If unfamiliar, Ms. Mason was late 19th, early 20th century, and she helped figure out how to educate children. She focused on small “public” schools for lower class families.
I’m considering chapters 5 and 6 at the above reference.
In discussing how to prepare our children for dealing with doubts, she points out that evidences are not proofs.
‘Christian evidences,’ defended by bulwarks of sound dogmatic teaching. Religion without definite dogmatic teaching degenerates into sentiment, but dogma, as dogma, offers no defence against the assaults of unbelief.
I agree with her view that we must teach our children the bible with all the information gained from all sources, and we must be sure to not allow for an impression that any of it is proved. Frankly, there is more evidence refuting this tidbit in the bible or that, than there are evidences confirming most of it. Current archaeological sciences dismiss most of the traditional Israel-story. Archaeologists find nearly no evidence for any of the exodus story, and find lots of evidence supporting a developing culture that took a long time to assert itself among other neighboring cultures.
For instance, it is hard for me to dismiss Moses as the author of most of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and some other scripture too, but the consensus has fallen not only against the Egypt-Exodus story, but of the existence of Moses or any leader like him. Hmm… Hard to stomach. Good thing my faith is founded deeper than that.
We need to help our children establish their faith deep too.
This is good:
The Outlook upon Current Thought
Let us look at the third course: and first, as regards the outlook upon current thought. Contemporary opinion is the fetish of the young mind. Young people are eager to know what to think on all the serious questions of religion and life. They ask what is the opinion of this and that leading thinker of their day. They by no means confine themselves to such leaders of thought as their parents have elected to follow; on the contrary, the ‘other side’ of every question is the attractive side for them, and they do not choose to be behind the foremost in the race of thought.
Obviously the most important thing to most young people is knowing the current opinion and conforming to it or rejecting it. Dealing with the importance of opinion seems the starting point. I’ve always tried to discuss things with my children. They are partners. I try to work with them on such things. Dictating just doesn’t seem to work.
Free-will In Thought
Now, that their young people should thus take to the water need not come upon parents as a surprise. The whole training from babyhood upward should be in view of this plunge. When the time comes, there is nothing to be done; openly it may be, secretly if the home rule is rigid, the young folk think their own thoughts, that is, they follow the leader they have elected; for they are truly modest and humble at heart, and do not yet venture to think for themselves; only they have transferred their allegiance. Nor is this transfer of allegiance to be resented by parents; we all claim this kind of ‘suffrage’ in our turn when we feel ourselves included in larger interests than those of the family.
But there is much to be done beforehand, though nothing when the time comes. The notion that any contemporary authority is infallible may be steadily undermined from infancy onwards, though at some sacrifice or ease and glory to the parents. ‘I don’t know’ must take the place of the vague wise-sounding answer, the random shot which children’s pertinacious questionings too often provoke. And ‘I don’t know’ should be followed by the effort to know, the research necessary to find out. Even then, the possibility of error in a [reference] must occasionally be faced. The results of this kind of training in the way of mental balance and repose are invaluable.
per·ti·na·cious: holding firmly to an opinion or a course of action.
Good stuff. Well said, even if filtering through a century-and-a-half of speech-shift.
John Wayne’s character in Cowboys, said, “I’m proud of ya… All of ya. Every man wants his children to be better’n he was. You are.”
We can’t accomplish that if we don’t let them try. Prepare them best we can, and be there when they need us, once they really don’t need us any more.
Reservation as regards Science
Another safeguard is in the attitude of reservation, shall we say? which it may be well to preserve towards ‘science.’ It is well that the enthusiasm of children should be kindled, that they should see how glorious it is to devote a lifetime to patient research, how great to find out a single secret of Nature, a key to many riddles. The heroes of science should be their heroes; the great names, especially of those who are amongst us, should be household words. But here, again, nice discrimination should be exercised; two points should be kept well to the front––the absolute silence of the oracle on all ultimate questions of origin and life, and the fact that, all along the line, scientific truth comes in like the tide, with steady advance, but with ebb and flow of every wavelet of truth; so much so, that, at the present moment, the teaching of the last twenty years is discredited in at least a dozen departments of science. Indeed, it would seem to be the part of wisdom to wait half a century before fitting the discovery of today into the general scheme of things. And this, not because the latest discovery is not absolutely true, but because we are not yet able so to adjust it––according to the ‘science of the proportion of things’––that it shall be relatively true.
More excellent advice.
Note the silence of the oracle on ultimate questions. Origin and life, well, that is different than the initiation of biological life. It seems the nature of the universe is to build up self-organizing emergent systems. It is hard to argue that biological life is more than that.
Regardless, origins isn’t about how life began, it’s about how everything began. It isn’t turtles all the way down. You have to pick a start. You can’t do that with science. I say there is meaning, or there is not; there is reason, a reason, or there is not. I don’t see it as reasonable to assert there is no such thing as reason.
Time is not much the point. She points out in the next paragraph or so that knowledge is progressive. The more me learn, the more we see there is to learn, and the more we revise what we thought. We all tend to fit everything into our own scheme of things. The objective is to keep making that scheme better and closer to the ultimate, and ultimately unknowable, full truth.
Charlotte Mason goes on to discuss how we need to help our children to consider and judge thoughts. It is important, and it is no trivial task to judge rightly. We need to do it for ourselves as well.
Here is a worthy statement:
There are mistaken parents, ignorant parents, a few indifferent parents; even, as one in a thousand, callous parents; but the good that is done upon the earth is done, under God, by parents, whether directly or indirectly.
Here is a theory which commends itself to many persons because it is ‘so reasonable.’ But it goes upon the assumption that we are ruled by Reason, in infallible entity, which is certain, give it fair play, to bring us to just conclusions. Now the exercise of that function of the mind which we call reasoning––we must decline to speak of ‘the Reason’––does indeed bring us to inevitable conclusions; the process is definite, the result convincing; but whether that result be right or wrong depends altogether upon the initial idea which, when we wish to discredit it, we call a prejudice; when we wish to exalt, we call an intuition, even an inspiration. It would be idle to illustrate this position; the whole history of Error is the history of the logical outcome of what we happily call misconceptions. The history of Persecution is the tale of how the inevitable conclusions arrived at by reasoning pass themselves off for truth. The Event of Calvary was due to no hasty, mad outburst of popular feeling. It was a triumph of reasoning: the inevitable issue of more than one logical sequence; the Crucifixion was not criminal, but altogether laudable, if that is right which is reasonable. And this is why the hearts of religious Jews were hardened and their understanding darkened; they were truly doing what was right in their own eyes. It is a marvellous thing to perceive the thoughts within us driving us forward to an inevitable conclusion, even against our will. How can that conclusion which presents itself to us in spite of ourselves fail to be right?
Pretty much applies.
God save us from Reason, so called.
The key is we humans are not ruled by reason. We are more base. We have thwarted our efforts when we forget to first address our baseness.
My wife asked me to read a bit of Ms. Mason, so we could discuss. I thought to record some thoughts, now to discuss.