooted in the classical tradition, she must explicitly state that it is rooted or derived in the classical tradition.
          • She does not explicitly state this.
          • Therefore CM’s philosophy is not derived from the classical tradition.

          ARGUMENT THREE (It must be directly listed)
          • CM lists her sources for her philosophy of education.
          • That list does not include sources from the classical tradition.
          • Therefore CM’s philosophy does not contain sources from the classical tradition.

          ARGUMENT FOUR (Citations can’t be sources)
          • CM frequently cites classical writers and thinkers to support some of her educational ideas.
          • These citations are not sources for her philosophy because they are not recorded in her list of sources.
          • Therefore these citations and supporting quotations are not sources for her educational ideas.

          ARGUMENT FIVE (Discoveries must be unique)
          • When a thinker announces a discovery of an idea, principle or practice, it cannot have been discovered previously
          • CM announced that she discovered several educational ideas
          • Therefore these discoveries were made uniquely and for the first time, by CM, and by no one else

          ARGUMENT SIX (The revolutionary should judge revolution)
          • When a thinker says his ideas are revolutionary, it is for the thinker himself to be the final judge of their revolutionary nature
          • CM declared some of her ideas to be revolutionary
          • Therefore her ideas are revolutionary and the appropriate judge of their revolutionary nature

          ARGUMENT SEVEN (Revolution is universal)
          • To declare an idea revolutionary, it must be revolutionary in respect to all of history and all previous ideas, with no derived insight from previous thinkers
          • CM claimed some of her ideas were revolutionary
          • Therefore her ideas are unique, revolutionary ideas with no derived insight from previous thinkers

          ARGUMENT EIGHT (Distinct means disconnected)
          • To declare an idea distinct or new, means that it can little or no derived insight from previous ideas
          • CM claimed her educational philosophy was distinct and new
          • Therefore her educational philosophy has little or no derived insight from previous educational ideas

          Arguments 2-8 constitute your “Mason Hermeneutic” in my opinion, and in each case involves a non sequitur. Two barriers, therefore, hinder your ability to see the threads of 1500 years of classical Christian education woven through the fabric of Mason’s writings: 1) Your ignorance of the classical model: the threads are there but you do not recognize them 2) Your restrictive hermeneutic that won’t allow a thread to be a thread, or a source to be a source.

          CM does not claim that all elements of her model were universally new and distinct, that all elements were never before witnessed, described, imagined or written about–that her approach was revolutionary in all its aspects over all time, history and peoples, with all elements in her approach never before seen to any degree, in any school past or present, ever.

          She can make a statement like “there happens to be no other comprehensive theory in the field which is in line with modern thought,” and call her approach a “distinctive philosophy of education” without making universal claims to novelty and absolute distinction.

          More on your “sourcing” challenge in a later post–I hope!

          Pax,
          Chris

          • Dear Chris,

            I think it would be helpful at this point to pause briefly and clarify what exactly we are debating. I feel that your latest comment suffers from the “moving the goalposts” fallacy. (I also detect a measure of the ad hominem fallacy, but I will set that aside for now.) I have been very upfront about my stance on the questions at hand, but I don’t believe you have been equally transparent. Could you please share with me your opinion on the following questions:

            Question #1. What is *your* assessment of Glass’s claims about Charlotte Mason’s relationship to the classical tradition, as defined by *Glass*? By way of reminder, Glass’s definition of the classical tradition is as follows:

            [beginning of extended quotation]

            “’What is the classical tradition?’

            “The very word ‘classical’ hearkens back to the ancient world of Plato—of Greece and later Rome. We speak of ‘classical art,’ ‘classical architecture,’ and even ‘classical languages’ because they have their origins in the historical period we call classical. The classical tradition of education has its roots in Greece and Rome as well.

            “… If we read the works of educators who lived long ago, as well as those who followed later and purposefully tried to learn from them, a picture will emerge. We can discover both the principles that guided their educational endeavors and the various practices that they employed in their pursuit of knowledge….

            “It is not possible to fully understand classical education by looking only at *what* they did in the past—perhaps the seven liberal arts, or maybe only the trivium. We must dig a little deeper and discover *why* they did what they were doing…. We know that educating our children with exactly the same texts (and only those texts) used in the 1800s, or the 1600s, or in 200 BC is not what we want to do.

            “… because [Mason] she is closer to us and our times than those ancient educators, she is able to help us bridge the gap between the ancient and the modern world.”

            [end of extended quotation]

            By way of reminder, Glass’s assertions include:

            – “Charlotte Mason consciously place[d] her methods and philosophy within [the] classical tradition.”
            – Mason “gleaned the vital principles of the classical ideal and suggestions about how to realize that ideal in practice” from “the educational writings of the classical authors.”
            – Mason’s “philosophy of Education” — [the] “bracelet” that Mason “found” and her “principles not worked on before”— is “the circle of the classical ideals.”
            – Mason is “an early advocate for a return to the classical ideals.”
            – “The principles and methods Charlotte Mason advocated … were not of her own invention. She herself said that she and her colleagues had ‘discovered’ them, because they represent universal truths about education that have their roots in the classical world.”
            – “Charlotte Mason brought a Christian perspective to her philosophy of education,” her “particular implementation” of a “classical education.”

            I would like to know how *you* evaluate these claims by Glass.

            Question #2.

            2. Do you feel that Glass’s book “Consider This” misrepresents or misinterprets any of Mason’s principles?

            I respectfully request that you provide your own answer to questions #1 and #2. I think that would help us to avoid further movements of the goalposts as we continue this dialog and I respond to your latest comment.

            Respectfully,
            Art

      • Chris,

        Thank you! You continue to say so much of what I have been thinking, but you express it so well.

        Adrienne

  12. After thinking more over the past few days, I think there is one more point I’d like to address. Several people posting have criticized Art for not knowing much about the Classical Tradition. I do think, if he has time, he may and probably should read some of the books that have been suggested, but I disagree that he’s unfit for engaging in this conversation because he doesn’t know all there is to know about the Classical tradition ( as some may have implied).

    If I may, I’ll use another example to make my point. I am an evangelical Christian. I have studied the scriptures my entire life. I know them well. I do not know about other religions very well, but I believe they are misguided because I believe God’s word to be the truth. If someone wrote a book about how Buddhism and Christianity were basically the same thing, I might need to study it a bit, but I think I could legitimately address their claims about what scripture says using Scripture alone as my guide. If someone claimed in their book that the Bible says there were multiple ways to Heaven, I wouldn’t need to delve into Buddhist thought to show them where the Scriptures point out that Jesus says he is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

    I don’t think Mason’s works are inerrant like scripture. I also don’t think that the Classical tradition is necessarily misguided, even though I used that term for the Buddhist. But I do think it’s ok for Art to address the claims of another author about Mason, using Mason’s works alone without knowing the Classical Tradition exhaustively. In his article, he’s not criticizing the Classical Tradition. He’s also not saying Classical educators are wrong. He’s not trying to be mean to Karen Glass or pick a fight. I don’t think he’s even saying that there can’t be a lot of similarities between the two. I do believe He’s just trying to point out where he feels Glass misunderstood or misrepresented Mason, using Mason’s own works. So I do think we need to be fair to Art about what he’s trying to do here and give some grace and a listening ear. I hope my example fits this scenario. I am not a master of Logic, but it seemed to be a similar example to me.

    • Dear Heidi,

      Thank you for this comment. There are many things you say here that I emphatically affirm. In my article, I am not criticizing the classical tradition or classical educators. I am attempting to show the utmost respect towards Mrs. Glass. I am just a homeschool dad trying to evaluate, in light of the evidence, the claims made by a book published to the public space. Thank you for encouraging readers to extend a listening ear.

      Respectfully,
      Art

  13. I have been homeschooling my kids using Mason’s methods for about 8 years now. Imagine a Venn diagram between CM and Classical. I think this is a perfect picture for what’s going on with a lot of the comments being posted here. I think many people see the things in the middle of the Venn Diagram and they want to fight/express that CM and Classical are so much like, when in reality they are two separate things which crossover in some areas. I don’t believe your article is even saying that these crossovers don’t exist. That’s not your point. Your point is to directly address the things in Karen’s book you felt she misrepresented Mason on.

    As Christian homeschoolers it is right and healthy for us to find the things in the middle of the Venn and rally around them, encourage each other in them, etc. Art, I know you have done this excellently, by sharing about Poetry on Brandy Vencel’s podcast!! http://www.scholesisters.com/ss6/

    BUT at the same time it is still right for us to identify the whole of Mason’s philosophy and all her distinctives that make it truly a Mason/Christian Education. With a Venn Diagram there might still be a very large circle area with principles that aren’t in the middle of the two circles crossing over. It’s ok and often times right to have distinctives.
    I agree totally with you about the Hybrid idea. When certain folks select the things they like in the middle of the Venn Diagram, you have a new hybrid form of education, which of course is each person’s individual choice and doesn’t make them wrong. But again, I think to call the hybrid form of education from the middle of the Venn a distinctive Charlotte Mason education is disingenuous to her as an author and educationalist.

    • Dear Heidi,

      Thank you for this insightful and helpful comment. Generally speaking, I am in favor of looking for points of intersection between various traditions, schools of thought, and theories.

      For example, I have written and presented on the remarkable similarity of thought between Russian Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983) and Charlotte Mason, particularly in the area of a sacramental view of nature and life. I found it beneficial to explore this similarity of thought to enhance my understanding of Mason’s ideas. But in no way did this lead me to claim that Mason should be situated within the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Nor did I speculate that she had read the same Orthodox theologians who would later influence Schmemann.

      By contrast, Glass writes that “Charlotte Mason consciously places her methods and philosophy within [the] classical tradition” (p. 82). Glass claims that Mason “gleaned the vital principles of the classical ideal” *from* “the educational writings of the classical authors” (p. 122). That is much different from finding points of intersection. The problem with situating Mason within the classical tradition is that it leads her readers to approach her texts with an interpretative paradigm. If that paradigm is very strong, it can lead to eisegesis. The other problem is that it can lead to a truncation of Mason’s ideas in order to fit them into the classical tradition.

      I was grateful for the opportunity to participate in a Podcast with Mrs. Vencel. I am encouraged when the homeschool community gathers around common points of intersection. I think this can be done effectively while at the same time regarding Charlotte Mason’s theory of education as distinct from the classical tradition and also allowing Charlotte Mason to speak to us on her own terms.

      Respectfully,
      Art

    • Heidi,

      I too, have been thinking about Venn diagrams as a helpful aid to this conversation. I have asked Ben B. (and I will ask Art too) if they would collaborate with me to create a list of CM and Classical Ed elements. I think if we put those lists side by side, we would find a great deal that coincide (regardless of theories about source and implementation). In fact, I think there would be enough that coincides to relieve a good deal of tension that might exist for some in this discussion.

      In my view, I think we will find that in some important respects CM retained elements of the classical tradition of education and in some important respects she diverged from it.

      Pax,
      Christopher P.

      • Christopher,
        That would be a super helpful project! What a great idea. Although I do have one quick question. In your parenthesis you said “regardless of theories about source and implementation”. Could you tell me what you mean by implementation exactly, cause I am just not sure what you mean! Thanks!
        Heidi

  14. As I look through the PNEU articles and newspaper articles on the Reedemer page I don’t get the sense that Miss Mason would of considered herself a classical educator whatso ever. They of the PNEU truly believed their method was new. One Article written by a reporter said that Investigating her method was a chance on “seeing something new.” He had been in education for 50 years at that point. I also found another article that is titled “Thoughts on Classical education” by J.S. Mills and “The place of Greek in modern education” by Oscar Browning that talk of a classical education in its own respect as a separate method (not related to Mason’s philosophy, my opinion) in J.S.Mills PNEU article he says,” We are scarcely conscious, I believe, how far classical literature is incommensurate with the spiritual and intellectual needs of our day.”
    I, like Art, am just a homeschool parent who knows that Miss Mason’s Method was new and held up on her love of the Gospels and education for all. Reading through the PNEU articles clearly shows she would not have considered herself to be a classical educator or adding to a classical pedagogy.

    • Dear Lisa,

      Thank you for sharing these observations. I do think it is very helpful to note what people said about the PNEU and Charlotte Mason during her lifetime. This gives us the much-needed context to help us better interpret her writings.

      Respectfully,
      Art

  15. I have had the great pleasure of meeting several of you at the 2013 CMI conference in NC. I bantered with Art in the coffee line several times and was deeply touched by his talk at that event. I have enjoyed listening to Art’s recent podcasts and have read with great interest everything I have found that he has written. His post here contains many valid points and much truth, yet there is sense I cannot shake of missing the forest for the trees and missing the spirit of Glass’s book. Having pondered his points for days prior to commenting I still believe that this post misrepresents Consider This in the very manner that Mr Middlekauf states that Glass has misrepresented our dear Charlotte Mason’s principles. I do not believe that misrepresentation occurred in the delivery, but may have been interpreted as such on receipt due to the angle from which it was being viewed. Honestly, the only real difference I can see – and which I do respect – is the posture from which Principle 2 is approached by both Karen Glass and Art Middlekauf.

    I have read Consider This twice as well as all of Charlotte Mason’s own volumes at least 3 times each (with the exceptions of only reading Vol 4 and 5 once each) as well as several books on the classical tradition. I say this only to show that I am coming from this as an informed – though not entirely learned! – reader. I am having a difficult time seeing how Karen Glass’s book can be interpreted as such a gross deviation from Charlotte Mason’s intentions. I can only assume it is coming from reading it through a very different lens from that in which it was written or intended. To imply that Karen Glass, a devout Christian serving in that capacity overseas, believes anything less than that Christ is interwoven throughout every element in Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education is outrageous, in all honesty. Having come to know and love Karen as a friend over the past few years I am blown away by the insinuation that she has undermined Charlotte Mason’s intentions in any way. Yes, Karen Glass has mentioned virtue as a main goal of a Charlotte Mason education – has not Charlotte Mason herself told us as much in the very title of her 5th Volume – ie Formation of Character? She has been criticized for relegating the role faith plays in a Charlotte Mason education to the appendix when in actuality it is woven throughout. Charlotte Mason herself, as many of you have already written, promoted a liberal education for all. In organizing her work in such a manner has Karen Glass not made access to Charlotte Mason’s philosophies who do not hold a Christian worldview possible? She has not neglected to address that she believes knowledge of and relationship with God is of utmost importance and that a true Charlotte Mason cannot be had without acknowledging this. Has not curriculum for Charlotte Mason charter schools been adapted so as not to reflect such a strong Christian foundation? These are honest questions I am considering as this debate continues to sweep deeper.

    I believe that Dr Smith has touched on something that may explain why some of this division is taking place: he mentions the Trivium and Quadrivium as being key components of a classical education, but that emphasis is found in neoclassical circles and not in the larger tradition that Karen Glass uses in her book. He goes on to say that Dr Thorley is a classicist but would not consider himself a classical educator. Karen Glass would not consider Charlotte Mason to be a classical educator in that sense either. I fail to see how this is disingenuous in any way.

    Charlotte Mason was revolutionary. I believe Karen Glass agrees on that point, too, in the implementation of her total philosophy. It is what drew so many of us to CM in the first place! Yet “there is nothing new under the sun.” And that points back to the existence of God and the way He uses his Spirit. I, too, cringe when I see things that are implemented in a so-called “Charlotte Mason” education and I know that none of us are interested in promoting a “Charlotte Mason-Lite” version of this incredible philosophy that has meant so much to us all. Fortunately, I do not believe Glass’s work deviates into that territory of a hybrid education that has been proposed thus far. Interpretations of all things are certainly influenced by the eyes of the beholder. I do not believe Glass and Middlekauf are talking on the same plane at all.

    I’d really love to return for continued conversation about this, but I will admit that I may be unable to do so. I have had a pit in my stomach all week reflecting on this and I’ve been saddened by what appears to be unnecessary divisiveness within the Charlotte Mason community. Initially I desired to just stay out of it, but I find I can’t stop thinking about this. I hope that by saying something publicly I can let it go, as I don’t believe that this has proceeded as a valuable means of determining truth. Many have approached this with much respect – Art’s article itself is written from a thoughtful and overall respectful stance – but it does feel like any defense of Karen Glass’s position – received so highly in much of the Charlotte Mason community – is quickly pulled apart. The relatively few comments here supporting Consider This have much to do with this rather than the notion that truth is being unveiled in this debate, I fear.

    • Dawn,

      Thank you for speaking the truth and saying so much of what I wanted to say. I have only said 10% of what needs said and you hit the nail on the head. There are so many issues to rebuttle and fallacies in this post that my head is spinning. I think it would take me 6 months to write the rebuttle that needs written on this. I have yet to hear Art say he is willing to read the books that Mr. Perrin and I both recommended. It is clear that he has very little understanding on the Traditional Classical education from which Karen is speaking. I hope that Art will be willing to spend 2 years diving into really reading, understanding, and even attend a Circe Institute conference before he continues to voice an opinion from which he has shown very little understanding of the other side of the coin.

      Thank you for your post.
      Adrienne

      • Adrienne,

        I admire the passion you have for education and for ideas which is evident in all of your comments. I hope that some day we cross paths and can have a robust conversation over a cup of coffee. Well, maybe two cups, and certainly not decaf!

        Respectfully,
        Art

    • Dear Dawn,

      It is evident that my article has caused you pain and for that I am sorry. It seems that you feel that my article makes statements about Mrs. Glass a person. But my article is a response to a book, not a person. My article says nothing about Mrs. Glass’s beliefs, character, ministry, or faith. Mrs. Glass published a book to the public space and initiated a conversation. I provided my response in the same public space.

      You said that my post misrepresents “Consider This.” If I have done so, I would like to correct my article. All I can ask is that you show me my specific errors and provide supporting evidence. It is not clear to me why the only difference in interpretation that you see between my article and Glass’s book is regarding principle 2, and not principles 1, 3, 9, 12, 15, 18, or 20. You seem to suggest that I should assume that Mrs. Glass has certain unstated beliefs about Charlotte Mason. But again, my article is a response to a book, not a person’s beliefs.

      I am not clear about your comments regarding Dr. Smith’s reference to the Trivium and Quadrivium. Glass in fact devotes several pages to a discussion of the Trivium and Quadrivium. In these pages, she assumes, like Dr. Smith, that they are essential components of a classical education. See pages 83-88 of “Consider This.”

      It is also not clear to me why my article and the accompanying discussion appear to you as unnecessarily divisive. As long as individuals like Mrs. Glass advance new claims about Charlotte Mason to the public arena, there can and will be discussion. I see no other way to heed Mason’s recognition that “the chief responsibility which rests on [us] as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas.”

      Regarding the comments, I think the exchange has been courteous and thought-provoking. I don’t think anyone is being unfairly treated.

      Respectfully,
      Art

      • Thank you for calling attention to my unclear comment regarding the Trivium and Quadrivium, Art. In my earnest desire to respond with concerns I failed to articulate my point effectively. Current talk about the Trivium and Quadrivium tends to be accompanied by the ages and stages approach to these things. In fact, Dr Smith made no reference to this and therefore the point I was trying to make was not appropriate in the manner intended.

        Thank you also for the invitation to provide specific examples. I may take you up on that in a less busy time of life when I can put such clearly focused thought into the matter as you have done. However, the issue would remain that a very different lens has been used in both presentations – this blog post and the book Consider This – which would be a persistent barrier.

        The image of the bracelet you discussed in your 2013 CMI talk keeps coming to my mind, Art, and I cannot shake it. The bracelet that could not be claimed as someone’s own creation because it was found and then willingly shared. I can’t help but think that has some relevance to this debate, but I again am unable to clearly articulate my thoughts on this without allowing the idea to ruminate longer.

        • Dear Dawn,

          Thank you for your gracious reply. That image of the bracelet came from Charlotte Mason herself. She wrote:

          “If you picked up a bracelet lying by the way it would be no credit to you. It is precisely the case with us. These principles are picked up, found, a find which is no one’s property; they belong to all who have wit enough to take them.”

          In Glass’s book, she quotes this passage and explicitly equates the bracelet with the classical tradition itself. That is something that I just cannot pass by without comment. I understand that my article was uncomfortable for you, but I ask that you understand my sense of responsibility to challenge what I believe to be a false claim.

          Respectfully,
          Art

  16. Art,

    Thanks for your continue interaction and comments.

    Since you argue that CM’s educational philosophy is “dramatic departure from classical education,” would you mind offering a definition of what you mean by “classical education?” I think we are all interested in how you define and understand classical education (not just what you take as Glass’s understanding of it).

    As precisely as you can put it, what is the “classical education” from which CM radically departs?

    Thank you in advance for your answer–and for the late hours you are keeping.

    • Christopher,

      I am happy to answer your question, but would you be willing to answer a question for me first? Could you please name 3-5 western educationalists who died before 1925 who you would say are not classical?

      Thanks,
      Art

      • Okay, you drive a hard bargain:

        –French: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
        –Swiss: Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827)
        –American: Stanley Hall, founder of the American Psychological Association, (1846-1924)

        Of course I must concede some qualifications because each of these theorists retain elements from the classical tradition–mainly because of them was classically educated and could not cast everything off.

        • Dear Christopher,

          Thank you for responding to my question. As promised, I will respond to yours. But first, I would like to comment briefly on the three names you supplied.

          1. Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Charlotte Mason opens her book “Parents and Children” with a chapter entitled “The Family.” This chapter opens with a warm account of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. She said that “Rousseau had the insight to perceive one of those patent truths which, somehow, it takes a genius discover; and, because truth is indeed prized above rubies, the perception of that truth gave him rank as a great teacher.” She wrote that Rousseau was “a preacher of righteousness in this, that he turned the hearts of the fathers to the children, and so far made ready a people prepared for the Lord.” In this remarkable sentence, she connects Rousseau to the prophetic closing verse of the Old Testament and the opening chapter of the Gospel of Luke. When I spoke on Charlotte Mason’s call to parents in 2014, I included a slide which featured a picture of Rousseau.

          2. Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. In Mason’s book “School Education,” Mason speaks with approval regarding Pestalozzi’s emphasis on “the enthusiasm of childhood, joyous teaching, loving and lovable teachers and happy school hours for the little people.”

          3. Stanley Hall. In “Parents and Children,” Mason explicitly and extensively draws upon Stanley Hall’s psychological analysis of lying. Furthermore, in “Home Education,” Mason quotes Hall’s authoritative critique of the concept of Kindergarten. It is not surprising to see these references to psychologists such as Stanley Hall, given that she credits science as one of the three primary sources of her theory of education, alongside the Holy Gospels, and her personal observation of children.

          I think it is instructive to note the affinity that we find between Mason and these non-classical thinkers.

          Now on to your question. In my article I wrote, “Mason introduced a distinctly new philosophy of education that is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition.” My article assumed the definition of “classical tradition” supplied by Glass in her book. She articulated her definition as follows:

          [beginning of extended quotation]

          “’What is the classical tradition?’

          “The very word ‘classical’ hearkens back to the ancient world of Plato—of Greece and later Rome. We speak of ‘classical art,’ ‘classical architecture,’ and even ‘classical languages’ because they have their origins in the historical period we call classical. The classical tradition of education has its roots in Greece and Rome as well.

          “… If we read the works of educators who lived long ago, as well as those who followed later and purposefully tried to learn from them, a picture will emerge. We can discover both the principles that guided their educational endeavors and the various practices that they employed in their pursuit of knowledge….

          “It is not possible to fully understand classical education by looking only at *what* they did in the past—perhaps the seven liberal arts, or maybe only the trivium. We must dig a little deeper and discover *why* they did what they were doing…. We know that educating our children with exactly the same texts (and only those texts) used in the 1800s, or the 1600s, or in 200 BC is not what we want to do.

          “… because [Mason] she is closer to us and our times than those ancient educators, she is able to help us bridge the gap between the ancient and the modern world.”

          [end of extended quotation]

          Glass’s definition seems to be in alignment with other common definitions. For example, the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary defines “classical” as: “a : of or relating to the ancient Greek and Roman world, especially to its literature, art, architecture, or ideals; b : having order, balance, restraint or other qualities felt to derive from or suggest those characteristic of the literature, art, architecture, or ideals of ancient Greece and Rome.”

          A second example is from “The Classical Tradition” by Grafton, Most, and Settis. They define the Western “classical tradition” as the reception of classical Greco-Roman antiquity by later cultures, especially the post-classical West, involving texts, imagery, objects, ideas, institutions, monuments, architecture, cultural artifacts, rituals, practices, and sayings.

          Respectfully,
          Art

          • Thank you Art.

            I concede that that CM was influenced by these “non-classical”l thinkers in certain ways. All three of these theorists said a lot about education, and their own classical educations were still very much with them. Each of them, did however, in important ways depart from the received classical and Christian tradition of education. If you had allowed me to cite non-classical theorists who had died by 1965, I could have cited 55 names. Hall, for example is merely one of the first of an army educational psychologists successfully transformed American education in to what is today. Yet even in the worst of these secular educationalists, there are elements of truth, even as there are important elements of truth held by heretics. Indeed, someone has said that heresy is a truth held out of balance. So I for one, believe I can learn important things from those outside my tradition. As Augustine, said in his little book “On Education,” we can take the educational gold from the Egyptians (by which he meant the Greeks). So I am ready to learn from Rousseau…

            Each of these thinkers retain elements worthy of emulating, and each of them did indeed have some novel insights. Rousseau argued that students should spend much more time outside in nature, experiencing and loving it. I think that is wise and while not in contradiction to the classical tradition of education (certainly it is aligned with the monastic tradition in some ways). Still his application was novel and insightful too. The classical tradition is large river with many tributaries and has learned even from its critics over the centuries.

            But Rousseau also suggested some innovations that CM would not endorse and that has influenced generations of progressive educators. Consider the following from this book “Emile:”

            “As to my pupil [Emile], permit me to prevent him studying any of [these things] till you have convinced me that it good is for him to learn things three-fourths of which are unintelligible to him … When I get rid of children’s lessons, I get rid of the chief cause of their sorrows, namely their books. Reading is the curse of childhood, yet it is almost the only occupation you can find for children. Emile at twelve years old, will hardly know what a book is … When reading is of use to him, I admit he must learn to read, but till then he will only find it a nuisance …”

            Both Pestalozzi and Hall are similar to Rousseau in this respect–they had a lot to say about education and they said some insightful things, and some, well, not so helpful.

            To take Hall for a moment: He was one of that generation of the first psychologists. This was a heady time, when these first social scientists thought we could apply the scientific method to the mind and discover its laws–laws of teaching, learning and mental development. After 100 years, we are much more modest about what we claim psychology can reveal and achieve when it comes to education, but we all know that modern, progressive education is rooted in the belief that education is a science that largely requires the right application of method, making the bulk of modern educational training a training in pedagogical techniques. Still psychology does give us genuine insights worth noting. Dorothy Sayers, for example, applies the insights of developmental psychology in her 1947 speech to Oxford educators, “The Lost Tools of Learning.” In that speech, she suggests that grammar, logic and rhetoric can become not just disciplines of study, but stages of learning. This shows what I have mentioned in a previous post, that the classical tradition has not been static, but is systems of waterways, a combination of theme and variation.

            To be sure Stanely Hall said some insightful things, that we would both appreciate as Christians and as educators, but also some things that would give us pause. For example, he said:

            “The guardians of the young should strive first of all to keep out of nature’s way, and to prevent harm, and should merit the proud title of defenders of the happiness and rights of children. They should feel profoundly that childhood, as it comes fresh from the hand of God, is not corrupt, but illustrates the survival of the most consummate thing in the world; they should be convinced that there is nothing else so worthy of love, reverence, and service as the body and soul of a growing child….We must overcome the fetichism of the alphabet, of the multiplication table, of grammars, of scales and of bibliolatry.”

            There are things to like and not like in that statement….or at least we can see how our contemporary, progressive educators would interpret it.

            All three of these figures have been “fathers” to the modern, progressive education that we see all around us. While Rousseau may have inspired CM at points, he also inspired a great deal of the modern education that I think you and I would both decry. His book Emile is cited frequently by those who advocate the “free school” model in which children essentially decide to study what they wish, when they wish. His advocacy of natural religion has been attractive to those wishing to create a method free from the norms of the Christian faith. Similar things could be said about the influence of Pestalozzi and Hall, but I will stop….

            I can agree that CM was influenced by some of thinking of these three, even like Sayers was influenced by the early psychologists. I also maintain that CM was no more able to cast off significant elements of the classical tradition that remain in Rousseau, Pestalozzi or Hall–and nor did she want to. She was an advocate of the liberal arts and the great books, of giving all the children a wide liberal education.

            Thanks for attempting a definition of classical education, it really is helpful and I think may help us find some common ground and serve the conversation. Ultimately, how we create the taxonomy of educational theories, and just where we place CM within it is not a very important question to me, though I grant it a legitimate question. It is more important to me that we clarify what we think and serve joyfully together, noting and appreciating how much we have in common, particularly in light of the common enemy that threatens to swallow us all.

            I think there might be a way to find more common ground by virtue of CM’s reference to “liberal education.” Clearly she wants that for every child.

            In what ways do you regard CM’s reference to the “liberal education” she wanted to bring to all children similar or dissimilar to your definition of “classical education?”

            Pax,
            Chris

          • Chris,

            Thank you for your thoughtful reply. In some respects, your question is the very subject of my entire article. Mason’s theory of education speaks to the “who” (the child, the teacher, the Holy Spirit), the “how” (the methods), the “what” (the curriculum), and the “why” (the knowledge of God). Is there a particular element of this that you are asking about?

            Respectfully,
            Art

          • Dr. Perrin,

            I think that at the heart of this issue lies the idea of Dualism. From the time of Plato until today, there is a cultural assumption that matter and spirit (if spirit, indeed, exists) are separate. Both the Idealists like Plato, Socrates, Augustine, Descartes, and Kant to the materialists/realists like Aristotle to the Empiricists to modern Progressivists leave out half of that for which we, as human beings, were wired. We are both Spirit and Matter–fully embodied, spiritual creatures. That may sound trite, but I think it is important, because that is what it means to be a person. Mason highly valued ideas, and this does indeed lead to overlap with Classical education. But she also valued matter, which the Idealistic classicists dismissed as unimportant, and which causes her to also overlap with Realists. At the same time, even though she obviously found some value in the writings of Rousseau, she would have found the idea that children are born inherently good and that, if left alone, they would remain that way, absurd. She was not either classical or progressive; she was both and so much more.

            In your comment below, you suggest that perhaps instead of saying Mason either is or is not classical, we should be looking for common ground. While that may make some people feel more at ease, essentially it is the Socratic method, which I assume you embrace as a classical educator, but to which Mason did not subscribe. Her goal was not to discover absolute truth by debating until there were no contradictions (or truth by consensus, if you would allow me to compare it to Dewey’s ideas of Democratic education). As has been reiterated many times in this thread, her foundation and her source of absolute Truth was scripture alone.

            My thought through this very engaging and thought-provoking conversation has been that Mason read widely and weighed ideas according to her Source of Absolute Truth, the research of her day, and her own observations of children, and she thoughtfully accepted and rejected ideas. She accepted some ideas from classical education, and she rejected others. She accepted some of the ideas of Rousseau, Locke, Pestalozzi, Froebel, and Montessori, and she rejected others. At this time, it is not clear to me whether the classical movement has “claimed” Mason as one of their own or if Mason educators labeled her classical in order to legitimize her by tying her to a more popular movement. But either way, I do not believe it is fair to her or that it represents her accurately.

            However, through this dialogue I think that many people, including myself, are feeling the challenge to open themselves to read things they may otherwise have not. For example, I just ordered my copy of Poetic Knowledge so that I can try to understand this issue better. I did spend some time on the Circe Institute page for the same reason, because you and others bring a fair point when you say that, in order to foster robust and genuine conversation, we all must be working from the same definition of “classical.” I think we (those who do not think Mason is classical) do understand that today’s definition is not the same as that put forth by Sayers and Wilson. We understand that by Trivium and Quadrivium you are talking about the seven liberal arts and not developmental levels. But even as I look at the Circe Institute’s attempt to define classical education, I am left confused. First, they say that classical educators have a high view of humanity. What does that mean? That they believe the best in people? That children are born good? That humanity has lots of potential which we may or may not be living up to? I would love some clarification on that. It seems that this would be directly connected to Mason’s second principle. The second part of the definition is the belief that humans have a “divine spark,” or that we are Image-Bearers. No argument there, although it does seem that a Judeo-Christian worldview and the classical worldview may have been interposed here, creating somewhat of a hybrid between the two. The third part of the definition is about the cultivation of wisdom and virtue while also equipping the child for vocational training, although they cede that that is not traditionally a part of classical education. Depending upon one’s definition of “virtue,” I can see how this can be seen as an overlap with Mason. But, again, “classical” seems to have been hybridized. One could just as easily say that classical overlaps with utilitarian theorists like Frederick Taylor or with the Progressivists of the 1920s here. The next paragraph talks about logocentrism, which they define as the search for a unifying principle for all knowledge and action. This is related (according to Glass) to Mason’s Science of Relations, but, as Art pointed out, we are working from different definitions of that, as well. As an aside, this definition of logos does not match that with which I am familiar. I thought it was more about rhetoric. But we certainly agree on the next part–that the mainstream system is more concerned with the utilitarian than with concepts and ideas. The next part confuses me, though: “Classical education is the only practical approach because it is not pragmatic.” Are practical and pragmatic not virtually synonyms? I looked it up just to be sure, and “practical” was used in the definition of “pragmatic,” along with “down to earth.” Are we back to Idealism again, with the material world taking a back seat? If so, classical has diverged from Mason again. The definition goes on to talk about preserving and passing on the Western tradition. Here is a place where we converge again. Next is an emphasis on the Trivium and Quadrivium. While Mason certainly did cover these subjects in her curriculum, I would not say that they were the “emphasis.” She covered other, more manual or practical skills as well, and she said that they were just as important as the intellectual.

            Please don’t think that I’m nit-picking here. I am just trying to gain a better understanding. I know that many proponents of classical education have commented here that classical education has evolved–that is why it is so difficult to settle on a definition. To me, this evolution seems to point to a hybridization of classical with–something. It is “other.” I’m not quite sure what to make of it, but I will keep reading and thinking about it.

            Jen

          • Dear Jen (and Chris),

            This discussion is fascinating and I am happy to see it flourish in this forum. However, I would like to note that the discussion has taken a shift (an albeit useful and enlightening shift) from the core of my article. I am happy to continue with this shift, but I would like to first summarize where we’ve come in our discussion.

            In Glass’s book, she wrote, “Charlotte Mason consciously places her methods and philosophy within this classical tradition” (p. 82). Glass’s claim is that Mason herself knowingly (consciously) placed her theory of education inside (within) the classical tradition (the reception of classical Greco-Roman antiquity by later cultures, especially the post-classical West). Since Glass’s claim is about a conscious act by a historical figure, we must evaluate it in a historical context.

            In other words, however interesting and valuable James Taylor’s “Poetic Knowledge” and the CiRCE Institute may be, since both came after Mason’s death, they have little if any bearing on whether Mason herself “consciously place[d] her methods and philosophy within this classical tradition.” The same applies to related claims by Glass:

            – “The principles and methods Charlotte Mason advocated, however, were not of her own invention. She herself said that she and her colleagues had ‘discovered’ them, because they represent universal truths about education that have their roots in the classical world” (p. 10).

            – “[Mason] read and understood the educational writings of the classical authors. From them, she gleaned the vital principles of the classical ideal and suggestions about how to realize that ideal in practice.” (p. 122)

            Mason could not have sourced her principles and methods from something that was articulated after her death. Throughout Glass’s book, she presents a picture of Mason as a thinker who unearthed ideas from the classical past and urged her followers to apply them in their contemporary context. Glass equates the kernel of Mason’s theory (the “bracelet” that she found) to the classical tradition:

            “The circle of the classical ideals—the pursuit of virtue, humility, and a synthetic approach to knowledge whereby affections become actions—is a bracelet that still lies by the wayside and may be claimed by any willing teacher.” (p. 123)

            A key purpose of my article is to demonstrate that this narrative is not accurate. My article contains a wealth of evidence that has been expanded by the accompanying discussion in these comments. In light of the evidence in my article and the accompanying discussion, Chris has proposed a new path forward: “instead of leaving ourselves only two choices (CM is or is not classical) we could leave ourselves with a third option: In some ways CM’s philosophy of education retains classical elements and in some ways she departs from it.” That new path forward effectively grants the error of Glass’s thesis. Glass did not allow for this third option. She claimed that Mason *is* classical:

            – “Charlotte Mason fits into the classical tradition.” (p. 49)
            – “Charlotte Mason has a place in the classical tradition of education” (p. 2)
            – “Charlotte Mason’s … philosophy is linked to the past, in a classical understanding of the world.” (p. 33)
            – “We might consider Charlotte Mason an early advocate for a return to the classical ideals” (p. 90)

            In light of what has been discussed so far, this statement from the appendix to Glass’s book is startling:

            “Charlotte Mason brought a Christian perspective to her philosophy of education. Those for whom all philosophies will be held up to the Bible for inspection, to determine their rightness and validity, might be interested to know to what degree this concept of classical education, and Charlotte Mason’s particular implementation of it, is consistent with a Biblical understanding of knowledge.”

            Mason’s theory of education is not a particular implementation of classical education. Nor did she bring a “Christian perspective” to her philosophy of education. That would be like saying that I bring a “Christian perspective” to my celebration of Easter. Easter begins with the person of Christ. So does Mason’s theory of education.

            The follow-on discussion is fruitful and interesting no doubt. Compatibilities may exist between Mason’s theory of education and the current incarnation of classical education as articulated by thinkers such as the James Taylor and the CiRCE Institute. But when we combine two non-identical things we create a hybrid. Educators are free to do that. I just think it should be acknowledged when it is done.

            Respectfully,
            Art

          • Jen,

            I loved reading your response to Mr. Perrin. I am so glad you are looking at the Circe website. I attended their conference in Dallas years ago on the topic of Contemplation of the Divine Image in 2011. I feel like many of your questions might be answered if you were to listen to the conference. Here is a link to the audio version. https://www.circeinstitute.org/store/conference-audio-collections-discs/2011-circe-conference-audio-library-contemplation-divine

  17. In following the discussion of whether CM is rooted in CE or not, I have a few additional comments. First, my wife and I recently finished reading Essex Cholmondley’s The Story of Charlotte Mason. On pp. 53-54 she describes an unfortunate incident. She writes, “One of the perplexities of educational work is the keenness of its workers to use all sources of inspiration regardless of the principles from which they spring. Lady Isobel and some of the committee wished to show that the followers of Herbert Spencer, Pestalozzi, Froebel and the PNEU [Mason] were all working together. They decided to revise the constitution in order to establish this cooperation. Miss Mason strongly opposed this decision.” It seems that even in her day there was the temptation to employ educational syncretism, and Mason opposed this. Today we are seeing a push for “Charlotte Mason and …” and you can fill in the blank with CE or anything else. Mason never intended her methods to be attached to something else.
    Secondly, it seems disingenuous for some to say that by CE we do not mean Sayers’ essay or the more rigorous classical approaches of the 1990s, which incidentally are still in existence. In Christopher’s response to Art, it is my opinion that he implied, “Everything that is good and that we like is CE and the things we do not agree with are not. Since we like Mason, we are going to adopt her as one of our own.” In light of Carroll Smith’s most recent post to this thread CE is clearly rooted in Platonic philosophy while Mason was rooted in Christ and the Bible. While the two may swim in the same stream and in the same direction at times, this does not make them one.

    • Scott,

      Thank you for continuing your contribution to this discussion. I am glad you called our attention to this important event in the history of the PNEU. Of that unfortunate incident, Mason later wrote:

      “it was a time of sifting. Our principles were called into question, investigated, reaffirmed and most cordially embraced by many who had in the first instance accepted them as a matter of course. We came out of rather painful experiences strengthened and refreshed, with enthusiasm quickened and numbers increasing… The central principles and objects of the union remain of course intact.”

      If I may be so bold, that sentiment describes the intention behind my article. I invite those who accept Charlotte Mason’s principles to investigate and reaffirm these principles. My prayer is that this invitation has a strengthening and refreshing effect upon our community. I deeply desire that the central principles of Mason’s theory of education remain intact, as shown for example in Table 3 of my article.

      Respectfully,
      Art

  18. I have been reading the comments on Art’s blog post with much interest.  It is a beautiful thing to see such a healthy and lively discussion.  I hope it continues.  I wanted to add just a few things to the conversation.  Many of the writers here have made good, thoughtful comments and they deserve to be treated with respect.  

    I agree with Jennifer Spencer, in such discussions it is better to lay out your thinking rather than gather your wagons around any particular writer positively or negatively.  Gathering the wagons shuts down the conversation.  So while sometimes conversations can be difficult, it is good to have them.  It helps us all to understand various positions better. We may not agree but understanding others is always a good thing.

    A few definitions first as I am using the words here: classical educator is an educator that not only uses the classical literature but more importantly uses classical methods, for example, the Trivium, Quadrivium, logic, etc. A classicist is one who studies the Classics usually, it seems in all the definitions I can find, refers to ancient Greece and Rome and not to the ancient Hebrew texts nor to the New Testament. Dr. John Thorley is a classicist and teaches Homer in the original Greek. What an exciting thing to be able to do, and how honourable to be able to teach the world what the ancients wrote about in their stories. However, I know that Dr. Thorley does not identify himself as a “classical educator.”

    Next, Frances and Edith Schaeffer taught us that ideas have consequences. They work themselves out into the real world. There are many, many ideas that I could discuss as to why I do not believe that Mason should be grouped into the Christian Classical Education group, but I want to mention in this comment one. Just one. I believe it has had many negative influences on the church and education. The idea comes from Plato.

    The idea that I want to deal with is Plato’s dualistic thinking that separated heaven and earth. This has been written about in numerous books. Here are some I would suggest for reading if anyone is interested in the topic: Ranald Macaulay and Jerram Barrs’ book Being Human:  The Nature of Spiritual Experience,  C. S. Lewis’ book Discarded Image, Tom Wright’s book After You Believe, Goheen and Baththolomew’s book, Living at the Crossroads, and Rabbi Sacks recent book, The Great Partnership . Many other’s have made the same point and again that point is: Plato believed that the spiritual was more valuable than the physical.  Lewis says it this way: “If men can go to heaven it is because they came from there; their ascent is a return (revertuntur, xxxvi). That is why the body is ‘fetters;’ we come into it by a sort of Fall. It is irrelevant to our nature; ‘ the mind of each man is the man (xxiv). All this belongs to a circle of ideas wholly different from the Christian doctrines of man’s creation, fall, redemption, and resurrection. The attitude to the body which it involves was to be an unfortunate legacy for medieval Christendom” (p. 28). In another place Lewis says, “Earth is in fact the ‘offscourings of creation,’ the cosmic dust-bin.” These comments from Lewis establish the fact that Plato believed so highly in the spiritual that the physical earth, or your physical body were trash—the dustbin.

    Macaulay and Barrs’ say, “Accordingly, in Platonic thought the spiritual realm is considered superior to the material. The spirit is housed in a body of clay from which it longs to be released. Death gives that final release. In this life, however, the aim is to dwell in the realm of the spirit as far as possible and de-emphasize and devalue the material realm. So the philosopher and the artist are those who are in closest contact with the spiritual realm because they are caught up in the contemplation of the ideas, the divine, the beautiful and the celestial” (p. 40).

    Because of this view of Plato and how it had influenced the church, Goheen and Bartholomew say, “During the medieval period the dominant worldview of Platonized Christianity had narrowed the field of academic disciplines to metaphysics, law, theology, and logic. The otherworldly orientation inherited from neo-platonism had placed limits on scientific and technological development and had restricted the scope of most art to religious themes” (p. 83). Another example of a negative influence on Christians is something as simple as my parents. We always had the missionaries to our house for Sunday dinner (that was the mid-day meal for us). We must have them over because they were doing real Godly work. The missionaries were truly spiritual while we were only farmers doing the dirty work—the dust-bin work.

    Having established the pretty well known fact that Plato had a very dualistic view of life (heaven vs earth, spirit/soul vs body) I want to make several comments about the influence of this thinking on education and Mason in particular.

    1. The Fresco that Mason saw and that Ruskin saw cannot imply that all knowledge or information brought to us by Plato and other pagan philosophers were all from the Holy Spirit. Plato’s dualism had a negative impact on Christianity as it had on education. It was false teaching and it entered the church with many negative consequences. I believe what Mason learned from the Fresco was that it is the Holy Spirit that teaches us, if we let Him (because it is based on relationship). All knowledge that is true, is from the Holy Spirit. Obviously all teaching from pagans cannot be counted as true.

    2. Therefore all educational methods and beliefs that have come down to us for the last 2500 years cannot be evidence of information or knowledge that can be identified as “good education.” There isn’t some romantic, glorious golden age of education to look back to. Each age has its own problems and solutions to figure out. Each age must question and develop principles and cannot just accept what has gone before. Mason understood this as well.

    3. Along with Goheen and Bartholomew’s comment of the influence of Platonized Christianity on academia, let me share just one influence of Platonic thinking on education today. It comes from Ozmon’s textbook entitled Philosophical Foundations of Education. He says, “Although idealist education has emphasized not only the spiritual but also the cognitive side of life, charges are that it has tended toward intellectualism to the detriment of the affective and physical (emphasis added) sides of life. It also has often ignored the belief of many people who find its cognitive emphasis narrow and pedantic and this has further led to the charge that idealism leans toward a narrow, provincial view of life or toward intellectual elitism” (p. 30). (In most philosophy of education books, Plato’s philosophy is identified as “Idealism.”) Intellectual elitism was not even close to Mason’s thinking, but it certainly was to many educators who follow Plato’s line of thought, even today.

    5. Again to Frances and Edith Schaeffer—who taught us ideas have consequences and the ideas of Plato have had consequences in both the church and education. Platonic ideas are still influencing the Church and education today because ideas have consequences and they work themselves out into the real world. You cannot simply pick and choose a philosopher’s ideas and somehow think you have removed any negative ideas that are not needed for your purposes. An idea grows like that of an acorn. It grows below and above the ground into a gigantic oak tree. It would be hard to pull out a root and not realise that the DNA in the root is the same as that in the tree.

    5. C. S. Lewis loved the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In fact, he possibly could be identified as the leading scholar of the literature of these time periods during his life time. But he also says in The Discarded Image, “I have made no serious effort to hide the fact that the old Model delights me as I believe it delighted our ancestors.  Few constructions of the imagination seem to me to have combined splendour, sobriety, and coherence in the same degree.  It is possible that some readers have long been itching to remind me that it had a serious defect; it was not true.  

    I agree, It was not true. . .” (p. 216).

    As the Schaeffer’s pointed out, ideas have consequences and to adopt Platonic thinking (a false teaching) without a correct analysis would be wrong. So, therefore, as I heard one Christian educator do, I cannot call Plato, our beloved educator. His ideas about a separation of the spiritual and the physical has had a negative impact on the Church. Plato was a pagan and his teaching (ideas) sent the church and education in the wrong direction for many years and still does to this day. The very ultimate argument against Platonic thinking is that God became man and thus saved us to restore our bodies and our souls. We are not disembodied beings. Or to say that from an educational perspective we are not just seeking to be intellectual elites but as Mason proposed people with knowledge of God, the universe and man.

    6. Charlotte Mason developed her theories and practices of education out of her incessant study of Scripture. She did not allow her curriculum or education practices to be influenced by Platonic thinking. Hence nature is huge in a Mason education. Science is important. The full range of knowledge: Knowledge of God, Knowledge of Man and Knowledge of the Universe is the inheritance that belong to all of us. Since Plato is part of the classical tradition, I can say she pushed back against classical thinking. In a Platonic system the major emphasis would be Knowledge of God with the other two legs of the stool left off. This is only one reason why I would say she was not a “classical educator.” Sure she was widely read, but I like to think I am. But that does not mean I believe every word of what I read. To equate her as being an educator who follows the ancients whether they are from medieval times or from the ancient Greek and Roman times would not be, in my opinion, honest. It would indicate a high value on the those times periods as if we have to connect to them to validate ourselves—a rather romanticised view of previous educators—a look back to the golden days. The Church did not get it right as Goheen and Bartholomew tell us in the quote above.

    7. Mason returned to scripture. She did not need validation from the Middle Ages nor from ancient Greek or Romans. She needed validation from Scripture. Her educational paradigm is one developed from her view of a Trinitarian God who has made us for relationship. From this she develops her science of relations. The dominate view in her education paradigm is one of relationship not one of intellectual elitism. That is why she could say, “The question is not,–how much does he know [intellectual elitism]? When he has finished his education—but how much does he care? And about how many orders of things does he care [relationships]? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him? (Home and School Education, p. 170)

    Remember to keep this comment short and simple, I have used only one idea from Plato and one example of his effect on education and that is that it promoted intellectual elitism. There is much more but there is not space here for it. Plato and his views on heaven and earth are only one reason that I believe that Mason was not a “classical Educator.” If one were to do a deeper analysis of Plato and other ancient educators, for example, Aristotle and his over emphasis on rationalism that led to the Enlightenment, there would be many other inconsistencies with their views and her views.

    • I heartily agree with Carroll’s assessment and in a similar vein would like to point out another single essential feature of Mason’s Method which distinguishes it from the classical tradition of education.

      The education which came from Greek and Roman philosophy can be argued to follow a deductive orientation. i.e. Some universal principles were adopted and then applied from the top to the bottom, as it were, and in consequence both Teacher and disciple were made to fit into the system which was adopted by definition.

      But Mason’s method and philosophy, as she describes it by the end of her career, was worked as the result of 50 years of careful development following what may be identified as an inductive orientation, where every idea was tested from the bottom up and judged according to its fruits. Over time each aspect of the developing philosophy and method was amended as necessary depending on the observed results.

      For example, apart from the Bible, no book was identified as a “living” book, just because it was part of a tradition or a curriculum. It had to be tested, first. When a new book was introduced the examinations were carefully examined to see the effects the book had upon the children and then it was retained or substituted as necessary based upon that evaluation.

      The fact that at every stage Mason deliberately followed this scientific inductive approach, only taking for granted the fundamental revealed truths of Scriptures, concerning God, Man and the world, in order to guide her philosophy and method to maturation make her work distinctive from the classical tradition, and a unique contribution to the history of Christian education. And the fact that her principles are still inspiring Christian educators from all sorts of backgrounds are proof, I believe, that her observations and conclusions were essentially correct.

      The overlap with elements within the classical tradition is only incidental and has to do with the fact that truth is eternal and universal, so whoever finds or practices something true in any context will be drawn ultimately to similar conclusions and familiar implementations.

      Ben

      • Dear Ben,

        Thank you for bringing to light another important way that Mason dramatically departed from the classical tradition. I missed this important idea in my article, but it strengthens my thesis. You point out that Mason’s methodological approach is inherently non-classical. You are absolutely right, and this is one of the key reasons that Mason’s distinctive theory of education has endured.

        Respectfully,
        Art

      • Ben (and Art):

        Ben, I know you have thought a lot about these matters and I not to hold you to scholarly standards when it comes to a quick post, so take my comments with a grain of salt. I know there is a great deal of learning and thinking behind your comments.

        From about AD 500 to 1900 Christians were educating their children, with a great deal of thought, revision, adaptation, change and innovation. When you say “Greek and Roman philosophy” perhaps you mean the secular Greeks and Romans before Christ. But since the time of Tertullian, who asked “What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens?” many brilliant Christians (many of them of Greek and Roman ancestry) thought about all the questions you cite and many more. There is a rich tradition of thinking, writing and educational application, that you either have never encountered or are brushing over in your comments above.

        The debate about deduction and induction goes back to Plato and Aristotle themselves. Perhaps you have seen Raphael’s “School of Athens” painting in the Vatican, with Plato standing next to Aristotle with his finger pointing upwards to the heavens. Aristotle has his hand pointing down to the earth. That was just the beginning of the debate about deduction and induction, eternal realities and their relationship to the sensory embodiment and experience.

        I trust that you do not think that for 1500 years Christian educators did not think about such issues as Aristotle’s logic in both its inductive and deductive aspects and its relationship to education.

        Do you really offer comment below as a proof or are you speaking “off the cuff?” I ask because of your reference to logic in this post.

        “And the fact that her principles are still inspiring Christian educators from all sorts of backgrounds are proof, I believe, that her observations and conclusions were essentially correct.”

        If this is a proof, then it is a proof for the essential correctness of many other educational theories (including progressive ones) that inspire Christian educators from all sorts of backgrounds.

        Finally, I appreciate you comment about the “overlap with elements of the classical tradition”–really. I think the concept of the overlap between CM and the classical tradition is a fine place to host the discussion about the relationship between them. Instead of talking about “cause and effect,” “sources and influence,” “pagan and Christian,” we could simply list the elements that both the classical tradition and CM have in common. I think we would find (and most would agree) that the two approaches have some important things in common that we want for the cultivation for our children. A problem arises when we frame the discussion in terms of what is and what is not classical in general terms.

        Even the word “is” can be a problem as in “CM is classical” or “CM is not classical.” This to me sets up a false dilemma. Her philosophy really retains elements that are part of the classical tradition (even if “incidentally”) and elements that are not.

        Maybe instead of leaving ourselves only two choices (CM is or is not classical) we could leave ourselves with a third option: In some ways CM’s philosophy of education retains classical elements and in some ways she departs from it.

        Of course we may still have a healthy debate about what elements are classical and what elements are not and their various roles and importance in her philosophy. But at least we could leave the highly-charged issues of whether CM IS or IS not classical behind us.

        Pax,
        Chris

        • Dear Chris,

          Thank you for allowing me to clarify my meaning.

          By “proof”, I mean evidence sufficient to establish a fact or claim as true.

          What I am asserting is that a valid argument in favor of the claims of Mason to have discovered and developed a philosophy and method according to nature, through observation and experimentation, rather than one based on authority and tradition, as was the general trend of classical education, as received in the western world up to medieval times, (illustrated for example in scholasticism) can be made by observing the fact that contemporary educators over a hundred years later are receiving effective guidance and inspiration from it even when they themselves come from various traditions and backgrounds.

          Since I believe that universality is one of the characteristics of truth, I believe that this phenomenon, of a spontaneous, freely chosen (bottom up, rather than top down) revival of interest in Mason’s practical and theoretical work, and creative appropriation of the same, serves as positive evidence in favor of the validity of her fundamental claims and discoveries.

          Anyway the main point of my post is that an educational philosophy which grounds its “new” claims upon experimentation and observation is not an implementation of the classical model which required neither and was often practiced upon the basis of authority and tradition.

          Thank you,

          Ben

          • Thanks for the clarification Ben!

            I love your comment about the universality of truth–and I think you are right in that this accounts for the reason various people at various times adopt the same ideas and practices. This, I believe, keeps this discussion grounded and explains much of the “overlap” as you have described it.

            Three comments:

            1. Your criteria for a “proof” in this case will apply to other theories of education that are being used enthusiastically by people from various traditions and backgrounds–thus it “proves too much.” In other words, I think I could offer a “proof” for some version of CE using your criteria, or for the enthusiastic implementation of various forms of progressive education. In this instance, I do think you offer evidence for the strength and vitality of CM, but not a proof for its essential correctness or its truth. This is not an important point to me, mainly a logical quibble. I respect and admire the fact that many different people are turning to and are blessed by CM (including me)!

            2. Would you be willing to give me a brief description of your understanding of the classical model of education? I asked Art to do the same and he provided two definitions that really help me in this conversation.

            3. In you last paragraph you imply that the classical model (as you understand it) did not require experimentation and observation. Can you offer any evidence for this? I agree that classical education is in part a tradition that is passed down (like the gospel has been passed down to us, or other practices we esteem). But I also note a great deal of change, innovation and variation over the centuries. Have you read someone who has indicated that classical education was static with no experimentation and observation over the last 1500 years?

            Pax,
            Chris

          • >1. Your criteria for a “proof” in this case will apply to other theories of education that are being used enthusiastically by people from various traditions and backgrounds–thus it “proves too much.”

            Dear Chris,

            Not to quibble about words, but I think our difference here may serve to illustrate an important point of difference between our respective approaches to this question.

            When I claim that Mason’s revival is proof of its truth; you claim that if valid this would prove too much, due to the fact that a similar claim could be made in favor of other educational systems including progressive ones if they could show to be enthusiastically followed to good effect in the present time. (Which I consider to follow as a valid implication of my argument).

            Yet, instead of rejecting the antecedent in light of the necessary conclusion, I would, and I think in this Mason would concur, have to conclude that such educational systems, if they existed and could show similar results, would also have a valid claim of evidence in favor of their claims to truth.

            Any system of education which could claim validly to have similar results so that a hundred years after it was first articulated can serve and inspire spontaneously educators from various backgrounds with verifiable good results, would have a strong claim to validity regardless of it being or not classic or progressive.

            In other words, if a system bears fruits of vitality and formative power it must have at least some strong elements of truth, and I would be inclined to examine it to find what are those and to what extent, in light of the evidence.

            I think this open ended approach to educational questions was followed by Mason and helps us to understand her almost eclectic appropriation of anything and everything she could perceive to have a certain degree of validity, regardless of the school of its origin, while rejecting the elements which were not valid in it, if any.

            In other words, Mason’s approach was not rationalistic, For her it was not necessary for an idea to be shown formally incorporated in a systematic way, by way of logical proof, but rather any positive sign of life was enough to signal certain degree of light.

            When it came to evaluating educational claims and philosophies and ideas and methods, it did not have to be all or nothing. In this she emulates the approach of FD Maurice, as illustrated in his work “The kingdom of Christ; Hints to a Quaker…”, where he discusses the claims of the Anglican Church to the Catholic faith in response to the objections of a Quaker.
            Maurice cautiously affirms and embraces everything he identifies as correct in his opponent, and in each school of thought he examines before stating what he consider its weaknesses, and particular points of difference and reasons to reject the deficient elements in it. In almost everything, he looks to find the true elements as the reason why a claim was made and was advanced as persuasive by someone, with the conviction that if it was validly persuasive it had to contain at least some elements of truth, and since all truth is God’s truth it was important to recognize it as such, even if it could not be made part of a systematic whole. (a word here concerning “Mystery” would be appropriate, but since my posts tend to grow beyond measure, I better not go there now.)

            In conclusion the dichotomy between “proof” as evidence “for the strength and vitality of a claim” and proof for “its essential correctness or its truth” is none existent because less than rational formal proof is sufficient in Mason’s approach to our investigation into what constitutes identifying the best in education.

    • Carroll,

      Thank you for contributing to this conversation. You bring into sharp focus some very important ideas. For example, in Glass’s book she acknowledges that Mason’s emphasis on nature study is out of step with the classical tradition. She writes, “The Greek philosophers, if they paid attention to the natural world, did not find it a matter for firsthand exploration.” But Glass seems to accept this as an insignificant detail. But your comment explains why this is no insignificant detail. It is precisely because Mason is *not* classical that she emphasizes nature study. Because she rejects Plato’s view of the material world, she delights in the beauty of the physical realm:

      “But Beauty is everywhere––in white clouds against the blue, in the gray bole of the beech, the play of a kitten, the lovely flight and beautiful colouring of birds, in the hills and the valleys and the streams, in the wind-flower and the blossom of the broom. What we call Nature is all Beauty and delight, and the person who watches Nature closely and knows her well, like the poet Wordsworth, for example, has his Beauty Sense always active, always bringing him joy.”

      To the extent to which we submerge Mason into the classical tradition, we truncate our ability to share with Mason in delighting in the beauty of nature. In doing so, we limit our access to joy. That is one of the reasons I wrote my article.

      As a side note, a thought occurred to me as I was reading your comment. Several individuals have advanced an argument along these lines (simplified): “Mason referenced Plato. Therefore Mason is classical.” The problem with this line of thinking is that this same argument can now be used to prove that you, Carroll, are classical: “Carroll referenced Plato. Therefore Carroll is classical.” Of course, the obvious reply is that you are not classical since: (1) you referenced Plato in order to illustrate a point; and (2) you explicitly said that you were not classical.

      What this demonstrates is that (1) if a person references a thinker does not mean he or she is in that thinker’s tradition of thought, and (2) explicit statements that a person makes about his or her school of thought take precedence over later conjectures.

      We can apply this same corrective logic to understand Charlotte Mason. She wrote that “a philosophy of Education has come are way … and [we] are working on principles not worked on before… No other principles are so universally applicable…” She knew the classical tradition well, so she could have easily stated that she had rediscovered some “lost art of learning.” But instead, she said that she discovered a “code of education” in the Gospels, a physical mechanism for habit in contemporary psychology, and an understanding of the human person through her own observations. She gave us something new, in response to “our more passionate cravings for ‘more light and fuller.’”

      Respectfully,
      Art

    • Carroll,

      Thanks for this response giving some more thought to Plato and CM! Let me just address your comments about Plato.

      I agree with you and some of the sources that you have cited that Plato was a dualist that valued the “spiritual” over the material and his dualism in antithetical to biblical teaching and Christian theology. Augustine has been criticized for importing this over-valuation of the spiritual, for example.

      However, Plato was a wide-ranging thinker who touched on many important ideas. His dialogues (featuring Socrates of course) touch upon all matter of things from politics, ethics, the immortality of the soul, morality and metaphysics. When Christians like Augustine read and assessed Plato, they found many things that cohered with biblical teaching, but several things that did not. One clear example of Plato’s philosophy that all Christians have rejected is his doctrine of the pre-existence of the soul and the transmigration of the soul–which was related to his teaching of “recollection” (we are learning through philosophy to recollect what we once knew when we lived in the eternal realm of the forms).

      Still, Christians have appreciated some of what Plato taught and found it remarkable that he cohered with much in the Christian religion. Not all Christians have appreciated him in the same ways and to the same extent. Augustine appreciated him a great deal; Tertullian not so much.

      Here are some Platonic teachings that most Christians have appreciated about Plato:

      –He taught that truth exists and is knowable
      –He taught that humans have a soul and that it is eternal
      –He taught that are are moral truths and moral goodness that we can know and to which we should conform our lives
      –He taught that beauty is real and the attractive radiance of truth
      –He taught that children should learn by play
      –He taught that children should be introduced only to the morally best and most beautiful music and literature

      So, in my opinion, we must reject several doctrines of Plato, and rightly be suspicious of any teacher before the time of Christ. We must also be willing (like Paul in Acts 17) to admit pre-Christian teaching that coincides with biblical truth.

      In my reading of CM, I see ways in which she rejects and admits aspects of Platonic teaching. This strikes me as wise for any Christian. She does not reject all of Plato, in fact she opens her synopis of principles with a quote by Benjamin Wichcote that is an allusion to Plato. Whichcote was himself a Christian Platonist. In the beginning of her book *Towards a Philosophy of Education* she writes:

      “…but because the mind is not to be measured or weighed but is spiritual, so its sustenance must be spiritual too, must, in fact, be ideas (in the Platonic sense of images).”

      This is just once passing reference by CM, but it is a favorable reference to Plato and his teaching that regarding eternal ideas, forms or images. It is also in the context of the importance of the “spiritual” aspect of learning that CM advocated. In this case, Plato is called upon to highlight here emphasis of learning involving spiritual nourishment or sustenance.

      You have cited Plato as erroneously separating the spiritual from the material (and you are right to do so). But here is CM noting Plato as friendly reference to spiritual learning. Like so many Christian educators through the centuries, it appears that CM is “semi-Platonic” by which I mean she would affirm Plato’s list of teachings summarized above.

      Pax,
      Chris

      • Chris,

        I believe that you have misunderstood how and why Mason leverages Plato when she is writing about ideas. She uses Plato to express a concept or model that is distinct from its original conception in Plato. Probably the best example of this is in volume 3:

        “Physiologists and ‘rational psychologists’ have made the basis of habit pretty plain to us. All who run may read. The nature, functions, and behaviour of ideas, and how ideas have power in their impact upon the cerebral hemisphere to make some sort of sensible impression––all this is matter as to which we are able only to make ‘guesses at truth.’ But this need not dismay us, for such other ultimate facts as sleep and life and death are equally unexplained. In every department of science we are brought up before facts which we have to assume as the bases of our so-called science. Where a working hypothesis is necessary, all we can do is to assume those bases that seem to us the most adequate and the most fruitful. Let us say with Plato that an idea is an entity, a live thing of the mind.”

        A similar example of this may be found in volume 2:

        “Thoughtful minds consider that the new light which biology is throwing upon the laws of mind is bringing to the front once more the Platonic doctrine, that ‘An idea is a distinguishable power, self-affirmed, and seen in its unity with the Eternal Essence.'”

        A casual reading of these passages may lead one to believe that Mason is sourcing a concept from Plato and validating it. But note what she says: *biology* is bringing to the fore this doctrine. Has biology really confirmed the Platonic concept of immaterial forms? Of course not. But biology (brain research, as early as in Mason’s day) has shown that due to the physical activity of the brain, ideas have *material* “power.” In saying this she does not make herself semi-Platonic. If anything, she rejects Plato by saying that although he understood that ideas have power, he was wrong about the metaphysics. Mason is merely using Plato in an almost allegorical way. It’s as if to say, “See, ideas have power after all! But not the way Plato thought!”

        Later in volume 2, she writes:

        “M. Fouillée Neglects the Physiological Basis of Education – In a word, M. Fouillée returns boldly to the Platonic philosophy; the idea is to him all in all, in philosophy and education. But he returns empty-handed.”

        In Mason’s view, a thinker who rests on Plato’s philosophy (semi or otherwise) misses the discoveries of science and the reality of the body-spirit fusion that makes up the human person. He comes up empty-handed.

        Respectfully,
        Art

        • Art,

          I think there are several passages in *Towards a Philosophy of Education* (TPE) that should give you reason to reconsider your assessment of CM’s use of Plato. Does she not “source and validate” some of Plato’s ideas in the passages below? Plato is called one the “greatest thinkers” who has formed a “just judgment” and had helped us understand “knowledge is virtue.” Let’s not quibble over the designation “semi-Platonic.” But let’s not deny that she admired Plato in several respects.

          All of the page numbers listed are from the online version of TPE.

          Readings in literature, whether of prose or poetry, should generally illustrate the historical period studied; but selections should be avoided; children should read the whole book or the whole poem to which they are introduced. Here we are confronted by a serious difficulty. Plato, we know, determined that the poets in his “Republic” should be well looked after lest they should write matter to corrupt the morals of youth; aware of what happened in Europe when the flood-gates of knowledge were opened, Erasmus was anxiously solicitous on this score, and it is a little surprising to find that here, Rossetti was on the side of the angels. (TPE, 340)

          I need not waste time in attempting to convince the reader of what we all know, that a liberal education is, like justice, religion, liberty, fresh air, the natural birthright of every child. Neither need we discuss the scope of such an education. We are aware that good life implies cultivated intelligence, that, according to the Platonic axiom, ‘Knowledge is virtue,’ even though there be many exceptions to the rule. Educated teachers are not slow to perceive the part the Humanities play in a worthy scheme of education, but they are faced by enormous difficulties which are admirably summed up in a recent work…(TPE, 235)

          We labour under a difficulty in choosing books which has exercised all great thinkers from Plato to Erasmus, from Erasmus to the anxious Heads of schools to-day… (TPE, 187)

          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. Plato formed a just judgment on this matter, too, and perceived that mathematics afford no clue to the labyrinth of affairs whether public or private. (TPE, 148)

          What is an idea? we ask, and find ourselves plunged beyond our depth. A live thing of the mind, seems to be the conclusion of our greatest thinkers from Plato to Bacon, from Bacon to Coleridge. (TPE, 105)

          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. (TPE, 59)

          Various considerations urge upon me a rather distasteful task. It is time I showed my hand and gave some account of work, the principles and practices of which should, I think, be of general use. Like those lepers who feasted at the gates of a famished city, I begin to take shame to myself! I have attempted to unfold (in various volumes) a system of educational theory which seems to me able to meet any rational demand, even that severest criterion set up by Plato; it is able to “run the gauntlet of objections, and is ready to disprove them, not by appeals to opinion, but to absolute truth.” Some of it is new, much of it is old. Like the quality of mercy, it is not strained; certainly it is twice blessed, it blesses him that gives and him that takes,* and a sort of radiancy of look distinguishes both scholar and teacher engaged in this manner of education; but there are no startling results to challenge attention. (TPE, 27)

          Pax,
          Chris

          • Art,
            I also note CM’s comment in the last paragraph regarding her principles and practices:

            “Some of it is new, much of it is old.”

            She said her ideas were revolutionary. She also said this.

          • Chris,

            I address that statement by Mason (“Some of it is new, much of it is old”) in my article. I point out that “The Gospels are old. Glass does not provide evidence to demonstrate that the ‘old’ elements of Mason’s theory were drawn from classical sources.” Recall that (a) Mason said she had found “a code of education in the Gospels, expressly laid down by Christ”; (b) in Masson’s own accounts of the development of her theory (such as volume 6 pp. 9-17) she credits the observation of children, personal reflection, and the discoveries of science as her sources; and (c) the ideas in many of her 20 principles do not have a foundation in the classical tradition. (I explain this in detail in my article for principles 1, 2, 3, 9, 15, 18, and 20.) Given these observations, it seems to me an unfounded conjecture to say the roots of her core theory are found in classical education.

            Respectfully,
            Art

          • Art,

            Do you yield on my point that CM admired Plato in several respects, as evidenced by the quotations recorded above?

            If so, I think you must consider a reassessment of the way you understand “source and validation” in CM’s writing. Could it be that you too are tempted (as we all are) by eisegesis, reading into the text what you have already come to believe?

            I will respond later to your own conjectures about how to interpret CM’s comment about her philosophy when she said “Some is new. Much is old.” I think in particular, you are ignoring the import of her use of the word “much.” It seems to me you find yourself in the difficult position of saying that most of her ideas or philosophy consists of the code of education in the gospels.

            Really enjoying this conversation and appreciate your thoughtful analysis,

            Chris

          • Chris,

            I have combined my reply to this comment with my reply to your comment dated May 18, 2016 at 3:51 pm.

            Respectfully,
            Art

        • Art,

          This is for you, so if you do not post it, that is fine. I have been posting too much.

          I obviously am pondering this a lot. I cannot stop thinking about it. To be quite honest, I think we are both correct. CM is soooo much, that she is her own thing and yet her own thing fits into a Classical pedagogy.

          For instance, if you were to go buy a dishwasher and you wanted to buy a LOADED dishwasher with all the bells and whistles and you found out that there were features that came on some dishwashers that you did not know even existed, but they made that dishwasher EVEN BETTER with features you had never even considered, it would still be a dishwasher, but it would be an amazing dishwasher.

          That is how I view CM. Regardless of whether or not she viewed herself as Classical, her pedagogy has everything in it that a classical school would require and MORE. IT has methods and features that some classical schools have never thought of.

          When a person wants to homeschool or enroll their child into a classical academy, the features they want are ALL included in a CM school. She has left nothing out. Her method includes everything that a Classical model includes, and MORE.

          So, in this regard, I am totally seeing why you are isolating her into her OWN category and saying she is not classical. But, if you step back for a minute and consider a parent who has read books about classical education and that is what they want their children to learn and be exposed to, then we are simply saying, well if you want THAT…. come look at this “cha ching” version of Classical because it has bells and whistles that you did not even know existed!

          If you visit this site on 10 best dishwashers http://dishwasher-review.toptenreviews.com/, you will see charts with everything that you would look for in a dishwasher and the checkmarks would indicate if those features are on it. This type of chart could be made for Classical and literally everything that would be checked to make a school classical would be check marked in a CM list, but her list would would be much longer and include things that are not even on the “classical” list. Also, some of her things would be the same, but they might have a different name to them. For instance, Paideai is a very similar to the grand conversation that Carroll Smith wrote about in his scaffolding study on narration leading to a grand conversation. So, these would be the same feature, but titled differently. Although, classical schools would leave “narration” unchecked because for the most part they do not practice it, although they may here and there, it is not a core method. Paideia in a classical school is typically a highschool level activity, but because of narration, a CM student can participate in paideia at a younger age with great enthusiasm.

          I hope this analogy sort of helps you to see where we are coming from. At some point after June 1, I think I may create such a chart. I honestly understand what you are saying, but I think that CM could be considered “classical” for the parent who is looking to use a classical curricula or enroll in a classical school, CM would meet their criteria and MORE.

          Adrienne

          • Dear Adrienne,

            Thank you for this comment. It has been an exciting journey to discuss these topics with you. It means a lot to me that you now say, “I think we are both correct.” I am delighted to hear you say that CM “is her own thing.”

            Honestly, I am not qualified to judge the extent to which CM “fits into a Classical pedagogy,” in the sense of to what degree the methods and principles of CM might “work” in a classical education context. Nor can I say whether CM would satisfy “the parent who is looking to use a classical curricula or enroll in a classical school.” I will leave that for someone with your wisdom and experience to judge.

            I do know that Mason claimed to have developed “a system of educational theory which seems … able to meet any rational demand.” If we take her at her word, then her system of educational theory should satisfy the expectations of any rational educator – and presumably that would include classical educators.

            I also know that Mason said, “I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not ‘more or less,’ but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated.” This suggests that she does not expect her method to be effective if it is adopted in a piecemeal fashion.

            Please don’t think that I am trying to prevent you from using Charlotte Mason’s methods in classical schools. I don’t want to interfere with the projects you have underway, and I hope that you achieve wonderful results.

            But I also don’t want Mason to be submerged into the classical tradition. I don’t want her ideas to be reinterpreted to fit a classical paradigm. I want her ideas to be understood on her own terms, and I want her theory of education to be recognized as a *distinctive* contribution to the history and philosophy of Education.

            Respectfully,
            Art

  19. Pingback: A Narration of Reconsidering Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition

  20. I wholeheartedly agree with your article, Mr. MiddleKauff.

    While there are certainly many similarities that Charlotte Mason’s principles share with the classical education model, there are more differences IMO. Charlotte’s methods deserve to stand on their own-as a whole new method of education rather than being swallowed by the “classical tradition”. I think it is important to acknowledge where they part ways so as to keep a true Charlotte Mason education alive and well.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this well researched and timely article.

    • Dear Melanie,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my article. I agree with you that it is important to keep a true Charlotte Mason education alive and well. As Dr. Ben Bernier wrote in a comment below, “Mason’s work is part of a spiritual inheritance Christians must take hold of less we suffer loss in the struggle for living out the faith and preserving for us and our children the best, as faithful stewards of God’s gracious gift.”

      Respectfully,
      Art

  21. I suppose it might be helpful to ask why it matters whether Charlottle Mason is clasical or not. Perhaps it matters because various philosophies popular today labeled “classical” are considered to be (by those who don’t know) more rigorous or better than a CM education. That gentle art of learning phrase I think to some means not as good. It does not matter to me, personally, but because the CM philosophy has had such a profound affect on me and my family, I do wish more people would consider it carefully. In our local area of population 200,000, there are 4 classical conversations communities, and very few Charlotte Mason families.
    I have seen comparisons between the Greco-Roman philosophy of thinking and learning, which is based on man’s reasoning and rational thought, versus a more Hebraic/Biblical model which is based on the Spirit and revelation to the heart. To me, a Charlotte Mason philosophy is the latter. it is still rigorous but does not puff up the mind. See here:http://www.cwgministries.org/Revelation-vs-Reason So I personally hope that Charlotte Mason’s philosophy does not get lumped in with the Greco-Roman self-focused rationality. But if “classical” means Hebraic-Biblical (also old!) and spirit-based, then by all means.

    • That’s an interesting point. I have also noticed that the commercial selling of a limited, easily-packaged idea of “Classical Education” can be very off-putting to those who want a lifestyle of learning which is humane, as well as rigorous.

      I have now got *another* item to add to my reading list — when am I supposed to sleep, eh?

    • Jennifer,

      Thank you for sharing these thought-provoking reflections. I think it matters whether Charlotte Mason is classical or not for two reasons. First, I think it is important in general that we be careful and accurate in our analysis of history and our use of terminology. For that reason, we shouldn’t say that Charlotte Mason is classical if she isn’t. Second, if one believes that Charlotte Mason is classical, then one is likely to establish an interpretive paradigm when reading her writings. The result is likely to be a truncation of her theory of education. I provide examples of this in Table 3 of my article.

      Since “classical” typically refers to something that at least has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome, it would seem hard to classify a Hebraic-Biblical model as classical. Like you, I hope that Charlotte Mason’s philosophy does not get lumped in with a tradition that hides or obscures its distinctiveness.

      Respectfully,
      Art

  22. Art,

    I thank you for the work and thought you put into this analysis. It is clear that you appreciate CM’s philosophy of education and that it has blessed you and your family. I, too, have grown to appreciate CM’s insights. In particular, I appreciate her book, Towards a Philosophy of Education (TPE, 2008 edition by Wilder Publications).

    I have been a part of the renewal of classical education in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, first as a headmaster, then as a publisher, writer and consultant. I blog about classical education at insideclassicaled.com if you get curious.

    I really like CM, and have ever since I read For the Children’s Sake over 15 years ago. In fact, the company I lead (Classical Academic Press) has found CM to be a fresh source of inspiration for about the last 8 years. One of our staff has attended the Ambleside Schools International training, and we have incorporated many of CM’s insights (narration, in particular) into our Writing & Rhetoric curriculum–written by an author from a school that consider itself both classical and CM. Reading CM, and conversing with many who know her writings better than I, I have found that CM is more similar than the classical tradition of education than dissimilar. There are some differences, but most of her ideas can be found in the one of the broad streams of the classical tradition–whether or not she discovered them independently, and regardless of her statement that some of her principles where “hitherto unrecognized.”

    From your article, it seems (though I could be wrong) that you are ceding the fact that you are not well-read in the classical tradition of education, and that you are focusing only on what Karen Glass says about it–fair enough. In your future study, you will see that the classical tradition is deep and wide and certainly cannot be captured by a reference to “the education of the Greeks and Romans.” Classical education has had a history of about 2500 years and for most of that time it was a self-consciously Christian education–from about the time Augustine to 1850. You seem to want to make a case (by assessing Karen’s book) that CM is not classical. If that is your goal, you will have to address, in fact, the classical tradition of education, and not just Karen Glass. And that tradition is no pussy cat, but something of a loving lion.

    Classical education is broad, deep, long and consists of theme and variation—making it very hard to define (maybe this is why you did not attempt a definition, understandably!). Any definition of something so large will leave something out, but here is a working definition.

    CCE is a traditional approach to education rooted in western civilization and culture, developed by the church, employing the historic curriculum and pedagogy of the seven liberal arts in order to cultivate men and women characterized by wisdom, virtue and eloquence.

    If you want more, see my blog post here: https://classicalacademicpress.com/once-more-what-is-classical-education/

    I understand that you are not a scholar, but I do note your careful reading and reflection, which is impressive. I wonder if I detect the mind of an engineer? I like the way you track and recall detail, I like the clear presentation of your tables! Please take this list of weaknesses in your article knowing that I recognize many merits to your article as well. Here is what I consider to be the weaknesses in your analysis:

    1. You seem to assume that unless CM explicitly claims the tradition of classical education as a source that it should not be considered a source. Yet there can be several reasons why one would not make such explicit claims in a given passage: 1) they are made implicitly 2) they are understood 3) they are made elsewhere 4) different objectives besides making such a claim were in view.
    2. You seem to assume that her citation of some sources for some of her principles excludes the classical tradition of education for also being a source. But one effect can have two or more causes.
    3. You seem to assume that when one makes a personal discovery, it cannot have been discovered previously by anyone else. In fact, old insights are rediscovered on a daily basis, and frequently among educators.
    4. You seem to discount as evidence for a source of her philosophy the frequent references to classical authors, educational theorists, the study of liberal arts, the humanities, Latin and Greek, the cultivation of wonder and curiosity, the pursuit of beauty, and the cultivation of student habits. These all are integral to the tradition of classical Christian education. Even if these references are not sources, they show a sufficient coincidence of her ideas and those of the classical tradition, to qualify her as similar if not within the tradition. In my view, her ideas (regardless of how they are “sourced”) are so similar to the ideas of classical education, that she is justifiably placed within the tradition. She is “revolutionary” in respect to the calcified Victorian education of her time, not to the entire tradition of classical education.
    5. You are unclear about what classical education is, merely paraphrasing one statement from Glass: “…a common thread appears to be that a classical theory of education is one that has it roots in the ancient world of Greece and Rome.” This is one element of several that Glass mentions (she also mentions the seven liberal arts, greatness of mind/magnanimity, study of Latin and Greek, and a liberal education).
    6. By not attempting to define classical education (CE) and not accurately representing Glass’s own description of it, you in effect set up a straw man that is much easier to knock down and therefore engage in special pleading. In the process a false dilemma between CM and CE is created.
    7. By not clarifying and defining what classical education is, you cannot succeed in your paper’s stated purpose of demonstrating that “CM’s method is not merely a particular implementation of a classical education” but rather “is a dramatic departure from it.” You can’t exclude CM from the classical tradition until you are willing to lay out just what the classical tradition is.
    8. I state this last point as a question more than a claim of weakness, since your article raises the question: Is it possible, that though not defining it, you think that classical education is a static entity with little variation? In fact, the tradition is long and wide, with a good deal of theme and variation, yet still recognizable by some thematic unity (such as the study of the liberal arts and the study of the great books). Because it has always had varied applications and “flavors” in different times and at different places, there is nothing surprising about CM’s philosophy being a “particular implementation” of themes from the classical tradition of education.

    You have written a 41-page, single-spaced blog post (I printed it out!), which indicates to me that this issue is very important to you, and once again I thank you for your time and careful thought. The issue is important to me too, but for now I will have to write a shorter response and alas, I cannot take the time to offer evidence for each of my claims above. Likewise, a number of positive claims you make for your thesis will be left unaddressed, and a number of your criticisms either of Glass or the classical tradition of education must be left without comment.

    Let me, however, touch upon a few of the issues above in summary fashion, focusing mainly on the first 30 pages of TPE.

    PRINCIPLES “HITHERTO UNRECOGNIZED”

    So, were her educational principles “hitherto unrecognized?” Certainly they were if we are to believe her, and I certainly think we should.

    In the context of her life and work, the some of the principles and methods that she articulates in TPE were indeed “hitherto unrecognized.” But you make this phrase carry a lot of freight. Unrecognized by whom? The current generation of educators? The Victorian educators of England who had been chasing after materialistic Darwinism? All people of all time?

    In context, it seems reasonably clear to me that CM’s discovery of “unknown tracts in the regions of educational thought” (TPE, Preface) have to do with the principles and practices in the PNEU schools that enabled “the offspring of working class parents” to enjoy “the wide pastures of a liberal education.”
    I am convinced that even opening pages of TPE show that CM is part of the classical tradition of education, even as she articulates her recent efforts to renew education in England.

    A LIBERAL EDUCATION

    The fact that CM cites the “wide pastures of a liberal education” should be evidence enough that she is part of the classical tradition. The phrase “liberal education” is a commonplace indicating the classical tradition of education. For someone like CM who had read much “of philosophy and ‘Education’” (TPE, 18), this was no aimless, cast-off phrase—she is making reference to the dominant form of education developed in the west over centuries frequently called “liberal education.”

    It also seems reasonable to conclude that the principles that were “hitherto unrecognized” should be understood in the context of the failing, calcified schools of Victorian England that had distorted the classical tradition of education and were not successfully educating the working class student, the average student or the “backward child.” (TPE, 17)

    In her preface to TPE, CM writes: “My object in offering this volume to the public is to urge upon all who are concerned with education a few salient principles which are generally either unknown or disregarded…” (TPE, Preface) This sentence should help interpret her later reference to principles that are “hitherto unrecognized.” (TPE, 18) For a principle to be “generally unknown” allows that some may indeed know it; to say that a principle is disregarded is to say that it is indeed known and yet not heeded. This perfectly describes the stale, Victorian-era education that was a part of the classical tradition and yet had departed from it in important ways—generally. What CM is doing is TPE is in large part, re-deploying or renewing a “liberal education” for not just the clever, not just the children of aristocrats, but for all children of all classes and natural ability. That was revolutionary in her time and throughout much of western history.

    IMPLICIT AND EXPLICT CREDIT TO CLASSICAL SOURCES

    Another reason I am skeptical of any claim that CM thinks herself as outside the classical tradition is simply because most of her broad principles and assumptions are the heritage of the Christian church and the Christian classical tradition, broadly understood.

    She makes both passing allusions to the classical tradition, perhaps unconsciously because so familiar to her and others. In other places she explicitly refers to ideas, principles or practices that come from the classical tradition.

    She opens her short synopsis with a quote by the 17th century theologian and pastor Benjamin Whichcote: “No sooner doth the truth…come into the soul’s sight, but the soul know her to be her first and old acquaintance.” CM alludes to Whichcote who himself is alluding to Plato.

    Whichcote himself was a part of the Cambridge Platonism Movement, and he recommended his students at Cambridge to read Plato. (Edward Augustus George, Seventeenth Century Men of Latitude, p71)

    Here are just one quotation taken from Plato’s Republic:

    “And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with intelligence; but when turned towards the twilight of becoming and perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and is first of one opinion and then of another, and seems to have no intelligence?” –Republic, Book 6

    This is an important part of how the classical tradition works—it extends a “great conversation” that weaves and is woven through time and place, contemplating and applying the great ideas cultivated and passed down to us by our predecessors. Whichcote was a theologian and new that Plato’s insight was fulfilled in Christ who is the “light that illumines every man” (John 1:9). The church, beginning with Augustine, notes that Plato got many things right but lacked the full revelation and fulfillment that came with the Incarnation. Still, Plato can be quoted freely by Whichcote—and by CM.

    So my first claim is that CM makes implicit references to her debt to the classical tradition, even in the opening of her short synopsis of her principles, which I think you would find ironic, given your current view. She begins here synopsis of principles with a Platonic maxim, cited by a theologian!

    But she also makes some explicit references to ideas and persons who are part of the classical tradition of education—and she does so with favor and honor.

    In the first several pages of TPE she cites Francis Bacon (“studies serve for delight”) John Amos Comenius (a 16th century philosopher and pedagogue who was solidly in the classical tradition; he is cited twice by page 25), William Paley (18th century bishop, apologist and philosopher, educated at Cambridge), Plato (she sites Plato in reference to the “ideas” and spiritual sustenance children should feed upon; she again cites favorably Plato’s “lie of the soul”).

    We could go on through TPE showing her appreciation of insights from thinkers in the classical tradition from Plato to Paley. I will conclude with just one more (TPE, 322).

    After deploring the condition of English education in her time, suffering from “a failure in her food supply” for the mind, she refers to the medieval (and classical) concept of knowledge:
    “But the medieval mind had, as we know, a more satisfactory conception of knowledge than we have arrived at. Knowledge is for us a thing of shreds and patches, knowledge of this and of that, with yawning gaps between.
    The scholastic mediaeval mind, probably working on the scattered hints which the Scriptures offer, worked out a sublime Filosofica della Religione Cattolica, pictured, for example, in the great fresco painted by Simone Memmi and Taddeo Gaddi (which Ruskin has taught us to know), and implied in “The Adoration of the Lamb” painted by the two Van Eycks. In the first picture we get a Pentecostal Descent, first, upon the cardinal virtues and the Christian graces, then, upon prophets and apostles, and below these upon the seven Liberal Arts represented each by its captain figure, Cicero, Aristotle, Zoroaster, etc., none of them Christian, not one of them a Hebrew. Here we get the magnificent idea that all knowledge (undebased) comes from above and is conveyed to minds which are, as Coleridge says, previously prepared to receive it; and, further, that it comes to a mind so prepared, without question as to whether it be the mind of pagan or Christian; a truly liberal catholic idea, it seems to me, corresponding marvelously with the facts of life.” (TPE, 322 online version)

    In this passage, at least, CM is paying her respects to a tradition that has inspired and fed her.

    SUMMARY OF GENERAL AND PARTICULAR PRINCIPLES

    Without a comprehensive analysis let me attempt a summary of some of the general principles in CM are present in classical tradition of education. Let us assume even that they are not sources (though I think they are) for her own philosophy, but that they just happen to coincide.

    • A life worth living is better than making a living. (Plato, Aristotle, Jesus, Augustine, Aquinas, Newman, etc.)
    • Children are enfleshed souls capable of loving the good, true and beautiful.(Plato, Jesus, scores of church fathers)
    • Beauty is real, should be sought, and should characterize our surroundings (Plato, Augustine, Benedict, Bernard, the hundreds of classical-Christian monastic schools)
    • An education rooted in knowledge of the true, good and beautiful is superior to mere vocational training, though there is a place for such training (Aristotle and the classical Christian tradition–especially the Greek fathers)
    • Character is what you do every day; habit formation and the acquisition of educational virtues is integral to study, learning and education (Aristotle to Aquinas to Sertillanges to Josef Pieper).
    • Curiosity and Wonder initiate and lead learning (Plato, Aristotle, the church fathers, monastic education, etc.)
    • Children should read a wide cannon of great literature that is the best that has been thought and said (Plato to Augustine to Alcuin to monastic education to C.S. Lewis –“The Reading of Old Books”)

    These principles are long-standing classical ideas about education. They are present (whether implicitly or explicitly) either in CM’s synopsis in TPE or in other places in TPE. Whether or not these can be labeled as “sources” the mere fact that they are coincide with the classical tradition of education, makes CM’s philosophy to a significant degree, an expression of that tradition.

    Some of her principles and methods may be her own (such as her views of narration, attentive reading, her view of children as a “spiritual organism,” and the chief responsibility of children to accept or reject ideas), but one would have to scour the large classical tradition to confirm this. What is clear is that she has bundled and organized a curriculum and associated pedagogies that make her approach distinctive enough to call–an approach. But because of the general principles stated above, she is still a tributary (and a lovely one) of the larger stream of the classical Christian tradition of education.

    There are other such distinct approaches that still hold to the larger principles of the classical tradition. There is the Sayersian approach that emphasizes that the three Trivium arts of grammar, logic and rhetoric that could also be pedagogical approaches and stages of learning. That is one flavor. There is the Scholé / Restful Learning approach that I advocate and that overlaps with CM at many points—another flavor. There is the medieval Piety-Gymnastic-Music-Arts-Philosophy-Theology paradigm recovered in The Liberal Arts Tradition. There is the classical prep school approach (my least favorite). And there are others.

    CONCLUSION

    I am guessing that you are well aware of the many educators, writers, homeschools and schools have placed CM in the tradition of classical education. At first, many CM advocates were suspicious of the renewal of classical education because of some of the earlier writing and expressions of classical education in the 1990s. The first wave of renewal of classical education focused on the Sayersian model and prep school model. These were dissimilar enough from CM, that understandably classical education in these forms were not warmly welcomed by CM educators. However, from about 2000 to the present, there has been an increasing renewal of those forms of classical education that dominated the west from the medieval period up to the Enlightenment. After a good deal of reading, study, and “trial and error” implementation, several classical models or approaches have been recovered that very much cohere with CM—at least in several important areas.

    Classical education is broad, deep, long and consists of theme and variation—making it very hard to define (maybe this is why you did not attempt a definition, understandably!). Lest, I be guilty of the same criticism I make of your article, let me offer a definition:

    CCE is a traditional approach to education rooted in western civilization and culture, developed by the church, employing the historic curriculum and pedagogy of the seven liberal arts in order to cultivate men and women characterized by wisdom, virtue and eloquence.

    Along with myself and the work of Classical Academic Press, there have been several others recovering what we might call a “restful learning” (scholé) approach to education. Let me cite a few of these people and their books.

    • Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain and their book The Liberal Arts Tradition
    • Andrew Kern and his many posts, seminars and podcasts from the Circe Institute. Andrew co-wrote a book called Classical Education.
    • Sarah Mackenzie’s book Teaching from Rest (which has sold over 20,000 copies in 6 months) and her blog at AmongsLovelyThings.com
    • Though an older book, David Hicks’ Norms and Nobility is refreshing to those who like CM
    • James Taylor’s book Poetic Knowledge calls for a classical approach remarkably like that of CM
    • James K. A. Smith’s book Desiring the Kingdom has helped hundreds of educators to recover the importance of an embodied, beautiful education and learning atmosphere—much like CM advocates.

    The people and their books (and there are others) have done much to foster the renewal of classical education in ways very similar to CM. The reverse is also true: classical educators doing their research and study have encountered and studied CM and found her a friend and a great help.

    Many homeschooling families (I meet them constantly on the home school convention circuit) have begun to see that there is an undeniable connection between CM and some streams of the classical tradition.

    Many schools (with many thoughtful administrators and educators) have adopted a classical/CM hybrid curriculum and pedagogy, finding them complimentary and related. I can cite just a few:

    • The Clapham School (Chicago)
    • The Wilberforce Academy (Princeton)
    • Heritage Prep (Atlanta)
    • The Oaks Academy (Indianapolis)

    These are not brand new schools, but schools that have studied both the classical tradition of education and CM and found them to be of the same family.

    In summary, I see no compelling reason to divide CM from the classical tradition of education. The more austere expressions of the classical education from the 1990s have receded and grown more embodied, personal, restful and communal—due in part to the influence of CM. Perhaps you and others have encountered some of those earlier, austere expressions; now there are many expressions that I am sure you would love and recognize as kin. “Classical education” is a rather pedestrian phrase—but it has become the common identifier for that rich and engaging liberal education to which CM refers. If “classical education” has been given a bad name by some (and it has both in Victorian times and our own), perhaps you and other CM fans can help restore it.

    • Dear Christopher,

      Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed comment on my article. I also appreciate the courtesy you consistently express throughout your writing. I am just a homeschool dad, and you are an educationalist, publisher, writer, and consultant. And yet you treat me with honor throughout your comment. Thank you for that.

      A major point in your comment is that I have created a straw man of classical education that has made my task easier. But with all due respect, I think that you have created a straw man of Charlotte Mason’s theory of education that makes your task easier. I think that your description of Charlotte Mason’s theory from TPE does not adequately deal with the unique ideas that separate her from the classical tradition, even accepting your definition of CCE.

      For your points 1-3, I think that you are not giving enough weight to Mason’s own personal testimony as to her sources. In my view, explicit personal accounts take precedence over secondary conjectures. Otherwise, by your logic, one would not be able to accept as authoritative St. Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:12.

      Also for your points 1-3, you do not address Mason’s explicit statements about the newness of her theory. She didn’t only write that her principles were “hitherto unrecognized.” She also wrote:

      – “a very gospel of education … that only within the last decade or two has it been an open book”
      – “mind [is] a living, spiritual organism that must feed upon ideas” is “a discovery of the twentieth century”
      – “will some day (not in [her] lifetime) be seen to be one of the greatest things that has happened in the world”
      – “How timely, then, and how truly, as we say, providential, that, just at this juncture of difficult living, certain simple, definite clues to the art of living should have been put into our hands! Is it presumptuous to hope that new light has been vouchsafed to us in these days, in response to our more earnest endeavours, our more passionate cravings for ‘more light and fuller.’”

      It is not so easy for me to cast these statements aside in favor of your line of reasoning.

      For your point 4, I don’t think you are grappling with Mason’s full theory. When you say, “She is ‘revolutionary’ in respect to the calcified Victorian education of her time, not to the entire tradition of classical education,” it leads me to believe you have set up a straw man. I encourage you to read Mason’s “Concerning Children as Persons” (http://ambleside.org/pdfs/AmblesideReadingChildrenAsPersons.pdf). She wrote that “the first article of a valid educational creed — ‘children are born persons’— is of a revolutionary character.” Please read the entire document carefully and evaluate whether you can really claim it is revolutionary only in respect to Victorian education. I also recommend her meditations on the Gospel of John (http://www.lulu.com/shop/charlotte-m-mason/scale-how-meditations/ebook/product-17392776.html). There you will find Mason’s sacramental theology of education, and indeed of all of life.

      For your points 5-8, I recommend that you read a short article that approaches this question from the perspective of a classicist. In this article, Dr. John Thorley evaluates the claim that CM is classical, taking into account the various historical embodiments of classical education. The article may be found here: https://www.charlottemasoninstitute.org/a-book-review-by-dr-john-thorley/

      Even if we take your definition that “CCE is a traditional approach to education rooted in western civilization and culture, developed by the church, employing the historic curriculum and pedagogy of the seven liberal arts in order to cultivate men and women characterized by wisdom, virtue and eloquence,” I would still not classify Mason’s theory of education under this heading. It does not address Mason’s view of personhood, the rules of education she derived from the Gospel, the full range of her curriculum, her Christocentric and sacramental view of ideas, the purpose of education, or the role of the Holy Spirit.

      When you say, “What CM is doing is TPE is in large part, re-deploying or renewing a ‘liberal education’ for not just the clever, not just the children of aristocrats, but for all children of all classes and natural ability,” you are denying her own testimony about what she did. Please read her narrative entitled “Our Principles”, found in pages 14-17 of the June, 1922 L’Umile Pianta: http://charlottemason.redeemer.ca/LUmile-Pianta/L_UP_PDF_PACKAGES/1922/06/p01-28UPje1922.pdf

      If your statement were true, then then why didn’t Mason explicitly call us back to the past? Why did she call us to the Gospels, and the discoveries of science?

      You attribute a lot of weight to the fact that Mason quoted a wide variety of sources. But please consider that St. Paul quoted a pagan poet in Acts 17:28. But that does not mean that this pagan is the source of his theology. It is the difference between quoting to explain something vs. quoting as a source.

      For example, you point out how Mason quotes John Amos Comenius. But note what she says in reference to him: “But what if all *were* for all, if the great hope of Comenius––”All knowledge for all men”––were in process of taking shape?” (TPE, p. 291) In other words, Mason is saying that that she has discovered the *means* to realize the *goal* that Comenius articulated. She uses Comenius to explain a concept, but she did not derive her 20 principles from him.

      Also you mention the fresco in the Spanish chapel, but you miss Charlotte Mason’s dramatic application. I would like to draw your attention specifically to the last paragraph of p. 277 of volume 2 – “Conditions of Divine Co-operation.” Note what insight Mason was drawing from the fresco. It is key to her doctrine of living books, and it ties together her first and twentieth principles.

      You write, “Some of her principles and methods may be her own (such as her views of narration, attentive reading, her view of children as a ‘spiritual organism,’ and the chief responsibility of children to accept or reject ideas)”, but this brief list covers principle 9, 14, 15, and 19. I believe that most of her other principles, if interpreted faithfully to Mason’s full set of writings (see Table 3 of my article), should also be added to this list. We are left with the essence of Mason’s theory of education with no precedent in the classical tradition.

      You write, “I see no compelling reason to divide CM from the classical tradition of education.” I do see a reason. The simplest reason is that Mason herself, though so familiar with historical thought, nevertheless wrote, “The P.N.E.U. have taken pains to master a *distinctive* philosophy of education.”

      Additionally, in Dr. Ben Bernier’s doctoral dissertation on Charlotte Mason’s theology of education, he wrote: “Mason’s radical claims and challenging proposal for her discovery and the evaluation of the claims of her work as a truly new educational philosophy able to respond to the needs of the English nation were essentially ignored. The philosophical claims and the evidence to validate them which were the fruit of her life work were not debated, they were neither accepted nor rejected.” You can find his dissertation here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/benjamin-e-bernier/education-for-the-kingdom/ebook/product-17395603.html

      In my own life, Charlotte Mason’s ideas burst from the page and enabled me to build living relationships with nature, music, art, literature, and the Triune God. Charlotte Mason achieved this by preaching the educational code found in the Gospels, and by observing the beautiful mystery of the human being.

      I certainly have no problem with you combining ideas from CM with ideas from the classical tradition. However, these efforts typically involve a truncation of Mason’s ideas. It creates a hybrid, which is fine, as long as it is labeled as such.

      Respectfully,
      Art

      • True discussion at last! Thank you to Dr. Perrin for your intelligent and polite discourse, however, I have to give this one to Art. Art, very well said!!

      • Art,

        I have to admit that much of this conversation is over my head, as I am just beginning my study of Charlotte Mason’s volumes. But this, in your comment–when you say that her ideas burst from the page, that you began to form “living relationships with nature, music, art, literature and the Triune God”–for what it’s worth, this has been exactly my experience this year with the work that Andrew Kern, Cindy Rollins, Dr. Perrin and others are doing. They helped me catch a vision for a vibrant, whole education for my children (and myself alongside them!)–and in fact, they were the ones to introduce me to Charlotte Mason.
        I did appreciate Consider This, but I suppose I’m glad that I read both Karen’s book and this article while still in the thick of reading Charlotte’s volumes–perhaps this tension will help me to read with fresh eyes. 🙂

        • Danielle,

          Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my article. I am glad that you are reading Charlotte Mason’s volumes. I do hope that you read her works with fresh eyes. I encourage you to set aside any a priori interpretative framework and contemplate her ideas on her own terms and in her own words.

          Respectfully,
          Art

    • On 5/11/2016 8:16 AM, Charlotte Mason Institute wrote:
      > It also seems reasonable to conclude that the principles that were “hitherto unrecognized” should be understood in the context of the failing, calcified schools of Victorian England that had distorted the classical tradition of education and were not successfully educating the working class student, the average student or the “backward child.” (TPE, 17)

      > Classical Christian Education is a traditional approach to education rooted in western civilization and culture, developed by the church, employing the historic curriculum and pedagogy of the seven liberal arts in order to cultivate men and women characterized by wisdom, virtue and eloquence.

      Thank you for your clear and insightful article on this wide ranging subject.
      But I want to take issue with your definition of Classical Christian Education in relation to our assessment of the place Mason’s contribution within the frame work of the history of western education.

      There is a sense in which every form of education in the western world can be argued to be within the wide school of “Classical Christian Education” just in virtue of being localized in the western world. And also a sense in which whatever is regarded as “Best”, can be identified as “classic”, just by the mere fact that the good and the best are eternal, and therefore wherever they are realized in any way become part of the same unity of universal truth and knowledge, in which there is nothing really new.

      But I think this discussion requires a more precise definition of distinctive features of educational systems within that wide tradition or we would be merely arguing about words.

      In particular: When in history was the education of “the working class”, a fundamental ideal of education?
      As far as I know not in the classical period, neither during the middle ages.

      “Liberal” education, “liberal” arts, derive their “liberal” label from the education of a “free” man.
      Since both Greeks and Latins had slaves, their “liberal” ideal of education was that of an elite by definition.

      Only Christianity introduced the ideal of an elevated humanity with a universal call to the knowledge and love of God and man, implying the pursuit of knowledge in freedom for all. (ie. individual freedom of inquiry and freedom of conscience, -for a careful distinction of these ideals within the Puritan vs the Catholic traditions see: The Educational Systems of the Puritans and Jesuits Compared, Noah Porter, 1851, Professor of Moral Philosophy, Yale)

      It took the church many centuries to begin to awake to the radical implications of Christ’s teaching
      and it was only in Protestant countries where any serious attempt to achieve universal literacy was eventually fostered in modern times,
      Comenius, a persecuted Moravian bishop, a Protestant educational innovator, was the one who first enunciated the principles that are integral to Mason’s education and designed programs to implement them: All knowledge to all people, education according to nature, and learning with pleasure, securing attention without fear or pain, These are not classical ideals, where “liberal” implied the few and often the rod, especially during Medieval times, these are Christian ideals.

      These had revolutionary effects which were recognized even in Comenius times, but were hindered from full realization due to the 30 years war.
      It took another few hundred years for these ideals to begin to take root and bear more fruits.

      Mason’s philosophy, setting the words of Christ as the anchor of education, forcing us to acknowledge as a starting point, never to be transgressed, the dignity of all children (boys and girls) as persons, as first in the kingdom, and securing their rights against every form of tyranny, ought to be placed at the top of these process of realization of the Christian, Christ-centered ideal, of education for all.

      The “calcified victorian” education in the grammars school was holding the rod tradition of classical education characteristic of the medieval ages, in which
      learning by rote and without pleasure was seem as a necessary sacrifice in order to achieve scholarly discipline, still by a few. And was recognized by Mason and the PNEU to be very good at what it did. (many of the greatest discoveries in every area of knowledge are related to the disciplinary work of these institutions.)

      But Mason was not working along those lines. She was introducing something “new”. The New discovery by a school of British psychology which identified what we today recognize as the plasticity of the brain, open for her a new gospel of education in order to help secure the other Christian ideals she took for granted, learning by all, Learning with delight, learning according to nature, a living education fruit of the work of the Spirit of God educating all human kind.

      These are not classical ideals. These are not even Christian-Medieval classical ideals. They are thoroughly and intrinsically Christian ideals dependent upon the maturation of Christian Theology, Cosmology, Anthropology, Metaphysics, Ontology, Ethics and Science.

      It should be noted that the Fresco, at the Dominican Chapel of Florence, hailed by Ruskin and Mason as the educational ideal reflecting the unity of all knowledge, has at its center the oversized figure of Thomas Aquinas, siting in triumph upon a throne over the representatives of the theological and the liberal arts. (a reason why today it is identified as “The Triumph of St. Thomas”, rather than “The descent of the Holy Ghost”). In other words this was a pictoral representation of the Dominican ideal of education in which the dogmatic authority of the church is taken to be the ultimate authority in all matters of knowledge and conscience.

      Because they were reading the Fresco with Protestant Eyes, Both Mason and Ruskin, disregarded this prominent feature of the picture and focused only upon the universal inspiration of the Holy Spirit as educator of mankind. But had they voiced their progressive educational views at times and places where the Dominican run inquisition had sway, they would have quickly experienced the strict limits of the “liberal” views sanctioned by the Medieval Church as it regards freedom of conscience and freedom of inquiry.

      It is an anachronism to read back into the ideals underlying the system of medieval education the ideals which were introduced and later realized as a fruit of the Protestant reformation.

      Yes, no doubt all this process belongs within the wide range of the history of western civilization and shares its common roots, and therefore there is plenty of overlap among the various schools and realizations. But there is an essential understanding and application of these ideals that came into the world only thanks to the teaching of Jesus Christ and the efforts of those who have been faithful in pursuing to work in practice the implications of divinely inspired revealed Truth.

      Yes, no doubt the great achievements and monuments of truth and knowledge of pagan culture could and should be brought before the throne of God, its Designer, Creator, Redeemer and Lord, and they were, just as the basilicas became the models of Christian churches. Once more the gold of the Egyptians have been brought to the service of God, as St. Augustine well remarked. But that “overlap” certainly did not make the Israelite religion an implementation of the Egyptian, nor Christianity an implementation of the religion of Rome.

      The only reason I think this discussion matters is because these essential distinctions, particular contributions in this process of realization, struggle and maturation have been blurred and taken out of their proper historical and religious context.

      So, was Mason a classical educator? well that depends on how one defines “classical”, but as we are commanded not to discuss about words, lets focus on substance. Mason claimed to have brought to the table something new. As far as I know, she was right and deserves the credit for it.

      Thank you for you kind attention,

      Ben


      “If we would keep a child innocent,
      we must deliver him from the oppression of various forms of tyranny.”
      Concerning Children as Persons. Charlotte M. Mason

      I think we might make more use than we do of the habit of meditation as a means of attaining to the knowledge of God.
      =====
      The Rev. Dr. Benjamin E. Bernier
      Education for the Kingdom | BLOGSPOT | Google + | Books | Newsletter | Twitter | Paper.li | Linkedin | Youtube | UStream | Facebook |
      =====

      • Ben,

        Thank you for taking the time to lay out the issues so clearly. There are so many helpful things in your comment that I could highlight, but I would like to focus on just one in particular: the fresco in the Spanish Chapel. Yes, the seven liberal arts are depicted in that fresco. But as you point out, the prominent figure is St. Thomas Aquinas. Mason’s attachment to this fresco does not make her classical any more than it makes her Dominican or Thomistic. We must let Mason herself tell us how this fresco contributed to her theory of education. It did *not* cause her to organize her thoughts around the seven liberal arts. Rather, it caused her to organize her thoughts around the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life. Hence we have living books, simple grammar lessons, nature study, and so many other blessings pressed into service to lead us into the personal knowledge of God.

        Respectfully,
        Art

        • Well this confirms my thoughts all along! GOD used CM to CLAIM CLASSICAL education for HIS GLORY. The seven liberal arts are from The Lord. The Holy Spirit is over all education. This Spanish fresco is purposing to reflect a classical education. The difference in views (whether Thomas Awuinas is over it or The Holy Spirit . Is overit) does not change the fact that it is a PICTURE OF A CLASSICAL EDUCATION. I thrilled that CM and Ruskin saw that the Holy Spirit is over a liberal arts (classical) education. She claimed it for Christ! Ideas beget ideas! Mason lived out her theory. An idea is born from an idea.

          • Dear Adrienne,

            With all due respect, I do not follow your logic. The fresco depicts both the seven liberal arts *and* Thomas Aquinas. If the fresco proves that Mason is in the classical tradition, then it also proves that she is in the Thomistic tradition. (Indeed, I have seen people speculate that Mason attributed a special authority to St. Thomas Aquinas due to her affection for this fresco.) But the historical record demonstrates that Mason was neither in the classical nor in the Thomistic tradition. She did *not*, in fact, organize her curriculum around the seven liberal arts. Nor did she assign any particular authority to St. Thomas Aquinas. A reading of chapter 25 of her second volume shows that the lesson Mason drew from this fresco is that the Holy Spirit is the Educator of mankind, who works “with each single child.”

            Respectfully,
            Art

      • Ben,

        Many thanks for this response. It reveals a good deal of reading and reflection, and what’s more, a spirit of collaboration and peace.

        Faced as we are against a great common foe, all Christian educators may find that we have much more in common than we realized twenty years ago. We might treasure what we share more too.

        I might quibble with some of your comments above, but they would be quibbles because neither of us have time to qualify everything we say. Your comment about the medieval church seems like a generalization to me–while much went wrong during the medieval period (like the Inquisition!) the Spirit remained present with the church, and piety, love and learning was preserved in many places. Even Calvin quoted and appreciated medieval theologians like Bernard.

        I too, am wary of how the semantics in this discussion can become a bugaboo. Whether someone might urge that CM “is” or “is not” “classical” does not get to the bottom of the substantial issues does it. As I have said elsewhere in this thread, the word “classical” is fraught with its own problems, having such a wide semantic range as to make it problematic from the get-go. As I am sure you know well know, “classical” was not how “classical education” was generally described before say 1870. “Liberal” education or learning was the more common descriptor.

        I also want to affirm that some more precise language about educational philosophy will aid the discussion. In other words, I think rather than talking with more “conclusive” and generalized language about what classical education “is” and whether CM therefore “is” or “is not” classical, it could be more helpful to take an inductive approach and list some of the discrete elements (maybe side-by-side) that characterize CM and at least my description of classical education. I think we would find, as you have said, clear areas of overlap or coincidence. After that comparative list was drawn up, I think we could say here are ways in which CM and CE are similar and dissimilar.

        After that, we could have a more informed discussion about cause and effect, antecedent – consequence, source-influence questions, that are much more difficult to substantiate.

        I think that a lot of the readers of this thread would be relieved to see that two scholars of these approaches agree on some very important aspects of Christian education!

        Would you be game for creating a comparative list of substantial elements just in order to discern the convergence and divergence of CM and CE?

        Pax,
        Chris

        • > Would you be game for creating a comparative list of substantial elements just in order to discern the convergence and divergence of CM and CE?

          Thank for your gracious response and positive invitation. Sure, I will be happy to collaborate, although I do not think that I can improve much upon what Art has already pointed out. So, maybe he would be better equipped to summarize his article into helping produce such a list?

          Anyway, it seems to me that his article already provides us with the essentials in reference to Glass Argument in favor of the characterization of Mason as classical.

          It remains for those who feel inclined to defend Glass position, to respond to the substance of Art’s argumentation providing evidence to substantiate Glass’ reading of Mason or of proposing a better ground upon which to claim Mason as “classical”.

          That being said, I think that what we are doing in holding this conversation is a necessary and important task, and will be happy to keep the dialogue going and contribute anyway I can, because, as far as I know, Mason’s theory has yet to receive a serious assessment to place her within the context of her distinctive contribution to the history and philosophy of Education (especially of her position within the progress of a Christian ideal of Education).

          This is a grave omission, which is awaiting correction.

          For example I believe, that at least Mason’s essay; “Concerning Children as Persons” ought to be included in every anthology of Basic readings on the history and philosophy of Education and ought to be discussed in every teacher training program regardless of it being Christian or not, just because of the quality, relevance and distinctiveness of the ideas there presented. and I hope that discussions such as this may promote the elevation of Mason’s ideas to the place they deserve as serious philosophical contributions and not just as practical remedies against a decadent educational culture.

          Thank you, Paz y Bien,

          Ben

          • Yes, It can also be read online in my blog, education for the kingdom at blogspot.

            This essay is not part of the Series since it was first written in 1911 and twice revised. At a time when the Method and philosophy had reached their mature stages and was striving for greater recognition.

            In that sense it fulfilled part of the purpose of the final volumen of the series, to help difuse and attract a wider attention upon the essential features of the realized philosophy.

            I would add to my previous comments that as a Pastor and seminary profesor at my denomination, I recommend this short reading to Pastors as well as families especially young couples looking to have children. The quality of Mason’s writing and insight into Christian principle and aplication to life makes her writing to stand among the best I have read in regard to this subject.
            Thank you,
            Ben

          • Ben,

            I agree with you as to the significance and broad applicability of this document. This document makes it clear why Mason’s first principle is so integral to her theory of education. We simply cannot affirm Glass’s claim that “if [Mason] were alive today, she might choose slightly different points to emphasize.”

            Respectfully,
            Art

        • I actually drew a venn diagram last year on this very subject. I have a full-time job whereby we are converting 21 charter schools to classical schools with a CM influence. We also have existing classical schools without a CM influence. So, I HAD to create this in order to discover the distinctions of our 2 different classical models. There is so much overlap that it is staggering and it even surprised me. I would love to see what you come up with because it may help me to revise my list.

          Adrienne

          • This is a great discussion to have and I do believe one of the best things about it for me are the points that Charlotte Mason has a distinctive philosophy that should not be swallowed up by classical education. I have tried to collaborate with someone with a classically minded background to teach a co-op and it is difficult. I do not know if that is because of a poor execution of classical knowledge, but I do know that the differences in a Charlotte Mason philosophy truly set it apart. I have found Circe Institute to be a great resource, but I am continually drawn to it’s aspects that are apparently more Charlotte Mason in philosophy.

            Art, I like that you brought up the who, what, why, and how of Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. All of those questions are answered in her 6 volumes and other writings.

            Also, I think classical can mean different things, or at least the definition that everyone seems to agree on is quite short. Charlotte Mason’s philosophy can be readily identified and specified by looking at all her writings.

            I understand the illustrations of a Venn diagram and dishwasher features, but I think these would give a very base, mathematical comparison, that might suck away the living well that is a Charlotte Mason education or even the classical tradition. To say that CM has these features and classical has these and here is where they overlap could be a little deadening and really take the depth and poetry out of both.

            Shelley Dorman

          • Shelley,

            Thank you for bringing up an important caution about creating the “Venn diagram.” It would be all too easy to create a spreadsheet where key principles and elements are reduced to dry husks without their informing ideas. For example, we might put “great works of art” in the area of overlap. We might be even more specific and put “Giotto” in the area of overlap. But at what cost? Would we know that behind the word “Giotto,” Charlotte Mason intended a much deeper sentiment:

            “There are always those present with us whom God whispers in the ear, through whom He sends a direct message to the rest. Among these messengers are the great painters who interpret to us some of the meanings of life. To read their messages aright is a thing due from us. But this, like other good gifts, does not come by nature. It is the reward of humble, patient study. It is not in a day or a year that Fra Angelico will tell us of the beauty of holiness, that Giotto will confide his interpretation of the meaning of life, that Millet will tell us of the simplicity and dignity that belong to labour on the soil, that Rembrandt will show us the sweetness of humanity in many a commonplace countenance. The artist –– ‘Reaching, that heaven might so replenish him, Above and through his art,’ –– has indispensable lessons to give us, whether he convey them through the brush of the painter, the vast parables of the architect, or through such another cathedral built of sound as ‘Abt Vogler’ produced: the outward and visible sign is of less moment than the inward and spiritual grace.”

            Yes, the outward and visible sign is of less moment than the inward and spiritual grace. Can the outward and visible sign be a cell in a spreadsheet? Maybe. Maybe not.

            Respectfully,
            Art

    • I’m glad to see you interacting with this post, Dr. Perrin. Thank you! This year I have been equally influenced by your lectures on schole and Karen’s book and resources at Ambleside Online, and though I am not qualified to add any research to this discussion, in our home so far classical principles and Charlotte Mason’s ideas seem to complement each other beautifully.

    • Christopher Perrin, Thank you!! Did you read my three posts to him? You have done much of the work for me, although I could add more, as you could too. The list of books you gave him is the same list I gave him twice. I saw many fallacies in this blpg, and concluded that most of it is due to a lack of knowing what a classical education truly is.

      I also have admonished him to study and define a classical education. I too cautioned against the neo- classical movement that took off in the 80s.

      I hope you will glimpse over my comments which are probably embedded now, as they were posted within a day or two of this article.

      Thank you so much for this reply. You are spot on.

    • One more thought. Simply put, CM is THE GOSPEL ROOTED METHOD by which one can offer their child s classical education. There are rigorous methods in traditional classical models. CM is the most beautiful CHRIST centered METHOD for giving a child a CLASSICAL EDUCATION. Because WHAT type of books and curricula (art, music, nature, etc) are the SAME in classical and CM the real issue is that CM is a CHRIST CENTERED method for teaching the liberal arts (pictured in the Spanish fresco.) CM noticed the truth that the HOLY SPIRIT is leading the Clasical education in that fresco.

      • Dear Adrienne,

        I am happy to see that we agree on a few things:

        – CM is a Gospel-rooted method.
        – CM is a beautiful Christ-centered method for giving a child an education.

        But unfortunately we disagree in our assessment of books and curricula. Mason did not organize her books and curricula around the seven liberal arts or the classical pattern. Rather, she wrote:

        “We are told that the Spirit is life; therefore… all the thought we offer to our children shall be living thought… Every subject has its living way, … and it is only as we discover this living way in each case that a subject of instruction makes for the education of a child. No neat system is of any use; it is the very nature of a system to grow stale in the using; every subject, every division of a subject, every lesson, in fact, must be brought up for examination before it is offered to the child as to whether it is living, vital, of a nature to invite the living Intellect of the universe.”

        Respectfully,
        Art

        • Art,

          I agree with you 100% as you stated “Mason did not organize her books and curricula around the seven liberal arts or the classical pattern.I did not state or infer that Miss Mason centered her curriculum around the seven liberal arts. I am sorry it if sounded like I was saying that. I was simply stating that much of the curricula in a classical education is the same as a CM education. By no means have I ever thought that Miss Mason centered her curricula around a classical pedagogy.

          There are many ideas and methods behind how to implement a Classical curricula. The curricula in a Christian Classical school (Such as the type that Andrew Kern would support) should contain all of the same elements in a CM selection (the books she chose,nature study, art, music, etc.) These are the same in a good Christian Classical School. The difference is the METHOD by which the curricula is taught. CM is a METHOD which is rooted in the philosophy of the child being made in the image of God and allowing the Holy Spirit to feed and lead the child to truth (and much more.) I am simply making a broad summarizing statement. I am very familiar with CM and have read volume 6 multiple times and some parts I practically have memorized. I also have read of most of volume 3 and volume 4.

          Her method happens to fit nicely into a Classical curricula because the authors, artists, musicians, etc that she chose are the same that most Christian Classical educators would use. AND the standard by which she chooses which master to study are the same standard that a classical school has in choosing what it puts into the curricua.

          Charlotte Mason is a method that teaches Classical Educators HOW to teach the curricula HER way and HOW to choose curricula. HER METHOD is unique and she DID invent the method. I agree with you that her method was NEW and created by her. I am simply saying that her method fits into a classical pedagogy as a WAY of teaching the classical curricula that most classicists would use to teach.

          The real issue here is that the definition of classical education needs to be understood. I am hopeful that you will invest the time to read the books that myself and Mr. Perrin have recommended. It is biased to state a lengthy rebuttle against Karen Glass, when clearly the classical side of this issue is not understood. If you will take the time to read Poetic Knowledge as well as listen to podcasts and read books by Andrew Kern, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

          I sure hope that clarifies some things. I am pretty tired after a long 12 hour work day, so forgive my very poor writing skills in this post and any ramblings that may be present.

          Respectfully yours,
          Adrienne

          P.S. I just read a whole bunch of CM quotes that are so aligned with a Christian Classical belief system, but I am too tired to copy them and paste them. There are abundant. I am not saying SHE WAS Classical, we are saying that her methods FIT in a classical model because her values and her goal for the education of a child are the same. Her methods are so aligned with classical that it makes complete sense to call her one of several types of classical methods.

          • Dear Arienne,

            God bless you for taking the time to comment after a 12-hour day of work! I admire your dedication and passion to the cause of education and truth.

            With each successive exchange, it seems that we are getting closer to a common ground. Based on this and your previous comment, we agree on the following:

            – CM is a Gospel-rooted method.
            – CM is a beautiful Christ-centered method for giving a child an education.
            – CM’s method is unique.
            – CM’s method was new and invented by her.
            – CM’s theory of education is rooted in the philosophy of the child being made in the image of God and allowing the Holy Spirit to feed and lead the child to truth.
            – To use your words, “I am not saying SHE WAS Classical.”

            In my view, those assertions are sufficient to establish my thesis. My thesis was that (1) it is incorrect to say that Mason’s theory of education is a “particular implementation” of a “classical education” and (2) “Mason introduced a distinctly new philosophy of education that is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition.”

            In your comment, you state that Mason’s methods can be used to profitable effect with a classical curriculum. That is really outside of the scope of my article. The extent to which Mason’s methods may be applied to a classical curriculum I will leave to you to adjudicate as you are well-read and experienced in the classical arena.

            Unfortunately, however, we still disagree on a few points.

            > 1. “the standard by which she chooses which master to study are the same standard that a classical school”

            I don’t believe that is the case. Mason chose the material to study based on the principle of “life.” She did so due to her theology of the Holy Spirit and her sacramental view of education and all of life. There is an almost mystical dimension to this. Mason said that a book could only be determined to be living based on the reaction of the children. She wrote, “The expert is not the person to choose [which books are living]; the children themselves are the experts in this case.”

            > 2. “her goal for the education of a child are the same”

            I don’t believe this is the case either. Mason was quite clear that the goal of education is the knowledge of God, not virtue. Mason had only one word underlined in her prayer book. It wasn’t “virtue.” It was “know.”

            > 3. “Her methods are so aligned with classical that it makes complete sense to call her one of several types of classical methods”

            I think this is inaccurate both inherently and from a historical perspective. It leads to confusion about Mason’s method and leads her readers to impose an interpretive paradigm that typically results in a truncation of her principles.

            One final note of warning. In your comment you suggest that Mason’s method is about the “how.” Actually, it is about the “who” (the child, the teacher, the Holy Spirit), the “how” (the methods), the “what” (the curriculum), and the “why” (the knowledge of God). Mason did not intend for her method to be sprinkled like salt upon the meat of one’s choosing. Rather, she said, “I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not ‘more or less,’ but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated.”

            My hope for you is that you will keep an open mind and consider the full scope of Mason’s claims.

            Respectfully yours,
            Art

  23. Thank you Art for writing this wonderful piece of work.
    (I will be printing it out!)
    I am sure you put many hours of reading and writing it and it shows. I have heard you speak at the CMI conferences and thoroughly enjoy your take on Mason’s philosophy. I truly believe there is a divide in Mason’s method that needed to be pointed out and you did just this in a very respectful way.
    All in all, I appreciate all you have done to open our minds eye in understanding more about Mason and her philosophy.

    • Lisa, thank you for the encouragement. And thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my article.

  24. Dear Lisa,

    Thank you for your encouraging words. I just want to make it clear that CMI did not ask me to write this article. This article was started and finished on my own initiative. I asked CMI to publish it on its blog, and thankfully CMI agreed. I encourage anyone who reads my article to focus especially on Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles and how she articulated the goal of education. In my view these principles form the basis for long-term unity within the broader Charlotte Mason community.

    Respectfully,
    Art

  25. Art,

    My biggest concern with your post is that it reveals your lack of knowledge in the history of the classical movement from antiquity to current times. In order for a truly scholarly rebuttal, it would be prudent for the author to have a very good working understanding of both sides of the thesis.

    I recommend that in order for a “scholarly” discussion to continue, that you join those of us who have read BOTH Charlotte Mason and have a working understanding of the Classical movement and classical methods.

    For this issue to have any true substance, a solid working understanding of “classical” must be defined and understood and agreed upon. Miss Glass does not in any way stray from CM or her methods whatsoever. I honestly think this discussion may lead me to start writing a book, as this very topic has been the focus of my full-time job, which happens to be “Where do CM and Classical overlap?” I literally am a full-time educator who is helping convert 24 schools to a classical CM model.

    I have immersed myself into this very topic with my entire brain and being for the past year.

    If I had been told 9 years ago that CM was classical, my reaction would have been the same as yours, and in fact it was! Nine years ago, I had a very limited understanding of what a classical education was. Several years ago I was invited to attend a Circe Institute conference and was blown away at how much CM I was hearing. Through intense study, I have discovered so much that I was completely ignorant of and my lack of really understanding classical began to show. In fact, I am diabolically opposed to Dorothy Sayers essay, most of modern classical curricula and philosophy, and the neo-classical movement that has been sweeping America. My guess is that you and I agree on this. I recently read Dorothy Sayer’s essay and it was riddled with antithetical methods of the Charlotte Mason philosophy.

    I highly recommend that Andrew Kern and the Circe Institute be your source for self-edcuation on the definition of a real Christian Classical education. I would start with:

    1. Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education by James S. Taylor and read this link which may allow you to see a glimpse of a Classical CM method- http://www.crisismagazine.com/2012/what-is-poetic-knowledge

    2. Norms and Nobility by David Hicks (AmblesideOnline consulted Mr. Hicks to help them write the upper years of the AO curricula)

    3.Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America by Kern and Veith

    4. The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Classical Christian Education by: Clark and Jain.

    Regarding Karen Glass’ book, I remember reading it the first time last year and thinking to myself “People who do not have a working understanding of CM and of Classical are going to struggle with understanding this.” It is a great book, but it does sit upon a basic understanding of both CM and Classical. When I read it, I assumed that her main audience would be homeschool moms who have researched classical methods and CM and so they would have a basic understanding. I can see how you and others might struggle with understanding her book.

    I do plan to write some answers to my original comment of which you asked for a response. I have been in a car for a few days and I am finally home. I have a full-time job and I have a lot of deadlines in the next 3 weeks, so it may be a few weeks before I am able to compile solid answers. To be fair, quotes need to come from CM and from Classicists. This is time consuming, but I am 100% sure that it is all there. It might take me a year, as I am a very thorough researcher.

    Thank you for this discussion. I am hopeful that at some point we will all see eye to eye. Self-education is the key. Immersing into truth and discovery will bring light to this deep conversation. I hope you will heed my admonishment to immerse yourself in the study of Christian classical methods. There is indeed a divide. I know where these are and I am sure you will see them. But, there is a lot of over-lap and I charge everyone to read the 4 sources I posted above and then go back and look at the Spanish Fresco. The new lenses will help you see what I believe Miss Mason discovered.

    • Dear Adrienne,

      Thank you for your continued participation in this discussion. If there is something in the various sources or literature that you are referencing which falsifiies any statement or claim in my article, then I kindly ask that you share the details with us for the edification of all of the readers.

      Respectfully,
      Art

  26. I have read and appreciate your article, Mr. Middlekauff. It is timely for me as I have recently started to comment to friends that “Charlotte Mason really is classical education”. I have not read Glass’s book, but have begun to think that Charlotte Mason falls under the umbrella of classical. That is my fault as I do not have a good understanding of what classical is. There were many interesting points to your article. The assumption that classical education is the highest standard and Charlotte Mason falls into the category can be an easy mistake to make as there does not seem to be a clear modern definition of what a classical education is and how it is practiced today. The idea that Charlotte Mason had her own distinct principle and ideas that are excellent APART from the classical tradition is a good distinction to make.

    • Shelley,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I am delighted to hear that it made you think about Charlotte Mason’s theory of education in a new light.

      Respectfully,
      Art

  27. Karen Glass extends an invitation to “consider” her work, implying conversation, thought and even disagreement. I don’t understand how Art’s essay can be offensive to anyone in the Charlotte Mason community. It is well written, well thought out and well researched. I think he highlights some very important distinctions between Mason’s words and Glass’ interpretation. I don’t understand how anyone can believe that he is making a personal attack on Karen herself or trying to divide the CM community. Art has been completely respectful of Ms. Glass and those making comments. I also don’t think it is necessary to write a book to begin a conversation. We teach our children to read and think for themselves, weighing the evidence and coming to thier own conclusions. Do we not hold ourselves to the same standard? Are we not free to come to our own conclusions? Is the Charlotte Mason community really so fragile that it cannot withstand a debate? Why is it that there are some things that cannot be said in this community, lest the speaker be shamed or shunned? Art, thank you for the time and thought you put into this and thank you for the risk you have taken, opening yourself up to scrutiny and wrath, for the sake of a conversation that needs to happen.

    • Brittney,

      Thank you so much for encouraging a vibrant and rich discussion. This kind of debate took place in Mason’s own lifetime. Towards the end of her life she wrote, “We must be careful to keep the spring undefiled. At one time we heard of Herbart’s explanation of ideas struggling for admittance.” It’s hard to imagine a struggle when Mason was there to referee. But if it was important to keep the spring undefiled when she was alive, how much more important to diligently analyze, discuss, and debate in our day, in order to continue to keep the spring pure?

      Respectfully,
      Art

    • CMI has not been silent, as shown by the fact that both John’s and Art’s thoughts were published, even with the knowledge that they would be shamed in some circles. But I think the response within the community shut down the conversation, making the average person who is not used to stepping into the arena and getting clobbered afraid to dissent.

    • Hear! Hear! Unfortunately, communities and people are fragile, which means we need to speak with respect and deference in order to keep the dialogue going rather than shut it down. But Mason’s ideas are NOT fragile. They stand on their own and do not need to fit within any other tradition. I have to say, I have wondered why classical was singled out. Sure, Mason read classical authors. But she extensively studied Pestalozzi and Froebel, and we do not call her a Pestalozzian or a Froebelian educator. When I read Ruskin’s “Sesame and Lilies,” I was struck by the similarities in both ideas and language between him and Mason. She was obviously highly influenced by him, and no one says that she fits squarely within the Ruskinian tradition. And as Margaret Coombs pointed out in her biography, Mason’s thoughts on habit training were influenced by Locke, but we certainly don’t say that she followed his treatise on education. The point here is that she practiced what she preached. She read, she weighed ideas, and she accepted or rejected them according to what she knew about God, psychology, and her own observations of children, as Art draws out in this paper. She asks us to do the same thing, going even further to say that, until we have done so, we do not have a right to even have–let alone voice–an opinion.

  28. Thank you Art, for this careful tour the force challenging us to pay close attention to Mason’s claims in her own words, rather than our appropriation of what we would like her to have taught according to our presuppositions.

    In particular I appreciate your highlighting some of Mason’s less well known writings, like the Meditations and supporting material, like the excellent and important early Parents Review, article by Rev. Blunt, (which by BTW, was read in an Anglican Clergy Conference by a reputed divine of the time, and quotes Mason’s gospel code of education.–As far as I know Mason was the first, Christian educator to highlight these set of teachings of Christ as a code of law setting the boundaries for the education of children) shedding light upon the role of Mason’s Christian commitment in the formation and proper understanding of her key concepts.

    By an accident of history the revival of interest in Mason’s work set on a train of appropriation of Mason’s insights apart from their proper Anglican background and ethos, as I show in my dissertation, so that many CMason’s experts, are only experts in quoting the sections of the Series which tend to fit with their educational and religious presuppositions. I think it is time that such claims be examined in light of their proper historical and religious background and that more attention is given to Mason’s own words especially in her less well know writings, (both poetry and prose) where her religious commitments are explicitly stated.

    When one takes care to do this, as you so well have shown by carefully elucidating Mason’s concepts as defined and promoted by her, it becomes very clear how Mason’s philosophy and work was from start to finish an intentional effort to serve, honor and promote the personal knowledge of God through Christ by means of the best education and that therefore the proper light in which to read her contribution is not the classical pursuit of knowledge and virtue for a few and for its own sake, neither the medieval model of knowledge constrained by the bounds of dogmatic ecclesiastical authority,
    but rather the protestant ideal of a universal education as enunciated by Commenius, “All knowledge to all people”; a Christ-centered call to the love and knowledge of God, which is eternal life, a call and commandment God has given to all which ultimate aim is the knowledge, love and glory of God.

    In times when the spiritual nature of human beings have been defined out of the educational equation, handicapping our understanding of ourselves, the world and God, and transforming education into a pragmatic discipline bound by humanistic and materialistic ends, such thoroughly Christian understanding of education and its role in life has become of critical importance.

    Mason’s work is part of a spiritual inheritance Christians must take hold of less we suffer loss in the struggle for living out the faith and preserving for us and our children the best, as faithful stewards of God’s gracious gift.

    Again my hearty thanks. And keep up the good work.

    • Benjamin,

      Thank you so much for this strong reminder of the importance of listening to Mason in her own words, including her words recorded in her religious writings. I agree with you that her works are part of a spiritual inheritance that Christians must take hold of. Towards the end of her life, Mason wrote, “I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not ‘more or less,’ but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated.” She did not intend for her ideas to be picked and chosen a la carte. Rather, she developed a self-contained and coherent theology of education – for the children’s sake.

      Respectfully,
      Art

  29. In reply to Lady M, It is always tricky to figure out a way to respond to a published work in a way that encourages dialogue without attacking the writer. I think two of the reasons this book has had such far-reaching influence are because a) the author is well-known and respected in the Mason community, and b) people who disagree with Glass have wrestled with this problem and decided to be silent rather than make waves. I do not believe that approach is healthy. Neither is circling the wagons when ideas are challenged. We need this kind of dialogue and push-back in order to force ourselves to read and think critically, refine our understanding, and become the best Mason educators we can be. To me, that epitomizes ‘professionalism.'”

    • Thank you Jen. I think that clarifies well why Glass’s important book is such an appropriate anchor for this discussion.

    • Jen Spencer,

      I do find it interesting that you imply that CMI has been silent on this since CMI has already had Dr. Thorley review the book a while back. To be honest, it feels like more of an attempt to discredit Glass’s work than dialogue. CMI may consider itself professional, but I expect better from the people who represent CMI than standard academia behavior. I have great respect for Art, but this leaves a bad taste in my mouth….

  30. I think, rather than tearing apart your peer’s book in a “blog post”, perhaps you would have been better off writing a book with your own about what you think a Charlotte Mason education is or is based on. A little more professional and a lot less likely to leave a bad taste in our mouths. The Charlotte Mason community needs to stand together and figure out how to get along, lest her fabulous methods again fall to the wayside.

    • Dear Lady M,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on my article. I would like to reply to your two points.

      1. You indicate that it is not professional to “tear apart” a peer’s book in a “blog post.” My intention was not to tear apart a book, but rather to challenge an published interpretation of Charlotte Mason. It is not clear to me why that is not professional. Countless exchanges occur like this in the academic community every day. By the way, thank you for referring to me as a peer of Mrs. Glass.

      2. You wrote, “The Charlotte Mason community needs to stand together and figure out how to get along, lest her fabulous methods again fall to the wayside.” The question is, what are the fabulous methods we are trying to preserve? As I summarized in Table 3 of my article, there is apparently not a consensus as to what those methods are. I wrote this article precisely because I want to preserve Mason’s methods.

      Respectfully,
      Art

      • Art,

        I am glad to hear that your intentions were not to tear apart a book. While this may be common to do across academia and is considered a professional thing to do, that doesn’t mean academia does things appropriately either (the things that goes on in the name of academia make me shudder…and having had family that worked in “academia”…well, it is vicious in there). I think a better option would have simply to have written your thoughts about why Mason was not a classical educator in your own right with your research along with it. I appreciate that you did all the research, but I suspect it would have stood on it’s own. I have no problem with referring to Mrs. Glass’s book, but this blog post (it is on CMI’s blog page, that is why I referred to it as a “blog post”), was more than just a reference or a discussion, in my opinion.

        I do think one needs to consider what Mason referred to in “Towards a Philosophy of Education” on page 27: “I have attempted to unfold a system of educational theory which seems to me able to meet any rational demand, even that severest criterion set up by Plato; it is able to “run the gauntlet of objections, and is ready to disprove them, not by appeals to opinion, but to absolute truth.” Some of it is new, much of it is old.” Even Mason says here that “much of it is old”. Truly, I have a hard time believing a CM education does not have it’s roots in classical education.

        I am not sure if you want me to explain Mason’s methods and philosophy to you (referring to your #2), but to do that, I would have to write a book and I see no need of that as there are many who have done so already….and they base their thoughts off of Mason’s own words . “Consider This” did not undermine or walk away from Mason’s methods/philosophies, in my opinion.

        And of course I would consider you a peer…I still think this would be better off as a book. I am glad that you considered what Mrs. Glass had to say and that it made you think about what she had to say.

        • Dear Lady M,

          Thank you for continuing the dialog. In the spirit of cordial discussion, I would like to respond to your points.

          > 1. “I think a better option would have simply to have written your thoughts about why Mason was not a classical educator in your own right with your research along with it… I suspect it would have stood on it’s own.”

          I have published my positive exposition of Charlotte Mason’s theory in two books published by Riverbend Press http://www.riverbendpress.com/shop-books/. The difference in this case is that I am responding to an interpretation published by someone else. It is the difference between advancing a claim and challenging a claim.

          > 2. “I do think one needs to consider what Mason referred to in ‘Towards a Philosophy of Education’ on page 27: ‘I have attempted to unfold a system of educational theory which seems to me able to meet any rational demand, even that severest criterion set up by Plato; it is able to “run the gauntlet of objections, and is ready to disprove them, not by appeals to opinion, but to absolute truth.” Some of it is new, much of it is old.’ Even Mason says here that ‘much of it is old’. Truly, I have a hard time believing a CM education does not have it’s roots in classical education.”

          I do address that passage in my article. I point out that “The Gospels are old. Glass does not provide evidence to demonstrate that the ‘old’ elements of Mason’s theory were drawn from classical sources.” Recall that (a) Mason said she had found “a code of education in the Gospels, expressly laid down by Christ”; (b) in Masson’s own accounts of the development of her theory (such as volume 6 pp. 9-17) she credits the observation of children, personal reflection, and the discoveries of science as her sources; and (c) the ideas in many of her 20 principles do not have a foundation in the classical tradition. (I explain this in detail in my article for principles 1, 2, 3, 9, 15, 18, and 20.) Given these observations, it seems to me an unfounded conjecture to say the roots of her core theory are found in classical education.

          > 3. “‘Consider This’ did not undermine or walk away from Mason’s methods/philosophies, in my opinion.”

          On this we disagree. Please refer again to Table 3 of my article and all the supporting discussion.

          > 4. “I still think this would be better off as a book.”

          Thank you for your candid feedback. There are many factors to consider when producing a book, such as finances and timeframe. Not everyone can realistically publish a book in order to circulate their ideas. I can only ask that you kindly respect each author’s decision to make their writings available in the manner they choose.

          > 5. “I am glad that you considered what Mrs. Glass had to say and that it made you think about what she had to say.”

          I am glad as well. Mrs. Glass’s book was a tremendous blessing to me in that it motivated me to delve more deeply into Mason’s writings than I had ever done before. In doing so, I found many sweet gems that provided intrinsic reward. I invite you and all other readers of this article to similarly delve more deeply into Charlotte Mason’s writings, and in particular her religious writings. I am confident you will find special blessings.

          Respectfully,
          Art

  31. Wow, Art! I was so glad when I read Glass’ book because I thought, now all my friends who are using Classical Conversations will see that CM is an even better way to “classically” educate their kids. But it didn’t really change anything about how I implement CM in our own homeschool. I appreciate the effort and research that went into this. Thank you for your many contributions to the Mason community.

    • Nicole, thank you for your kind words. I remember when you told me about your own visit to the Spanish Chapel in Florence. I am glad that you discovered the Great Recognition that the Holy Spirit cooperates with us in a child’s arithmetic lesson.

  32. Amazingly helpful article. I really appreciate your depth of knowledge of Charlotte Mason’s original writings and clarity of your analysis.

  33. Thank you, Art, for this very brilliant and well-researched article. Thank you also for beginning with your call for mutual respect; although you disagree with Glass in her interpretations, you never disrespect her. I disagree with you, however, when you say that you are neither a scholar nor an educationalist—you are both, and your very thorough analysis has added much to the debate. Your research is meticulous and your arguments compelling!
    Thank you also for drawing attention to “a priori” assumptions and to the use of eisegesis rather than exegesis in the writing of her book. I think we all are guilty at one time or another of being so excited to discover a new line of thinking (to us) and wanting to make it fit with what we already believe. I think that is what Glass has done. Thanks again, Art for a very fair treatment of Glass’ assertions that Mason got her ideas from classical education.

    • Scott, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my article.

  34. Thank you, Art, for such a thorough analysis of this book and for responding thoughtfully to questions and concerns in this thread. This is such an important conversation, and I’m thankful to have a place where ideas can be hashed out and challenged without anyone being shut down or shamed for disagreeing with you. You have succeeded in articulating thoughts that many of us had upon reading Consider This. It takes real courage to publish a piece of writing like this that you know will be controversial, just as it took real courage for Karen Glass to publish her theory. Keeping the conversation going and focused on ideas and evidence will only help everyone. As Mason said, one of our main responsibilities is to accept or reject ideas, and there is a great deal to be said on both sides of an argument. Thanks for showing the other side of this particular argument so that we can exercise our duty to read and think for ourselves.

    • Thank you, Jennifer, for that reminder about the 19th principle. As Charlotte Mason educators, we should model the practices we want to see in our students!

  35. Art,

    This is a fine piece of work!!
    I love that you have brought such clarity to this subject and have allowed Miss Mason to speak for herself. I needed this.

    Thank You! And, please, write the book!

  36. You cannot claim these things without defining classical education. Clearly, you would benefit from attending a few Circe institute conferences and by reading Poetic knowledge by James Taylor. There is s massive evolution in the classical movement and during miss Mason’s era it was in the pit of its dark ages era. She was excavating its roots during her discoveries! She quoted so many classists that are too numerous to list. You have riddled this dissertation with fallacies. Miss Mason had a very clear discovery of her merge between the real Classicsl ideas and the Gospel of our Lord when she was numb struck by the fresco in the Spanish chapel. This was her revelation of the mesh between the classical ideas and the gospel. If you don’t think she rooted her philosophy from excavating the ideas of antiquity, then you clearly do not understand or know the history of the classical model. CS Lewis said of the reading of Old books, that time removed from one era to another allows one to look across history and see the big picture. Mason was far enough from the ancient classic era to see the connections through all the philosophers she quoted. But her view of classical was tainted because the classical schools during her era were greatly flawed and had fallen so far from where they had been. But, she saw the beauty and truth that was intended in a classical education and she built upon those ideas and advanced the antiquated Classicsl ideas to a more beautiful
    Form
    By merging these ideas with the gospel. Now, we are able to look from another era, as Lewis would say, and see even more from the classical excavations of its historical roots. Glass is a forerunner in being able to stand back and see the big picture that Mason saw in the fresco and Glass has been able to show these connections.Glass stands on a platform
    Of understanding classical. I admonish you to take a few years to study classical. Read Andrew Kern, James Taylor’s poetic Knowledge, and The Liberal Arts Tradition by Jain and Clark. In fact Afterthoughts blog might help you out too. Find her teaching on the tale of two pictures.

    • Adrienne,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I would like to respond briefly to some of your points.

      >1. “You cannot claim these things without defining classical education.”

      I took Glass’s working definition from page 2 of her book: a classical theory of education is one that finds its roots in the ancient world of Greece and Rome.

      >2. “She quoted so many classists that are too numerous to list.”

      If you have an example of where Mason cited a classical thinker as a source for one of her core principles, please share it with me.

      >3. “You have riddled this dissertation with fallacies.”

      Please share with me the specific fallacies.

      >4. “Miss Mason had a very clear discovery of her merge between the real Classical ideas and the Gospel of our Lord when she was numb struck by the fresco in the Spanish chapel. This was her revelation of the mesh between the classical ideas and the gospel.”

      Mason’s primary exposition of the fresco in the Spanish Chapel may be found in chapter 25 of her second volume (“Parents and Children”). The conclusion she draws is that the Holy Spirit is the supreme teacher of each individual child. I would encourage you to re-read that chapter and then clarify for me how Mason “meshed classical ideas and the Gospels” in her exposition of that fresco.

      >5. “If you don’t think she rooted her philosophy from excavating the ideas of antiquity, then you clearly do not understand or know the history of the classical model.”

      If Mason “rooted her philosophy from excavating the ideas of antiquity,” then why did she say she was promulgating “a very gospel of education, a gospel… that only within the last decade or two has it been an open book”? The important thing is not that *I* am denying that Mason rooted her philosophy in the ideas of antiquity. The important thing is that *Mason* is denying it. Let us allow her to speak for herself about the sources of her own theory. I have supplied many of her own words in my article.

      > 6. “Glass is a forerunner in being able to stand back and see the big picture that Mason saw in the fresco and Glass has been able to show these connections.”

      Glass’s description of the fresco in “Consider This” does not highlight the key lesson that Mason learned as described in chapter 25 of volume 2.

      Respectfully,
      Art

      • I am going to answer all of your inquiries regarding my post. I am on the road and these answers will take me time, but I am very confident I can answer them. I need my laptop. Expect an answer within one week. Meanwhile, the liberal arts of antiquity are everything under the Holy Spirit in the fresco. I actually just re-read CM on that in volume 2 and it’s also in volume 6 last week, so your timing to admonish me to re-read it is interesting. I promise you that I can supply solid answers to this post. I have been studying CM for 15 years and classical for 8. I believe you need to read James S. Taylor’s Poetic Knowledge and Andrew Kern/ Vieth’s Classical Movement Sweeping America. These may begin to open your eyes. It may take me writing a whole book to respond to this post!!! I cannot cannot cannot believe that you do not see all the classicists in antiquity that CM referred to with whom she developed relationships. She relationally connected to so many philosophers from antiquity and quoted them. I honestly cannot believe you have missed them. They are a thread woven throughout her series along with the Gospel tying it all together. I also believe I can answer your issue regarding Karen Glass saying the Children’s capacity for good and bad was not a theological statement. I believe she was responding to the neo-classists since the 1950s who have embraced radical Calvinism and claim that men are too evil to be good. These Calvinist Christans consider Mason a heretic for this statement of children having capacity for good and evil. This is the only argument I have heard in Christian homeschool CM circles. Since Glass’ main audience are these homeschoolers, I believe she may have been saying that in order to open their eyes. I hope she will confirm this. Until later, I look forward to this important conversation. I will post soon. Expect it to be long. I have a lot of evidence.

        • Adrienne,

          Thank you in advance for digging into this further. I look forward to hearing more from you in a week or so. In the meantime I would like to reply to a few points you just raised:

          > 1. “the liberal arts of antiquity are everything under the Holy Spirit in the fresco.”

          I would like to draw your attention specifically to the last paragraph of p. 277 of volume 2 – “Conditions of Divine Co-operation.” Please consider carefully what insight Mason was drawing from the fresco. It is key to her doctrine of living books, and it ties together her first and twentieth principles.

          > 2. “I cannot cannot cannot believe that you do not see all the classicists in antiquity that CM referred to with whom she developed relationships. She relationally connected to so many philosophers from antiquity and quoted them.”

          I think we are talking about two different things. You are talking about authors she knew about and referenced; I am talking about the sources for her distinctive theory. Please reread volume 6 pages 9-17 where Mason tells us how she developed her method. Note that Mason references Buddha in her writings; that does not make her a Buddhist. She could draw on many things to illustrate her points. But she states that her theory is largely made up of “principles hitherto unrecognized.” I like to take her at her word.

          > 3. “I also believe I can answer your issue regarding Karen Glass saying the Children’s capacity for good and bad was not a theological statement. I believe she was responding to the neo-classists since the 1950s who have embraced radical Calvinism and claim that men are too evil to be good. These Calvinist Christans consider Mason a heretic for this statement of children having capacity for good and evil. This is the only argument I have heard in Christian homeschool CM circles. Since Glass’ main audience are these homeschoolers, I believe she may have been saying that in order to open their eyes.”

          The fundamental rule of interpretation is author’s intent. I am trying to interpret Mason’s writings faithfully. Certainly Mason was not writing in anticipation of post-1950 Calvinists. There is simply no doubt that Mason’s second principle is a theological statement.

          Respectfully,
          Art

          • Art, regarding point number 2, I was responding to your comment: ” From the beginning to the end, not a single classical source is mentioned in Mason’s own narrative of the development of her educational theory.”

            Mason sources classists throughly her books, which as a whole reveal her educational philosophy. There are plenty of quotes thoughout her series whereby she credits “classical sources” that she agreed with and it was these very sources that helped her to form her discoveries and observations. Agsin her books should be read as a whole, whereby it all weaves together with the golden thread of the Gospel and influenced by ideas from classical philosophers and classical religious leaders who supported the classical liberal arts.

          • Adrienne,

            The crucial question is how did Mason *develop* her theory, not how did she *explain* it. Mason used references of all kinds to *explain* her theory. But there are specific narrative passages in her writings where she tells the story of how she *developed* her theory. These narrative passages are the definitive statements of how Mason constructed her theory. Your statement that “classical sources … helped her to form her discoveries and observations” is just an assertion unless it is supported by evidence. I don’t see the evidence. Furthermore, a careful look at her 20 principles show that they have little if any overlap with classical ideas. That is why we see Glass alter the emphases of many of the principles, as shown in Table 3 of my article.

            Respectfully,
            Art

      • Hi Art,

        I compared Chapter 25 to Glass’s description found on page 33 of Consider This. Am I correct in thinking that it sounds as though Glass recognized the HS is the teacher of geniuses in all fields but is perhaps not drawing enough attention to the fact that the HS directly interacts with our children on a daily basis, (as we invite Him both with our humble, reverent attitudes as well as the use of living books)? That is the main difference I saw. Glass seemed to emphasize one source of all knowledge and the foggy (to me) notion of synthetic knowledge. Just wondering if you had other thoughts?
        Thanks, Jennifer

        • Jennifer,

          Thank you for your comment. Glass prefaces her discussion of the famous Florentine fresco with a quotation from Plato:

          “If the study of all these sciences which we have enumerated should ever bring us to their mutual association and relationship, and teach us the nature of the ties which bind them together, I believe that the diligent treatment of them will forward the objects which we have in view, and that the labor, which otherwise would be fruitless, will be well bestowed” (p. 32).

          Glass then concludes her discussion of the fresco with her own definition of “synthetic thinking” as a cognitive exercise that fulfills Plato’s goal and “places things together, comprehending the relationship of new knowledge to old knowledge, one discipline to another, and man to all things” (p. 33).

          In between these two bookends, Glass characterizes Mason’s reaction to the Florentine fresco as an endorsement of a hallmark of classical education, which is “the interconnectedness and wholeness of knowledge” (p. 33). This discussion contains Glass’s only references to the Holy Spirit in the entire book. (This in itself is concerning, given the centrality of the Holy Spirit to Mason’s theory of education.) Glass’s three references to the Holy Spirit each have a difference source:

          1. Glass herself: “This fresco depicts the classical and Christian understanding of knowledge as a complete, orderly whole, with all forms of knowledge—religious and otherwise—arrayed beneath the Holy Spirit” (p. 32).

          2. John Ruskin “Beneath the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit in the point of the arch beneath are the three Evangelical Virtues” (p. 32).

          3. Charlotte Mason “every fruitful idea, every original conception, whether in Euclid, or grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit” (p. 33).

          Of these three quotes, only the third points to an actual activity by the Holy Spirit: the “inspiration” of “every fruitful idea, every original conception.” None of the three quotes mention “teacher,” “teaching,” or “educator.” (Note that “inspire” is not synonymous with either “teach” or “educate.”) The second two quotes both come from Chapter 25 of “Parents and Children.” The chapter is entitled, “The Great Recognition Required of Parents.” However, Glass does not mention this title, nor does she mention the Great Recognition in her book.

          This chapter was first published in 1896 in the Parents’ Review. However, Mason actually first defined the Great Recognition in 1892 as follows: “here is the great recognition which the educator is called upon to make. God, the Holy Spirit, is Himself the supreme Educator of mankind.” Mason’s actual focus in writing about the Florentine fresco is to reinforce the Great Recognition. We know this because:

          1. The chapter itself is called “The Great Recognition Required of Parents,” defined by Mason five years earlier as the assertion that “God, the Holy Spirit, is Himself the supreme Educator of mankind.”

          2. Mason begins the chapter with a quotation from Ruskin in which he writes of “the teaching power of the Spirit of God” (p. 268). Mason interprets this phrase as a kindred idea to her notion of the Holy Spirit as “the supreme Educator of mankind.”

          3. The chapter itself repeats the Mason’s own formulation of the Great Recognition: “… the great recognition, that God the Holy Spirit is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge, the Instructor of youth, the Inspirer of genius, is a conception so far lost to us that we should think it distinctly irreverent to conceive of the divine teaching as co-operating with ours in a child’s arithmetic lesson, for example” (pp. 270-271).

          After Mason establishes the link between the fresco and the Great Recognition, she goes on to exposit the dramatic application of this principle to education:

          “Let this be the mother’s key to the whole of the education of each boy and each girl; not of her children; the Divine Spirit does not work with nouns of multitude, but with each single child. Because He is infinite, the whole world is not too great a school for this indefatigable Teacher, and because He is infinite, He is able to give the whole of his infinite attention for the whole time to each one of his multitudinous pupils. We do not sufficiently rejoice in the wealth that the infinite nature of our God brings to each of us” (p. 273).

          In 1904, Mason reformulates the Great Recognition as the twentieth principle in the synopsis of her theory of education: “We should allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children; but should teach them that the divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.”

          Clearly, Mason describes the fresco in order to emphasize the collaborative role between the teacher and the Holy Spirit in the education of individual children. But Glass ignores this emphasis and instead uses the fresco as support for the cognitive exercise of “synthetic thinking,” a term never used by Mason, and an activity never promoted by her.

          On a secondary note, Glass also misrepresents Mason’s view on the breadth of the Holy Spirit’s activity. Glass writes:

          “Charlotte was deeply impressed by the depiction of all knowledge having its source in divine outpouring, even the mundane matters of grammar and arithmetic. She admired the complete conception of knowledge having its origin in God, and being introduced into the world by various teachers” (p. 33).

          In actuality, the “mundane” matters that Mason spoke of in this chapter were much more earthy than math and grammar:

          “But it is not only with high themes of science, art and poetry that the divine Spirit concerns Himself. It sometimes occurs to one to wonder who invented, in the first place, the way of using the most elemental necessaries of life. Who first discovered the means of producing fire, of joining wood, of smelting ores, of sowing seed, of grinding corn?” (p. 272)

          This distinction is actually germane to Glass’s argument. In “A History of the Western Educational Experience,” Gerald Gutek describes Aristotle’s conception of the Liberal Arts as follows:

          “Following the conventional Greek distinction between ‘free people’ and ‘servile people,’ Aristotle designated the liberal arts as those studies that liberate people by enlarging and expanding their choices. Other occupational and vocational pursuits, such as trade, commerce, and farming, he claimed, distort the body and reduce the time available for leisurely cultivating intellectual excellence.” (p. 51)

          Mason yet again departs from the classical tradition by placing both the so-called “servile” studies *and* the liberal arts under the *same* purview and care of the Holy Spirit. There is no basis for asserting that Mason’s treatment of the fresco is an endorsement of classical education. Attempts to do so typically result in the marginalization of the deep and powerful truths that Mason advances in the Great Recognition.

          Respectfully,
          Art

  37. What an interesting article! You obviously care very much about education, as home educating requires the commitment of the whole family.

    There does seem to be confusion about what the term “classical” means. There is the Greco-Roman culture; then there is the modern Classical movement led by Dorothy L. Sayers, Doug Wilson and Susan Wise Bauer. Then there is *my* definition of classical, which is closer to the word “classic” — as in the classic Little Black Dress, which never goes out of style.

    I was very interested in the way that you highlighted how Miss Mason drew on the Bible for her ideas. That is something I’d like to check out for myself.

    I would suppose that Mrs Glass is not the only person to see value in the Greco-Roman classical culture, so I am not sure why her book was singled out for examination. However, a healthy exchange of ideas is always productive.

    • Anthea, thank you for your feedback. I chose to focus on Karen Glass’s book since it is the only published work I am aware of that attempts to reconcile Charlotte Mason’s theory of education with the classical tradition of education.

      • Thanks for such a prompt reply. On a side issue — or p’raps not — have you read any Jan Comenius? Your description of how Charlotte Mason observed children is very like the way that Comenius observed God’s work in the natural world. He felt that the principles of growth and development could be applied in the classroom. I don’t mean that he and Mason are connected in their conclusions. It’s the methodology that seems similar.

        Also, I think you observe a Biblical foundation to Charlotte Mason’s ideas that is (predictably) missing from Greco-Roman classical teaching. Am I understanding you correctly? Some people think that the medieval way of thinking presents a sort of Christian model of the educated man which is more easily adopted today. I haven’t read enough about this to know much, but it seems to be something that should go onto my To Do list.

        Off to bed as it’s 11.30 p.m. here. I shall be having very learned dreams tonight, that’s for sure!

        • Anthea,
          When Charlotte Mason provides her own accounts of the development of her distinctive educational theory, she names her primary sources as the teachings of Christ, the discoveries of science, and her observations of children. She also states that the whole structure of her method rests on a Christian basis. When this Christian basis is not recognized, there is a tendency to miss key elements of her method, such as her belief that ideas emanating from Christ, which are of His essence, are the spiritual meat and drink of His believing people, and her belief that the Holy Spirit is a real and active agent in the process of education at the level of the individual child.
          Blessings,
          Art

          • A belated thanks for your reply. I should probably spend time re-reading and mulling over your essay, which is a great outcome for any writer!

  38. I am wondering if I might have permission to use this article in my undergraduate course on the educational thought and practice of Mason?

    Thanks.

  39. Art, thank you for taking this up with such diligence. Excellent! I am curious as to what the term “classical education” actually refers. I suppose it means different things to different people, ranging from specific content to pedagogical practices to theories of knowledge. Unfortunately, proponents often don’t clarify or substantiate their definitions, making it very difficult to understand to what exactly they refer.
    Most helpful to me in this article is your referring back to specific sections in her volumes to show her actual positions on aspects of human learning.
    Have you seen Daniel Taylor’s POETIC KNOWLEDGE? Interesting challenge to what’s typically viewed as “classical” that could be of help to this ongoing discussion.

    • Lisa, I have not read James Taylor’s “Poetic Knowledge,” although it is cited several times in Glass’s book.

    • Lisa,

      The Circe Institute has a great deal of information describing classical education. I believe that within the realm of classical education, there are a variety of definitions. And while the Wilson camp has a definition, I think Karen Glass’s definition is more consistent to
      Andrew Kern’s ideas over at Circe. Sayers and Wilson focus more on ages and stages. And Circe’sefinition is all about teaching children to love and appreciate the good, true, and beautiful.