Topical CM Series

Charlotte Mason's ideas are too important not to be understood and implemented in the 21st century, but her Victorian style of writing sometimes prevents parents from attempting to read her books. This is an imperfect attempt to make Charlotte's words accessible to modern parents. You may read these, print them out, share them freely--but they are copyrighted to me, so please don't post or publish them without asking.
~L. N. Laurio

The Charlotte Mason Series in Modern English Arranged Topically

Fairness and Justice

Volume 2, Parents and Children, pg 288-289

Every child is born into the world with an overflowing wellspring of love and an abundant fountain of justice. But whether the stream of love flows to the right or the left and becomes altruistic or egotistic depends on the child's earliest training. A child who learns the first pleasures of giving, sharing, loving and enduring, from his earliest years will always give of himself freely for others, loving and giving without seeking anything in return. But the child who discovers that he's the center of attention, concern, love and doting will become self-obsessed, self-seeking, and selfish, almost without fail. That's how strongly children are influenced by the kinds of thoughts they get from those around them. It's the same with the sense of fairness that all children are born with. Their stream of justice can flow in one direction or the other, but it can't be both egotistic and altruistic. The child's need for justice may be spent all for himself, or, from the very beginning, he can be made aware of the rights of others.

'It's Not Fair!'

Children can learn to be preoccupied with their own rights and what other people owe them. You can easily tell which ones grew up this way by the constant complaint that comes out of their mouths: 'That isn't right!' 'It's not fair!' On the other hand, a child can be made so aware of his own obligations to others and the rights of others that his own demands slip quietly into the background. This kind of result only comes with prayer, but it's wise for us to clarify our thoughts and decide specifically what we desire for our children. That's the only way we can work intelligently towards our goal. It's a tragic thing to pray for something and then undermine our own results by what we do, but it's quite possible to do just that.

During each Nativity season, as we reflect on the Eternal Child, may parents reflect on the best way to keep their own children in the happy condition of childhood. Let's remember that the humility that Jesus praised in the little children was what could be philosophically described as objective rather than subjective. As a child becomes more conscious of his own self in any aspect of his life, he loses the blessing of humility. That's the basic principle. Putting it into action takes constant watchfulness and diligent efforts, especially during the holidays, to keep friends and family from showing their love in ways that will encourage children to become more conscious of themselves.

Volume 6, Philosophy of Education, pg 60-62

And there is another gift to help us live right which even the most neglected person or the remotest savage is born with: a sense of fairness. Everyone has justice in his heart. Even an unruly mob demands fair play, and everyone knows how children pester us with their accusation of, 'it's not fair!' It's important to realize that every person has, not only enough love to live a good life, but enough justice. Discontent and unrest in the masses, which grows as the result of wrong thinking and making judgments incorrectly, is not so much the fault of bad conditions as a misguided sense of justice with which every person is born.

Justice is another area that needs to be educated. But, all too often, schools fail to educate properly. The sense of justice is so strong that no amount of neglect or bad teaching can kill it, but if it's choked from its natural course, it spreads devastation instead of helping the child live a good life.

One of the most important tasks of education is teaching students to distinguish between their rights and their duties. We each have our rights, and others have duties towards us, just like we have duties towards them. But it's not easy to make someone understand that we have the same rights as everyone else and no more, and that others owe us only as much as we owe them. That principle is born within each of us, so it's within us to understand it and adjust our perception. But it doesn't come naturally--our eyes must be taught to see. And that's where education comes in. But if education isn't teaching students to understand justice as it relates to others, then it's useless. To think in a way that's fair and just takes knowledge as well as reflection.

Students must also learn that their thoughts are not their own. More about this is in Volume 4, Ourselves. What we think about other people can be just and fair, or unjust. We owe everyone we deal with a certain manner in the way we speak to them, and not saying the things we should amounts to being unjust to our neighbors. Truth, or justice in our words, is due from all people. It's a wonderful tool to be capable of discerning truth, but that tool is only available to those who are careful about what they think. Francis Bacon wrote, 'Truth, which only judges itself, teaches that questioning truth (which is the wooing of truth), or knowing truth (which is the presence of truth), and believing truth (which is the enjoyment of truth)--this is the highest good of human nature.'

If it's important for all students to learn justice in word, it's even more important to learn justice in action (integrity). Integrity on the job won't allow a worker to turn out shoddy work. A skilled worker without integrity will try to do as little as possible in his work time. A student may not be receiving a salary, but he does receive a reward in the form of support, the cost of his education and trust from his teachers and parents. He must not be careless and hasty with his work, or dawdle, or postpone, or cheat or otherwise shirk from his work. He must learn that his duty towards others is to resist stealing. Whether a man is a servant, a workman, or a wealthy white-collar worker, he should understand that justice requires that he have integrity in his honesty, and not have the kind of common honesty that 's dishonest when no one's looking. A good example of honesty and values is illustrated by George Eliot's character 'Caleb Garth' from Middlemarch.

There is one more area where broad-minded citizens of the future need to be taught justice: the area of opinions. Our opinions reveal how much integrity we have in our thinking. Everyone has many opinions, but whether our opinions are our own through the sincere process of working them out in our own minds, or popular notions we picked up from the media or our colleagues, shows how much integrity we have. A person who thinks out his opinions conscientiously with a realistic assessment of his own abilities, is doing what he ought. He is doing his duty as much as if he saved a life, because no duty is any more or less important than another.

If children need guidance to get them to think justly so that their opinions will be trustworthy, how much more do they need guidance so that they'll have just and fair motives--or, what we call sound principles? After all, principles are simply the motives that we give priority and allow to lead our actions and thoughts. It seems like we absorb our principles casually--we rarely even have any definite consciousness of them. Yet our very lives are ordered by them, for better or worse. This is one more reason why wide, carefully planned reading is useful. There are always buzzwords in the air: 'What's the use?' or, 'Nothing matters in the end,' and others. A vacant mind will latch onto these and make them the basis of thought and behavior. They will become the worthless principles that guide the person's life.


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Paraphrased by L. N. Laurio; Please direct comments or questions to AmblesideOnline.