Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Family . . . pg. 1
Chapter 2 Parents As Rulers . . . pg. 10
Chapter 3 Parents As Inspirers: Children Must be Born Again into a Life of Intelligence . . . pg. 19
Chapter 4 Parents As Inspirers: The Life Of The Mind Grows Upon Ideas . . . pg. 29
Chapter 5 Parents As Inspirers: The Things of the Spirit . . . pg. 41
Chapter 6 Parents As Inspirers: Primal Ideas Derived from Parents . . . pg. 50
Chapter 7 The Parent As Schoolmaster . . . pg. 60
Chapter 8 The Culture Of Character: Parents as Trainers . . . pg. 69
Chapter 9 The Culture Of Character: The Treatment of Defects . . . pg. 83
Chapter 10 Bible Lessons: Parents as Instructors in Religion . . . pg. 92
Chapter 11 Faith And Duty (Book Review): Parents as Teachers of Morals . . . pg. 101
Chapter 12 Faith And Duty (Book Review): Claims of Philosophy as an Instrument of Education . . . pg. 117
Chapter 13 Faith And Duty (Book Review): Man Lives by Faith, Godward and Manward . . . pg. 129
Chapter 14 Parents are Concerned to Give the Heroic Impulse . . . pg. 141
Chapter 15 Is It Possible? (Book Review): Parents' Attitudes Towards Social Questions . . . pg. 150
Chapter 16 Discipline: A Consideration for Parents . . . pg. 168
Chapter 17 Sensations And Feelings: Sensations Educable by Parents . . . pg. 178
Chapter 18 Sensations And Feelings: Feelings Educable by Parents . . . pg. 191
Chapter 19 'What Is Truth?' - Moral Discrimination Required by Parents . . . pg. 204
Chapter 20 Show Cause Why: Parents Responsible for Competitive Examinations . . . pg. 214
Chapter 21 A Scheme Of Educational Theory Proposed To Parents . . . pg. 225
Chapter 22 A Catechism Of Educational Theory . . . pg. 233
Chapter 23 Where Have We Come From, and Where Are We Going?: A Question for Parents - Where Have We Come From? . . . pg. 249
Chapter 24 Where Have We Come From, and Where Are We Going?: Where Are We Going? . . . pg. 257
Chapter 25 The Great Truth That Parents Need to Recognize . . . pg. 268
Chapter 26 The Eternal Child: The Highest Road to Godly Character . . . pg. 280
Appendix (study questions) . . pg. 291-308
vol 2 paraphrase: preface
The future of education both in England and overseas is vague and depressing. We hear various urgent pleas -- science should be the focus of education, we need to reform the way we teach foreign language or math, we should incorporate more crafts and nature study to train the eye and hand, students need to learn how to write English and must therefore be familiar with history and literature. And on the other hand, we're being pressured to make education more vocational and utilitarian. But there's no coherent principle, no real aim. There's no philosophy of education. A stream can't rise any higher than the lake it flows from. In the same way, no educational work can rise above the thought and purpose behind it. Maybe this is the reason for all the failures and disappointments of our educational system.
Those of us who have spent many years researching the gentle, elusive vision of education have come to understand that various approaches have a law behind them, but we haven't yet discovered what it is. We can make out a dim outline of it, but that's it. We know that it's all-encompassing. There's no part of a child's home life or school work that isn't affected by that law. It's illuminating. It shows the value (or worthlessness) of all the thousands of various educational systems and programs. It isn't just a light, it's also a measure. It sets the standard by which to measure all educational work, whether small or great. That law is impartial and gracious. It will embrace anything that's true, honest, and respected. It sets no limits or obstacles, except where too much would be harmful. And the educational path that the law reveals is continuous and always advancing forward. There is no magical transition stage, progress is steady from birth to old age, except that, whatever habits are learned in youth will determine what choices are made even in adulthood. When we finally see the law for what it is, we'll find that certain German thinkers -- Kant, Herbart, Lotze, Froebel -- were right when they said that it's necessary to believe in God, so the most important thing to learn is knowledge of God. That should be the priority of education. There's one more way that we'll be able to recognize this perfect law that gives educational freedom when we see it. It's been said that, 'The best thing about absolute truth is that it works under every condition we can think of.' And that will be true of this law. No matter what experimental test or logical investigation we give it, it will pass.
We still haven't seen an outline or summary of this law. So, until we have something definite, we'll have to fall back on Froebel or Herbart, or, if we adhere to a different school of thought, Locke or Spencer. But we aren't content. We feel dissatisfied. Is it a divine discontent? If we found a workable, effective philosophy of education, we'd welcome it as deliverance from our perplexity. Before we find this great deliverance, there will probably be lots of tentative attempts. They'll all have the characters of a philosophy, more or less. Specifically, they'll have a central idea, a basic concept with various details working in harmony with it. This workable, effective theory of education could be called a system of psychology. It would have to work well with the accepted ideas of the time. It wouldn't think of education as an isolated, shut-off compartment, but as a natural part of life, like birth, growing, marriage, or work. It would create a bond between the student and the great wide world, connected at many different points where interest was sparked. I know that some educational experts want to create that connection in many subjects, but their attempts are too random. They give a saying here, an idea there, but there's no common foundation to unify and support education as a complete unit.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I don't want to seem presumptuous. I hope that there will be lots of ideas submitted towards a working philosophy of education, and that each one will bring us one step closer to discovering the best possible education. In that spirit, I offer my idea. The central foundational thought of my idea will sound rather obvious: the child is a whole, complete person with all the possibilities and capabilities already included in his personality. Some of the implications of this idea have been exploited by educational experts, and fragments of this idea are already pretty commonly accepted by common sense. For instance, take the aspect that education is the science of making relationships. That concept seems to solve the curriculum question. It shows that the main purpose of education is putting the child in living touch with as much of nature and thoughts as possible. If you add a couple of skills that help the child self-educate, then the student will go into the world after graduation with some ability to manage and control himself, a few hobbies to enrich his leisure time, and an interest in lots of things. I have two reasons for even attempting to offer my educational idea, even if my idea is tentative and will probably be replaced by an even better idea. For the last 30-40 years, I've worked unceasingly to come up with a philosophical educational theory that works practically. Also, each of the following educational principles is something that came about by inductive processes, and has been proved with long and varied experiments. I hesitate to share my findings because I know that, in the field of education, there are many workers more capable and more knowledgeable than I am. Even they aren't bold enough to offer answers because the footing is so precarious! They are like the 'angels who fear to tread.'
But, if only to encourage their effort, I offer an amended version of a synopsis I included in the other volumes of my 'Home Education Series.' My approach isn't methodic. It's more incidental--here a little, there a little. That seemed like the best way to make it practical for parents and teachers. I should add that the various essays in this book were originally written for the Parents National Educational Union (PNEU) to provide the society with a unified theory.
'As soon as the soul spots truth, the soul recognizes it as her first
and oldest friend.'
'The repercussions of truth are great. Therefore we must not neglect to correctly judge what's true, and what's not.'
-- Benjamin Whichcote
Whichcote meant that the end result of truth is so great, that we must be careful to make sure that what we live by is, indeed, the truth.
1. Children are born persons--they are not blank slates or embryonic oysters who have the potential of becoming persons. They already are persons.
2. Although children are born with a sin nature, they are neither all bad, nor all good. Children from all walks of life and backgrounds may make choices for good or evil.
3. The concepts of authority and obedience are true for all people whether they accept it or not. Submission to authority is necessary for any society or group or family to run smoothly.
4. Authority is not a license to abuse children, or to play upon their emotions or other desires, and adults are not free to limit a child's education or use fear, love, power of suggestion, or their own influence over a child to make a child learn.
5. The only three means a teacher may use to educate children are the child's natural environment, the training of good habits and exposure to living ideas and concepts. This is what CM's motto "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" means.
6. "Education is an atmosphere" doesn't mean that we should create an artificial environment for children, but that we use the opportunities in the environment he already lives in to educate him. Children learn from real things in the real world.
7. "Education is a discipline" means that we train a child to have good habits and self-control, both in actions and in thought.
8. "Education is a life" means that education should apply to body, soul and spirit. The mind needs ideas of all kinds, so the child's curriculum should be varied and generous with many subjects included.
9. The child's mind is not a bucket to be filled with facts that bunch up into thought-groups, as Herbart said.
10. The child's mind is also not a bag for holding knowledge. It is a living thing and needs knowledge to grow. As the stomach was designed to digest food, the mind is designed to digest knowledge and needs no special training or exercises to make it ready to learn.
11. This is not just splitting hairs; Herbart's philosophy that the mind is like an empty stage waiting for bits of information to be inserted puts too much responsibility on the teacher to prepare detailed lessons. Students taught this way have lots of knowledge taught at them, without getting much out of it.
12. Instead, we believe that children's minds are capable of digesting real knowledge, so we provide a rich, generous curriculum that exposes children to many interesting, living ideas and concepts. From this principle, we can deduce that--
13. "Education is the science of relations," which means that children have minds capable of making their own connections with knowledge and experiences, so we make sure the child learns about nature, science and art, knows how to make things, reads many living books and that they are physically fit. Our job isn't to teach everything about everything, but to inspire interests that will help children make connections with the world around him.
14. Children have two guides to help them in their moral and intellectual growth--"the way of the will," and "the way of reason."
15. Children must learn the difference between "I want" and "I will." They must learn to distract their thoughts when tempted to do what they may want but know is not right, and think of something else, or do something else, interesting enough to occupy their mind. After a short diversion, their mind will be refreshed and able to will with renewed strength.
16. Children must learn not to lean too heavily on their own reasoning. Reasoning is good for logically demonstrating mathematical truth, but unreliable when judging ideas because our reasoning will justify all kinds of erroneous ideas if we really want to believe them.
17. Knowing that reason is not to be trusted as the final authority in forming opinions, children must learn that their greatest responsibility is choosing which ideas to accept or reject. Good habits of behavior and lots of knowledge will provide the discipline and experience to help them do this.
Principles 15, 16 and 17 should save children from the sort of careless thinking that causes people to exist at a lower level of life than they need to.
18. We teach children that all truths are God's truths, and that secular subjects are just as divine as religious ones. Children don't go back and forth between two worlds when they focus on God and then their school subjects; there is unity among both because both are of God and, whatever children study or do, God is always with them.
These books are called the 'Home Education Series' based on the title of the first volume, not because they deal wholly or in principle with 'home' as opposed to 'school' education.
The way we behave results from our principles, even if the only principles we have are ones like--'It doesn't matter,' or, 'What's the use?'
Every job implies a need to observe certain foundational principles in order to accomplish the job.
These two considerations make me think that it's useful for those of us who take our important work seriously to take a careful look at the principles that are the foundation of the parent's job.
We believe that the individuality of parents is a great benefit for their children. We know that when an idea takes possession of a mind, how to apply the idea takes care of itself. Therefore, I'm not going to burden these pages with lots of instructions, practical tips and other crutches that might interfere with the free, natural relationship between parent and child. How great our nation is depends on how far parents take generous and enlightened views of their important job and the way to do it, when those views and methods are given to them.
The following essays have been published as articles in the Parents' Review, and they were delivered at various times to a group of parents who are doing a practical study of the principles of education. This group of parents is called the 'Parents' National Educational Union.' The Parents' Union's purpose is to advance a specific kind of educational thought methodically and steadfastly. This educational thought has two main principles. First is the recognition that habit has a physical reality, and this makes up the physical, material side of education. Second is the recognition that ideas have the power to inspire and transform. This makes up the spiritual, non-material side of education. These two guiding principles cover the whole field of human nature and, therefore, they should help us to deal rationally with all the complex problems of education. The purpose of the following essays isn't to give an exhaustive application of these two principles. Even the British Museum itself isn't big enough to contain all the books that would be needed to do that! Instead, my purpose is to give an example or suggestion here and there about how a particular habit might be developed, or how a specific transforming idea might be planted and cultivated. The intent of this volume means that I'll be reiterating the same principles in connection with different applications. I hope that the following hints and suggestions will be helpful to busy parents even if they rest on profound educational principles. I also hope that they'll be suggestive and inspiring to teachers in some way.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 1
'The family is the unit of the nation.'--F. D. Maurice.
I don't think any other educational thinker has affected parents as deeply as Rousseau did. People don't read Emile much anymore, but many current theories about what kind of routine is appropriate for children have their origin in that book, although most people may not be aware of it. Everybody knows--and those who lived when Rousseau lived knew it even better than we do--that Jean Jacques Rousseau's character didn't earn him the right to act as an authority on anything, much less education. Even he admits that he was a pathetic person, and we don't see any reason to doubt the truth of his Confessions. It isn't his charm or style that carries us away. We aren't dazzled by his 'forceful weakness.' No person can express more than he is within himself, and there's a lack of grit in his philosophical theories that makes most of them not worth including in current thought.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 2
Yet, in spite of his faults, the one thing he did have was the insight to recognize the kind of evident truth that seems to take a genius to discover. Since truth is valued even more than rubies, his recognition of that great truth qualified him to be ranked as a great teacher. People have asked, and still ask, is Rousseau one of the prophetic voices? Thousands of educated European parents zealously followed him, and his teaching has filtered down even to secluded homes in our own era. That seems to be answer enough. In fact, no other educationalist has had even a small percentage of the influence that Rousseau has had. People who fell under his spell in the fashionable world, such as Princess Galitzin of Russia, abandoned society to take their children off to some remote area where they could devote all their time and resources to their parental duties. Refined mothers retired from the world and sometimes even left their husbands so that they could learn the classics, mathematics, science, and anything else that might enable them to teach their children themselves. 'What else am I here for?' they asked. And the sense that raising their children was the most important obligation for any person kept spreading.
No matter how extreme the methods Rousseau had suggested, he still would have people following him, because he happened to touch a nerve that affected the hearts of many people. He was one of the few educationalists who appealed to parental instincts. He never said, 'There's no hope that we can rely on parents, so we'll have to work on the children without them!' That's the kind of disheartening, pessimistic thing we say today. Instead, Rousseau basically said, 'Parents, this task is yours, and
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you're the only ones who can do it. It's up to you, parents of small children, to be the saviors of the next thousand generations of children. Nothing else matters. All the schemes that people work so hard at are nothing compared to this one serious business of raising our children to be superior to ourselves.'
And, as we've seen, people listened. The response to his teaching was as overwhelming as letting water out of a dam. Parental enthusiasm never saw such fervor as it did then. And Rousseau, as weak and unworthy as he was, taught one correct truth: he turned the hearts of the fathers to the children, which helped prepare a generation for the Lord. But, unfortunately, although he laid the right foundation, the rest of his teaching offered nothing but wood, hay and stubble to build with.
Rousseau was successful at awakening parents to their parental duties. He showed them that their parental obligations were binding, profoundly serious, and covered an extensive range. But he failed, and rightly so, when he offered his own clumsy conceit as an educational code. Still, his success is encouraging. He recognized that God entrusted the training of every child to two people: a mother and a father. The overwhelming response of parents to his ideas proved that the hearts of parents will rise to the idea of the important task entrusted to them in the same way that tides respond to the gravitational pull of the moon.
Every parent is conscious that there are unwritten laws. His perception of how definite or how noble those laws are is in proportion to his own status. Yet, even though every parent has this awareness, it might still be interesting to make an attempt to define these laws, even if the attempt is very slight.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 4
'The family is the unit of the nation.' This saying carries a lot of meaning, and it suggests what some of the areas of a parent's calling are. From time to time throughout history, communal societies have arisen. Sometimes they're for the sake of cooperating in a great social or religious cause. In recent times, communes have been a way of protesting against inequalities in condition. But in every commune, the fundamental rule is that all members share everything in common. We tend to assume in our careless way that these attempts at communal living are doomed to failure, but that's not always the case. In the United States, communes seem to be flourishing, perhaps because hired help is harder to get there than here in England. They have several well-regulated, thriving communes. They do have many that fail disastrously, but it seems to be for the same reason--a government that's weakened because they tried to combine both democracy and communal principles. In other words, they tried to live together in a common life, while each person did what seemed right in his own eyes. A communistic group can only thrive when it has strong absolute rule.
Before the idea of collectivism [the idea that the people should own the means of production; this is how Soviet communism worked] became popular, a favorite dream of socialism was that each State of Europe would be divided into all kinds of small, self-contained communes. Sometimes the thing we want is something we already have, if we could only see it. The fact is, the family unit is like a commune. In a family, the undivided property is enjoyed by all members in common, and all have equal social status, yet different duties. In places that still have patriarchal rule, families merge into tribes and
vol 2 paraphrase pg 5
the head of the family is the tribe's chief, with absolute sovereign rule. In England, families are usually small. Parents, their children and dependents, and the servants and things related to their household, form part of the family. Because families are so small, we don't notice their character. We don't notice the force of the family's ruler. We don't see that this natural commune is the unit that our country is built with, and we fail to realize that the family, like any commune, needs to fulfill all the duties of the government with the same kind of delicacy, exactness and detailed thoroughness that are suitable for any small operation.
A communal perspective doesn't mean that the family should have a domestic policy of isolation. In fact, a nation is only civilized in proportion to how close and friendly it is with other nations--not one or two nations, but many. A nation that's isolated is uncultured and primitive. We've seen how families who keep to themselves for generations [inbreeding?] tend to decline in intelligence and virtue.
A nation is probably only as healthy as how many proper outlets it has--how many colonies and dependents that it tries to include in its national life. And the miniature nation--the family--is the same way. Struggling families at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, orphanages, missions, people whose paths we cross who have needs, all help to sustain the family's higher life.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 6
But it isn't enough for the family commune to be on friendly terms with its neighbors and strangers that cross its path. The nation is constructed of family units. The nation, like the human body, is an organic, living whole body, made up of lots of smaller living cellular organisms. The family life is only complete when it meets its obligation of contributing to the health of the whole body. The family needs to share in public interests, help with public works, and value what's good for the public. If the family isn't participating in the life of the nation, then it's no longer a vital part of the living whole organism. In fact, it becomes harmful, like decayed tissue in a human body.
The family's concern isn't limited to the nation. A nation needs to have wider relations and be in touch with the whole world, always keeping up with the changes of human progress. And every integral part of the nation--meaning each family--needs to share this attitude. This is the simple and natural fulfillment of the noble dream of the brotherhood of mankind. Every person attached to a family is bound by ties of love even where there are no ties of blood. Every family is united with a civic bond to form the nation. Every nation is allied with other nations in love, and doesn't want to be outdone in virtue. Everyone, whether nation or family, fulfills their roles like little children around the feet and under the approving smile of the Heavenly Father. This is the divine order of things, and every family is called to fulfill its part. A little bit of leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. That's why it's vitally important for every family to recognize
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the nature of the family bond and its obligations. In the same way that water can't rise any higher than its source, we can't live at a level any higher than our concept of our place and task in life.
Does regarding all education, community and social relationships from the perspective of family have any practical outcome? Yes--in fact, so much so that there's hardly any problem in life that can't be solved within the context of the family. Take, for example, the question of what we should teach children. Is there one subject that should take priority over other subjects? Yes, one group of subjects has an imperative moral claim on us. The nation is obligated to have relationships of brotherly kindness with other nations. Since the family unit is an integral part of the nation, it's the duty of every family to have brotherly dealings and conversations with the families of other nations when the occasion arises. Therefore, learning the languages of neighboring nations is more than a way to gain knowledge and culture. It's an obligation of moral duty that helps realize the goal of universal brotherhood. For that reason, every family should try to cultivate two languages besides its own from the time the children are tiny.
One time, a pretty young British girl was staying at a German health spa with her mother. They were the only British people there, and they probably forgot that Germans are better linguists than we are. The young lady sat through the long meals with a book. She hardly even stopped reading long enough to eat, and only spoke a few words to her mother, like
vol 2 paraphrase pg 8
'What is that mishmash supposed to be?' or 'How much longer do we have to put up with these dull people?' She should have remembered that no family can live only for itself. She and her mother were representing England, and were all of England that that little German community might ever know. If she had kept that in mind, she might have returned the kind greetings that the German ladies welcomed her with.
But we can't take any more time on this broad topic. Let's conclude with this notable quote from Mr. Morley's Appreciation of Emile. [John Morley wrote a two-volume book about Rousseau] 'Education gradually started to be thought of as it related to the family. Improving the ideas that education was based on was just one phase of the great movement of restoring the family. This movement was a striking phenomena in France in the latter half of the 1700's. Education began to include the whole system of parent/child relationships from earliest infancy to adulthood. The wider feelings about these relationships tended to result in more closeness, more intimacy, and the presence of tenderness and long attachment.'
Rousseau's work in the cause of 'the restoration of the family' earned him the respect and gratitude of mankind. It has proved to be a solid, lasting work. Even to this day, family relationships in France have more grace, are more tender, closer and inclusive than they are in British families. They're also more expansive, which leads to generally kinder and friendlier behavior. The family bond is so strong and satisfying that their youth don't find it urgently necessary to 'fall in love.' The mother makes herself available to be
vol 2 paraphrase pg 9
friends with her young daughters, and they respond with complete loyalty and devotion. With the exception of Zola, French maidens are wonderfully pure, simple and sweet, because their affections are fully satisfied.
'The restoration of the family' sounds so inviting to us here in England, with each of us focused on our own little family circle around the hearth. It seems like family ties haven't been as tight for the last couple of generations. Yet no place has a more lovely, idyllic family life than the best British homes. But even the wisest people can find something new to learn. Nations and individuals need to do what's appropriate and true to their own character. We're mostly satisfied with the state of family life here in England. Still, we can learn something from the way French families include everyone. They value extended family members, like in-laws, aunts, cousins, widows and old childless spinsters. The French are able to find all kinds of ways to make these kinds of dependents useful members of the household, where they would just be in the way in British homes. As a result, the children have more opportunities to practice kindnesses and self-control that make home life sweeter. There's undoubtedly two sides of the coin, and there are probably some aspects of French family life that we wouldn't like. Still, we'd be wise to study French families because they offer us opportunities to learn a lesson or two. Even where our British home life is at its best, the family can tend to become self-centered and self-sufficient instead of reaching out to other families. Extending ourselves outwards towards our neighbours is what families are supposed to do.
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Let's continue our illustration of the family as a miniature nation that has the same responsibilities, rights and requirements that nations have. The parents are like the 'government,' but the parental government is always an absolute monarchy. It makes adjustments according to the needs of its citizens, but it rules in accordance to whatever laws the parent has engraved on his own conscience. Some parents reach levels of higher thinking and are like Moses when he came down from Mt. Sinai beaming, with the tablets of The Law whole and complete in his hands. Other parents never reach those challenging heights and have to be satisfied with whatever scraps and fragments of broken tablet they can find lying at the bottom of the mountain. But whether a parent's knowledge of the law is thorough or only a fragment, he can't escape his responsibility to rule his household.
The first thing we want to know about any ruler is, 'Is he capable of ruling? Does he know how to maintain his authority?' A ruler who can't rule is like a biased judge, or an immoral priest, or an uneducated teacher. He's incapable of the most essential attribute of his role. It's even more true in a family than in a State government.
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A king can delegate the rule of his country to someone else. But a parent's functions are so urgent that he can't delegate the job to anyone else. He can have helpers, but the minute he abdicates his rule and gives over his functions and authority to someone else, the rights of parenthood pass to that other person and no longer belong to the parent. British parents in India have felt the heartache of coming home to England only to find that their children's affections belong to someone else and their duty is owed to someone else, while they, the parents, are relegated to the role of a fairy godmother who can have fun with the children, but has no authority over them at all. And this isn't anyone's fault, because the guardians who have kept the children at home have done their best to keep the children loyal to their parents while they were away overseas.
This is an example of one obstacle that the head of the family can stumble over. Parents sometimes think that parental authority is built into them, a trait that might lie dormant inside of them, but that can never be separated from parenthood. Such parents think it's okay to let their children do whatever they want from the time they're babies, but then they find themselves complaining along with King Lear,
'It's more painful than a snake's bite
To have an ungrateful child!'
But it was King Lear's own fault. All along, he had been stripping off the honor and authority that should have been his, and handing his rights as parent over to his children. This quote tells us why he had been doing this: his disappointment is in his children's ungratefulness. His goal and what he had been working for had been the thanks of his children. His desire for them to think of him as an affectionate father was more important to him than his duty towards them. And in proportion to how much he neglected his duty towards them, they
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were oblivious of their duty towards him. I suspect that parents' unrestrained desire for approval is to blame for more ruined families than any other single cause. One current author has a mother saying,
'But aren't you afraid of me, Bessie?'
'No, of course not. Who could be afraid of a dear, sweet, kind little mother like you?'
That kind of praise is sweet to many affectionate mothers who yearn for the love and approval of their children. But they don't recognize that words like these from their children are as treacherous as words of outright defiance.
Popularity isn't the only shrine where parents sacrifice their authority. Prospero [The Tempest] describes himself as,
To studying and improving my mind.'
Meanwhile, his authority over his dominion is given over to Antonio. Is it any wonder that Antonio found that having authority fit him like a glove, and that Prospero found himself usurped from the role he failed to fill? In the same way, many busy parents who are preoccupied with many cares suddenly find that the authority they failed to hang onto has slipped from their hands. That authority may have been picked up by someone less fit to wield it. Perhaps a daughter has been given over to the care of a neighbor family because her own parents are always out looking for rare art prints.
In other cases, the desire for an easy life tempts parents to let things slide. Their children are good kids and won't go too far wrong, we're told. That may be true. But, no matter how good the children are, the parents have an obligation to society to make them better than they are, and to bless the world with people who are more than good-natured and agreeable. Their children should be raised to have a determined purpose, and perseverance to meet that purpose.
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The love of convenience, the desire for popularity, preoccupation with other work--these are just some of the causes that lead to parental abdication, which is disastrous for society. When we understand the nature of parental authority and how it's used, we view parental abdication as more than mischievous. It's also immoral. And I'd like to add that all the reasons why parents abdicate their role as leader of the family really boil down to one underlying cause: the job is overwhelmingly hard and too much trouble to bother with. The temptation of parents to neglect their duty is the same one that tempts kings to escape from their duty by becoming monks.
'The head that wears the crown rests uneasily,'
even when the crown is the natural crown of parenthood.
Paul's advice that rulers should rule 'with diligence' [Rom 12:8] helps to shed light on the nature and goal of authority. Authority isn't an issue of personal honor and dignity. Authority is something to use and serve with. The honor that goes with it is only to help those in authority to serve better. An arbitrary or severe parent who demands compliance and duties 'because I said so' for his own honor and glory, is even more hopelessly wrong than the parent who abdicates his role. The majesty of parents is hedged in with obedience only because it's good for children to 'faithfully serve, honor, and humbly obey' the leaders God has placed them under. Only family life can properly train children to have the noble character of 'proud submission and dignified obedience.' If their own parents don't inspire and cultivate obedience, reverence and loyalty, how will these glorious graces of character survive in a harsh, competitive world?
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It can be a challenge to keep an attitude of authority these days when democracy is such a dominant concept and when even educational advice says that children should be treated as equals from infancy. But the children themselves confirm that authority is fine for parents. Children naturally have a sweet humility and dependence on us, and it fosters a gentle dignity and trace of reserve in parents that is very agreeable. Parents don't have the option of laying aside the burden of honor that rests upon them, or sinking under it. All of us have witnessed families full of confidence, sympathy and love where the mother is like a queen among her children and the father is honored like a king. When there are two parents who honor each other and are still free and relaxed with each other, it's easier for them to maintain the elusive state of parenthood. The first element in raising children who are loyal, honorable, reverent and able to command respect is to have a slight, undefined sweet sense of dignity in the household.
Parental authority rests on the fact that the parent's role is that of a deputy, in two ways. First of all, God, the Ruler of all of us, has personally appointed parents as His immediate deputies. Not only are they required to fulfill His duties towards the children, but they have to represent Him. To a little child, his parents rule over him like gods. And, even more seriously, in a little child's eyes, God is like his parents. He's not capable of conceiving a greater and more wonderful personality than that of his own parents. Thus, his first approach to the infinite God is through them. They are
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his standard for the best and highest. If the standard by which he measures God is as small as weak as his own small self, how will he ever have the reverent attitude that he needs to grow spiritually?
Besides that, parents hold their children in trust for society. A child is only 'my own' in a limited sense. Children are entrusted to parents to be raised for the good of their community. In this sense, parents are the ones who have been given the authority that's needed for carrying out their job. If they fail, they can be replaced. The one State [Sparta?] whose name is no more than a proverb that encompasses a group of virtues that we have no other word to describe, is also a State that practically deprived parents of their right to parent because they failed to raise their children with the virtues that were good for the society. Naturally, the State reserves the right to raise its children in the way it deems best with the least possible co-operation of parents. In our own day, a neighboring nation [France *] has decided to take charge or rearing its infants itself. As soon as they can crawl, or even earlier, but well before they can run or speak, they're brought to a 'Maternal School' and nurtured to have the values that a good citizen should have, as carefully as if they were being fed on mother's milk. The plan is still in experimental stages, but I have no doubt that it will be followed through because this nation discovered long ago that, if you want a certain kind of adult, you have to train the child to be that kind of person, and that nation has acted consistently on that discovery.
* [In 'Bringing Up Bebe,' Pamela Druckerman, references the French 'ecole maternelle' (p. 150) which she describes as 'a national project to turn the nation's . . . three-year-olds into civilized, empathetic people.' It's preceded by the 'creche' from birth to 2, which institution began in the 1840's (p. 98). Thanks to Amy Bardwell for this reference.]
Perhaps the State taking over the parental role is the last disaster that can happen to a nation. These poor children will have to grow up in a world where even the name of God isn't allowed to be heard. They'll never know
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about the loyalty to parents, brotherly love, and kindness to neighbors that all children learn from living in families, except for a very few unnatural families. After a certain age, or at certain hours, these children might be allowed to visit their parents. But once the alienation from their parents has been established, and the strongest, sweetest bond has been broken and the parents have been publicly absolved of their duty, the destruction of the home is complete. What we'll be seeing is a generation who have grown up like orphans from their birth. This is unprecedented in the history of the world. Even Lycurgus left children with their parents for their first six years. Some newspapers applaud this nation's plan and advise us to follow their example in England, but God forbid that we should ever lose faith in the value and blessing of family life. Parents who recognize that their children are both a public trust and a divine trust, and who understand that their authority is deputed authority that shouldn't be treated lightly, laid aside or abused--such parents keep the home immune for the nation, and safeguard the privileges of their role as parents.
Now that we recognize that it isn't the parent's decision whether to use or set aside the authority they hold, let's look at the limits and extent of this authority. First of all, this authority is to be asserted and used only in the best interests of the children, whether it's to benefit their mind, their body or their situation. And this is where there's leeway for the individual discrimination and delicate intuitions that parents are blessed with. A mother who makes her adolescent daughter get the exercise she needs outside is acting within the limits of her rights. But a reserved father who enjoys quiet evenings and discourages his children from social activities, is only thinking of his own
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preferences rather than the needs of his children. That's an invalid use of his authority.
As I said, the authority of parents only rests on a secure foundation as long as their children understand that their parents' authority has been delegated to them. A child who knows that he's being brought up to serve his country, and that his parents are fulfilling a Divine role that they were commissioned to discharge, won't turn into a rebellious teen.
Even more, although the child's independent emancipation is a gradual process as they learn the art and science of self-management day by day, there will come a day when the parents' right to rule is over. The only thing left for them to do will be to pass on the reins gracefully and leave their grown sons and daughters as free agents--even if they still live at home, even if their parents don't think they're fit to be trusted with their own self-management. If they fail to manage themselves with self-control regarding how they spend their time, what they do, their money, who they choose as friends, then it's most likely their parents' fault for not gradually introducing them to the full liberty that's their right as men and women. At any rate, by then it's too late to make them stick around for more training. Ready or not, it's time for them to take control of the reins of their lives for themselves.
As far as how to use authority, the best
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way seems to be the art of ruling without seeming like you're ruling. The law inspires dread in evil-doers, but it's for the praise of those who do well. In families, just like in States, the best government is one where peace, happiness, truth, justice, religion and purity are maintained without having to invoke the law. A household is happy if it has only a few rules, and where a simple, 'Mom doesn't like this,' or 'Dad wants us to do that,' are all it takes.
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M. Adolf Monod [1802-1856, celebrated Protestant Reformed preacher in Paris] said that children owe their mother a second birth--the first birth is their natural, physical birth, and the second is into the spiritual life of intelligence--and they also owe their mother a moral sense of right and wrong. If he'd been writing for the general public and not just for mothers, I'm sure he would have said that the work of achieving this second birth requires the equal efforts of both parents. How did he come to such a surprising concept? He observed that great men always seem to come from great mothers--mothers who are gifted with an unlimited ability to take great pains in raising their children. He compares this work to a second birth that launches the child to a life on a higher plane, and the higher this life is, the more blessed the child's life will be. He says that every child has a right to this kind of second birth into a more complete human being, and that it's up to his parents to secure this kind of life for him. If Monod's conclusions were only based on his own deductions, we might ignore them and not trouble ourselves with this second birth. After all, parents may and often do neglect to secure it for their children. Or we might bring up
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examples of good parents whose sons turned out badly, and indifferent parents whose children sincerely tried to do right, therefore, what good is it to try? We think that a pat response like that lets us off the hook.
The appeal to be a good mother to your son because great men always have good mothers is inspiring and rousing, but it's not the only argument. To confirm how urgent this view is, we can look at the inductive methods of science. Although science still hasn't found all the answers, what it's already discovered is the truth that should be adhered to for all parents who believe it. The parable of Pandora's Box has some truth for us today, and a careless mother can let a thousand misfortunes loose on her children by her disregard. But there's also a 'cup of blessings' ready and waiting that parents can dip into to provide health, strength, justice, mercy, truth and beauty for their children.
Some may object that 'every good and perfect gift comes from the father,' and that therefore it's presumptuous for human parents to think they can bestow spiritual gifts to their children. But this is just superstitious thinking and has no part of true religion. It results in the disaster of many badly managed households and badly governed families. We need to recognize that God uses people, especially parents, as His vehicle for distributing gifts, and that He is honored when His law is kept. He isn't honored when we take the attitude of a royal attendant waiting for special favors. When we recognize that, then we'll make the effort to understand the laws that are written, not only on stone tablets and paper, but on the hearts of our children. And when we understand the law, we'll perceive with thankfulness and enlarged
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hearts all of the natural ways in which God shows mercy to thousands of people who love Him and keep His commandments.
But His commandment is 'exceedingly broad' and it seems to become broader every year as science discovers new revelations. We need to gird up our minds to keep up with all of these new revelations. We'll also make an effort to keep the attitude of focused expectancy that it takes to recognize the unity and continuity of scientific discoveries with God's Word. It could be that only as we accept both scientific discoveries and God's Word, and harmonize them in a willing and obedient heart that we'll enter into the heritage of glad, holy living that is God's will for us.
In the light of current scientific thought, let's consider the steps and methods needed for this second birth that is the child's right to expect from his parents. 'Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,' isn't just a promise. It's a statement of fact expressing the effect that results from a reasoned process. The author of those words had lots of opportunities to arrive at his conclusion. He'd watched lots of children grow up, and his observations taught him that children could be divided into two groups--those who were well-brought-up and turned out well, and those who were badly-brought-up and turned out bad. Undoubtedly there were exceptions, but the fact that they were exceptional only confirms the truth of this rule.
But in this passage as much as in other scriptures, the promises and warnings of the Bible will stand up to being tested with reasoned methods. We may wonder why that's the case.
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And we aren't satisfied with an answer as general as 'because it's natural and right.' We may observe and look for evidence until we finally come to the conclusion that this result is inevitable, and (unless there are unusual influences), no other result is even conceivable. How much we obey the rule will be in direct proportion to how much we recognize that the rule is inevitable.
Almost all of what we know about heredity is irrelevant to the second birth. But it applies to the first birth: 'qualities from a child's father and mother, grandfather and grandmother, may be dormant and show up in the child. His development will progress along the lines of those qualities in his nature. It isn't so much education as inheritance that's responsible for a child being brave or timid, generous or selfish, cautious or reckless, boastful or modest, quick-tempered or calm. The foundation of his character is laid in him at birth, and it colors all of the emotions he'll feel and the ideas that go along with them. The influence of carefully planned environment on a person is tremendous, but a child's inherited nature determines the limit that environment will have, and even, to some degree, the nature of that environment which forms the foundation that all the later modifications rest on.'
If heredity is so important as it seems to be if a child comes into the world with his character all ready laid out, then what's left for parents to do except to stay out of the way and give him room to work out his own salvation along the lines of his own individuality without their interference? The strong tendency to naturalism in our day makes us inclined to accept this view of the goals and limits of education. Yes, it's a fact and
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it's the truth, but it's not the whole truth. The child brings disposition into the world with him, but not character. He's born with tendencies that might just need to be reinforced, or re-channeled, or even repressed. His character--that flowering of the person that prepares the fruit of his life--is a formula consisting of the disposition he was born with, with modifications, direction, and expansion provided by education, circumstances, self-control and self-culture when he's older, and, most of all, the supreme power of the Holy Spirit, even when that power isn't evident or even requested.
The great labor of creating character is the single most effectual work that people can attempt. How is it to be accomplished? We'll start our question from a physical perspective. Yes, it's the lowest basis, but that's why it forms the foundation for the rest. The rooms on the first floor of any building are pleasant, but nobody starts a building with the first floor. What would it rest on? The difference between the physical gray brain tissue and the mind that works through it is like the difference between a song and the vocal chords of the singer. The distinction is even more physical than the difference between the physical brain and the spiritual person. The brain registers and effects every movement of thought and feeling, whether it's conscious or unconscious, with detectable molecular movement. It supports the unlimited activities of the mind by balancing an enormous amount of activity with an enormous amount of waste. The brain is the physical organ of the mind that, under present conditions, is inseparable from, and indispensable to, the vital spirit. Every time we think a thought, there's a distinct series of activities set into motion
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in some area of the physical brain tissue, in the same way that there's a series of activities that have to happen within the arm muscles in order for the hand to write a sentence. Once we recognize this, we'll understand that the way the brain tissue behaves provides us with a possible key to guaranteed effectiveness and a systematic approach in our educational efforts, speaking of education in its most worthy sense of character formation.
We heard Dr. Maudsley's comments about heredity. Now let's hear what he has to say about environment, which practically lets us define the possibilities that education can have.
'Anything that's existed with complete consciousness leaves something behind it after it leaves the mind or brain. It leaves behind a functional tendency to reproduce or reappear in the consciousness later. No mental activity is as fleeting as something written in water. Some evidence of it always remains behind to make it easier if it needs to be repeated. Every impression of the senses, every nerve impulse from one area of the brain to another, every cerebral action that generates movement of the muscles, leaves behind some modification in the brain nerves that it relates to. It leaves an impression, a memory of itself to make it easier to do the same thing again. The more often it's repeated, the easier it is to repeat it again. On the other hand, because a trace is left behind, it's impossible to say that the action could never happen again under some circumstance, no matter how trivial or insignificant the action is. If any kind of stimulation happens in a nerve cell and none happens to an identical nerve cell right next to it, that stimulation will create a difference in them
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so that the two cells will never be the same as one another again. Whatever the nature of this physical process might be, the process is the physical basis of memory, and it's the foundation of the development of all of our mental functions.
'The change that happens in the nerve cells after the activity or function is over has been called different things--residuum, relic, trace, disposition, or vestige. It's also been called a potential or latent or dormant idea. It isn't just definite ideas that leave physical impressions behind and lay the foundations for later modes of thought, feeling and action. Everything that affects the nervous system, feelings of pleasure and pain, desires, and even the outward reaction to desires leave impressions behind, too. Sometimes certain talents are formed practically or completely involuntarily. Complex actions that were first done with total application of effort and attention become automatic after enough repetition. Ideas that had to be deliberately thought of as related to each other begin to converge and become associated with each other without our conscious thinking about it, so that a person with enough experience in the world begins to have quick perception or intuition. Once feelings are active, they leave behind a lot of unconscious residual impressions that affect the way the character of the person evolves. That's how, apart from the original inborn nature of a person, contentment, depression, cowardice, bravery, and even moral feelings, a moral sense is created from certain experiences in life.'
And this sketches out a wonderful educational outline for us. It's probably a good thing that we don't realize how much liberty we have. If we did, we might be seized with such a fervor of educational enthusiasm that we'd start acting like those early Christians who expected Jesus to come
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any day. How would a person ever have the patience to buy and sell and collect if he knew that he was destined to paint the greatest picture the world had ever known? And if we had a striking vision of what our little child could become under our hands, how would we ever have the patience for our daily routine work? Maybe Science has finally revealed the rationale for education as a Divine sign that we've become more fit for the task because we've arrived at a higher sense of moral responsibility. Imagine what would happen if immoral people were able to fully discern the possibilities that education could bring! But we're so slow!
'Tradition lays on us like a heavy weight,
As heavy as frost and almost as deep as life!'
It's been a whole generation since Dr. Maudsley wrote his words about the physical impressions of mental activity, and since other physiologists wrote similar things to the world. I've chosen wording that has stood the test of time on purpose because, in our day, a hundred leading scientists in England and overseas are saying the same thing. Every scientist believes this! And what about us? We go on doing everything the way it's always been done as if nothing had been said. It's as if, every day and every hour, we're letting seeds of corn, hemlock, bramble and rose drop from our careless hands.
Let's go over the outline of our liberties according to the passage of Dr. Maudsley that I quoted above.
One thing we can do is to lay the physical basis of memory. When the wide-eyed baby reaches out with aimless kicking on the rug, he's unconsciously receiving the first impressions that will form his earliest memories. We can influence
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those early memories. We can make sure that the earliest sights he sees are orderly, neat and beautiful. We can make sure that the first sounds that his ear drinks in are musical, soft, tender and happy. We can make sure that his nose only smells delicate purity and sweetness. Those first memories are engraved on the unconscious memory, where they stay for life. As we'll see later, memories have a certain ability to accumulate. Where some memories exist, other ones of the same kind will gather, and all of life is ordered along the lines of those first pure, tender memories.
Another thing we can do is to lay the foundation for the development of all the mental functions. Is there such thing as a child who doesn't wonder, or revere, or like fairy tales, or think wise child-thoughts? Maybe not. If there is, it's only because the pollen grain was never delivered to fertilize the seed that was waiting in the child's soul.
According to Dr. Maudsley's Physiology of the Mind, there are certain things that parents can arrange for the adult the child will become, even in his early childhood:
His definite ideas about certain subjects, such as how he relates to
His habits in things like neatness or disorder, promptness and moderation.
Whether the general way he thinks is affected by generosity or selfishness.
The way he feels and what he does as a result of the way he thinks.
What he thinks about--the trivial affairs of daily life, nature, the way the mind works, how God relates to people.
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His distinguishing talent--music, speaking, creativeness.
The way the disposition of his character shows and affects his family and others he interacts with regularly--reserved or open, sullen or friendly, depressed or cheerful, timid or confident.
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'Sow an act, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.'
The last chapter ended with an incomplete summary of what we might call the parents' educational jobs. We determined that it's up to the parents to decide for the adult their child will become the ways he'll think, work, feel and act. They'll determine his disposition, his particular talent, what kinds of things he'll think about. Who can set a limit on what's in the parents' power? Parents rule the destiny of their child because they have the fallow field of the child's nature all to themselves. They take care of the first sowing, or else they choose someone else to sow those first seeds.
What is it that parents sow? Ideas. It's imperative that we recognize what the only educational seed we have is, and how to distribute this seed. But our thoughts about education are so radically wrong! We can't even use the right words because we aren't thinking the right thing. Maybe we've finally gotten over the mistaken educational notion that the child is a blank slate. No
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one thinks of a child's soul as a blank tablet just waiting for the teacher's skilled art. But the notion that's replaced that traditional heresy rests on the same false foundation of the dignified job and infallible wisdom of the teacher. Here's how it's expressed in its cruder form:
'Pestalozzi focused more on developing the faculties harmoniously than on using them to get knowledge. He worked on making the vase ready instead of filling it.'
With Froebel, the concept becomes bolder and more beautiful. The soul is no longer a vase that needs to be shaped by a skilled potter. It's a flower--perhaps a perfect rose that needs to be delicately and painstakingly built petal by petal, every curve and curl. If the teacher does her part to assemble the flower properly, the perfume and living glow will come. With patience, sunshine and rain, space and room for the flower to grow, the blossom will open and expand. So the teacher works hard to add a touch of 'imagination' here, or 'judgment' there, working first on the 'perceptive faculties,' and then the 'conceptive faculties' in their turn. All this time, the goal is to affect the moral and intellectual nature of the child. With positive influences, encouraging looks and cheerful moods, the teacher seeks to touch the flower of a perfect life into being, one petal at a time.
Reading about the meaning and work of education is fascinating, and it inspires a special enthusiasm and devotion from those 'gardeners' who see their children as plants. In fact, it may be that the concept of Kindergarten is the educational concept we've had up til now.
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But, in these days of revolutionary thinking, all of science is changing its most basic precepts-- geology, anthropology, chemistry, philology and biology. We need to consider whether we should change our concept of Education.
For example, we're learning that 'heredity' isn't the simple and direct means of transmitting ability, inclination, strengths and faults from parent or distant ancestor to child that we thought it was. That makes us less anxious, because we were starting to suspect that, if heredity was all that counted, then most of us would have inherited exaggerated defects, such as stupidity, insanity, birth defects, and diseases. All of us have some of that in our ancestry.
So, we start to wonder if education has as much influence as we thought. Can it directly form character at all? How much truth is there in the appealing, easy concept that education consists of drawing out, strengthening and guiding the various mental 'faculties'? Parents are very protective of their children's individuality. They're suspicious of any attempt to make all children develop on the same plan. And their instinctive protectiveness is right. What if education really was nothing more than systematic schemes to draw out every ability we have? We'd all develop identically, as alike as two peas in a pod. And then we'd be bored to death with each other. Some people have an uneasy feeling that the world is heading towards this kind of sameness, but there's no need to fear that--it will never happen.
We can have faith that the individual personality of each of us is just as precious to God, and
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necessary for humanity to be complete. Our individuality won't be left at the mercy of speculative critics. We're completely safe. Even the most vulnerable child is protected against the forces of educational theories.
The issue of education is more complex than it looks at first glance, and it's a good thing for us and for the world that that's the case. Education is a life; you can neglect and starve and abuse the life, or you can value and nurture it. Either way, the beating of the heart, the breathing of the lungs, the development of the faculties (if there's any such thing) are only indirectly under our care. Our lack of knowledge about education is manifest by the fact that we have no word to express the sustaining of a life. The word education, which comes from e, meaning out, and ducere, to lead or draw, is very inadequate. It only covers the occasional mental exercises that correspond to the exercises we use to train the muscles. In fact, the word train, which comes from trahere, is almost synonymous. The misconception that the goal of education is to develop and exercise the mental faculties rests on these two words. Unfortunately, there is no other word, so we'll have to use the word education.
The humble Saxon term 'bringing up' is closer to the truth, maybe because it's so vague. At any rate, 'up' implies a progressive goal, and 'bringing' implies some effort.
The fortunate phrasing of Matthew Arnold is probably the most complete and adequate definition of education that we have: 'Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.' (I haven't been able to track down the quote, but I'm pretty sure it was Matthew Arnold who said it.) It shows greatness in a person to have come up with the phrase. Wiser generations who come after us might come to see
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the accomplishment of a lifetime of urgent effort in that 'profound and exquisite remark.'
Look at how the phrase covers the issue from three conceivable perspectives. Subjectively, as it applies to the child, education is a life. Objectively, as it affects the child, education is a discipline. Relatively, regarding the child's environment, education is an atmosphere.
We'll take a closer look at these three aspects later. For now, we'll only clear the ground a little as it relates to the title of this chapter--Parents as Inspirers. Note that, in this case, parents are inspirers, not modelers.
Our work only becomes effective when we recognize our limitations. When we clearly see what we have to do, what we can do, and what we can't do, we're able to set to work with confidence and courage. We have an end in view, and we're able to make our way towards that end in an intelligent manner. A way towards an end is a method. It's up to parents, not just to bring their children into a life of intelligence and moral ability, but to sustain the higher life that they've brought into being.
That intelligent, moral life that we call education can only survive on one kind of diet: it lives and grows on ideas. A person can go through years of schooling without ever getting a single vital idea. That's why so many well-fed bodies carry around a weak, starved mind--and yet, there's no 'society for the prevention of cruelty to children' crying out against parents for this. A few years ago I heard about a fifteen year old girl who spent two years at a school, and never once took part in
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a single lesson. That's because that's what her mother wanted. She wanted all of her daughter's time and effort to be spent practicing 'fancy needlework.' Needlework is undoubtedly a survival skill (although not quite survival of the fittest!) but it's possible to pass even a University Local Exam without ever experiencing the vital stirring of the mind that signifies the birth of an idea. If we've been successful at avoiding the disturbing influence of a life-changing idea, then we feel proud about 'finishing our education' when we graduate, and we close our books and close our minds and remain as ignorant as pygmies within the dark, dim forest of our own thoughts and feelings.
'A living thing of the mind,' according to past philosophers from Plato to Bacon to Coleridge. We say that an idea strikes us, or impresses us, or seizes us, or takes possession of us, or rules us. As it turns out, our common terms are closer to the truth than the conscious thought being expressed, which is usually the case. It's no exaggeration to credit this kind of action and power to an idea. We form an ideal--which is to say, an embodied idea--and our ideal exerts the strongest formative influence on us. Why do you devote yourself to a particular pursuit or cause? 'Because, twenty years ago, such and such an idea struck me,' is a common response to every kind of life with purpose, every life devoted to working out a particular idea. Isn't it amazing that, when we recognize how powerful an idea is, both the word and the concept seldom enters into our concept of education? Samuel Taylor Coleridge has successfully brought the concept of an 'idea' into the sphere of today's scientific thought. I'm not talking about the kind of scientific thought that's expressed in the science of psychology. Coleridge launched that term on the world himself,
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although, in his book Method, he apologized for the use of such an arrogant term. I'm talking about the science of how the mind and brain relate to each other and interact. Currently, this science is clumsily termed 'mental physiology' or 'psycho-physiology.'
In his book Method, Coleridge gives us the following illustration of how an idea rises and progresses:
'We can't think of any incident in human history that makes a more profound impression on the mind than the moment when Christopher Columbus, sailing on an unknown ocean, first noticed the startling change of the magnetic needle. Many more of these kinds of incidences happen when ideas from Nature are presented to minds that God chooses, and they unfold in prophetic succession. God destined these orderly glimpses to produce the most important revolutions in the state of man! Above all else, Columbus's clear spirit was methodical. He saw the great leading idea very distinctly that authorized him, poor pilot that he was, to become a 'promiser of kingdoms.''
Notice the beginning of such ideas. They're 'presented to minds that God chooses.' This view of ideas fits accurately with what we know about the history of great inventions and discoveries, and even with ideas that rule our own lives. It corresponds well with the key we see in Isaiah about where 'practical' ideas that we see elsewhere come from:
'Does the plowman continue to plow and open and break up clods of earth? No, when he's finished clearing his land, doesn't he
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cast his caraway seed and scatter the cumin, and plant wheat in rows, and barley in the most suitable place, and the spelt along the borders? It's God who teaches him the right way to do it and instructs him . . .
He grinds cornmeal because he can't keep on threshing it . . . this knowledge is also from the Lord of hosts, Who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom.' [Isaiah 28]
Sometimes ideas permeate the atmosphere instead of striking like a weapon. 'The idea might exist in a straightforward, distinct, definite form, like a clear circle in the mind of a mathematician. Or it might only be an instinct, a vague yearning for something, like an impulse that fills a young poet's eyes with tears, but he can't put his finger on why. To inspire this 'yearning for something'--for things that are lovely, honest and noble, is an educator's earliest and most important task. How can these kinds of ideas that are perceived as an indefinite longing be imparted to students? They can't be handed out as the teacher determines, or dispensed on a set schedule. They dwell in the thought-environment that surrounds the child like an atmosphere that he takes in in the same way that he takes in every breath. This atmosphere inspires a child's unconscious ideas of the right way to live--and it comes from his parents. Every gentle look, every reverent tone of voice, every kind word, every helpful act, pervades the thought-environment that's around him like the air he breathes. He doesn't think about these things. They may never enter his conscious thought. But throughout his entire life, they inspire a 'vague appetite towards something,' and his actions spring from this yearning. Parents, you're
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an awesome and crucially serious presence in the life of the little child in your midst!
Knowing that children get direction and inspiration from things going on casually around them makes us hold our breath--to think that our careless words and actions are the starting-point and direction in which they develop. There's no escape for parents. Like it or not, parents are the ones who inspire their children because the thought-environment of their children hangs around them like an atmosphere around a planet. Children absorb the enduring ideas that become those life-long yearning appetites from that atmosphere, appetites towards things that might be lovely or sordid, worldly or spiritual.
Let's hear what Coleridge has to say about definite ideas that aren't inhaled like air, but are conveyed to the mind in the same way that food is conveyed to the physical body. This is from his book Method:
'More ideas are born from the first, originating idea, in the same way that seeds germinate from a plant.'
'Events and images are the lively, spirit-stirring machinery of the external world. They sustain the seed of the mind in the same way that seeds without light, air and moisture would rot and die.'
'There are many paths we can take to pursue a methodical course. At the head of each path is its own individual, guiding idea.'
As varied and eccentric as the paths are, the ideas they came from have a logical order, and the paths progress in a rational sequence from them. In modern times, the world has suffered because we've subverted the natural
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and necessary order of Science by trying to test reason and faith with the limited physical experience of science. But, by the true laws or method, reason and faith don't owe any obedience to scientific process.'
Progress goes along the same path of the idea that it starts out from. But it requires a constant mental diligence to stay on the path. Therefore, the orbits of thought must be different from each other in the same way that original ideas are different from each other.'
And this is the corollary and explanation for the law of unconscious thought that results in the 'way we think,' which is what ultimately shapes our character and rules our destiny. Thoughtful people see the way that biological science is shedding new light on the laws of the mind, and they see that these new discoveries are once again bringing us back to Plato's doctrine. He said that 'an idea is a distinguishable power. It affirms itself, and is in unity with the Eternal Essence.'
This whole subject is profound, but it's also practical. We need to get rid of the theory that education's function is mostly physical exercise of the mental muscle. Perhaps in the early years it doesn't make much apparent difference whether the parents see education as filling a bucket, writing on a blank slate, molding soft clay, or nourishing a life. But in the end, we'll discover that the child has only taken into his being those ideas that have fed his life. Everything else is thrown away, or, even worse, becomes like dust that clogs the system and injures the vital processes.
Maybe this is the way the educational formula should
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go: Education is a life. That life is kept alive with ideas. Ideas originate from a spiritual source, and
'God has made us in such a way'
that the most common way we get ideas is by passing them to each other. The parents' duty is to sustain the child's inner life with ideas in the same way that his physical body is sustained with food. Children are eclectic. They might choose this, or they might choose that. Therefore, 'sow your seed in the morning, and don't stop sowing in the evening, because you don't know which seed will grow, this one or that one--or maybe they'll both do well.'
Children are drawn to evil as well as to good, so we need to shelter them from any evil ideas that might lodge in their minds by chance.
The initial idea spawns subsequent ideas. For that reason, we need to be careful that children get the right initial ideas about the important relationships and duties of life.
Every subject and every trail of thinking has its own 'guiding idea.' Therefore, whatever a child studies will be living education depending on how much the study is energized by the initial guiding idea at its head.
We boast a lot about 'infallible reason.' But infallible reason is nothing more than the involuntary thought process following an initial idea to its logical conclusion. If you have the initial starting idea, the conclusion can be predicted with almost guaranteed certainty. We get used to thinking certain kind of thoughts, and coming to certain kinds of conclusions that are further and further removed from the initial idea, but still follow along the same lines. There's a physical change made in the brain tissue to accommodate the kind of thoughts we think, like a rut for them to roll along in. And this shows how a life's
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destiny is shaped in the nursery. It's shaped by reverently speaking God's name, or by flippantly scoffing at holy things, or by the thought of duty that a little child gets when his mother makes him conscientiously finish a task, or by the hardness of heart a child gets when he hears the sorrows or faults of other people spoken of lightly.
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Parents in general probably feel the weight of the responsibility of their prophetic job more than ever before. Their role as revealers of God to their children is where parents are most severely limited, yet their success in this is what fulfills God's Divine intention in giving children to them to bring up--in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
How do we fortify our children against the doubts that fill the air? That's a worrisome question. We have three options. We can teach them in the same old way that we ourselves were taught and let them take their chances when it's their time. Or we can try to deal with each of the difficult issues and doubts that have come up and that they're likely to face in the future by offering them Christian dogma and 'proofs.' Or we can give them such a clear hold on vital truth, and such a thorough perspective of current issues that they'll land on the safe side of whatever controversies they come up against. They'll recognize truth in whatever new light it's presented in, and they'll be safeguarded against mortal error.
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option (teach them in the same old way that we ourselves were taught and let them take their chances) is unfair to our youth. When the attack comes, they'll find themselves at a disadvantage. They'll have no response. Their confidence will be shaken, and they'll conclude that none of the truth they learned is useful as a defense. If it was, wouldn't they have been taught how to use it? They'll resent being proved wrong and being on the weaker, losing side--at least, that's how it looks to them--and being behind the times. So they'll go over to the side of the most aggressive current thinkers without a struggle.
Now let's suppose that they've been fortified with 'Christian evidence' and defended with a wall of solid, dogmatic teaching. Religion without definite authoritative teaching degenerates into sentiment, but dogma for the sake of dogma offers no defense against the assaults of unbelief. As far as 'evidences,' the proverb, 'He who excuses himself accuses himself' [he who is most vocal about his innocence is often the most guilty] might be applied to the whole list of Christian apologists. Whatever truth we live by needs to be self-evidenced, requiring neither proof nor disproof. Children should learn Bible history with whatever light modern research can shed. But they shouldn't be taught to assume that evidences such as inscriptions on Assyrian monuments are proofs that the Bible is correct. They help to illustrate the Biblical record, but they're only supplementary proofs, nothing more or less.
How about the third option? Let's consider, first of all, the perspective of current thought. Young minds crave contemporary opinion. Young people are eager to know what to think about the serious questions regarding religion and life. They want to know what
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this or that influential person's opinion is. They don't confine themselves to the leading people that their parents have decided are worth listening to. On the contrary, the 'other side' of every issue is the attractive side to them, and they don't want to be out of step with cutting edge thought.
The fact that their youth should take so naturally to new ideas doesn't need to come as a shock to parents. From the time their children are tiny, their training should prepare them for this plunge that they'll take. When that time comes, there's no way to prevent it. Children may jump into forming their own opinions openly, or, if their home is rigid, they'll do it in secret. But, whether openly or secretly, young people will think their own thoughts. They'll follow the leading of the people they choose to admire because, after all, they're actually modest and humble at heart and don't have the confidence to try thinking totally by themselves. They still look to someone else, but their allegiance switches from their parents. Parents don't need to resent or fear this transferal of allegiance. We all do this when it's our time to move towards independence and we feel the draw of other larger interests outside our own family.
But, even though there's nothing that can be done once the time comes, there's so much that needs to be done beforehand. The notion that any contemporary authority is infallible should be steadily undermined and corrected from the time children are infants. This is done by sacrificing some of the parents' convenience and glory. Instead of giving our children a vague answer that makes us sound wise when they fire off incessant questions, we shouldn't be afraid to admit that we don't know. And our 'I don't know' should be followed with an effort to find out by doing some research. And even in our research, our children should understand that even books and websites can sometimes be wrong. This kind of
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training will go a long way later towards the child's mental balance and peace.
Another safeguard is in what we might call reservation, especially regarding 'science.' It's good to kindle a child's enthusiasm for science as they see how glorious it is to devote a life to patiently researching and observing, and how great it is to discover a single of Nature's secrets that might be a key to unlocking many mysteries. Children should be allowed to admire the heroes of science, and great names, especially of scientists who are still living, should be household words. Yet some discrimination is appropriate. Two points should be always be kept in mind. First, science can't answer the ultimate questions of origin and life. And, second, scientific truth advances steadily, with little waves of fact coming in and going out like the ebb and flow of the tide so that, at any given moment, the last twenty years' of scientific teaching is no longer valid in at least a dozen fields of science. It seems like the wisest thing to do is to wait fifty years before drawing any conclusions about how today's discoveries fit into the general scheme of things. This isn't because the latest discoveries aren't true. But we have no way of adjusting it to the 'science of the proportion of things' to know its relative truth. [We may later find that it's only one piece of the puzzle.]
But isn't all of this too much for children? Not at all. Every walk should excite their enthusiasm for the things of Nature, and their reverence for the scientists who study them. But every opportunity should be taken to note the progressive advances of science, and the fact that today's teaching might be tomorrow's error
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because new light might lead to new conclusions regarding even the facts we already know. 'Until recently, geologists used to think that; now they think this, but they may discover reasons to think something else in the future.' Children should understand that knowledge is progressive, and that the next discovery might totally change what was thought before. We're still waiting for the last word, and we'll probably be waiting for a long, long time. Science itself is a 'revelation,' although we can't always interpret what we find out. Science is a great opportunity for spiritual awareness. A person who recognizes these things can rejoice in all truth and wait for final certainty.
There's another way that we can try to provide children with the stability of mind that comes from knowing about themselves. They should understand the laws of thought that direct their own minds while they're still young enough that it seems like they've always known it. Let them realize that, once an idea takes possession of them, it will pursue its own course. It will establish its own path in the physical tissue of the brain and draw its own chain of ideas behind it. One of the most common reasons that young people abandon what they've been taught is because thoughtful youths are shocked when they come to notice their own thoughts. They read a book or listen to a lecture, and experience what they think is 'free thought.' With fearful joy, they discover their own thoughts taking off independently from what they've heard or read, and going on and on to arrive at startling new conclusions along the same lines. All of this mental stir inspires a wonderful sense of power as well as a sense of inevitableness and certainty. After all, it isn't as if they
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had any intention of trying to think of this or that. The conclusion came all by itself. They believe that their own Reason has acted independently of them, and they can't help assuming that the conclusion that came to them all by itself with such an air of absolute certainty must be correct.
But what if they had been warned since early childhood, 'Take care of your thoughts, and the rest will take care of itself. If you let a thought in, it will stay. It will come back tomorrow and the next day. It will make a place for itself in your brain, and it will bring many other similar thoughts with it. It's up to you to inspect thoughts as they come to keep wrong thoughts out and let right thoughts in. Make sure that you don't enter into temptation.' This kind of teaching is easier to understand than the grammar rules of the English nominative case, but it's infinitely more profitable for managing a life. It's great protection to recognize that our Reason is capable of proving any theory that we allow ourselves to entertain.
In this section, we've only mentioned the negative aspect of the parental role of Inspirer. For almost all parents, the innocence of a baby in its mother's arms makes a strong, irresistible appeal. 'Open the gates of righteousness to me so I can go in,' seems to be what the pure, unworldly child is saying. With every kiss from his mother, and every light from his father's eyes, he expresses a desire to be kept unstained from the world. But we're so quick to conclude that children can't understand spiritual things. We don't fully grasp the things of the Spirit ourselves, so how can the feeble intelligence
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of a child apprehend the highest mysteries of our existence? But we're wrong about this. As we age, we adults become more materialistic. But children live in the light of their young life. The spirit-world doesn't seem so mysterious to them. In fact, the spiritual fairy-world of parables and stories where anything is possible is their favorite place. Fairy tales are so treasured by children because their tender spirits clash with the hard, narrow limitations of reality--time, place and substance. They can't breathe freely in the material world. Imagine what the vision of God must be like for a child who's peering wistfully through the bars of the prison of reality. They don't envision a far-off God who's cold and abstract. For them, God is a warm, breathing, spiritual Presence Who watches his comings and his goings and stays with him as he sleeps. In God's presence, he recognizes protection and tenderness in darkness and danger, and he rushes towards God in the same way that a frightened child hides his face in his mother's skirt.
A friend of mine told me a story about something that happened when she was a girl. She had extra lessons and had to stay at school until it was dark every evening in the winter. She was a fearful child, but had too much childish reserve to mention her fear of a vague 'something' to her parents. The walk home took her along a solitary path beside a river bank with trees overhead--big trees with masses of dark shadows. Within those black shadows, any vague terror might be lurking. The swsh-sh, swsh-sh of the river sounded like the rustling of someone's clothing, and that sound filled her with relentless terror night after night. She fled along that river path with a fast-beating heart. But, as quick as her running steps and beating heart, these words kept repeating over and over in her mind the whole way, evening after
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evening, winter after winter: 'You are my hiding place, You shall preserve me from trouble, You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.' Years later, as an adult who might have outgrown childish fears, she found herself again walking alone in the darkness of early evening one winter under different trees with the swsh-sh of another river. Her old terror returned, but with it came back the old familiar words, keeping time with her hasty steps the entire way. A safe refuge to hide in should be the way every child thinks of God.
Children's acute sensitivity to spiritual influences isn't due to their ignorance. It's not them who are mistaken, it's us. Modern biological thought tends to confirm what the Bible teaches. The ideas that quicken come from heaven. The mind of a little child is like an open field, like the 'good ground' where the sower sows his seed every morning, and the seed is God's Word. Everything we teach to children should be conveyed reverently, with the humble recognition that God has invited us to co-operate with His Holy Spirit in this area. Our teaching should also be given dutifully and diligently, sensing the responsibility that our co-operation seems to be a condition of God's divine action. Jesus, the Savior of the World, pleads with us to 'let the little children come to Me,' as if it was within our ability to hinder them. And, as a matter of fact, we know that we can hinder them.
This thought of Jesus, the Savior of the world, implies another concept that we sometimes forget when we deal with children. Young faces
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aren't always cheerful and lovely. Even the happiest children in the most fortunate situations can sometimes have clouded hearts. We attribute their dark little moods to not feeling well, or the weather, and that's often the case. But those are only secondary causes revealing a deep-seated discontent. Children have a sense of their own sin, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on their own sensitivity. We put too much trust in a rose-water treatment of children. We don't take them seriously enough. When we find ourselves face to face with a child, we discover that he's a very real person. But our educational theories define him as 'something in between a wax doll and an angel.' The truth is, he sins. He can be guilty of greed, lying, hatred, cruelty, or a hundred other faults that would be repulsive in an adult. We tend to excuse children and assume that they'll grow out of it and know better eventually. But they'll never know better than they do right now. Children are painfully aware of their own odiousness. How many of us, if we were truthful, would say about ourselves as children, 'I was a horrid little thing!' And that's not just because we look back on our faults through the mature eyes of adulthood. We remember that that's the way we thought of ourselves even then. Many bright, cheerful children think of themselves as hateful, and the assurance of 'peace, peace, when there is no peace' from loving parents and friends doesn't bring comfort. It's good for us to 'ask for the old paths, and find out where the good way is.' But it's no help at all if, in the name of old paths, we lead our children into blind alleys. It's no better to let them follow new paths into bewildering mazes.
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'One little boy was observing the scene. It was savage and inhuman, unlike anything he had ever seen before. He nestled close to his mother and asked with bated breath, 'Mama, is there a God here?'--adapted from John Burroughs
The last chapter introduced parents to the concept of their highest function--that of revealing God to their children. Without a doubt, the most important thing we have to do in this world is to bring the human race out of the savage, inhuman desolation where God is not, and into the light and warmth and comfort of God, family by family, one child at a time. This individual task with each child is the most momentous work in the world. It's entrusted to the wisest, most loving, disciplined, and divinely taught people of all: parents. 'Be ye perfect as your Father is perfect,' is the perfection of parenthood. Perhaps this kind of perfection can only be fully attained through parenthood. Some parents are misguided, or ignorant or even indifferent. One in a thousand is callous. Yet, the good that's done
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on earth is accomplished under God by parents, whether directly or indirectly.
The tools that this great work is done with are the ideas that can be introduced into children's minds. Parents who recognize this will be very concerned about which ideas of God are the most appropriate for children, and how to best convey those ideas. Let's take a look at one current idea that's causing some stir in people's thoughts.
'We read some of the Old Testament as 'the history of the Jews,' and we read Job, Isaiah and Psalms as poetry. I'm happy to say that he likes them very much. We read some parts of the Gospels in Greek, enjoying them as the life and character of a hero. It's a huge mistake to impose the authority and divinity of these stories on children all at once. It makes them lose interest. Instead, we should work up slowly through the human side.' (from Memoirs of Arthur Hamilton, Messrs Kegan Paul and Co.)
This theory sounds good to a lot of people because it's 'so reasonable.' But it assumes that we're ruled by Reason, and that our Reason is infallible and certain. If we just leave it alone to do its work, it will bring us to fair and just conclusions. The fact is, that function of the mind that we call reasoning--we shouldn't call it The Reason--actually does bring us to inevitable conclusions. The process is definite, and the result is convincing. But whether that conclusion is right or not depends totally on the initial idea. When we want to discredit this initial idea, we call it a prejudice. When we want to exalt it, we call it an
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intuition, or even an inspiration. It would be a waste of time to try to illustrate this. The whole history of Error is full of logical outcomes of what we like to call misconceptions. The history of Persecution is the tale of how inevitable conclusions arrived at through reasoning are mistaken for truth. Christ's death on Calvary wasn't due to an impulsive, mad outburst of mob sentiment. It was a triumph of reasoning. It was the inevitable result of a series of logical sequences. If what's reasonable is what's right, then the Crucifixion wasn't a crime, but something to applaud. And that's why the hearts of religious Jews were so hardened and why their understanding was so darkened. They were sincerely doing what seemed right in their own eyes. It's exhilarating to observe the thoughts inside us compelling us towards an inevitable conclusion, even against our will. If the final conclusion forms itself even in spite of ourselves, how can it not be right?
Let's put ourselves in the place of a logical and conscientious Jew just for a minute: 'The name of 'Jehovah' is a name of awe, unapproachable in thought or action except in ways that God Himself has specified. To approach His name unlawfully is blasphemy. Because Jehovah is so infinitely great, any presumptuous offense is infinitely heinous. It's criminal. It's the final sin that can be committed against God Who is First. The blasphemer deserves to die for making himself equal with God, Who is unapproachable. A blasphemer is as arrogant as Beelzebub. He's doubly worthy of death. God's honored Name is entrusted to us Jews, and it's our job to
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get rid of the blasphemer. Therefore, the man must die.' And that's why their poisonous hatred hounded every step that Jesus took during His blameless Life. These men were following what their reasoning told them. They were sure that they knew they were doing the right thing. And that became an invincible ignorance that even the Light of the world couldn't illuminate. Therefore, He
'Who knows us as we are,
Yet loves us better than He knows,'
offered their true excuse: 'They know not what they're doing.' Once an argument is set in motion, its steps are absolutely incontestable. The fatal flaw is in the initial idea--a concept of Jehovah that made even the possibility of Christ impossible and inadmissible.
That's the way the Jews whose religion was their first priority reasoned. But patriotic Jews, who put their hopes for their nation even ahead of their religion, came to a totally different inevitable conclusion following a sequence of arguments just as incontestable: 'The Jews are God's chosen people. A Jew's first obligation is to his nation. These are critical times. A great hope is before us, but we're in the power of Rome. The Romans might crush out our national life before our hope is realized. We need to make sure that we don't do anything to make them suspicious. What about this Man, Jesus? He seems to be harmless, he might even be righteous. But he stirs up the people. They say that he's even called the King of the Jews. He must not be allowed to ruin the hope of the Jews. He needs to die. It's better for one man to die for the rest of the people so that the entire nation doesn't perish.' And, thus, the most criminal act that was ever committed on the earth was probably done without any consciousness of
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doing anything wrong. In fact, the psuedo-moral sense that approves of all reasonable actions was totally acquitted. The Crucifixion was the logical and necessary result of ideas that the persecuting Jews had absorbed since their infancy. That's the way it is with all persecution. It never originates because of a specific occasion, but comes from habits that were formed over an entire lifetime.
The first impulses to habits of thought that children receive come from their parents. Since the way a person thinks and acts towards God is
'The very heartbeat of what he is,'
the introduction of the kind of earliest ideas that will draw the child's soul to God is the most important and highest duty that parents have. If a man is guilty of any kind of sin of unbelief, are his parents totally blameless?
Let's look at what's commonly done with most children in this area. As soon as the child can lisp out his first words, he's taught to kneel in his mother's lap and say, 'God bless . . .' and ask God's blessings for a list of all those who are near and dear to him, and then, 'God bless me and make me a good boy for Jesus' sake. Amen.' It's touching and beautiful. One time I peeked in an open door of a cottage in a village in the moors and I saw a little child in his pajamas kneeling in his mother's lap and saying his evening prayer. That spot has remained like a kind of shrine in my mind. There's nothing more touching and tender to see. Later, when a child can say the words,
'Gentle Jesus, meek and mild'
is added to his prayer, and still later, 'Our Father.' There's nothing more appropriate and more
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beautiful than these morning and evening visits with God as the little ones are brought to Him by their mothers. Most of us can think back to the sanctifying influence of those early prayer experiences. But couldn't more be done? How many times in the course of a day does a mother lift her heart to God as she goes about her daily routine with her children, and they never know? One mother of a boy and girl aged four and five said, 'Today I talked with them about Rebekah at the well. They were both very interested, especially the part about Eliezer praying in his heart and the answer coming immediately. They asked, 'how did he pray?' and I said, 'I often pray in my heart when you don't know it. Sometimes I see you begin to show a naughty spirit, so I pray for you in my heart, and almost immediately, I find that the good spirit comes. Your faces show that my prayer was answered.' My daughter stroked my hand and said, 'Dear Mama, I'll try to think about that.' My son looked thoughtful, but he didn't say anything. Later, when they were in bed, I knelt down to pray for them before leaving the room. When I got up, my son said, 'Mama, God filled my heart with goodness while you prayed for us, and, Mama, I will try tomorrow.'
Might it be possible for the mother, when she's alone with her children, to sometimes pray out loud so that her children will grow up with a sense of God's presence? It would probably be difficult for some mothers to break down the reserve of their spiritual relationship with God even with their own children. But, if it could be done, wouldn't it lead to joyful, natural living in the presence of God because His presence would be recognized?
One mother remembered how much she had loved an inexpensive bottle of perfume when she was young. So she
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brought home three little bottles of perfume for her own three little girls. She presented them at breakfast the next morning and the girls enjoyed them during the whole meal. Before breakfast was over, the mother was called away. Little M-- was sitting with her bottle and what was left of her breakfast, lost in her thoughts. Out of the pure wellspring of heart, she murmured, to nobody in particular, 'Dear Mother, you are too good!' Imagine the joy of a mother who should overhear her little child murmur upon seeing the first primrose of the season, 'Dear God, you are too good!' Children are little mimics. If they hear their parents continually expressing their joys, concerns, thanks and wishes, then they'll also have many things to say themselves.
Another point related to this--little German children hear and speak of der liebe Gott [the dear God] many times during the day. They address God with the familiar form of 'du,' but 'du' is part of their everyday speech. All those who are dear to them in their intimate circle are addressed with 'du.' It's the same with French children. Their thoughts and words are of le bon Dieu [the good God]. They also address God with the familiar form of 'tu,' but that's how they always speak to those who are most near and dear to them.
But that's not the case for little English children. They're alienated with an archaic form of address that sounds reverent to us older people, but must seem forbidding to a little child. Imagine what a benefit it would be if the Lord's Prayer could be translated into reverent but modern language! [perhaps Charlotte Mason would have approved of the Lord's Prayer, Matt 6:9-13, in the New Century Version?] To those of us who have learned to analyze it, the KJV is dear, almost sacred. But we should never forget that, after all, it's only a translation, and is probably the most archaic bit of English still in use. The phrase 'which art' [or 'who art' to Catholics] sounds like
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'chart,' which is meaningless to a child. 'Hallowed' sounds like a foreign language to him; even to us it sounds odd. 'Trespasses' is mostly a legal term that he never hears in his regular daily speech. And no amount of explaining can make 'Thy' have the same kind of meaning as 'your.' Making a child express his prayers in a strange language puts a barrier between him and his 'Almighty Lover.' Can't we try to teach our children to say, 'Dear God'? Surely no one knows better than a parent that an austere, reverent style of speech can never be as sweet in God's ears as the appeal to 'dear God' that flows naturally from a child who's 'used to God' when he wants to include his heavenly Father in his joy and plead for help in trouble. If children are allowed to grow up in the awareness of the constant, immediate, joy-giving, joy-taking Presence in the midst of them, then there won't be any need to worry about attempts to draw the child away from God. The threat of infidelity is foolishness to anyone who knows God in the same way he knows father, mother, wife or child--or even better.
Children should also grow up with the shout of a King in their midst. Within our faulty human nature are fountains of loyalty, worship, passionate devotion, and cheerful service that unfortunately need to be unsealed from within the dirt-filled hearts of us adults, but only need a reason to flow from a child's heart. There's nothing more secure and more gratifying than being under orders--than being possessed, controlled and continually in the service of One Who is a joy to obey.
In our modern society, we've lost sight of the fact that a king or leader implies warfare with an enemy, and victory--or possible defeat and disgrace. It's never too soon for children to learn this concept of life.
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'I've thought it over carefully and I've decided that the best I can do is to give you my perspective of what an average boy carried away from our Rugby School fifty years ago that was the most beneficial, the most valuable, later in life . . . I haven't been sure what to put first and I'm not sure my team mates who are still living would agree with me. But, speaking for myself, I think that the thing that most distinguished us was the sense that in school and on the field, we were training for a big fight that would last all our lives. In fact, we were already involved in it. This fight would test all of our powers to the utmost--all of our physical, intellectual, and moral powers. I don't need to say that this fight was the age-old battle of good against evil, light and truth against darkness and sin, Christ against the devil.'
That's what the author of Tom Brown's School Days [Thomas Hughes] said when he addressed Rugby School on a recent Quinquagesima Sunday. He's right--education is only really education when it teaches this lesson, and this is a lesson that should be learned at home before the child begins any other life lessons. It's an insult to children to say that they're too young to understand this, which is the reason we're sent into the world.
A five year old little boy, the great-grandson of Dr. Arnold, was sitting at the piano with his mother choosing his Sunday hymn. He picked 'Thy Will Be Done,' and, more specifically, his favorite verse which begins 'Renew my will from day to day.' His mother was puzzled at his choice of this song and verse until she got a further glimpse into his child-thoughts when he explained
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by saying wistfully, 'It's so hard to do God's work!' He still didn't understand the difference between doing and bearing, but the battle and struggle and strain of life had already made an impression on the spirit of this 'careless, happy child,' as we so often think of children. The fact that an evil spiritual personality can get at their thoughts and tempt them to be naughty is something they learn all too soon, and understand perhaps even better than we do. Sometimes they're grouchy, naughty, separate, sinful. They need to be healed as much as the most hardened sinner, and they're much more aware of it because their soul is like an infant's tender skin and chafes with any spiritual soreness. 'It's so good of God to forgive me so often. I've been naughty so many times today,' said one sad little six-year-old sinner, and not because someone had been after her pointing out her naughtiness. Even 'Pet Marjorie's' [Marjorie Fleming] cheerfulness didn't shield her from this sad sense of falling short:
'Yesterday I was so bad in God's holy church. I wouldn't pay attention, and I wouldn't let Isabella pay attention. . . and it was the same Devil tempting me that tempted Job, I'm sure. But he resisted Satan even though he had boils and all kinds of other misfortunes that I've escaped.' And she wrote this at six!
We can't help smiling at these little 'crimes,' but we shouldn't smile too much and let children be depressed about their naughtiness. Instead, they should live in the instant healing forgiveness, and in the dear Name of the Savior of the World.
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'Straighten him out' apparently means 'make him come when he's called,' because this comment was made about a child who kept playing with his toy nonchalantly, ignoring his mother as she nagged at him because she had decided it was bedtime. The circumstances are different in every case, but it's not unusual in the upper classes of society for a parent to put trust in the teacher to make a child straighten up after years of mental and moral sprawling at home.
'Oh, he's just little; he'll outgrow it when he's older.'
'My opinion is that children should be allowed to have a stress-free childhood. There's time enough for rules and restraint when he starts school.'
'We don't believe in punishing children. Just love them and let them be is our motto.'
'They'll have enough limit and stress when they have to face the world. Childhood shouldn't have any unpleasant memories associated with it.'
'School will break them in. Let them grow up as natural and wild as young colts until it's time to break them. All young things should be free to kick and run.'
'Whatever traits they inherited are going to be part of their
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character, anyway. I don't see any sense in all this training and shaping of children. It destroys all of their individuality.'
'He'll know better when he's older. Time cures lots of faults.'
And so on. We could fill pages with the wise-sounding things people say who, for one reason or another, prefer to leave it up to the teacher to straighten out a child. And does the teacher live up to his reputation? How much success does he have with a child who comes to him with a total lack of disciplined self-management? His real and proud successes are with those children who were already trained at home before they ever got to school. Teachers take a lot of pleasure in such children. They take unlimited time with them. They're able to get them started in successful careers that exceed the ambitions of even the most ambitious people--quiet, sensible, matter-of-fact parents. But the teacher doesn't take all the credit for such successful results. Teachers tend to be a modest lot whose virtues aren't always recognized.
'You can do anything with So-and-so. His parents have disciplined him so well.' Notice that the teacher doesn't take any credit himself, not even as much as he deserves. Why not? Experience makes even fools wise, so you can imagine what it will do for a person who already has some wisdom! 'People send us their untamed cubs to whip into shape, and what can we do?' The answer to this question especially concerns parents. What and how much can a teacher do to get a child into shape when he hasn't been disciplined at all? No coaxing will make you 'straighten up' if you're an
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oyster--no, not even if you're a codfish. To straighten up requires a backbone, and the backbone needs to be trained before it can be physically possible to stay straight and upright. Yes, it's possible for a human oyster to develop a backbone, and a human codfish might learn how to sit up. Maybe someday we'll know about all the heroic attempts teachers have made to prop up, haul up, pull up and use whatever methods they can think of to keep children who are used to sprawling and slouching sitting upright and alert. Sometimes the results are surprisingly effective. They sit up in a row with the rest of the class and look just like everyone else. Even when the props are taken away, they can still perform the trick of remaining upright for awhile. The teacher rubs his hands in glee and the parents say, 'See? Didn't I always say that Jack would turn out just fine in the end?' But just wait, it isn't over yet.
School habits, like military habits, are pretty much mechanical. It's the early habits that stick. A person will always revert to the habits he learned first, and Jack, as an adult, will sprawl and slouch just like he did as a little boy, only more so. Various social pressures will keep him propped up--he's clever enough to appear to be upright and alert, he's affectionate and leads a respectable life. And, thus, no one would ever suspect that Mr. Jack Brown, who had elements of greatness in him, is a failure. He could have been useful to the world if he had been brought under discipline from the time he was a baby.
Slouching and sprawling aren't pretty words, yet they can be done in a way that they have a look of style and elegance. Sir Walter Scott gives a charming illustration of one kind of mental sprawling in his book Waverley:
'Edward Waverley's ability to understand was
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so quick that it seemed almost like intuition. His teacher's main concern was to keep him from 'overrunning his game,' as sportsmen call it--in other words, to prevent him acquiring knowledge in a shallow, half-hearted way. And he had his work cut out for him, because he had to combat another tendency that all too often accompanies creative brilliance and high-spirited talent: a laziness that has to be motivated with some kind of reward, and abandons study when the reward is in hand. As soon as the pleasure of accomplishment or curiosity is satisfied, the novelty of pursuing the goal ends.' And, without ever blatantly pointing out the moral, the story goes on to show how Waverley was true to his name. His very nature was wavering. He was always at the mercy of circumstance because he had never learned to direct his own course when he was young. He blunders into many misadventures, most of them quite interesting, because his studies never taught him how to keep his mind alert, and how to mature into a man by learning self-restraint. Many pleasant things happen to him, but not one of them was earned by his own wit or talent, unless we count the love of Rose Bradwardine, and women are never fair and just about who they fall in love with. Every lucky break and success that came to him was earned by someone else. His uncle was not only rich. He also had a strong enough character to make friends, so his friendly young nephew who we're made to feel sympathy for never lacks for friends. He never does anything to carve out a path for himself in the world. Everything he does actually hinders him because of his lack of self-direction. But, because of his uncle's friends and money, everything works out well. But not all young people have such fortunate circumstances or parents
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who can provide for the children that they failed to bring up to conduct their own lives. For their sake, Scott makes it a point to mention that education was to blame for Edward Waverley's personal failure in life. He was gifted with brilliant talents, but he had never learned 'I ought.' He had only lived by 'I want' from his earliest days. He had never learned how to make himself do the things he should.
This is the kind of training that parents tend to leave up to teachers. They don't discipline their children in a way that teaches them to compel themselves. Later, when it's time to hand the job over to the school, the window of opportunity is gone. They're past the age of learning to master themselves, and what might have been an excellent character is ruined by their laziness and stubbornness.
'But what's wrong with letting the teacher teach a child to straighten up? It's natural for children to be left as free as a wild colt in areas that have no moral significance. We understand that he needs to learn that lying is wrong. But if he hates his school lessons, maybe it's nature's way of saying that he's just not ready.'
We need to face facts. We were never meant to grow up like wild and free animals in Nature. It sounds simple, clear and idyllic to say that a person is 'natural.' What could be better? Jean Jacques Rousseau advocated natural learning and has had a greater following than anyone else. When volatile little Harrison grabs his toy drum from Jack, or when Megan, who isn't quite two, screams for
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Sidney's doll, we say, 'it's just human nature.' And that's true. But that's the very reason why it needs to be dealt with. Even little Megan needs to learn better. One wise mother [Susanna Wesley?] said, 'I always finish teaching my children obedience before they're a year old.' Anyone who understands the nature of children and the possibilities that the teacher has will say approvingly, 'Why not?' If obedience is learned in the first year, then all the virtues of good living can be learned in the following years. Every year will have its own specific character training issues, progressing as the child gets older. If Eric is a selfish child at five years old, that fact could be noted in the parents' yearbook with the resolve that, by the time he's six, with God's help, he'll be a generous child. Those who still don't recognize that exercising discipline is one of a parents' most important duties will get this far and smile and talk about 'human nature' as if it's an unanswerable argument.
But, fortunately for us, we live in a redeemed world. One of the facts of human nature is that it's the duty of whoever's raising children to get rid of ugly, hateful traits and to plant and encourage the fruits of the Spirit within children who have been delivered from the fallen world of Nature, and are now in the kingdom of grace. That includes all children who are born into this redeemed world. Parents who truly believe that the possibilities for instilling virtue are unlimited will set to work eagerly and confidently. They'll reject the twaddly idea that Nature, because of its beauty, must be all good, and the notion that Nature is an irresistible force that can't be overcome. They'll understand that the parent's first priority is the discipline that many parents are so content to leave up to the teacher.
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mean a rod, or a time-out corner, or a paddle, or being sent to bed. All of these are last resort measures that feeble-minded people rely on. The sooner we realize that God's plan includes more than the shame and pain of punishment, the sooner the intermittent use of the rod will end in families. I'm not saying that the rod is never useful. I'm saying that it should never be necessary. Many of us only think of education as the process where we get a specified amount of knowledge. The concept of education as a means of methodically dealing with every character flaw doesn't even enter our minds. But this is exactly what I mean when I say Education is a Discipline. If a person's parents fail to teach him discipline, he still has one more opportunity to learn the hard way, through life's hard knocks. We need to remember that it's the nature of children to willingly submit to discipline. But the nature of undisciplined adults is to stubbornly resist circumstances that should train them. A parent who willingly leaves his child to be reigned in by his teacher is leaving him to a fight where all the odds are against him. A man's physical condition, temper, disposition, career, affections, and aspirations are all mostly the result of the discipline his parents brought him under, or the lawlessness they allowed him to grow up with.
What is discipline? Look at the word--there's not even a hint of punishment in it. Discipline is the state of being a disciple. A disciple is one who follows, learns and imitates. Mothers and fathers need to remember that their children, by the order of Nature itself,
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are their disciples. No person attracts disciples unless he wants to indoctrinate them and teach them certain principles or behavioral rules of life. The parent who is discipling his children should have some concepts of life and duty at heart that he works unceasingly to instill into his children.
A person who wants to draw followers can't rely on force. There are three ways to attract disciples: an appealing doctrine, a persuasive presentation, and the enthusiasm of the followers. A parent has all three: the teachings of a perfect life, and the ability to continually present them with winning persuasion until their children catch such a passion for virtue and holiness that their zeal carries them forward with leaps and bounds.
A teacher doesn't indoctrinate his students at one time. He teaches them a little here, a little there, making steady progress along a careful plan. In the same way, a parent who wants his child to have Christ's nature has an outline, a progressive list of virtues to instill in his young disciples. The child is born with a rich measure of faith. To that faith, the parent adds virtue. To virtue, he adds knowledge. To knowledge, he adds self-control. After the child has acquired some self-control, he trains him in patience. To patience he adds godliness. To godliness he adds kindness, and to kindness he adds love. Wise parents systematically cultivate these and other virtues with results that are as definite as if they were teaching the 3R's.
But how? That answer covers such a broad field that we'll have to leave it for another chapter. I'll just mention this here: every good quality has its own defect, and every defect has its own good quality. Take a look at your child. He has his own individual qualities. Perhaps he has a generous spirit.
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You need to make sure that the affectionate little guy who would give away his own soul isn't allowed to also be impulsive, volatile, self-willed, passionate, his own worst enemy. It's up to parents to make the high places in his character lower, to make the valleys higher, and to make straight paths for the feet of their little child.
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'What did I get from my father?
Lusty life and a strong will.
What from my gentle mother?
Cheerful days and a talent for poetry,'
wrote Goethe. After all, poets, like anyone else, are born with a gift, not made with practice. They inherit most of what they are from their parents. But it doesn't take a poet or modern scientist to realize this. People have always known it. Like father, like son, they said, and that was enough for them. Back then, they didn't spend time trying to work out the great questions of life.
But that's not the case in our own day. We talk on and on about it. We even have a name for it: we call it heredity, and factor it into our practice, or at least into our notions. Everyone who writes a biography these days tries to find the earliest seed of ancestry and environment that made him the great person he became. The issue of heredity is very much at the forefront of the public's mind. Before long, it will influence the casual
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notions that people have about education. Here's an example: 'Hayden is a bright little boy, but he just can't pay attention!'
'I know, he can't. But the poor boy can't help it. As they say, it's in the blood, and there are some pretty dull wits on both sides of our family.'
The practical question about education is this--Can he help it? or, can his parents help it? or, Is the child merely a victim at the mercy of whatever faults he's inherited? Too many of us professional teachers haven't been aiming at the right target. We talk as if the main purpose of education is to develop certain mental faculties. And we point to the intellectual, moral, aesthetic or physical results of our teaching and say, 'Look how much the right environment can do!'
But we forget that, apart from all we give to children, they have their own cravings. They were born with them. In the same way that a normal, healthy child needs his dinner and sleep, children also need and crave knowledge, perfection, beauty, power and the company of others. All they need is opportunity. If they have opportunities to love and learn, then they'll love and learn because that's the way they were created. Anyone who has noticed the sweet reasonableness of a child, or quick intelligence, or creative imagination, will wonder why we make such a fuss about finding the right lessons for developing these faculties. It's like trying to think of the right method to make a hungry man eat a dinner that's set in front of him.
Many people developed a love for natural science because they lived in the country as a child and had a chance to observe living things and what they do. Nobody worked hard to find the right method to develop that particular faculty. All it took
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was opportunity. But if a child's mind is kept too busy with other matters, he won't have the opportunity. There are very cultured, well-educated people who have lived most of their lives in the country, yet they don't know a thrush from a blackbird. I know of a woman who developed an affinity for metaphysics and literature simply because, when she was ten, she was allowed to browse through old volumes of the Spectator magazine. She thinks that was the most influential part of her education.
As another example, one opportunity led to an extraordinary educational result that I was able to observe. A friend was interested in a 'Working Boys Club' [presumably a recreation club for boys who have jobs] and decided to teach a class in clay modeling to some mill-boys. There were no special requirements or qualifications for who could take the class. They had no special gifts, but they also hadn't been spoiled, as their teacher said, by learning to draw using the ordinary methods. She gave them some clay, a model, a tool or two, and, as an artist herself, she also explained the feeling of the model that they were supposed to copy. After only six lessons, what these boys were producing was qualified to be called works of art. It was delightful to see the eagerness and enthusiasm they worked with and the artistic instinct that caught the feeling of the object. They included even little details like the creases of a child's shoe to make it look like a beloved item to kiss. This teacher insists that all she did was to let out what was already in the boys. But she did more than that. Her own passion for art forced artistic effort from them. Even if we take her enthusiasm into account--if only we could always rely on the teacher's enthusiasm--this is still a good example to prove our point. The point is that if children have opportunity and direction, they will take care of most of their own education, whether it's intellectual, aesthetic or moral. This is true because
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of the wonderfully balanced desires, abilities and affections that are part of human nature. This is good news, and should cause more unemployment [because fewer teachers would be needed?] If we provide an outlet for their energy, a little direction, and a little control, then we can sit back with our hands folded and watch them do the rest. But there are two requirements that must be met. Their abilities need to be developed, and a little of our help goes a long way here. And their character needs to be formed. In this respect, children are like clay in the hands of a potter. They're absolutely dependent on their parents for this.
Temperament, intellect, and genius are pretty much inherited, but character is an achievement. It's the one practical achievement that's possible for every one of us, both us as parents, and our children. Any real progressive growth in a family or an individual is due to force of character. Great people are great for no other reason than their force of character. It's because of character, more than literary success, that Carlyle and Johnson are remembered. Boswell's Life of Johnson is probably as deserving of being a literary success as anything that Johnson ever wrote. But, after all, look at who was he writing about.
Greatness and littleness are aspects of a person's character. Life would be pretty boring if everyone was created exactly alike. But how do we all come to be so different? It's the result of the qualities that we inherit. Our hereditary tendencies are responsible for our character. A person who's generous, stubborn, hot-headed, devout, is that way because that tendency runs in his family. Someone way back in his ancestry acquired a bent that way as either a fault or virtue because of circumstances, and that bent gets passed down, repeating itself from generation to generation. In order to prevent that
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quality from being so concentrated that it gets exaggerated in future generations and ruins the balance of qualities that make us sane, there are two counter-forces. They are marriage outside the family [to increase the gene pool], and education.
And now we're back to the point we started from. If developing character rather than developing mental faculties is education's main work, and if people are born already prewired with all the building blocks of their future character, and that character is already destined for them with enough time and circumstances, then what's left for education to do?
Often, the course of action that's chosen is to do nothing. That plan of action is usually justified in three or four ways.
First, 'What's the use?' If the fathers ate sour grapes, the children's teeth are doomed to be set on edge. Maybe Thomas is as stubborn as a little mule, but what can you expect? So is his father. All of the Joneses have been that way for generations. Therefore, Thomas's stubbornness is accepted as an unalterable fact of life that can't be helped or avoided.
Second, Maile might be as flighty as a butterfly, never still for five minutes to follow through on anything. Her mother says, 'She's just like I was, but a little time and maturity will steady her.' Or, perhaps Felicia sings herself to sleep with the Sicilian Vesper Hymn that her babysitter taught her before she's even old enough to talk. Her parents comment, 'It's strange how an ear for music seems to run in our family!' but no effort is made to develop her talent.
Another child asks bizarre questions, tends to joke about sacred things, calls his father 'Tom,' and is prone to show a lack of reverence in general. His parents are sincere, earnest-minded people and cringe to remember Uncle Harry's flippant opinions. Fearing their child will take after Uncle Harry, they decide to nip this in the bud with a strict
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policy of repression. 'Do as you're told and don't say a word' becomes the rule at home, so he finds outlets elsewhere that his parents never even suspect.
In another case, the thinking is closer to current science. A tendency for lung problems runs in the family. The doctors deal with the situation by not allowing a habit of delicacy to get started. The necessary precautions are taken, and the child has every reason to look forward to a long, healthy life.
And here's one more example. Some parents are aware of the advances that science has made in the field of education, but they don't think it's valid to expect science to help them in developing character. They see the faults that their children have inherited, but they consider them 'the natural fault and corruption that every person's nature has suffered because of the sin of Adam.' They don't believe that it's their role to deal with sin, unless, that is, the child's sin happens to be one that's inconvenient or disturbing, such as a violent temper. In that case, the mother thinks there's nothing wrong with beating the sin out of him.
We believe with assurance that the laws of spiritual life have been revealed to us. We can have just as much assurance, although not as much sanctity, that the laws that make the physical body, mind and moral nature thrive or wither have also been revealed to us. We would do well to acquaint ourselves with these laws. Any Christian parent who's intimidated by science and prefers to raise their children by the ways of Nature when there's no authoritative knowledge, will cause his child irreparable loss.
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If the human race is making any progress, it's due to the influence of character, because each new generation inherits and adds to the best traits that were inherited from previous generations. The people we have today ought to be the fruition and flower of all that's been prepared through long lines of ancestry. Children have been beautiful and charming since before the days when Jesus took a little child from the streets of Jerusalem and set him in the midst to illustrate what kind of person would be in God's kingdom to come:
'In the Kingdom are the children--
You can see it in their eyes;
All the freedom of the Kingdom
In their carefree laughter lies.'
What mother hasn't adored the princely heart of innocence within her own little child? But, besides living in the actual presence of Jesus' face, our own children are even 'more so' than those children of Jerusalem. It wasn't until recent days that 'Jackanapes' was written, or the 'Story of a Short Life' [both by Juliana Horatia Gatty Ewing]. Shakespeare never made a child. Neither did Sir Walter Scott, or Charles Dickens, although he often tried. Is it that we're waking up to what's always been in children, or are children advancing with the times, lightly holding onto what was gained in the past and the possibilities for the future? This is the age of child-worship. It's no wonder when we see the lovely well-brought-up children of cultured, Christian parents. And yet, we so often degrade the very thing we love. Think of all the multitudes of innocent children ready to be set free in the world who are already spiritually and morally mutilated by their doting parents.
But the dutiful father and mother aren't like that.
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When they recognize any positive family trait in one of their children, they set to work to nourish and cherish it like a gardener nurturing the peaches he wants to exhibit at the fair. Benjamin West's mother was so thrilled with a sketch he made of his baby sister that she kissed him, and he later claimed, 'that kiss made me a painter.' Her encouragement warmed whatever artistic ability he had and set it to life. Gardeners say that rare, more valuable plants require more painstaking attention. Some of the most beautiful, affectionate natures that the world has ever seen have been lost and wasted because they lacked the kind of care that their delicate, sensitive systems needed. Think how Shelley was left to himself. These are embarrassing times. We beg God, 'Give us more light--clearer and more thorough understanding,' but what if the new lights reveals a maze of intricate, tedious obligations that we need to fulfill?
At first glance, it's overwhelming to realize that, for whatever distinctive moral or intellectual quality we discern in our children, it will take a special set of conditions to develop. But, as it turns out, our obligation towards each special quality actually works out to these four things: exercise, nourishment, change and rest.
Perhaps a little boy is disposed towards languages. (No great surprise, since his grandfather was fluent in nine languages.) He lisps out phrases in Latin, learns his mensa from his nanny, and knows declensions before he's even five years old. What should a mother do when she sees this kind of gift in her child? First of all, she should let him use it. Let him learn declensions and whatever else he wants to pick up and can learn without the least sign of effort. Latin case-endings probably come as easily and pleasantly to him as 'see-saw, Margery Daw' does to ordinary children, although 'Margery Daw' is healthier.
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Let him do as much as he wants to of his own accord. But never urge him, or applaud, or show him off. Next, let words convey ideas as he's able to handle them. Buttercup, primrose, dandelion, magpie each carry their own image. A daisy is a 'day's eye;' it opens when the sun rises and closes when the sun sets.
'That may very well be why men say
The daisy, or the eye of day.'
Let him feel like the common words that we use daily and take for granted are beautiful, full of story and interest. It's wonderful for a child to get the kinds of ideas that are appropriate for his own individual inborn qualities. The right idea at the right time is taken in without any effort. And, once ideas are in the child's mind, they behave like living creatures. They feed, and grow and multiply.
Provide him with one appealing change of thought, giving him some kind of task or concept totally unrelated to languages. For instance, let him know in a friendly, approachable way, about objects from the natural world that he sees--the thrush, rose beetle, what a caddis-worm does, forest trees, wildflowers--all natural objects, whether common or curious, within his environment. There's no knowledge as delightful as a familiarity with natural objects.
Or perhaps you hear a comment that all great inventors handled material resources as children--clay, wood, iron, brass, paint. Let him work with materials. Providing a child with fun resources in areas unrelated to his natural interests is a good way to provide balance and preserve mental health in a mind that's absorbed with some interest.
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But changing activities isn't rest. If a man pushes a machine with his foot, and then with his hand, his foot or hand has a turn to rest, but the man himself doesn't. Free romping outside (which is more restful than organized games with rules and competitive sports), silly talk, a fairy tale, or simply lying on his back in the sun, should rest the child. He should have as much of these kinds of things as he needs.
In a sense, here's how this works: in the same way that we write or sew using the hand as a tool to do those things, the child learns, thinks and feels with a physical tool. That tool is the delicate nerve tissue of the brain. This tissue is constantly and rapidly wearing away. The more it's used, whether in mental effort or emotional excitement, the more it wears away. But, fortunately, new tissue grows to replace the worn away tissue. The work that wears away the tissue is necessary and healthy to stimulate this new growth. But if more is wasted than can be replaced, there can be permanent damage. A child's mental work should never exceed his ability to repair and replace brain tissue, whether that work comes in the form of school lessons that are too difficult, or too much stimulating activity. Rest makes sense, because Nature's rule seems to be to do one thing at a time, and to do it well. The hours that a child rests and plays are the hours when he grows physically. Children who live in a whirl of entertaining activity tend to look stunted.
It's also necessary to change the thought of a child who has an obsessive interest. Brain tissue doesn't just waste from work in general. It also wastes in local areas. We all know how worn out
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we feel after devoting our minds for a few hours or days to any specific subject, whether that subject is stressful or pleasant. We're relieved to finally be able to escape from the engrossing thought, and we find it tedious when we have to return to it. It seems like, when we constantly work over the same ideas, that a certain spot in the brain is worn out and weakened from the constant traffic. This is an even bigger concern when the ideas are more moral than intellectual. Hamlet's thoughts continually revolve around a few distressing facts. He becomes morbid and loses his grip on reality. In other words, he becomes eccentric.
Eccentricity is probably more of a concern for children of well-descended families. These children tend to be born with strong tendencies to have certain qualities and ways of thinking. The way they're brought up can accentuate these qualities and neglect others so that there's no balance, and the child becomes eccentric. Matthew Arnold says that the life and work of a great poet is ineffective. Unfortunately, this is all too often true of eccentric people. No matter how much genius or charisma they have, no matter how many glowing moral strengths, the world won't use them to guide them into good unless they do what other people do in lawful and prudent matters. The opportunity for originality is a lot broader for those who deviate from what everyone else is doing in unlawful and useless matters.
What should a mother do if she notices that her most promising child is showing little signs of being weird? He doesn't like to play games, doesn't get along
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with the others, likes to hide out in his own room. Poor little guy! He's desperate for a confidante. He's probably tried his caregiver, brothers and sisters, with no success. If this continues, he'll grow up with the idea that nobody wants him, and nobody understands him. He'll take his slice of life and eat it all by himself resentfully. But if his mother is able to get him to open up tactfully, she'll do the world a favor by saving someone who will be a credit to society. You can be sure that there's something within such a child--genius, compassion, poetry, ambition, family pride. What he needs is an outlet and a way to put to use the inherited trait that's almost too big for his immature soul. Rosa Bonheur was noted to be a restless child who didn't seem to fit in. She didn't like school, she didn't like play. Then her father had the idea of easing her discontent by apprenticing her to a needlewoman! Happily, she found her freedom, and we have her wildlife pictures to enjoy. When the child is bothered by a family pride, the best thing to do is to bring him face to face and heart to heart with Jesus, who perfectly models humility. Once that's done, the child's sense of family distinction can be a great motivator to raise his nature. He'll have a sense of noble obligation that will create a desire to honor the distinguished family name, never to dishonor it. I know a little boy descended from two distinguished families. His last name is something like Browning-Newton. He attends a prep school where the names of students who are in trouble are listed on the blackboard. When his little brother started going to the same school, he initiated him by saying, 'We'll never let two names like ours be stuck up on that blackboard!'
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One of the most immediate causes of eccentricity is the tediousness of daily life. We all sense this from time to time, but it's felt more often by those who are more finely strung or highly gifted. 'I wish I was on Jupiter!' sighed one small child who felt like he had already had enough of this planet. It's up to parents to make sure that the dreariness of a life with no motive doesn't settle on any of their children sooner or later. We were created with a yearning for the 'fearful joy' of passion. If we don't find it in lawful ways, we'll look for it in eccentric ways, or even immoral ones. The mother, whose child is like an open book to her, will have to find some kind of vent for his restless nature. He's more apt to be troubled by,
'The burden of the mystery,
The heavy, weary weight
Of this world that makes no sense.'
when he's created more finely. Fill him with an enthusiasm for humanity. Let whatever gifts and talents he has be used to bless others. Recently, a thinker who has since died said, 'The best thing worth living for is to be of use.' A child whose life includes that concept won't grow up bored with too much time on his hands. A life blessed with enthusiasm won't be dull, but remember that even the noblest enthusiasm needs to be balanced with some unrelated activity or interest. As I said before, expose him to the world of nature, or teach him some kind of skilled craft. If you give him an absorbing pursuit and a fascinating hobby, then you won't need to worry about him developing eccentric or unworthy interests.
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It seems like a good idea to spend a lot of time on this subject of eccentricity, because the world loses so much as a result of its splendid failures--the beautiful human beings who become totally useless to anyone and unable to elevate any of us because they develop one eccentricity or another.
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Suppose that a parent realizes that the ultimate purpose of education is to form good character. Suppose the parent understands that character is comprised of the child's inherited tendencies, still in their rough stages, but modified by the child's environment, and character can be debased or elevated by education. And this parent knows that his role is to spot the first signs of family traits. Positive traits are to be valued as the most excellent kind of family inheritance to be nourished and carefully tended. The parent also needs to encourage the child in activities he may not think he's interested in so that the child will be balanced. This is even more important if the child is eccentric. Eccentricity can be a pitfall of the original nature, which can be a powerful force. Even if the parent has accepted all of this as part of his parental role, there's still much more to be done.
We're all prone to what the French call 'defects of our qualities.' In the same way that bad weeds grow quickly, the defects of even an excellent character can choke out positive traits. For instance, a little girl may love with as much devotion and passion as a woman, but she's possessive and jealous of
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sharing anyone's affection, even when it's her mother. Perhaps a boy is ambitious. He likes to be the leader in the playroom and his leadership is healthy for his siblings except for his argumentative little brother who refuses to follow anyone's lead. The two of them are such odds that they can barely be in the same room together, and the older brother acts like a tyrant when anyone crosses him. A shy, affectionate little girl isn't above lying to protect her sister. A high-spirited little girl never lies, but sometimes she bullies others. And so on, without end. What is the parents' responsibility here? To make the most of the good quality by making the child feel like that quality is a virtue to guard--a family possession that's been inherited, and, at the same time, a gift from above. A bit of simple, reasonable teaching might help, but be careful of overdoing it with too much talking. 'Are you just about finished, mommy?' said one bright little five-year-old girl in the most polite way possible. She'd been listening a long time to her mother preaching at her, and she had her own things to do. A wise word here and there might be useful, but it's more effective to carefully hinder every quality's 'defect' before it ever gets started. Don't give the bad weeds any room to grow. Or, defects can sometimes be reclaimed and turned around to feed the quality they come from. For instance, the ambitious boy's love for power can be turned into a desire to win his restless brother by love. A loving girl's passion can be turned around to include everyone that her mother loves.
Heredity and the duties attached to it has another aspect. In the same way that a child with an admirable family tree may very well inherit the best of his ancestors, such as a well-proportioned body, clear intellect, or high moral sense, he also has some risks. As one person puts it, not all the women
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have been brave, nor have all the men been pure. We all know how the tendency to have certain diseases run in families. In the same way, temper, temperament, moral sense and physical nature can be carried down through the lineage with a taint. Some unfortunate children seem to have inherited all the negative traits and none of the good ones. What can parents do in a case like that? They can't reform him, that's beyond human skill and ability once a person has realized all that's within his nature. But they can transform him so that the person he was calculated to become never develops at all. Instead, another person comes to light who's blessed with only the virtues that originated from his defects. This brings up a useful law of Nature that underlies the whole subject of early child training, especially the case of a mother who finds that she needs to birth her child again into a life of beauty and harmony. The old words of Thomas a Kempis seem to me to be the fundamental law of education, and it's simply this: 'Habit is driven out by habit.' People have always known that constant use becomes second nature, but no one understood why, and how much it implicates, until recently.
Perhaps a child has a hateful habit that's so constant, it threatens to be his only quality and become his character if nothing is done. He's spiteful, sneaky, and sullen. No one is to blame for it; he was born that way. What can be done with such a chronic habit of nature? It can be treated as a bad habit and dealt with by developing the opposite good habit. Perhaps Henry is not just mischievous, he's a malicious little boy. Someone is always crying in the playroom because he's constantly pinching, biting and hitting, making
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some child miserable. Even his pets aren't safe. He's killed his canary by poking at it with a stick through the bars of his cage. Howls from his dog and screeches from his cat are evidence of more of his cruel tricks. He makes terrifying faces at his fearful little sister, and he sets traps with string for the gardener as he goes about his work with watering cans. There's no end to his mean-spirited pranks. They go beyond the usual mischievousness of untrained boyhood. His mother hears about his latest tricks and wonders what's to be done. An optimistic parent with blind faith in the changes of time says, 'Oh, he'll grow out of it.' Many experienced mothers will say, 'There's no cure for him. You can't change what he is. He'll be a nuisance to society all his life.' Yet this same child could be cured in a month if the mother would determine to stick to the task wholeheartedly with a will and all her effort. If he isn't cured by then, at least the cure will have begun, and that's half the battle.
Let the month during treatment be an enjoyable and happy month for the child. Let him live the whole time in the warmth of his mother's smile. Don't let him be alone long enough to think about or do mean-spirited pranks. Let him always feel like he's under a watchful, loving and approving eye. Keep him pleasantly occupied and always busy. The purpose of this is to break him of his old habit, and that will happen when a certain length of time has gone by without him repeating the habit. But a new habit needs to be established to take its place, since one habit drives out another one. Lay new thought patterns over the old ones. Provide him with opportunities to be kind. Every hour of every day, let him experience the joy of pleasing others. Get him started planning little schemes to please everyone else. Maybe he could make a toy, gather a dish of strawberries, make wall shadows to amuse the baby. Take him on errands to help poor neighbors, and let him give, carry and deliver something of
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his own. For an entire month, the child's whole heart will be overflowing with deeds and schemes and thoughts of kindness, and the clever mind that he previously used to think up mean-spirited pranks will become a valued treasure to his family when he uses it to do good. This all sounds like a great idea, but where is a mother supposed to find time in her busy schedule to give Henry a month of special treatment? She has other children and other duties. She can't just give herself up for a month, or even a week, for one child. But what if her little one was seriously sick, perhaps even at risk of death? Wouldn't she make the time somehow? She'd let all of her other duties go so that she could devote herself fully to her little boy, who would be her first priority.
This is a point that all parents don't recognize: serious mental and moral sicknesses require urgent, deliberate healing treatment. The parents need to devote themselves wholly to the child's cure temporarily, just like they would if their child was hospitalized. Neither punishment nor neglect, which are the two most popular treatments, ever cured a child of any moral fault. If parents recognized the powerful and immediate effect that treatment could have, they would never allow ugly weeds to sprout in their child's character. Remember that, no matter what ugly fault spoil the child's beauty, he's simply a garden that's been allowed to grow weeds. The more weeds there are, the more fertile the soil is. Even a child who has lots of weeds has every opportunity to develop a life of beauty and character. Get rid of the weeds and nurture and tend the flowers. It's not inaccurate to say that most of the failures in life or character that people make are directly caused by the casual, optimistic philosophy of their parents who believed that 'she's so young; she doesn't know any better. She'll grow out of it once she matures.' But, like a weed, a fault left to itself will only grow bigger and stronger.
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Someone may object to my advice for a short, determined round of treatment. They'll say that the good results won't last. After a week or two of neglect, everything that was gained will be lost. Henry will be just as likely as ever to grow up as cruel and fierce as a tiger, like a Steerforth [from David Copperfield] or Henleigh Grandcourt [from Daniel Deronda]. But, fortunately, scientific evidence is on our side.
One of the most interesting issues right now is the interaction between the thoughts of the mind, and the physical configuration of the brain. At this point, it appears that each is very much caused by the other. The kind of thoughts that are persistently thought actually have the power to shape the brain tissue, and the configuration of the brain depends on the kind of thoughts we think.
For the most part, thought is automatic. Without intending to or trying to, we tend to think in the way we've gotten used to thinking, in the same way that we walk or write without consciously arranging and directing our muscles. Mozart could compose an overture, laughing the whole time at the little jokes his wife made to keep him awake. Of course, he had thought out the whole piece in his head beforehand, and he just needed to write it all down. But he didn't consciously try to create these musical thoughts, they just came to him in their correct order. Coleridge thought up 'Kubla Khan' in his sleep, and wrote it all down when he woke up. When you consider the rest of his thoughts, maybe he would have been better off if he'd done most of his thinking while he was asleep!
'She falls asleep while sewing on the buttons,
And stitches them on as she's dreaming.'
That's not only possible, but very likely. For every one thing that we deliberately make ourselves think about, there are a thousand
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words and actions that come to us on their own. We don't actually think of them at all. But just as it takes a poet or musician to create poetry or music, the words and actions that come from us without our consciously trying to create them, are what define the true measure of what we are. Maybe this is why so much emphasis is put upon every 'idle word' that we speak--words spoken without intention or conscious will.
Little by little, we're getting around to Henry and his bad habits. Somehow or other, the gray tissue of our brain grows to accommodate the thoughts that we allow to have unlimited access to our mind. Science hasn't even speculated on how that happens yet. To illustrate, let's imagine that certain thoughts in the mind run back and forth along the nerves of the brain tissue until they've worn a path there. Busy traffic of the same kind of thoughts will continue to travel that way because the path is well-marked and broken in to make it easy for them. Imagine that a child has inherited a tendency to have a resentful temperament. He's begun to have resentful thoughts. They're easy for him to dwell on, and he finds it satisfying to nurse them, so he continues. Before long, more of these ugly thoughts travel into his mind easily and naturally. Resentfulness is starting to become a part of who he is, the defining characteristic that people know him by.
But one habit overcomes and replaces another one. A watchful mother sets up new paths in other areas. She makes sure that, while she's leading new thoughts in through a new route, the old, well-worn path of the old way of thinking is abandoned and unused. Brain tissue is in a constant state of rapid waste and rapid growth. New growth takes on the shape of the new thoughts, and the old thoughts are lost in the steady wasting of the old tissue. Before long, the child is literally reformed, not just morally and mentally, but physically, too. The fact that
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the gray tissue of the brain acts like an instrument of the mind shouldn't surprise us when we consider how the muscles and joints of a gymnast, the vocal organs of a singer, the fingertips of a watchmaker, or the tongue of a tea-taster develop to accommodate what they always do. It's especially true that the brain and all other organs develop to accommodate the earliest things they've had to do.
This is perfectly suited for the parent who wants to cure his child's moral fault. All he needs to do is to set up the course of new thoughts, and hinder the old thoughts, until the new thoughts become automatic and run on their own. Meanwhile, the paths where the old thoughts used to travel are disintegrating as the brain replaces tissue. And here is the parent's advantage. If the child returns to his old thought patterns, which he may do, if it's a tendency he inherited from birth, then he finds that there's no longer any place for them in his brain. It takes some time and effort to create new paths for them, and it's not difficult for his parents to hinder his efforts.
It's truer here than anywhere else that, 'unless the Lord builds a house, those who build it work in vain.' But that doesn't mean that our intelligent cooperation isn't our obligated duty. Training the will, educating the conscience, and, as much as it's within our power, developing the child's divine life, all happen at the same time while we're training the child to have the habits that will allow him to live a good life. Good habits and divine life will carry the child safely past his early years when his will isn't strong and his conscience isn't trained, until he's able to take the reins of his own life conduct and character-molding, under God's direction.
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It's comforting to believe that even our educational efforts leave a physical record in the child's brain tissue. But it also makes us aware of the danger of leaving bad habits alone in the hope that they'll be outgrown in time.
Some parents might think that all of this is too serious to think about. Even 'thinking on these things' is enough to take the joy and spontaneity out of the sweet relationship they have with their child. After all, isn't parental love and God's grace enough to bring up children? No one can be humbler about this subject than those who haven't had the honor of being parents. The insight and love that all parents are blessed with, especially mothers, is a divine gift that fills onlookers with awe, even in many poor village families. But we have enough instances of tender, affectionate parents who have reared fools to recognize that it takes more than love. There are specific paths, not always the old ways, but new ones, that are revealed step by step as we go. The mother who determines to understand her role and task doesn't find her labor increased. Her load is actually infinitely lightened. Life isn't made more burdensome by thinking of these things because, once we understand them and own them, we'll act on them without even thinking about it as surely and naturally as a teacup falls when you let go of it. With a little bit of painstaking effort in the beginning, it will all become easy.
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In education, 'English history has been reduced to nothing more than a card game. The problems of mathematics have been reduced to nothing more than puzzles and riddles. We're just one step away from teaching the Apostolic Creed and the Ten Commandments in the same way. There won't be any more need for the serious face, deliberate tone of reciting, and devout attention that used to be required of our children.' --Waverly
Parents turning their children's religious education over to Sunday Schools is as inexcusable as sending them out to eat at public soup kitchens. Those of us in England aren't guilty of this particular item. Here, our Sunday Schools are only used by parents who are so over-worked and uneducated that they're willing to let more educated classes of people teach their children religion. In other words, Sunday School is a necessary evil of our day in response to parents who are too over-committed and burdened to take care of their first priority. And this should be the purpose of Sunday Schools: those
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parents who can should teach their children at home on Sundays, and substitutes should step in on behalf of those children whose parents can't teach them.
With this purpose in view, Rev. E. Jackson, originally from Sydney, has gone to work in Antipodes. It never seems to occur to him that children from the upper and middle classes shouldn't have definite and regular instruction in religion from their earliest days. He simply says that they should be taught at home by their parents, not at Sunday School. The main objective of his church-related Parents' Union is to assist parents in teaching their own children. Here are some of the rules:
1. The Union's purpose is to unite, strengthen and help parents train their own children.
2. By joining, members commit to supervising the education of their children, and to encouraging other parents to take responsibility for the training of their own children.
3. Lesson outlines will be provided every month to each family in the Parents' Union.
4. Members must bring their children to the monthly religious class and sit with them.
The lesson outlines are probably just to make sure that lessons are taking place at home on Sundays, like they had previously been done at Sunday School with teachers.
It seems to be assumed that if parents from every social class will take on their appropriate duties of teaching religion,
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Sunday School can be dropped. Instead of teaching Sunday School classes, church workers can make sure that the specific work is being done at home every month by leading question/answer catechism classes.
This plan seems promising. Nothing strengthens family bonds more than children learning about religion from their own parents, and growing up in a church that watches over your progress from infancy until beyond confirmation, and into adulthood, will provide the right atmosphere for the church community.
It's true that there are individual churches and even entire denominations that take hold of children from infancy to adulthood, using pastors, teachers and class leaders to teach them. Some parents appreciate having their children learn the most serious part of their religious teaching at the hands of outsiders. What seems worth imitating in this Australian movement is that the parents themselves are recognized as suitable to teach their children the best things, and they're encouraged to acknowledge some responsibility to the Church as to what they teach.
Are we so good at these things that we can't learn some tips from those around us? Some of us may still remember that in May, 1889, a Committee of Laymen in Canterbury was appointed to analyze the religious education of the upper and middle
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classes. [See 'Report of the Committee of the House of Laymen for the Province of Canterbury on the Duty of the church with regard to the Religious Education of the Upper and Middle Classes.'--Nat. Soc. Depository, Westminster.] The Committee thought that they might get a good perspective by looking at how much religious knowledge boys had when they first started school. They sent a questionnaire to 62 head teachers, and most of them responded. From their replies, the Committee concluded that, 'for the most part, the education that boys get before school is below what we expected, and even the current low standard is declining. The main cause for this deterioration is a lack of religious teaching at home.'
This is a serious matter for all of us. Although the investigation was done by Churchmen, it naturally examined boys of various denominations in secular boarding schools and public schools. Religious schools were examined with a separate inquiry. There were undoubtedly some beautiful exceptions from children brought up in quiet homes in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But if it's true, as many of us fear, that middle and upper class parents tend to let their children's religious education take care of itself, then it's worth our while to ask Why? and What's the remedy? Many reasons have been suggested: social commitments, the restless nature of our children, their lack of patience for religious
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teaching, and many other reasons. But these reasons aren't the whole story. Generally, parents are very eager to fulfill their parenting responsibilities. There's probably never been a generation more sincere and conscientious than today's young parents. Yet, these thoughtful parents are neglecting to teach their children the one thing that should come before everything else.
The fact is, our religious life has already suffered, and sooner or later, the character of our country will suffer, because hostile critics are trying to discredit the Bible. We correctly regard the Bible as the entirety of our sacred texts. The only thing we have to teach is what's in the Bible. But we don't go to the Bible with the same confidence anymore. Our religion is fading into an emotional sentiment that's not easy to pass on to the next generation. So we wait until our children are old enough to feel those sentiments for themselves. In the meantime, we give them enough aesthetic culture to develop a need in their soul that will lead them to worship. The whole foundation of liberal religious thought is miserably shaky. No wonder so many of us hesitate to expose it to the challenge of a definite, searching young mind. We're comfortable in the flimsy house of faith we've built. It vaguely resembles the strong old home that our souls used to live in, and we cling to it with a fond attachment that the younger generation might not understand.
So then, if our house of faith is flimsy, are we homeless? In one area we are. We're exposed and unsheltered in the area of the assumption that a brilliant novelist has stated very blatantly: 'Miracles don't happen.' The educated mind is more essentially logical than we think. If you remove the
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cornerstone of miracles, the whole arch of Christianity crumbles around our heads. The showy respect for the Person of Jesus, when separated from the miracles that have been deemed as mythical, turns out to be nothing more than a false sentiment for a concept made up in our own minds. Once miracles are eliminated, the whole fabric of Christianity unravels. Not only that, but what do we do with the old revelation of God as 'the Lord, a God full of compassion and gracious'? Do we say, No, we'll keep this; it's no miracle? Do we keep Christ's excellent Sermon on the Mount and allow it to claim our allegiance for Christ? No, we don't. Within that one Sermon, we learn to pray, to consider the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, and to remember that the very hairs of our head are numbered. This embodies the doctrine of personal dealing, God's specific providence, which is the very essence of miracles. If 'miracles don't happen,' then it's foolish and presumptuous to pray and expect some faint disturbance of the course of events that are fixed in place by natural law. An educated mind is severely logical, although a deliberate effort can prevent us from following our conclusions to the bitter end. Without miracles, what's left? A God who can't possibly have personal dealings with you or me. After all, such dealings would be a miracle. What's left is a world of events so determined and certain that prayer becomes blasphemous. How can we dare approach the Highest with requests that would be impossible for Him to grant, if the nature of the world is so fixed?
In a world without miracles, prayer is useless, and trust is meaningless. But maybe we still have a use for God. We can still admire, adore
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and worship in uttermost humility. But how? And what are we going to adore? We can only know God through His attributes. He is a God of love and a God of justice; full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. But these attributes are only manifested and recognized by action, when God acts towards us. How can God be gracious and merciful unless He's bestowing grace and mercy on someone who needs it? If you admit that grace and mercy are capable of modifying even the slightest circumstance in a person's life, spiritual or physical, then you've just admitted the existence of miracles. You've just admitted that it's possible for God to act in ways outside the limits of the inevitable laws that we recognize. If you refuse to allow for miracles, then you remove the possibility that the Good Shepherd can be present in our midst, and we're left alone, like orphans in a world that's falling apart.
That's where the question of 'miracles' leads. We fail to recognize how serious the issue really is. Yet we're fond of toying with the question casually, with a smile and a shrug of our shoulders as if it was no big deal, even sneering at the tale of the swine who ran violently off a cliff because we know how dim-witted animals are--we can see with our own eyes how different they are from us. But if we admit that miracles might be possible, that a Personal God might be capable of acting voluntarily, how can we put limits on what can or can't happen?
How long will we waver between two opinions, between law and testimony? Let's be bold enough to entertain David Hume's proposal, even if we consider it with some reserve. What if it's true that 'no testimony is enough to prove a miracle, unless it's more amazing that the testimony might be false than that the miracle happened that
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it's claiming to prove.' Which is easier--to accept that Jesus rose from death on the third day and went back to heaven, or to accept the even more incredible theory that God doesn't exist, or that He isn't the personal God who reveals His loving Personality to us? It's one or the other, we can't have it both ways. Natural law, as we know it, has nothing to do with these issues. I don't mean that God disregards His own laws. I mean that our understanding of God's natural laws is so finite and limited and shallow that we can't possibly be capable of distinguishing whether an event that's different from what we normally experience is an unusual exception, or a common occurrence of a law we know nothing about. (Carlyle wrote, 'How well do we really understand the laws of nature? How do we know that rising from the dead isn't a violation of the laws of nature, but a confirmation of an even deeper law, and the power of its spiritual reality has forced its influence on the material world?')
We shouldn't brush aside the real discoveries we've gained from Biblical criticism, even when they appear to cast doubt on Scripture. It can be an added benefit to our spiritual life to recognize that a miracle is confirmed, not only by the Biblical record, but by the way it fits with God's character. To put this divine truth in terms of the physical world, we might say of a friend, 'He would never do such a thing!' or, 'Isn't that just like him!' When we test miracles against God's character in this way, we see how unpretentious, simple, humble and practical Jesus' miracles are. It's incredibly divine for Him--
'To have all power, and yet be as though He had none!'
A mind that's filled with the the raesonableness of the Gospel story
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in the New Testament and which has absorbed the more confusing, broken rays of light that the Old Testament sheds on the Light of the World, will be less tempted to entertain 'honest doubts.' Such doubting is actually disloyal to the most intimate and sacred of all relationships, even though it must be admitted that noble minds are more likely to be plagued with such doubt. If we believe that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, and that people are established in the Christian faith depending on how they were taught in childhood, then our question is, how can we make sure that children are well-grounded in Scripture by their parents, and how can we make sure that they pursue the study of religion with diligence, reverence, and joy?
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Correctly understood, education is the science of living. Every attempt to develop a system for this science should be anticipated with interest, and appreciated with gratitude, depending on how successful it is. Thinking minds everywhere are busy contributing their share to this great project in one aspect or another, whether it's physical, social or religious. It's easy to see the importance of every attempt to solve scientific or social problems, or problems of faith because each gain helps us to understand the 'laws of nature' and 'ways of men.' Love for these and a dutiful attitude towards them, or a desire for them, is the only practical result of education, according to Mr. Huxley. Let's consider three great books in this regard: The Moral Instruction of Children by Felix Adler, Education from a National Standpoint by Alfred Fouillée, and Faith: Eleven Sermons with a Preface by Rev. H.C. Beeching. One of the books deals with the problems of 'secular' morality from an American perspective. One book deals
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with the whole issue of national education from a scientific French perspective. And the third book doesn't claim to be an educational book. It deals with the 'ways of men,' but only as they relate to God's will and ways. In other words, it deals with the deep wellsprings that the questions of life come from. True educationalists start from within and work out, so they'll probably be greatly helped by an author whose worldview rests on faith.
In The Moral Instruction of Children, Felix Adler takes on the challenge of nondenominational moral education. He has some unusual qualities that make him qualified for this: a broad perspective, training in philosophy, and a wide love of literature and knowledge of books that's essential for anyone teaching morals. All educated parents should own a copy of his book--not to be swallowed whole as a 'complete guide,' but to study with careful attention, sifting out what's worth implementing, and rejecting what doesn't fit the parent's educational method of choice. Adler has a few handicaps. He writes for American public schools, so anything he suggests for moral training has to be nonsectarian. In his attempt to avoid any denominational leaning, he excludes any religious influence whatsoever. It's as if the child had no standard or foundation beyond whatever is in his own heart. For example, Adler writes, 'In teaching morals at school, the teacher's job is to
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deliver the subject matter, but not to deal with the authority behind it. He tells the student, 'Don't lie,' and assumes that the student feels the force of the rule and recognizes that he should yield to it. As far as I'm concerned, any child who challenges me with, 'Why shouldn't I lie?' is probably being argumentative and has suspicious motives. To this kind of child, I would hold up the concept of ought in all of its intimidating majesty. The child has no right to debate these kinds of issues until he's reached a certain level of maturity.'
Where does the concept of ought get its intimidating sense of majesty? It's not true that humans have some inborn sense of ought. In fact, the notion that they do is responsible for a lot of evil. It's a common belief today that it's okay to do whatever a person thinks is right. People say that all a person can do is what he believes is right within his own heart. But even the slightest familiarity with history shows that every persecution, and most outrages, from the Spanish Inquisition to the Thuggee cult [they believed their religion required them to befriend strangers in order to rob and kill them; the word 'thug' originated with them] have resulted from the kind of ought that comes from within, from a person or individual's own voice. Trying to deal with morals without regarding the authority of morality is working backwards, like walking around the perimeter and never reaching the center, instead of starting from the center and working out.
'All I ever hear about is Moses, Moses and more Moses!' says one German teacher from the modern way of thinking. She writes with passionate criticism against the traditional school system where 10-12 hours per week, or even 15-16 hours in some German States, are spent learning Bible. Both England and America are rebelling against using the Bible as a school textbook. Educationalists say that there's so much else to learn, and
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studying sacred literature for so long is a tragic waste of time that could be used for other things. Meanwhile, even some religious people say that it's not good to use the Bible as if it were a common textbook.
It's surprising that so few educationalists realize that the Bible isn't one single book. It's a collection of classic literature with lots of beauty and fascination. Even apart from its Divine authority and religious lessons, apart from everything we understand as 'revelation,' the Bible is as educationally useful as the classics of ancient Greece and Rome. It has poetry with rhythm that can soothe even a disillusioned mind so that it can't enjoy any other kind of poetry. It has general, straightforward history and includes instances of God dealing slowly and surely with nations completely fairly, and illustrations of national sins and national repentance. Students recognize the brotherhood of man and solidarity of the race from Biblical history in a way they don't from any other history. And they recognize what we might call the individual character of nations. Of all the philosophies that have been presented, the philosophy in the Bible is the only one that's adequate for interpreting the meaning of life. We haven't even mentioned the Bible's main purpose: teaching religion and revealing God to man. I'll make one more point. All the combined literature of the world totally fails to give us a system of ethics, using precepts, examples, motives and authority, as complete as the Bible, which is our common inheritance.
For about 1700 years, the Bible has been the school textbook of modern Europe. Its teaching, whether
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conveyed directly or indirectly, has been the foundation for religious, ethical, and even, to some extent, literary superstructure. But now, using the Bible as a school book is considered taboo. Educationalists are expected to produce some kind of a text to replace it--something to take its place as the origin of ideas and tool for forming character. This is the mission that Felix Adler is trying to accomplish. The fact that he's even a little bit successful is obviously due to the influence of the Bible and its sacred law on his own mind. But he doesn't feel at liberty to share that resource with his students. Yet his bias makes his work helpful and worth considerating for parents who want to make the Bible the foundation and authority for their moral teaching and supplement it with other resources.
I'd like to make the following recommendation to parents.
'Parents and teachers should try to answer questions like these: When are the first stirrings of a moral sense evident in the child? What are their signs? What emotional and intellectual abilities does the child have at different ages, and how does this relate to his morality? When does conscience come into play? What actions or omissions does the child label as right or wrong? If research were done to carefully observe and record these things, educational science would have a lot of data from which to draw valuable generalizations. Mothers especially should keep a diary to record progressive
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phases in their children's physical, mental and moral growth, paying special attention to the moral aspect. Then they'd be able to anticipate their children's character, and encourage every seed of good, while being able to promptly suppress or restrain the bad.'
It's encouraging to see that Felix Adler restores the use of fairy tales. He correctly says that a lot of the selfishness in the world isn't due to real heard-heartedness. It's due to a lack of imaginative ability. He adds, 'I believe that it's beneficial for a child to be able to take the wishes from his heart and project them onto an imaginary setting.'
But how should we handle these Märchen? [Märchen is German for fairy tales.] How should we utilize them to suit our special purpose? My first suggestion is this: Tell the story, rather than giving it to the child to read. As the child listens to the tale, he'll look up with wide eyes at the person telling the story. The newness in him will recognize and thrill to the touch of an earlier race of mankind.' In other words, Adler feels that traditions should be passed on orally, and he's right. This is an important point. His second suggestion is just as important. He writes, 'Don't take the moral plum out of the fairy tale pudding. Let the child experience and enjoy the whole, complete package. Treat the moral aspect casually. Go ahead and emphasize it, but act as if it's incidental. Pick it as you'd pick a wildflower along the highway.'
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Adler's third suggestion is to eliminate from the stories anything that's only superstitious, or a remnant of ancient spiritism, or anything morally offensive. Related to this, he discusses the controversial question of how much we should expose children to the existence of evil in the world.
'My own opinion,' he says, 'is that, when children are around, we should only speak of the kinds of lesser evil that they already know about.' On these grounds, that would eliminate stories about cruel stepmothers, unnatural fathers, and such. Even so, most of us would probably make an exception for Cinderella, and its charming German ballet version, Aschenbrödel. I also tend to think that fairy tales lose their spirit and charm when they're specially adapted for children. Wordsworth is right when he says that exposure to evil presented within the glamour of a fairy tale is useful to shield children from painful, damaging shocks in real life.
Mr. Adler writes that fables should be used for moral teaching in the second stage, about the time the child is old enough to leave the nursery [preschool?] We've all grown up on Aesop's Fables. Stories such as 'The Dog in the Manger,' 'King Log,' and 'The Frog and the Stork' are so familiar to us that they've become part of the fabric of society's thought. But it's interesting to remember that these stories are even older than Aesop himself and most of them originated in Asia. We should remember where these fables came from because we need to use a little discretion when we decide which to use for conveying moral concepts to our children.
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Mr. Adler would reject fables such as 'The Oak and the Reed,' 'The Brass and the Clay Pot,' and 'The Kite and the Wolf' because they teach Asian subservience and fear. But British nature is too proud to bow before anyone or submit to any circumstance, so those life lessons learned by the eastern culture might be especially helpful to English children. Besides, some of the most charming fables would have to go if we started removing any that seemed influenced by eastern wisdom. The fables that Felix Adler especially recommends are those that portray virtue as something admirable, and evil as something to avoid, such as 'The Stag and the Fawn' that teaches about cowardice, 'The Peacock and the Crane' that teaches about vanity, and 'The Dog and the Shadow' that teaches about greed.
Adler writes, 'In the third part of our course for primary-aged children, we use selected stories from classical Hebrew literature [the Bible], and later from classical Greek literature, especially the 'Iliad' and the 'Odyssey.'
Here's where we start to disagree with Adler. We shouldn't present Bible stories as if they had equal moral authority with ancient Greek mythology, and we shouldn't wait to introduce children to them only after they've gone through moral lessons from fairy tales and fables. Children should never be able to remember back to a time before sweet Biblical stories filled their imaginations. They should grow up hearing 'the voice of God in the garden in the cool of the evening,' and being awed at the vision of angels going up and down to heaven while Jacob's head rested on a stone pillow. They should have felt like they were with Jesus picking grain on the Sabbath, and sat amongst the hungry crowds. These visions should be so far back in their memories
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that these and other sacred scenes form an unconscious backdrop for their thoughts. To a child, anything seems possible. Their faith can embrace anything, and they don't have the kind of difficulties that adults do with Divine interventions in our world, difficult issues, and poetic passages. I don't in any way mean that every Bible story is suitable for every child because it's Scripture. On the other hand, we shouldn't over-scrutinize or draw arbitrary lines between historical fact and the kind of spiritual truth hidden in parables.
Children aren't analytical Bible scholars. They're more concerned with moral teaching, spiritual revelations, and the Bible's beautiful imagery. They can't have too much of those things. As Felix Adler says, 'Biblical text is full of moral spirit. The moral issues are clearly seen everywhere in the Bible. Duty, guilt, the punishment of guilt, the struggle between conscience and inclination, are leading themes throughout Scripture. The Hebrew people seem to have been gifted with what we might call a moral genius, and what they emphasized the most were obedience and paternal duty--the very things that we need to impress on young children.'
How does Adler suggest using Biblical text? We only have space to quote a sentence or two as an example: 'Once upon a time, there were two children. Their names were Adam and Eve. Adam was a fine, noble-looking boy.' 'The weather was so warm that the children never needed to go in the house.' 'And the snake kept whispering, Go on, just take a bite; it's okay, nobody can see you.' 'Adam, you must learn
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to work, and Eve, you must learn to be patient and deny yourself in order to serve others,' etc.
I'll let you decide whether rewording improves the text, and whether this is the kind of thing that will grip a child's imagination.
John Ruskin says that his unique writing style is totally due to his early familiarity with the classic stories of the Bible. It's a mistake to translate Bible stories into careless English, even if the text keeps the facts close to the original. The rhythm and cadence of the original phrasing is as charming to children as it is to adults--maybe even more so. Read the Bible story to the child bit by bit. Then have him tell you what was read in his own words, but keeping as close as he can to the words used in the text. If you want, you can talk about it after that, but not much. Most importantly, don't try to imitate a 'practical commentary on every verse in Genesis,' like the title of a recently published book. There are two points I'd like to emphasize.
Is it a good idea to tell children Bible stories of miracles in this day, when the existence of miracles is so passionately debated? First of all, the only real argument that the most advanced scientists have against miracles is that they haven't personally witnessed such phenomena. But they're the first to admit that nothing is impossible, and no experience is final. Secondly, when it comes to moral and spiritual teaching, it really doesn't matter whether the details in the story are historical fact, or whether
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it's more like one of the parables that Jesus taught with. It's the essential truth that matters to the child, not the historical truth of the story. When it comes to historical truth, children are bold critics. They're ahead of even the latest scientific research that thinks it knows, 'This might have happened, but that can't possibly have happened the way the Bible says.'
The second thing we need to consider about Bible teaching is, Should the Bible be provided complete and undivided, or should we be selective about giving children only the parts they can handle? There are some accounts in the Bible that we would never allow our children to read if they were in another book. It's a good idea to seriously question whether we're justified in thinking that our children will be protected from evil suggestions that we deliberately put in front of them when we put the entire Bible in their hands. Is there some Divine Law that requires that the whole Bible be given to a young, curious child as soon as he learns how to read? The Bible is really a collection of legal, literary, historical, poetical, philosophical, ethical, and analytic writings of one nation. We shouldn't let a superstitious reverence for the outward form of the Bible prevent us from dividing it up into its 66 separate books in the same way that all other literature is divided. And, at least for children, passages that aren't appropriate should be 'expunged.' Perhaps even the driest parts, like long genealogies, could be left out. What a joy it would be if, every birthday, a child received a new book of the Bible, beautifully bound and illustrated, and printed in a clear, easy-to-read type on good paper. Each year the child could have a more difficult book to correspond with progressive maturity. Imagine a Christian child
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collecting his own private library of sacred books with great joy and excitement, and eagerly committing to spend the coming year studying it diligently. The next best thing might be to read the Old Testament aloud little by little, as beautifully as possible, and then require the child to tell back the story, using words as close to the original text as possible.
Getting back to Felix Adler, here's a good suggestion from him: 'Children should learn to observe moral pictures before they try to deduce moral principles. But they should be given simple rules when they're still very young. They need these rules to guide them. In the rules from Moses, there are quite a few that are appropriate for children. A collection of these could be listed to use in schools, such as Don't lie, do not deceive each other, don't take bribes, don't gossip about your friends,' and he goes on to list a total of sixteen rules as an example.
Later in his book, he writes, 'The story of David's life is full of dramatic interest. It can be arranged as a series of pictures. The first picture would be David and Goliath, showing skill battling against brute strength, or a bully getting his well-deserved punishment.' Imagine how empty, commonplace, self-satisfying and smug a person would be who learned morals on this kind of level!
Mr. Adler makes some good points when he talks about the Odyssey and the Iliad. One of Xenophon's characters says, 'My father was very concerned that I grow up to be a good man, so he made me learn all of Homer's poems.' And this gives us some ideas of how to use Homer's great
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epics as an example of life and lessons in manners.
What's more inspiring to an adventure-loving boy than the story of Ulysses? What can stimulate courage, self-discipline, and presence better than the hero's escapes? 'Ulysses illustrates clever wits as well as bravery. His mind is full of ideas.' The ethical elements of the Odyssey are usually listed as marital devotion, duty (in Telemachus), presence of mind, and respect to grandparents (seen in Laertes). I might also add friendly relationships with dependents, which is seen in the lovely part of the story where the nurse Eurycleia recognizes Ulysses even when his own wife doesn't know who he is and sits coldly by. And friendship is shown when Achilles grieves for Patroclus.
Felix Adler talks about Homer's stories with more grace and fondness and less ruthless offense than he does about stories in the Bible. It's another area where we see the weakness of 'secular morality.' The 'Odyssey' and the 'Iliad' are nothing less than religious poems. Their whole motive is religious. Every incident in them is directed by supernatural beings. It loses its heroic inspiration if we forget that the characters do things and suffer with extreme courage and endurance only because they resolved their will to perform and endure whatever the gods willed for them. Their resolve to submit to whatever they could discern of the will of the gods, even faintly, is what makes Homer's characters so inspiring. This is one of the weaknesses of 'secular' ethics, along with teaching morals that are derived from the Bible.
The third section of Adler's book is about Lessons on Duty. This section has more
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excellent advice and wonderful examples. 'The teacher should always take it for granted that morals aren't to be questioned. For example, he should never lead his students to believe that they're going to analyze whether hitting is right or wrong. He should work from the assumption that lying is commanded against, and start by acknowledging that we have an obligation to obey that command.' We agree with this wholeheartedly, and we especially like his use of the word 'command.' It concedes the whole issue--that the concept of duty is relative, and depends on a supreme and intimate Authority which embraces the thoughts of the heart and the issues of the life.
The charming story of Hillel that illustrates the duty to learn is very interesting to psychologists because it shows that humans are born with a natural desire for knowledge. But the motives often listed as reasons to learn are poor and inadequate. Succeeding in life, gaining esteem, self-fulfillment, and maybe even helping others, aren't motives that will compel the soul. If a child is encouraged to learn because learning is the duty that God gave him for this time of his life and this situation that God has put him in, then he'll have the strongest motive of all. He's doing what is required of him by the Highest Authority.
There's one weak tone that runs through the whole way Adler treats this subject. According to him, a drowning man is supposed to advise himself to 'be brave, because human beings are better than the forces of nature, because Nature has no power over the moral power within you,
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because what happens to you in your private character is not important; but it is important that you assert dignity of humanity to your dying breath.' This may sound good, but an even better attitude is a person who struggles bravely to save the life that God gave him.
Adler's chapter about the influence of moral training is worth considering. The last sentence says, 'It's heartening and encouraging to know that the technical labor that is responsible for our increase in material goods, can also be a way of increasing the honor of our youth, sharpening their intellect, and strengthening their character, when it's included in their education.'
I've spent so much time going over Mr. Adler's book because it's one of the most serious and effective attempts I know of for teaching progressively graduated ethics lessons that are suitable for children of all ages. Although I don't agree with him on the important issue of moral authority, I recommend that parents look over his book. Christian parents will fill in the missing gap by presenting the concept that Law is connected to a Law-Giver. They'll supplement Adler's many valuable suggestions with their own strong conviction that our sense of 'ought' is from the Lord.
But even Christian children can suffer from careless moral teaching. When good people fail, it saddens and surprises moralists as well as Christian souls who try hard but often fail. It's a fact that temptation and sin can't be separated from our present condition,
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but how can earnest, sincere Christians habitually be prejudiced, dishonest, unfair to the character and opinions of others, unkind in their rebuke, and even spiteful in their criticism? That might not be totally the failure of human nature, but the fault of defective education.
The concept of ethics in these vulnerable areas has never been fairly and fully presented to the mind. An adult who is incapable of honestly giving consideration to other people's opinions probably never learned the duty of impartiality as a child. It's almost certain that careful, systematic teaching of ethics with lots of examples and, not least of all, inspiration by the thought that this is God's will, would help to elevate the character of the entire nation if this kind of teaching was provided to all children. That's why we're so grateful for a contribution in practical ethics for children at home and school like Mr. Adler's book about the moral education of children.
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Ever since Locke's ideas established a whole new school of educational thinking based on British philosophy, we've tended to lean exclusively towards naturalism [naturalism rejects any supernatural explanations for phenomenon], or maybe even materialism. That means that one possible element is eliminated in education--the force of ideas.
Madame de Staël wrote a notable passage about this tendency of British philosophy. Although we might not accept all of her conclusions, what she wrote should make us stop and think, and consider whether it would be a good idea to modify the tendencies of our national thinking by allowing ourselves to be influenced by others outside of England.
'Hobbes [an Englishman] took literally the philosophy that says that all of our ideas are no more than sensory impressions. He wasn't at all intimidated by the consequences of that concept. He insisted that the soul is subject to necessity as certainly as societies are subject to absolute rule. Political and religious institutions have consolidated the worship of all pure, elevated sentiments until all of their philosophical questions revolve around the predetermined concepts of political and religious dogma, but never think to question the foundations of that dogma.
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'Because of these views, Hobbes didn't have many followers in his own country. But Locke had more of a universal influence because he was more moral and religious. He didn't allow himself to adopt any of the corrupting reasonings that always result from metaphysics. Most of his countrymen who adopted it weren't so tied to the idea that they couldn't separate the results of principles. But Hume and the French philosophers, after adopting the concept, applied it more logically.
'Locke's metaphysical ideas didn't destroy English thought. They just tarnished their natural originality a little and dried up the source of their grand philosophical thinking. Rather than destroying religious sentiment, his ideas included it. With the exception of Germany, all of Europe accepted this metaphysical concept, and it was one of the main reasons for immorality, which now had theory to back it up. [This quote was originally in French and paraphrased from translations by google.com and David Tulis.]
It's good for us to recognize the continuity of educational thought in England, and to realize that Herbert Spencer and Alexander Bain are direct descendants in thought of the earlier philosophers. The main weakness in our attempt to come up with a science of education is probably our failure to recognize that education is derived from philosophy. So we deal with the peripheral issues and neglect the source. That's why our efforts have no unified continuity or definite goal. We're satisfied to pick up one suggestion here, a practical hint there--without ever bothering to consider which paradigm those suggestions and hints are coming from.
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Alfred Fouillée's remarkable book Education from a National Standpoint (translated by W. Greenstreet) should have some effect on the urgent question of our time. Greenstreet writes in the preface, 'The spirit of reform is in the air. The issue of whether Greek should continue to be taught in our Universities is just the tip of a giant iceberg that's ready to topple over on us and obliterate the distinguishing characteristics of our national educational system . . . Just a glimpse of the educational systems taking over Europe and America should be enough to show an observant person how close we are to the verge of chaos.'
Greenstreet's words are wise and insightful, but let's not despair as though this was the end. The truth is, we're in the middle of an educational revolution. We're not on the verge of falling into chaos; we're just emerging from out of it. We're finally beginning to realize that education is the process of applying science to life. We already have enough existing material in ancient philosophy and current scientific research to create an educational system to manage and regulate the lives of ourselves and our children. It's not necessary for us to think we need a complete and exhaustive code of educational laws. That will happen naturally when humanity has fulfilled itself. In the meantime, we have enough to start with, if we'd only believe it. What we need to do is come together and pool our resources. Then we can prioritize and put the most important things first, to make sure that education is no more or no less than the practical application of the philosophy we believe in. Accordingly,
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if we want our educational thought to be well-constructed and effective, we need to examine the foundational philosophy that it rests on. We need to be prepared to trace every suggestion for raising children to one of the two schools of philosophy that it came from.
Do we want an educational system that springs from naturalism, or idealism--or is there something in the middle? This is what Alfred Fouillée attempts to answer from the perspective of a philosophical educationalist. He analyzes his theory and draws his conclusions with directness, proficiency, and philosophic insight so that the reader feels confident to follow his reasoning. I admit he's like an umpire in a baseball game who insists that one must be fair to both sides, yet must slightly favor his own side. Fouillée takes sides with classical rather than scientific culture. But he doesn't just favor classical because that's what he's familiar with; he has philosophical reasons for putting his faith in classical education. His examination of the issue of national education is educational and inspiring for teachers and parents alike.
In his preface, Fouillée gives a key to how he deals with the subject. He says,
'On this question, Guyau has left his mark, as he has on all great questions of practical philosophy . . . He's dealt with the question from the highest standpoint, and treated it very scientifically. He asks, Once we know the hereditary strengths and faults of a race, how much can we modify that heredity by using education to create a
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new heredity? And that is precisely the issue we're faced with. We're not just concerned with educating a few individuals. We want to preserve and improve the whole race. Therefore, education needs to be based on the physical and moral laws of the culture of races . . . The ethnic point of view is the proper perspective. Using education as a tool, we need to create the kinds of hereditary tendencies that will be useful to the human race both physically and intellectually.'
Fouillée begins at the beginning. He examines the principle of natural selection, and shows that it works, not only in animal life, but in intellectual, aesthetic and moral life, too. He demonstrates that what might be called psychological selection exists, and evolves depending on whose ideas are deemed the most fit to decide on the laws that will rule the world. In the light of the natural selection of ideas and their tremendous power, Fouillée examines the controversial issue of education's subjects and methods.
Fouillée complains, justifiably, that no civilized society has ever tried to unify or harmonize education as a whole. Instead, attention is focused on secondary issues. Everyone is arguing about the controversy over whether education should focus on literature or science, or whether modern languages should be taught. But education is more than literature and science. Fouillée introduces a new candidate. He writes,
'In this book, we'll ask whether the link between science and literature can be found in knowing man, society and the laws of the universe. I mean, the link might be in morals and social science and aesthetics--in other words, philosophy.'
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Here is the gist of what the Parents' Union has been trying to advance. 'The most suitable study for mankind is man' is one of the kinds of 'thoughts from beyond their own thought' that poets write about. I can add my own personal testimony to verify that no other study that I know of can make an almost visible path of expansion in the mind and soul of a young student in the way that philosophy can.
This book has thoroughly worked out a unique line of thought--the thought that, just as a child with individual tendencies and interests should be encouraged and educated to build up those tendencies and interests, so should a nation.
'Social science might refuse to acknowledge any mystical explanations of the common spirit that gives character to a nation, but it doesn't reject the consciousness that nation reflects, or the spontaneous belief of the functions that have been transferred to it, that every nation has.'
Here's a productive suggestion. Consider how suitable a plan for physical, intellectual and moral training is that's based on the ideal of our British character and the destiny of our nation.
Fouillée's chapter titled 'Power of Education and of Idea-Forces--Suggestions--Heredity' is very useful. It uses a vague cloud of intuitions that come to us in relation to all kinds of hypnotic wonders of our day. Fouillée claims that,
'The ability of instruction and education is denied
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by some people and exaggerated by others. But it's really nothing more than the power of ideas and sentiments. It's impossible to be too exact about how much and how far the limits of this force can go. This psychological problem is the foundation of teaching.
Basically, Fouillée goes boldly back to the philosophy of Plato. In his mind, the idea is everything, both in philosophy and education. But he ends up with nothing. The wave of naturalism seems to be declining, and it hasn't left anything of substance for him, except for some stranded fragments of Darwinian theory. Yet it's this very natural, materialistic thinking that's been responsible for giving us the physical foundation of education [i.e., the fact that habit makes physical changes in the brain.]
When we believed that thought, like an elfish sprite, was too light and vaporous to have any physical impact on matter, our educational philosophies had to be vague. We couldn't even catch Ariel, our sprite, so how could we school him? But now physiologists have given us evidence that our sprite has at least the tips of his toes on solid ground, enough to leave footprints behind. There's an impression made on the comfortable, familiar physical world. Our intangible thoughts leave their mark on the tangible tissue of the brain. Physiologists tell us that these marks create connections between the brain's nerve cells. To put it simply, the brain 'develops to accommodate whatever it gets used to doing earliest and most often.' This fact has a lot of implications for one particular aspect of education that Fouillée barely mentions.
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That aspect is the formation of habits--physical, intellectual and moral habits. It's been rightly said, 'Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.' And one of the most important jobs of the educator is to train certain actions regularly, with a purpose, and methodically so that the child will develop the habits of thinking and doing that will make his life smoother, and he'll be able to do them without much thinking about it.
We're only just now beginning to realize how beneficial the laws that govern our lives are. If a person is trained to have the right habits as a child, then his life will run smoothly in those habits as an adult without the stress and anxiety of having to make decisions about each one of them. There might be a few times during the course of a day--maybe once, or twice, or even three times--when he'll have to stop and go through the decision-making process to choose between the noble and the less noble, or what seems good and what's truly best. But all the minor, more routine matters of morality will become mere habit to him. He's been brought up to be polite, prompt, on time, neat, and considerate. And he'll do all of these things without any conscious effort. It's a lot easier for him to do what he's used to doing than to deviate and create a whole new habit pattern. And the reason this is true is because God has graciously and mercifully set it up so that our educational efforts leave a tangible record and physical change in the brain. Therefore, we only have to face the emotional strain of making moral decisions and striving to do the right thing occasionally. 'Sow a habit, reap a character.' In other words, forming habits is one of the main ways that we can modify the inborn disposition that a child inherits, and his habits will become the character he'll have as an adult.
But even in this physical effort, the spiritual power of
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ideas has a part, because a habit is developed when we act on an initial idea by carrying out a corresponding action many, many times. For instance, a child may hear that Duke Wellington slept in a bed that was too narrow to turn over in because he said 'when I feel like turning over, it means it's time to get up.' The child doesn't like to get up in the morning, but he wants to be like the hero of Waterloo. You, as his parent, stimulate him to act on this idea every day for about a month, until the habit is formed. By that time, it's just as easy to get up on time as it is to sleep in.
Education has two functions: (a) forming the right habits, and, (b) presenting inspiring ideas. The first is more dependent than we realize on a physical process. The second is totally spiritual. Its origin, method and result are intangible. Could this be the meeting point where two philosophies come together that have divided mankind ever since men began to think about their thoughts and actions? Both views are right and we need both. Both have a role to play in helping people develop to their highest potential. The essence of modern thought, and, in fact, of all profound thought, is, Might the spiritual world have some kind of impact on the physical world? Every issue, from the question of how to educate a little child, to the mystery of the Incarnation, boils down to this point. If one can conceive that the spiritual might possibly impact the physical world, then everything else becomes clear, from the ridiculous stunts that people do under hypnotic suggestion, to the miracles of Christianity. It becomes possible, although not always easy, to believe when we're told that an effort of extreme concentration of thought and feeling has allowed some devout people to develop the marks of the cross
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on their own hands and feet. If we can just accept the possibility that spiritual forces can influence the physical world, nothing is impossible for our faith. All we ask for is a precedent. But, the fact is, this interaction of spiritual and physical forces happens all the time. It's our common and normal daily experience. Isn't it the impact of spirit upon matter that influences our physical flesh to show our character and behavior in our facial expression? And it isn't just our face that manifests our inner person--a good observer of human nature can read a person's body language fairly well even from behind. A sculptor knows how it works. There's a statue of the recently deceased Prince Albert in Edinburgh that shows different groups of people paying homage to the Prince Consort. If you stand so that you can see the backs and shoulders of the people, it's obvious which one is the scholar, soldier, peasant, and artisan. Isn't this the influence of spirit over matter?
That puts us in the midst of a dilemma. There's no middle ground open to us. Physiologists have proved conclusively that the physical brain is what thinks. In fact, physical thought can go on in the brain even without the conscious will or participation of the person. Even more than that, some of the best of our art and literature is the result of unconscious thought. So we have to admit one of two things. Either thought is strictly a physical process of the material brain tissue, just another chemical reaction, or the physical brain is the agent of spiritual thought, and the spiritual thought acts on it like the fingers of a pianist striking the keys of his instrument. If we can allow this, then the whole question is conceded. The spiritual can indeed impact physical material. It's an accepted fact.
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As we've said before, parents and teachers are only allowed to play a minor role in the great work of education after all. You can bring a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. In the same way, you can bring the most suitable ideas to the mind of a child, but you have no way of knowing which he'll take to, and which he'll reject. And it's a good thing for us that a child's individuality is protected by this safeguard that's within each of them. Our job is to make sure that his educational plate is always refilled with appropriate and inspiring ideas. Once we've done our job, we need to leave it to the child's mental appetite to take what it needs, and how much it needs. But we need to watch out for one thing. The least sign of fullness, especially when we're talking about moral and religious ideas, should be taken as a serious warning. If we persist at that point, we may spoil the child's appetite forever, and he may never willing sit down to that particular dish again.
The limitations we perceive in our own abilities when it comes to presenting ideas should make us even more careful about what kinds of ideas we set in front of our children. We won't be satisfied that they learn geography, history, Latin, etc. We'll want to know what striking ideas were presented in each subject, and how those ideas affect the child's intellectual and moral development. We'll have the resolve to consider the issue of education as Fouillée presented it calmly and sincerely. We probably won't agree with him in many of the details, but we'll most likely agree to his conclusions--the conclusion that it isn't the subject that's merely
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practical/vocational, but moral and social science topics that are covered in history, literature, or whatever, that we dare not leave out of the curriculum because our students are 'beings who breathe thoughtful breath.'
The charts of subjects studied in the Appendix are very helpful. Every subject is treated from what may be called the ideal point of view.
'Two things are necessary. First, we have to introduce the philosophic spirit and method into every scientific subject that's studied. The student needs to search for the most general principles and conclusions. Then we need to reduce the different sciences to their common similarities and unity by providing a healthy training in philosophy. Philosophy should be required of science students in the same way that it's required of literature students . . . Descartes said that scientific truths are battles that were won. We should describe the most important and most heroic of these battles to young students. That will get them interested in the scientific spirit because they'll be enthusiastic about the conquest of truth. They'll be able to see the power of reasoning, which is what led to such great discoveries in the past, and will lead to more in the future. Even arithmetic and geometry would seem interesting if students learned something of the history of their main theorems. Imagine if a child could feel like he was there during the efforts of Pythagoras, or Plato, or Euclid--or in more modern times, Viète, Descartes, Pascal, or Leibnitz. Great theories would no longer seem like lifeless, anonymous abstracts. They'd become human, living truths, each one with its own story, like a Michelangelo statue, or a Raphael painting.'
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We have some involuntary resistance to any teaching that includes the profound things of faith with the natural physical laws that govern the way we develop as human beings. We prefer for the communion between God and our soul, in which is our very life, to be totally supernatural. We want it to be separate from the physical rules of ordinary life. We want it to be arbitrary, unexplainable, beyond reasoning. Maybe we're wrong, but at least it's an error of reverence. Our thinking may be too incomplete and simple in this, but our motivation is only to honor God's divine name, and the only way we know how to do that is to set it apart. Yet, although our mistake is an error of reverence, it's still an error. And motives don't make up for wrong actions in the spiritual world any more than they do in the physical world. This misconception of our relationship with God causes us to lose the sense of unity in our lives. It erects an unnatural and irreligious wall between sacred things and secular things. It makes it impossible for us to be at one with God in all things. There are a few examples of beautiful lives that show no trace of this separation, whose goals are confined to the things we think of as sacred. But too many
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thoughtful, sincere people are painfully aware of the need for a concept of God that embraces all of the human experience as sacred--a concept that accepts art, science, politics, whatever men who aren't in rebellion think about and care about, because it all works together in the evolving of God's Kingdom.
Our religious thought is a direct result of our philosophy far more than we think, just like our educational thought. Let's not assume that philosophy is only for a few gifted scholars. It's not--every living soul develops his own philosophy of life. We fashion our philosophy from current popular thought modified by our own experiences.
It would be interesting to trace the effect of the two great philosophic schools of thought--Idealism and Scientific Naturalism--on religious thinking. But that's beyond my ability, and beyond our purpose here. We need to limit ourselves to what's practical in the here and now. The bottom line for us today is that naturalistic philosophy is on the rise, our religious concepts are idealistic, and therefore many noble minds are in revolt. They feel like they can't honestly consider something true if it's opposed to human reasoning. Others who make their faith their first priority make a less than honest compromise with themselves and just refuse to examine certain issues--they only scrutinize secular matters. Although we hear it all the time, it isn't that the times are so distorted, or that Christianity is no longer effective, or that there's a
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natural breach between the facts of physical life and the facts of spiritual life. It's our philosophy that needs to be adjusted. Somehow we've managed to get life out of focus. The initial ideas we started with are false, but we've built our essential truth from them by taking logical inferences from them. We haven't realized that our reasoning capacity doesn't deal with spiritual truth, or even with what we call facts. Reason is merely the logical inferences from any premise that the mind accepts.
When we discussed Fouillée's Education from a National Standpoint, we tried to show that the two kinds of philosophy (materialistic naturalism and supernatural idealism) have always divided the world into two camps because both are true, but neither is the whole truth. Matter and spirit, or, force and ideas, both work together to develop the character of a person. Somehow the brain makes a physical, tangible recording of the ideas that bring inspiration to the life. But those ideas didn't originate in the brain. Ideas are spiritual. They're transferred via spiritual means, whether the vehicle is printed words on a page, the glance of an eye, the touch of a hand, or the holy, mysterious breath of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit whose origin and destination are beyond our ability to discern. All thoughts that enliven us, and all words that set us on fire with passion are spiritual by nature and they appeal to what's spiritual within us. Once we recognize that every type of thought and all categories of feelings belong to the dominion of ideas, we won't be able to keep the great mysteries of our religion out of our common daily life. When we consider how a friend of ours sitting next to us communicates
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with us spirit to spirit with a quick exchange of ideas, we understand that the Spirit of God communicates with us in the same way. The closer two human souls understand each other, the less they need to rely on spoken words. It's a small step to go from this to the concept of the most intimate and joyful relationship of all, the communication between a devoted soul and his God.
It's only obvious, real, natural and necessary that the Father of spirits should graciously keep open paths to intimate access with the spirits of people and communication with them.
'I wish it would be granted to me, Lord,
To find only You.
That You alone would speak to me, and I to You,
In the same way that a lover talks to his beloved
Or a friend talks over the dinner table with his friend.'
[adapted from The Imitation of Christ]
That's what all devoted souls aspire to. This constant yearning towards the closest communion possible is the prayer of faith, whether the prayer is spoken or not. Skeptics claim that such a desire is a vain, sentimental dream that comes from the emotions, just like Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection. What can we respond to that? Nothing. Such a person can't understand that, when he loves his fellow human being, it isn't the physical form that endears him, it's the spiritual being that's within the material manifestation of his body. How can he be expected to comprehend that God's Spirit draws the spirit of man with irresistible attraction, and that the spirit of man
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encompasses the whole person? After all, the body is nothing more than a garment that the spirit shapes to suit its own purposes.
It's easier to accept the temporary outward form and ignore the reality of the inner spirit. People say things like 'prayer is flung into the air like a kite that a child throws upward, only to come down again.' Or 'all men are mere pawns of circumstance and they don't have any power to determine their own fate.' Or 'all beliefs are valid, and whether a person worships Christ or Buddha depends on where he's born.' This kind of tolerance is an easy way of thinking, and many minds are taking the easy way out.
'And where does an easy, skeptical way of life lead a person? . . . What does this skepticism lead to? It leads a person to shameful loneliness and selfishness--it's all the more shameful because he's so casually good-humored and conscienceless and serene about it. 'Conscience? What's that? Why accept guilt and remorse? What is corporate or personal faith? Nothing but antiquated myths wrapped in fancy traditions.' Arthur, if you can see and acknowledge the lies of the world as I know you can with your gift of an almost fatal clearness, and if you let them go with no more protest than a laugh, if you can immerse yourself in a life of luxurious sensuality while the world suffers and groans and you don't even care, if you're able to lie on your balcony smoking your pipe in the noise and danger while the fight for truth is taking place and honorable men are taking their places in the battle--then you would be better off dead, or never having been born at all, rather than be such a sensual coward.' [from Pendennis, by Thackeray]
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Canon Beeching's Eleven Sermons on Faith are a refreshing contrast to this kind of modern Sadduceeism. He says that faith isn't a mystical, supernatural thing that's exceptional. It's the common foundation for the way we deal with one another. The framework that society rests on is credit, trust, and confidence. The worst thing we can say to another person is, 'I can't trust you.' The law recognizes that every man has the right to have the confidence of his fellow men, and it considers a man innocent until he's proved otherwise. Our whole business and banking systems are no more than huge systems of credit. Only rarely do people neglect to make good on their credit. Family and social life rest on a different kind of credit. We might call it moral credit. Very few people forfeit that kind of trust. Every once in a while, someone gives others a reason to be suspicious, jealous or mistrustful--but the exception only proves how rarely it happens. When people deal with each other, they rely on credit. When people deal with God, they rely on faith. We can use the same word in both cases. Man is a spiritual being, and in his dealings with both God and other men, he lives by faith. When we look at it that way, faith becomes a simple, easy thing! It's especially easy for children, who trust everybody, and are willing to follow any guide. If only we could get rid of our materialistic notion that our finite minds can't understand spiritual things, and that believing in God is different than trusting a friend. Then the questions that stagger our faith would be so easy.
Meanwhile, God's Kingdom is coming upon us in all its power. It's time to break down this foolish barrier
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that comes from our carnal mind. We need to recognize that our relationships with each other are spiritual relationships, and spoken and written words are only the outward visible forms that convey ideas. The ideas themselves are spiritual. If we understood this, then the presence of God would be inevitable, incessant and all-encompassing. Faith is merely the simple trust that one person puts in another Person. That makes us realize with reverent joy that God is all around us wherever we go, or when we lie in bed, and He sees everything we do--not because he's looking to see what we're doing wrong in order to punish us, but with the loving, firm guidance of a caring parent. That makes it easy for our human spirit to understand the never-ceasing, always inspiring communication of God's Holy Spirit. Every morning, He awakens our ear, too. The manner and degree that His inspiration and guidance comes to us depends on our ability to receive them. We're no longer baffled when an uninstructed heathen shows gentle traits of compassion and generosity, because we know that 'his God instructs and teaches him.' We're not confounded when we hear of a decent person lifting his voice to heaven to declare, 'There is no God.' We know that God causes the sun to shine on both evil and good people, and as much moral enlightenment and guidance that a person will open himself up to receive is what he'll be freely given. Even if a person squeezes his eyes shut and insists that 'There is no sun,' he'll still be warmed and fed and comforted by the very light that he denies. This strong, passionate sense of intimate nearness to God is the kind of faith that we need to raise our children in. If we're firm in this conviction, then the controversies of our day might intrigue us, but they won't make us anxious because, once we know Him in whom we've believed, we'll be on the other side where doubt can't affect us.
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Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. We progress in this knowledge in direct proportion to how much study we devote to it. All of us who deal with raising children should be very thankful for every word of help and insight that reveals spiritual realities. From this perspective, parents will appreciate reading and reflecting on the sermons in Beeching's book. He expresses profound thought in pure, simple language. The sermons are relevant to current thought and not at all sentimental or even an attempt to pressure the reader into a certain behavior. On the contrary, they're strengthening and refreshing. You read them and go away rejoicing in a strong sense of how real the unseen things are. Maybe this is because Beeching presents the naturalness of faith.
'We can't help noticing that, although Jesus is always demanding our faith, He never offers a definition of the kind of faith He wants from us. That's why we presume that what He meant by faith was different than what men usually mean by it. And it gets even more presumptuous when we remember that faith in the Lord began as faith in human qualities before those human qualities were thought of as divine. The Apostles' faith increased under the training of Jesus. It became both deeper and broader. But in the time between the first attraction that drew men like Peter from their fishing nets, and the last declaration of Peter's worship on the shores of Lake Gennesarat, there was no breach of continuity. In fact, as if to prove that the Apostles' human faith hadn't been converted to a more supernatural vague theological virtue after the resurrection, we discover that
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the word used to express it is, of all the words used to express faith, the one most deeply mixed with human feeling: 'Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me more than these?' Therefore, we need to ask ourselves what's commonly meant by Faith when it refers to the faith between two people. Then we can consider whether our explanation fits the various Scripture passages.'
The text quoted above from the very thoughtful and educational preface of Beeching's book shows what we mean by the naturalness of faith. It isn't something that comes by itself of its own will and effort. It's acceptable, suitable, and appropriate to our nature, no matter when and from where it comes. As Beeching says, 'Faith itself isn't an impulse that originates from within ourselves. It's a person's heart springing up in response to the surrounding hug of God's 'Everlasting Arms' and its reward is to feel the support of those divine arms even more and more deeply.'
The eleven sermons in the book are The Object of Faith, The Worship of Faith, The Righteousness of Faith, The Food of Faith, National Faith, The Eye of Faith, The Ear of Faith, The Activity of Faith, The Gentleness of Faith, The Discipline of Faith, and Faith in Man.
In the chapter called 'The Object of Faith,' Beeching poses a question: So then, what is God like? What kind of countenance does the God have who shines out from the pages of the Gospel? Let's open the book and see!' We read the story of how Jesus was touched with compassion when he saw two blind men by the road on the way to Jericho. So He touched their eyes and healed them. But Jesus didn't only have compassion on physical problems. 'Jesus also has compassion
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on ignorance, on the aimless wandering of people who are trying to satisfy their own wants because they have no Master to guide them, and on the weary spirit that results from such a life of aimless wandering.' Beeching also writes, 'Jesus doesn't just have compassion on sickness and ignorance. He also has compassion on sin, and on the sinner who repents.' The Bible tells the story of the woman whose many sins were forgiven because she loved so much. And it tells about Jesus as His face is turned towards the young man, and 'Jesus looked at him and loved him.' 'In the face of Christ, we've seen compassion for suffering, ignorance, repentant sin, and love for enthusiasm.' As one more example, we're invited to consider how the Lord turned and looked at Peter. 'Can you imagine the look on His face as He looked at Peter, who had denied Him three times after insisting that he would die with Him? If only that face would look at us in reproach any time that we deny Him by our words or our actions, so that we can also remember and weep.' The heart rises to this kind of teaching--the simple presentation of Christ as He lived among people. He said rightly, 'If I'm lifted up, I will draw all men to Myself.' How tragic that He, Who is so totally beautiful, is so seldom lifted up for us to gaze at with adoration. Maybe when our teachers invite us to look at Christ's face, we'll understand the full meaning of the word 'adoration.' He'll draw all men to Himself because it's impossible for any human soul to resist His divine beauty once it's fairly and fully presented so he can see it.
In Beeching's sermon, 'Worship of Faith,' he says that 'Worshiping Christ means to bow down with love, wonder and
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thankfulness to the most perfect goodness that the world has ever seen, and to believe that that goodness is the perfect image of God the Father.' Any and all aims or ideas that aren't Christ's aims and ideas are against this kind of worship. Any person who entertains these wrong kinds of foreign ideals can't call himself a Christian. Once we examine the spirit attitude towards Christ that leads to the proper worship of faith, the rest of Beeching's sermon is very practical. The next sermon, 'Work is Worship,' is his keynote. Since Beeching knows so well how to touch the secret springs of our hearts, you wish that he had used this opportunity to move us closer to that 'heart's adoration' that's so dear to God. But, really, the book has this tendency. It's good to remember that 'thoroughly and willingly doing any duty, no matter how important or trivial, is like offering well-pleasing, acceptable incense to Jesus.'
The sermon about the 'Righteousness of Faith' is very important and educational. Beeching spends a lot of time talking about the 'deplorable chant' we use to label ourselves as 'miserable sinners,' combining the 'inner smugness of the Pharisees in the parable with what the publican said.'
'Christ's words about man's sinfulness have no trace of vagueness or exaggeration. When He casts blame, He names definite faults that we all can relate to. He never says that man can't do any good thing. Instead, He assumes that, if a person is in the proper state of dependence on God, he'll be fully capable of doing what's right. Jesus said that 'whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My
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brother, or sister, or mother.' But we still wonder--considering our shortcomings, how can any of us be called righteous right now by Christ? Paul wrote two of his letters to answer this very question. His answer was that a person isn't considered righteous because of his own works, but because of his faith in God. Human righteousness isn't a conclusion stamped on a person after his whole life has been analyzed. It's reckoned to a person at a certain point in time when his spirit becomes willing to trust, love and revere God. It's the disposition of a dutiful son to a loving father . . . Righteousness in the only sense that men can have it means believing and trusting God.'
I don't have space to detail all of the teaching in Beeching's inspiring little book, but I recommend it to parents. Who needs to nourish their own spiritual life more than parents? Who else so needs to examine themselves to consider how firm a grasp they have on the mysteries of faith? Who else, besides parents, need such a clear concept of the supreme relation so that they can explain it in language their toddler can understand? We've already established that the teacher's duty is to put first things first, and everything else in proper order. There's only one thing that's truly necessary--that we 'have faith in God.' Let's free ourselves from vague thoughts and inconsistent actions so that we can help our children to enter into this higher life. In order to accomplish this, we don't mind the kind of teaching that's more nourishing than entertaining. This book should offer real help towards temperate living in pure Gospel ways.
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'My goal in this book is to present the beauty and joy of living, the beauty and blessedness of death, the glory of battle and adventure, the nobility of being devoted to a cause or ideal or even a passion, the dignity of resistance, the sacred quality of patriotism,' says the editor of Lyra Heroica in the preface to his book. We all feel like children's education should make free use of works that express 'simpler feelings and more fundamental emotions.' We all believe that heroic poetry contains inspiration to noble living that can't be found much of anywhere else. We also know that it's only the young who are able to fully experience the free expression of these fundamental emotions in song. When we consider using our own British ballads, we find that there are plenty of them, but they're too dedicated to limited occasions, and too disconnected. Although we'd prefer for our children to develop patriotism and heroism from the same resource, we don't think it's do-able.
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We claim that there isn't any truly British material for this kind of education, so we fall back on Homer's mythical Iliad and Odyssey, using one of the graceful, exciting versions written for children.
But what if we had our own Homer, our own Ulysses? Mr. Stopford Brooke has discovered that we do! That's a great discovery for those of us who tend to look at everything from the child's perspective. He might not be happy if he found out that his book, History of Early English Literature, which is a valuable addition to students' and scholars' libraries, is being used as mental food for very young children. Still, this is what we've needed for a long time. Beowulf has the fundamental emotions and heroic adventures of the early English people written as a story in verse form. It's as strange and eerie as the wildest fairy tale, yet every line contains the distinctly British temper, and the British virtue that are necessary ingredients in making heroes. Beowulf isn't exactly English, but he lived in the place that the English originally came from. He was adopted as England's national hero very early in history, and his feats were sung in every hall.
Stopford Brooke says that the poem has 3283 lines and is divided into two parts with a fifty year gap in the middle. The first part tells about Beowulf's great deeds against the monster Grendel and his mother. The second part tells about Beowulf defeating the Fire-drake, and his death and burial. Brooke says that we're justified in claiming the poem as English--the poem is only preserved in the English language, and only in England. The hero Beowulf is born of brave,
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noble parents. He's a combination of gentleness and superhuman daring. When he arrives at Hrothgar's hall to conquer Grendel, we hear as much about his wise advise as we do about his strength. The queen begs him to be friendly in advising her sons. She says, 'Your faith is patient, and your strength is wise. You will be a comfort to your people, and a help to heroes.' It was said that no one could manage matters more wisely than he could. Later, as he's dying, he looks back on his life. What he thinks the most about isn't his great war deeds. He thinks more about his patience, his wisdom, his power to control himself, and his ability to avoid making enemies.
He says, 'Each of us has to wait for the end of our life. The person who can should earn honor during his life. That's the best thing for a warrior after he's dead. But everyone should be patient in difficult times. That's what I want from you.' That's the philosophy of this early hero whose deeds, whether legendary or not, were done in the early centuries after Christ, before Christianity had been spread to the northern tribes [Vikings?]
Beowulf was as gentle as Lord Nelson, and he had Nelson's iron will. When he took on a task, he accomplished it without any thought except finishing it. He knew no fear, and, like Nelson, he seems to have been able to inspire his men with his own courage. 'I broke no promises,' he said as he lay dying. He also stayed honorable by being faithful to his lord, the king. While he had any life within him, he defended his king, even when he was alone and on foot at the battle. Even after the king died, he stayed loyal, even though it wasn't in his best interest to do so. When the kingdom was offered to him, he turned it down and, instead, trained the king's son Heardreg in
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war and educated him. He guarded him kindly with honor, and avenged him when he was killed. He was generous and gave away all the gifts he received. He was courteous and even gave gifts to people who had been rude to him. He was always gentle and serious with women. Most of all, he was faithful and honorable in war, as this quote shows: 'this is how a man acts when he wants to earn praise that never ends, and doesn't cherish his life in battle.' He cries, 'Let's have either fame or death!' When Wiglaf comes to his aid against the dragon and finds him surrounded in the dragon's fire, he reminds him of his life goal:
'Beowulf, beloved, bear yourself well. When you were young, you used to say that you would never let honor go. Now you're strong in deeds and your soul is firm, my prince. Guard your life with every bit of strength you have left; I'm coming to help you.' Brooke says, 'These are the qualities that this man and hero had. I thought it was worthwhile to focus on them because they represent the English ideal, the kind of manhood that English people valued even before they came to Britain. And, in all of our histories for the 1200 years since Beowulf, these qualities have been repeated in the lives of the English warriors we honor most, whether they fought on land or sea.'
'But Beowulf doesn't only present the concept of a hero. He also presents the concept of a king, a fair ruler, a wise politician, and a defender of his own people, even when defending them cost him his very life. Beowulf is 'a good king, the people's governor, a beloved ruler, a guardian of his land during war, an adventurer who wins treasure for the needs of his people, a hero who thinks about his sailors while he's dying, a gentle
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and fierce warrior, who is buried while his people weep for him.' '
We should be grateful to Stopford Brooke for making Beowulf's heroic ideal accessible to those who haven't learned to appreciate it. But what were we thinking to have neglected it for more than a thousand years when it could have been inspiring our youth with a noble impulse? Someone may protest, 'But we already have lots of English heroes; we don't need to drag one out of the long-buried past.' Yes, it's true that we do have heroes galore that we're proud of, but for some reason, they've never been put into the kind of song that touches the hearts of children and uneducated people.
Tennyson has given us our image of Arthur, and Shakespeare has given us our image of Henry the Fifth. But I think that parents will discover that their children's souls are more touched by Beowulf than with either of these, probably because children can most easily relate to a nation's earliest history, and Beowulf belongs to a period of history that goes back even earlier than Arthur. We hope that Brooke will someday provide the entire poem with children in mind, interspersed with his enlightening comments, like we have here. The quaint metre he uses gives the reader a feeling of an ancient time, successfully carrying the reader back to the long-ago age of the poem.
We've already used a lot of quotes from the History of Early English Literature, but a longer quote might give a better idea of what the book is like, and show how helpful it can be to parents. The two volumes are rather expensive, but the cost is well worth it if even one
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single child is passionately inspired to imitate heroic qualities when he hears:
'Now the poem gets more action-packed as Beowulf sails to the Danish coast. Our hero Beowulf has heard that Hrothgar, the chief of the Danes, is tormented by Grendel, a man-eating monster. Whenever Hrothgar's warriors go to sleep in Heorot, the great hall he has built, Grendel seizes them, tears them to pieces, and eats them. 'I will save the king,' thought Beowulf, when he heard the tale from the roving seamen. 'I will go over the swan sea to seek Hrothgar. He needs more men.' His comrades urged him to undertake the adventure, and fifteen of them were even willing to fight it out with him. Among the rest was a sea-wise man who knew the ocean-paths. Their ship lay drawn up on the beach, under a high cliff. Then--
'The heroes with all their gear
Stepped into the ship, while the ocean waves
Whirled the sea against the sand. To the ship, to its breast.
Then expensive bright, carved things carried the heroes
And the well-organized armor. So the men pushed off
Towards the adventure they wanted. Their tight ship
Went over the waves swiftly, with a suitable wind,
Flying like a bird, floating with the ocean foam all around it,
Till about the same time, on the second day,
The up-curved prow had traveled so far,
That at last the seamen saw the land ahead,
And shining sea-cliffs, soaring peaks,
Broad peninsulas. So the Sailor of the Sea
Reached the end of his sea voyage.'
Beowulf, I. 211
'This was the voyage, ending in a bay with two high sea-capes at its entrance. This is the same kind of scenery as they left at home. When Beowulf returns over the sea, the boat groans as it is pushed forth because it's so heavily loaded. The hollow space
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under the mast that holds up the single sail is holding eight horses, swords, treasure and expensive armor. The sail is hoisted, the wind pushes the ship through the foam and waves, until they see the well-known Geats' Cliffs. The wind blows them up to the sand. The 'harbor-guard who had been watching out across the sea for them, longing for their return'--this is one of the poem's many human touches--'fastens chains to anchor the wide-bodied ship to the land so that the wind doesn't sweep the ship away.' The shore is low at one end of this bay, so Beowulf drives the ship there, stem first. Planks are pushed out on both sides of the prow for the Weder men to disembark. They step off the ship and tie up their sea-wood, their armor clanging as they move. Then they thank their gods for the easy battle victory . . . Above them, on the ridge, the guard from the coast of the Scyldings sits on his horse, watching the strangers carrying their bright shields over the sides of the ship to the shore. He wondered, and rode down to the shore, waving his heavy spear and calling,
'Who are you, you with your weapons,
Wearing coats of mail? Whose ship is it
That you have sailed over the ocean
Here on the high sea?
* * * *
'I never saw an Earl
Who was greater than your leader,
A hero on his horse. He's not one to stay home.
If he's anything like he looks, he's impressive with his weapons
And has an air of nobility!'
Beowulf, II. 237-247.
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'Beowulf answers that he's a friend of Hrothgar's and that he's come to free him from 'Grendel, the mysterious enemy who stalks in the dark of night.' He pities Hrothgar, who's old and good. As he speaks, the thought of Wyrd comes to his mind, and he doubts that Hrothgar will be able to avoid sorrow. He says, 'If sorrow would only leave him, if only relief would come, if only his burden of anxiety would be lightened.' The coastguard gives him direction to Hrothgar's and promises to watch the ship. They go up a hilly ridge. Heirot is on the other side of the hill.'
The History of the Early English Literature talks about some other pleasant things. Here are a couple of examples of the riddles that the old bards used to tell. It's in riddle and song that we get the most vivid images of the life, thoughts, ways and words of our ancient forefathers. We tend to picture them as rough and wild, but they're portrayed here as gentle, kind and generous. They're the kind of people that we, their descendants, are proud to honor.
1. This is Cynewulf's Riddle of the Sword:
I'm a wondrous thing created for battle,
Decorated beautifully by my beloved Lord.
My armor is multi-colored and a clasping wire
Glitters around the gem of death that my owner gave me.
He spurs me on, I'm quite a traveler.
I go with him to conquest.
Then I carry treasure,
Cold above the walled garden, through the glittering day.
I'm the handiwork of smiths! Many times I extinguish
Living men with battle edges! A king clothes me
With his jewels and silver, honors me in the banquet hall,
Lavishes praise on me! He boasts about what I can do
As he feasts and drinks mead with the many heroes.
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He restrains himself and sheaths me, then he lets me loose again
Far and wide, to rush along. I am weary from long journeys,
Most cursed of all weapons.'
2. The Helmet Speaks:
I suffer misery
Wherever the spear-carrier takes me!
Streams of rain beat down on me and I still stand.
The hard pellets of hail hit me, the cold frost covers me,
And the flying snowflakes fall all over me.'
(Riddle lxxix. 6-10.)
I don't need to say how literary and important Brooke's great book is. 'There is nothing like genuine leather,' and parents are able to see the educational value in almost anything. This book is truly a treasure-chest.
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Just before the hard winter of 1891, William Booth of the Salvation Army wrote a book, In Darkest England, urging that unemployed people should be helped to start their own communities with charitable donations. It's outside our purpose to discuss the economic aspect of that scheme here. But there are educational aspects that are relevant for us. For one thing, children often hear their parents say 'I don't believe' that it's possible for a leopard to change his spots, or whatever. General Booth's idea brought this issue to our attention and made us take notice. Whatever children hear us say at the dinner table and by the fireplace about these kinds of charitable works will probably influence their attitudes about all philanthropic and missionary works for the rest of their lives. Not only parents, but teachers who also share in the raising of children must analyze our own attitudes. Do we give to benevolent projects and work for charities simply to ease our conscience, or do we really believe that it's possible for morally degraded people to be instantly and totally restored?
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These are the questions that we have to consider today. We have to know our answer, yes or no. We have to choose sides, for or against the possibilities that would change philanthropic effort into a burning passion. The truth is, Booth's great scheme forced a moral crisis upon us, and the effects of that moral crisis are continually evident.
The scheme may or may not have proved its suitability, timeliness and expectations. But it did do one thing. It showed us what we're like, and showed us in a favorable light. It revealed that we, too, love our fellow man; that we sorrow over the wounded with the same kind of tenderness as Jesus, even if we don't have as much as He does. The brotherhood of man isn't some notion we made up. In fact, we've had love for our brother all the time, whether our brother has been sick, poor, captive or a sinner. But those among us who have been fearful, unbelieving or lazy (in other words, most of us!) have averted our eyes to avoid seeing the evils that seemed too overwhelming to do anything about. But when a promising solution was offered, one that seemed possible and workable, the solidarity of mankind sparked to life inside us. Our fellow man who is in need is more than near and dear to us--he seems to actually be our very own self, and anyone who will help and restore him is hailed as our own deliverer as well as theirs.
Once the first excitement of enthusiasm has passed, we begin to ask ourselves, In the end, aren't we all swayed by what Coleridge calls the 'Idol of Size'?
What makes Booth's scheme so different from ten thousand other ideas, except the huge size of the experiment to be attempted? Maybe we need to admit that this promise of deliverance is 'the same, only more so,' as plans already
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being carried out in many other obscure corners of the great 'vineyard' that is our world. To be honest, Booth's massive project has great risks that quieter, less visible works escape. All the same, because the project is so vast and inclusive, there are aspects of it that are new.
Up till now, we've helped the wretched who are in impossible circumstances--but we haven't helped them out of them. Our help has been a mere drop in the bucket, only reaching hundreds or thousands of the lost millions. Even at that, we can't keep up our resolve. We give one day, but withhold the next. Or, even worse, the way we give does more harm than good because it reduces the power and inclination for the needy to help themselves. Perhaps we start a small amateur business to help make people 'independent.' But this pet business can sometimes be a transparent disguise for charity, and it takes away jobs and rights of other workers.
Every now and then there's a gleam of hope, or a person is snatched back to safety. But those who work the hardest are grateful for the busyness of their work because it drowns out the eternal question: 'For whose benefit is all of this, anyway?' There's so much to be done, and so little resources. But Booth's idea already has lots of provisions, organization and regimentation planned, strong and godly government already in place, and a moral compulsion to do good works. When we consider these and the enormous staff of workers already prepared to carry it out, even the most pessimistic person among us has to admit that it just might work. But he asks one question:
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Everything depends on the question that the pessimist wisely put first. That's the key. With enough money, enough land, enough workers to fully equip and manage the mass of the incapable men in need, some sort of mechanical systematic program can be put into operation. But 'when a person's own character and weaknesses are the reason for his failure, then his character needs to be changed and his behavior needs to be altered if the results are going to be permanent.' The alcoholic needs to become sober. The criminal needs to become honest. The pornography addict needs to become pure. Can this be done? That's the crucial question.
Is it possible for a person to completely emerge from his old self, and become a totally new creature with new goals, new thoughts, and even new habits? Christianity's answer is 'Yes!' This power of Christianity to change lives is where we should be directing the battle of faith, rather than on the issue of whether the scripture is inspired or not. The answer to the age-old question, 'What do you think about Christ?' depends on the ability of the concept of Christ to attract attention and compel people, and on the ability of Christ's indwelling to bring a dead soul to life and elevate a single corrupted and apathetic human soul.
Many of us believe joyfully that the 'all power' that's been given into the hands of Jesus includes the power to stay honorable, strong and worthy for every 'bruised reed.' We know it's true because we've seen the evidence, even in ourselves. But there are others, even people with noble minds, who believe with Robert Elsmere [Ward's novel about a man who lost his faith], that 'miracles don't happen.'
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The miracles that are recorded in the Bible are like pegs on which to hang further discussion. The most essential miracle is the immediate and utterly complete renovation of a human being. The salvation of the whole world hangs on this one possibility. Yet this one possibility is the one thing that many people can't accept. It isn't that they're stubborn and corrupt--but it goes against every natural law that they know. Yes, there are proofs and individual cases. In fact, the whole history of the Christian church is evidence. But church history is inconsistent and marred with cases of corruption. As far as individual cases, we accept the details we hear--but nobody knows the whole story. Some previous undisclosed arrangement or a private motive might alter the facts of the case.
This is pretty much the position of the honest skeptic. If he could, he would believe wholeheartedly in Booth's plan, and, in fact, the possibility that the whole human race might be converted. Improving physical conditions for people, even millions of people, is a mere matter of a big enough plan and wise administration. That's not difficult to conceive. But it seems impossible to change human nature itself, and transform man's depraved nature. It seems unlikely that a leopard might change his spots.
Who are these people that General Booth cheerfully works to transform and bring to godly, righteous, noble lives? Here in his own quotes is how he speaks about the history of many of them:
'What's been skimmed off the human cesspool.'
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'Little ones whose parents are constantly drunk . . . They learn their ideas of fun from seeing the familiar spectacle of perversion that they witness around them.'
'The obscene talk of many children in some of our public schools is just about as bad as what might be heard in Sodom and Gomorrah.'
And the childhood of some of these poor children, if it can be called a childhood, is repeated from their parents, who learned it from their parents, who learned it from their parents. These are undoubtedly the worst case scenarios, but these most desperate cases need to be dealt with first. If they slip through the net of reformation, then that means that those who are more lazy than evil are able to slip in through the holes they leave. In the first place, then, Booth's plan includes those who have inherited lives of immorality. His plan proposes to mix this class of people whose only heritage is unbelievable and boundless depraved inclinations and tendencies with the rest. And he proposes to do this at a time when the public is buying into the idea that heredity is everything, to the point that many thinking parents aren't even attempting to mold their children's characters.
Those of us who have been focused on letting nature and heredity run its course without hindrance from any other law might be excused for doubting a plan like Booth's that relies so heavily on regenerating the depraved who are immoral by heredity.
We often say that use becomes second nature. Habit is as strong as ten natures. Habit
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starts out like a frail cobweb, but ends like a strong cable. 'You'll get used to it,' whatever it is. Do we dare to face the habits that make up the very being of these people? It isn't just their obscene talk and impure actions that makes people who they are--it's the thoughts they think. Talk and actions are only the outward results of thought. Whatever man is in the habit of thinking is what shapes him and becomes his character. And it seems logical that every imagination of their heart is nothing but continual evil. We say that use becomes second nature. Let's consider what we mean by that phrase. What is the philosophy behind habit according to the latest research? The foundation of habit is the brain. It originates in the gray tissue matter of the cerebrum. And, briefly, habit works like this: 'The brain tissue of humans grows to adapt to the kind of thinking that it gets used to.' The concept that intangible thought can mold the physical brain doesn't have to surprise or shock us. After all, we see with our own eyes how intangible thought molds the face, what we call expressions. A person's face can be lovely or repulsive depending on the kind of thinking it reflects. We don't yet understand how this kind of brain growth happens, and this book isn't the place to discuss it. But, when we consider that physical structural change does happen as a result of confirmed habit, we have to ask again--can a project work when it depends primarily on regenerating corrupt people who are not only corrupt by inherited nature, but by unbroken, deeply ingrained habit?
People who write a lot know what it's like to sit down and
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reel off page after page of text without plan or direction--pages that are clear, coherent, ready to publish, hardly needing any revision at all. I heard of a lawyer who wrote in his sleep a crystal clear opinion that shed new light on an extremely difficult case. One mathematician worked out a computation in his sleep that had baffled him during his waking hours. Coleridge dreamed the poem 'Kubla Khan' line by line during a nap one afternoon, and he wrote it all down when he woke up. What do these incidents and a thousand similar ones mean? Nothing less than this: Although the all-important ego must surely 'assist' when thinking an initial thought about a specific topic, yet, after the first one or two thoughts, the physical brain and intangible mind manage the matter themselves, without our conscious effort, so that, in a manner of speaking, the thoughts think themselves! They don't operate like a pendulum moving back and forth, back and forth within the same space. They progress more like a car driving along the same road, but always finding new developments in the landscape. It's an extraordinary theory, but we have enough internal evidence to know that it's true. We've all experienced times when we couldn't get rid of thoughts within ourselves that seemed to think themselves inside our mind, even though they made it difficult to sleep and chased away our peace and joy. This law is helpful for easing the burden of making an effort to work out each individual decision in our daily lives, but it's terrible when it gets away from us and we can't control or divert it. In the face of this law, is there any hope for those corrupt people whose vile thoughts are forever running through a single well-worn rut in their brain, automatically, and without their conscious will? The view within such a person's inner self is despairing. What hope can he have?
And what about a plan that relies almost wholly on transforming people who are
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corrupt? Not only do such people inherit a tendency to go astray, and have strong habits that confirm that tendency, but their situation reduces them until they're unable to pull themselves up--their corruption seems inevitable. Even their unconscious mind is constantly working to send out corrupt imaginings.
But the latest word from Science is encouraging and full of hope, and there promises to be more encouraging discoveries. Even if the fathers did eat sour grapes, it doesn't mean that their children are doomed to having their teeth set on edge. The ancient prophet said the soul who sinned would be the one to pay the penalty, and Science seems to be hurrying to agree.
The latest discoveries of the theory of evolution infer that acquired modifications aren't transferred by birth. Hooray for this good news! Realizing this is like waking up from a hideous nightmare. This works in our favor. A man might continually think criminal thoughts until the very structure of his brain is modified to adapt it to that kind of thinking. But that modification doesn't get passed on to his children. An inevitable brain adaptation to suit a newborn for evil thoughts doesn't exist. That means that a child of corrupt parents can be born just as suited and capable for good living as a child born to respectable parents. Yes, inherent modifications are passed down, and it can be difficult to distinguish between inherent modifications and acquired ones. But this gives us some hope to work with. Children of depraved people can have just as good a start in
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life, as far as inherited tendencies, as children of decent people.
A child's future doesn't depend so much on what he inherits, as on his upbringing. Education is stronger than inherited nature, so no human ever needs to despair. We don't need to lose hope in the regeneration of corrupt people because they inherited an irresistible tendency towards evil.
But bad habits are so difficult to overcome! We already know that 'use becomes second nature,' and man is just a bundle of habits. We become hopeless when we consider the rationale of habit and realize the strength that a habit must have in order to cause a physical modification in the structure of the brain tissue. Brain tissue adapts to the kind of thoughts the person thinks, and habit is merely the outward manifestation and expression of this growth. Once the growth has happened, it seems final and unable to be undone. When a person's way of thinking has created physical changes in his brain tissue, isn't the person changed for life?
No, not really. Just because a habit has been formed and made changes in the brain, there's no reason why another opposite habit can't be learned and registered as change in the brain. In a physical, practical sense, today is the day of salvation because habits are things you can do something about now. You can start a habit in a moment, form it in a month, confirm it in three months, and that habit can become your character, the very essence of who you are, in a year.
New brain tissue grows in accordance with the new thoughts in the
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mind, and 'one custom overcomes another.' This is the natural, physical preparation for salvation. The quote is old, it's from Thomas a Kempis, but the understanding that habits can have a literal physical aspect is something we've just discovered. Only one chain of thoughts can be active at any one time. When a person decides to think better thoughts, the old connections between nerve cells are broken, and kind Nature helps by busily building up and covering the old abandoned paths, even if they were worn deep over many generations. A sign saying 'No Road' is placed in the old path that used to be heavily trafficked with corrupt thoughts. New tissue is formed and that old wound is healed. The place becomes as healthy and sound as the rest of the mind, except for maybe a scar and some slight sensitivity.
That's how one custom overcomes another one. There's no struggle, no arguing, no coaxing. If the new idea is secured with an impressive introduction, then it will accomplish the rest on its own. It will feed itself, grow, increase, and multiply. It will do its thing all by itself. It will even usher in the unconscious involuntary thought that shapes the person's character. And, viola! It's like a new person. We're told that we must be born again, but we challenge that concept with our superior knowledge about the laws of Nature, asking, How can a person be born again? Can he enter his mother's womb a second time and be born all over again? That would require a miracle, and we've already smugly determined that 'miracles don't happen.'
And now, finally, the miracle of conversion is made clear to our dull mind. We suddenly realize that conversion, no matter how suddenly it happens, isn't really a miracle if we define miracles as being outside of natural laws. On the contrary, we discover that every person carries within his physical self the gospel
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of perpetual (or perpetually possible) renovation. We realize that, from the beginning, Nature was already prepared with a ready response to Grace's demand. We ask, Is conversion possible? and the answer is, that we have the provision for it waiting within our physical body, and all it needs is to be called forth by the spark of a powerful idea. It's true that God's Commandment is exceedingly broad [Ps. 119:96]. In fact, it grows broader every day as Science discovers and reveals more.
A person can go through this process of renovation many times in their life. Most people do. Whenever an idea comes along that's powerful enough to divert the thoughts from what went on before, the person becomes a new creature. For instance, 'falling in love,' or being captivated by art or nature, or becoming responsible for someone or something can bring about a sudden and complete conversion:
'As soon as his father died,
The wild spirit within him
Seemed to die, too. Yes, at that very moment,
Consideration came to him like an angel
And whipped the sin nature out of him.
His body became like a paradise
To surround and carry heavenly spirits.'
Shakespeare, Henry V
This presents an image that's accurate, psychologically speaking. Shakespeare is psychologically correct, there can be an immediate absolute conversion. But conversions can be towards evil instead of towards improvement. The kind of conversion depends on the idea that causes it. But the main point is that man has within his physical body the capacity to change, and, as far as we
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can tell, this capacity to change is always in working order, always ready to be put into action.
But what about 'conversion' in the Biblical sense, in the sense that Booth is counting on to make his plan work? It may be a miracle of divine grace in the sense that it's a sign and a wonder, but it's not a miracle in the sense of being outside the realm of natural law. Conversion is perfectly normal within the divine order, even if we choose to limit what we accept of that order to what Science reveals in 'few, faint and feeble' flashes on the mysteries of being. But there's more. This is merely Nature's dim foyer; there's more inside the temple of grace. We don't need to go on about how 'great is the mystery of godliness,' or how much God loves us, or the saving and indwelling of Jesus, or the sanctifying of the Spirit. We don't need to speak about 'spiritual wickedness in high places.' My goal in writing this short essay is to look at the accusation that claims that what we call conversion is against natural law. I'm not just looking at it from the perspective of Booth's plan, but from the perspective of all humanitarian efforts to provide help.
Hope has an increasingly stronger case in its claim that corrupt people can be regenerated. We don't need to be intimidated by insurmountable inherited tendencies towards evil. Even the strongest lifelong habit can be conquered by the power of an idea. New habits of thought can be established in an instant, and these new thoughts can be nurtured and encouraged until the habit becomes as strong as ten natures, and then becomes the habit of a new life, and the thoughts that seem to think themselves are thoughts of purity and goodness.
[The phrase "habit is ten natures" is attributed to the Duke of Wellington by Professor James. See the Parents' Review.]
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'Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?'
When attempting the regeneration of a person, the tool is always an idea that's so powerful that the mind seizes upon it eagerly enough to make a physical impression on the surface of the brain tissue. In order for an idea to be this powerful, it has to address some desire or affection within the person. For example, man wants knowledge, power, esteem, love, and the company of others. He also has the capacity within himself for love, esteem, gratitude, reverence and kindness. He has a vague, unidentified craving for something to use all this good on.
An idea that appeals to any of a person's strong desires and affections will need to be responded to in some way. An idea and a specific capacity are made for each other. They're meaningless by themselves, like a ball and socket. But, together, they make up a joint that's useful in hundreds of ways. But what about a person who's totally depraved? Does he have any capacity for good, such as the capacity to be grateful? Yes, he does. Depravity is a disease, a physical condition, but under that is a man who is capable of being healed. This isn't really the place to think of them, but consider the power of the ideas that make up the concept of Christ that's presented to a poor, degraded soul: divine help and compassion for his neglected physical body, divine love to address his loneliness, divine forgiveness to remove the shame of his sin, divine esteem to soothe his own contempt for himself, divine goodness and beauty to call forth the passion for love and loyalty within him, the
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story of the Cross being lifted up that no human soul can resist if it's presented properly. Once a person receives the divine idea, he receives divine life, too. That life grows and is nurtured and cherished by the Holy Spirit. The person becomes a new creation with new goals and new thoughts and a life outside of himself. The old things have passed away, and all things have become new. In a sense, the physical body embodies the new spiritual life.
It seems evident that the conversion process is so well-suited to man's physical and spiritual make-up, that it's inevitable for everyone--if only the concepts that Christ sums up are presented properly to the soul.
So then, it isn't a question of whether it's possible to convert the most depraved soul, or whether the ideas that need to be presented are powerful enough. It's a question of how to present these ideas so that a person can recognize and accept that the fullness of Christ is the only answer for the emptiness that he's aware of.
Once a person is converted, the work isn't done. Such depraved sinners aren't just sinful, they're also diseased. Infectious conditions are established in the brain tissue, and every one of these souls needs individual treatment, just like any other sick person who has a long-standing disease that takes time to heal. For a month, or three, or six, they can't be left alone. Healing treatment is absolutely necessary for the conversion to be successful. This is where God invites human co-operation in the work that's primarily and ultimately His project. There are places in the mind where corrupt thoughts have been traveling to and fro for a long time,
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and these ravaged places need a lot of blessed time to heal from their scars. That means that all traffic in those old thoughts needs to be absolutely stopped at all costs.
Think of how the Army of Vigilance is always on the alert to turn their patients' eyes away from seeing anything evil because even a mere suggestion of alcohol or uncleanness will cause the old thoughts to run wild, and then the healing has to be started all over again. The only way to keep the old thoughts out is by watchfully administering the new thoughts of the new life one by one as often as they're needed and as often as they can be received. They need to be offered with engaging freshness and comforting consistency until the long period of anxious nursing is over. Then the habits of good living will be established and the patient will be able to stand on his own two feet and work for his own food. This isn't a project to be taken on lightly. The care of a lot of diseased people, even when their disease is physical, is no light thing. It needs to be planned systematically and carried our efficiently, or else the whole thing will fall through. Who is capable enough to do this? Maybe no one is, but it seems like it would require at least an army of nurses who are trained to minister to diseased minds, professionals with experience and knowledge of which methods work, to undertake such a Herculean task.
We can easily understand how, in the days when kings had more authority, some people would take refuge in a convent to simplify their lives because it's easier to do someone else's will than your own! I think this is why convents still attract people today, and this is the same reason why the concept of the Salvation Army appeals
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to some of us, even though we know that it's not right to abdicate our individual responsibility of managing and living out our own lives.
But for those sinners with a strong impulse and a weak will, who have no power at all to do the good that they faintly and weakly desire, it's a relief to be taken up into a strong, caring organization that schedules their comings and goings and doings and havings for them. This kind of organization and regimentation [applied in the military] is what made heroes of WWI soldiers. And all of them have the capacity within themselves to be heroes, because, once their rebelliousness and restlessness are subdued, they'll rejoice more than anyone else in the ease of simply doing what they're told. Treating these lapsed and restored people like children is a great secret to power. After all, what is the object of family discipline, where a child's whole duty is to obey? Providing a child with the habits that make his life good is how we make his life easier even while his will is still weak and immature. Good habits make it easy for him to go the right way, just like laying down train tracks makes it easy for a train to go in the right direction. Older 'children' who have gone astray desperately need this kind of relief from responsibility, a break to give them time to develop. Any possible way to manage and discipline this 'mixed multitude' of sinners seems to us like a matter of applying existing measures to their need for order, relief from responsibility, and discipline.
The saving grace of work, and the healing ability of fresh air should be used to help restore the patients. But it's not up to us to analyze the methods that General Booth proposes, or
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to predict his chances of success. Our concern is solely for children. The attitude that children will have about good work might greatly depend on how much they understand the underlying principles in any given job. Whatever task they're given, children should recognize that any task is God's work and needs to be accomplished with God's strength according to God's laws. It's our responsibility to acquaint ourselves with the laws that relate to us. If we've done everything we can do, then we just need to wait for the inspiration of the divine life in the same way that a farmer waits for sunshine and rain.
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People sometimes ask, 'How is Discipline handled in your educational system?' We'd be encouraged that such a question showed a spark of interest in our work if we didn't suspect that the person asking the question probably uses the word 'discipline' synonymously with 'punishment.' That suspicion puts me in an attitude of protest. First of all, we don't have a 'system' of education. We believe that great things like nature, life and education are secluded from living when they're systematized. Yes, it's true that we do have an educational method, but method is merely a means to an end. It's as relaxed, flexible, and accommodating as Nature herself. Method only has a few broad laws and the details are worked around them to make them fit in the same natural way that a person works around the law that fire burns after he's recognized that law. But system, on the contrary, has all kinds of rules and instructions about what to do and how to do it. When it comes to education, method humbly follows Nature. It stands aside to give Nature first priority.
System seeks to lead Nature. It tries to assist, supplement, and rushes in to take over
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the very tasks that Nature has taken care of herself since the beginning of the world. Nature provides every young thing, whether it's a kitten or a child, with a wonderful capacity for inventive play. But that's not enough for System, who says, 'I can help out here. I'll invent games for the child and help his play along. With my help, I can make more use of the child's ability to play than Nature knows how.' So Mrs. System 'teaches' the child how to play. The child enjoys it, but, unfortunately, the spirit of play is taken from him. When he's left to himself, he has no initiative to play by himself. And System does this in many areas. System is meticulous and enthusiastic and produces impressive results--in the teacher!
But Method, on the other hand, seeks a 'wise passiveness.' If you watch Method's teacher, you're hardly aware that he's doing anything. It's the children who take the initiative rather than the teacher. But, somehow, the result is in the children instead of the teacher. Every day they develop and become persons more and more, with
'Firm reason, temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength and skill.'
These are the golden fruits that ripen under the eyes of parents who are wise enough to know the difference between the role of Nature, and the role of the educator, and who sympathetically and dutifully follow the lead of Nature, the great mother.
Some may say, 'So then, you have no discipline. I didn't think so. I imagine anyone could get results by leaving children to themselves and keeping them happy. Aren't children always good when they're happy?' Not so fast. A person who seeks to follow a great leader needs to make an effort himself, patiently and persistently. Nature is a divine leader, and anyone who follows her leading will be blessed, but the
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way is steep to climb, and the path is hard to find. This kind of uphill work should never be confused with leisurely strolling along, making up the rules as we go.
Any parent who wants to provide the substantial part of his children's education needs to prepare himself for noble thinking and humble living--I'm talking about the highest kind of thinking that's possible for human beings, and the most simple, direct kind of life.
The whole concept of discipline, for example, is one of the major, comprehensive ideas that will inform and direct the life of the parent. It can't be compiled into one neat, simple rule that's easy to remember and easy to apply from time to time. 'If Thomas is naughty, spank him and send him to bed.' That's the kind of simple rule that's handy to have around, and it's what many people mean when they talk about discipline. Now, I'm not saying that punishment will never be used--quite the contrary. In the same way, I'd never say that a laxative would never be taken. But punishment, like laxatives, should be a last resort measure that only happens occasionally at the worst. The use of punishment and laxatives can be decreased according to how careful we are to maintain healthy conditions of the body and mind. I'm in no hurry to lay down specific rules about punishment. Herbert Spencer might not have said the final word, but he has given us a convenient rule to go by.
Let the natural consequences of the offense punish the child. Carrying out this suggestion to the letter could sometimes mean permanent, or even fatal injury to the child's body or emotional well-being. You can't allow a lazy child to be punished by letting him remain uneducated and ignorant. You can't allow a stubborn, reckless child to break his arm.
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But, if the situation has gone far enough to make punishment necessary, then the punishment should relate to nature of the offense. A child who refuses to eat his oatmeal should have to do without his cinnamon bun. At any rate, this is a type of punishment, and possibly the closest thing to natural consequences that should be used.
But parents should face the fact that children sometimes enjoy punishment. When they're punished, they find the opportunity that's common in storybooks but rare in real life, to show resolution in the face of a difficulty. Often, a child who is being punished is enjoying himself immensely because he's respecting himself so much.
There's a bit of heroism in suffering a penalty that can remove any sense of remorse for the offense. An adventurous little boy who accepts his punishment with a dignified air isn't so much a bad, hardened young offender--he's an opportunist, making the best of what comes his way to get his own real education. But the distress of his mother, or his father's disapproval, are very different. They don't carry any compensating sense of fortitude. These kinds of considerations make us think twice about corporal punishment--not because we're over-sensitive to the suffering of the child, since we need to enable him to endure hardness in order to make a man of him, but only because it's not easy to find a punishment that doesn't defeat its own ends.
A light slap from the mother when her little child is naughty can be effective and educational. It changes the direction of the baby's
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thoughts, and he no longer wants to pull his sister's hair. But a slap should be a last resort, to be used only when no other way can be found to divert his thoughts. With an older child, the aim of punishment is less on distracting the thoughts and more on forming a new association of ideas. The goal is to attach certain forms of inevitable pain and penalty to certain forms of wrongdoing. We know all too well that this is what life itself teaches, and we should make sure our children learn this in their education. Our own experience goes to prove that every time a law is broken in thought or action, there's an immediate or remote penalty attached. A child who never learns that 'every deed will be punished or rewarded in due time' is sent out into the world like a new, untrained recruit being sent out to the front line.
My point is twofold: (a), that the need for punishment can mostly be prevented, and, (b), that fear of punishment is rarely as strong a motive as the temptation to do the wrong thing.
If punishment always reformed and could always cure us of all those sins we tend towards, then the world would be a very pleasant place. After all, no kind of crime goes unpunished. I don't mean that punishment isn't necessary, or that it's useless. But it is inadequate, and it barely addresses our goal. Our goal isn't to address and avenge the offense. Our aim is to correct the issue of character that's behind the offense. Perhaps Jesse tells a lie and we punish him for it. That appeases our sense of justice for the offense. But I doubt any punishment could be invented that would be drastic enough to cure Jesse of telling lies in the future, and this is the very thing we're after. We need to
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look deeper. We need to find out what weakness of character, or what false habit of thinking, is leading Jesse to tell lies. Then we have to deal with this bad habit in the only possible way--by forming an opposite habit of right thinking that will make Jesse grow up into a true man. One lady described a single conversation when her father cured her of lying by setting up a totally new train of thought when she was a child. 'I don't think I've ever told a lie since then,' she said.
Our idea of discipline isn't sporadic spurts of punishment, but the constant watchfulness and attempts that form and maintain the habits of right living. Looking at it from this perspective, the best disciplinarians are those parents who work along the methods we've indicated. Every habit of courtesy, consideration, order, neatness, punctuality, or truthfulness, is a teacher itself, and each of these habits manages life with unfailing diligence.
A habit is formed very easily, and compels right action strongly. Most parents would work diligently if every month of work could guarantee their children a large amount of money in the future. But a single month is all it takes to begin to form a habit in his child that will be so valuable that mere money is trivial in comparison. We've often emphasized that modern science has discovered a great aid for educationalists--the fact that every habit of life makes a physical impression in the brain tissue. Everyone knows that we think in the way we're used to thinking, and we do the things we're used to doing. Ever since man began to notice how his own mind worked, this law of habit has been common knowledge, and has been acted on more or less by parents and
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others who raise children. A well-brought-up child is always a child who has been carefully trained to have good habits. But it's only been in our current time that we've known how to lay down definite laws about forming habits. Until now, any mother who wanted to train her children to have a specific habit was discouraged by a sense of helplessness.
'It seems like I'm always reminding her'--to keep her closet neat, or to hold her head up and speak politely, or to be prompt and careful when doing a task, says the poor mother, with tears in her eyes. And, to be sure, this constant reminding is wearying for the mother and discouraging because it's so hopeless. She continues to remind only to clear her own conscience, because she stopped expecting any results a long time ago. And everyone knows how dreary a task can be without hope. But maybe the child's own mother doesn't realize how incredibly wearisome this unproductive nagging is to the child. At first he's annoyed and impatient under the chatter of idle words. Then he tolerates it because it's inevitable, and, finally, he's hardly even aware that she's said it. Does this make an impression on his character, truly form the habit? No. All this effort is wasted. The child does the thing when he doesn't have any other choice, but he evades it as often as he can. And his poor disappointed mother says, 'I know I've tried as hard as anyone to instill good habits in my child, but I've failed.' She's not totally disheartened, though. Her children may not have the habits she wanted to train in them, but they grow up to be warm-hearted, good-natured, bright adults, children that she has no need to be ashamed of. Still, her sense of failure is something to be taken seriously.
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Perhaps our failures in life are mostly due to our own faults. For that reason alone, it's not enough to send children into the world with no more than the character they inherit from their parents.
Let me offer a few specific practical suggestions to the parent who wants to deal seriously with a bad habit. First--Remember that this bad habit has made a real, physical impression in the brain. Second--There's only one way to obliterate that physical impression, and that's to absolutely stop the habit for awhile, say, six to eight weeks. Third--During this six to eight week interval, new growth in the form of new cell connections are somehow being created, and the physical foundation of the bad habit is being naturally healed. Fourth--But the only way to get this to happen is to introduce some new habit that's as appealing to the child as the wrong bad habit you want to cure. Fifth--Since the bad habit generally comes from some fault in the child's character, it shouldn't be too difficult for the parent, who knows his character better than anyone, to introduce the opposite good habit. Sixth--During a time of cheerful conversation between parent and child, use a tale or example or other way to introduce the new idea. Get the child's will on your side. Seventh--Don't tell him to do the new thing. Instead, quietly and cheerfully watch to see that he does it in every instance. Diligently watch, and during this whole time, keep stimulating the new idea until it captures the child's imagination. Eighth--Watch extra carefully for any recurrence of the bad habit. Ninth--If the old habit pops up, don't let it go. Let your disapproving estrangement be felt acutely as a kind of punishment. Let the
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child feel ashamed not only because he did something wrong, but because he did wrong when it was just as easy to avoid doing wrong and do the right thing. Most of all, be disciplined in praying and teach your child to rely on God's help in this spiritual battle while not neglecting to work hard himself since it can't be done without his own effort.
Sarah is an inquisitive little girl. Her mother is surprised and not always pleased to find out that her little daughter is constantly trying to find things out. Even the servants talk among themselves about her prying and poking. If her mother is engaged in conversation with a guest or the nurse, there's Sarah, right beside her, from out of nowhere. If a confidential letter is being read aloud, Sarah manages to be within earshot. When her mother thinks she's put a certain book out of reach where the children won't find it, Sarah volunteers to bring it out. If she tells her husband that the cook has asked for a couple days off, Sarah jumps up and volunteers all the details about why. 'I really don't know what to do about her. It's difficult to put my foot down and insist that she shouldn't know about this or that. Each individual thing in itself is harmless, but it's unnerving to have a child who's always poking around looking for gossipy information.' Yes, it is tiresome, but it's no cause for despair. It's not even a reason to think badly of Sarah, or accept the inevitable.
Attributing Sarah's problem to an excess of curiosity that's gotten out of hand, her mother looks for the positive quality that this stems from, and she feels encouraged about Sarah. Her problem is a passionate desire for knowledge that's gone too far and has been allowed to occupy itself on unworthy objects. When an opportune moment comes,
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Sarah should be introduced to some fascinating subject, such as nature, that will occupy all of her prying tendencies. Once the new idea has taken possession of the little girl, there should be some discussion about how unworthy it is to fill one's mind with trivial matters so that there's no room for anything really interesting to get in. For a few consecutive weeks, make sure that Sarah's mind is too busy with big matters to entertain trivial ones. Then, once the nosy habit has been checked, encourage her active mind in some kind of definite progressive work on subjects that are worthwhile. Then Sarah's nosy curiosity will no longer to be a trial to her parents.
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Parents who don't know the theoretic knowledge behind the nutritional values of various foods are usually still capable of nourishing their children quite well. That's because they rely on what they call common sense, and, generally, the result is better than if they had scientifically analyzed and planned their family's diet. But common sense usually rests on a foundation of scientific opinion, even if the exact data has been forgotten. When scientific opinion becomes the foundation of habit, it's even more valuable and works more simply than when habit is formed on trial and error. In the same way, it's good to be so familiar with what human nature does that we can act on our knowledge without thinking about it, without even being conscious that we know it. But if we don't have this kind of information stored in our memory files, then we need to study it, even if we have to learn from our own experiments. Most people assume that children's five senses, feelings and emotions are matters that take care of themselves. In fact, we tend to use the three terms synonymously without having a clear idea about what they mean. But, collectively, they cover a very
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important educational area. Although common sense, which is judgments that are formed by inherited knowledge, often helps us to make wise choices without quite realizing why, we could probably choose even more wisely if we used logic.
First, let's consider the subject of senses. We talk about sensations of cold, or heat, or pain, and that's accurate. We also talk about sensations of fear and pleasure, and that's not correct. Sensations originate in impressions that are received by our senses--eyes, tongue, nose, ears and the surface of our skin. These impressions are carried by the sensory nerves. Some go to the spinal cord, and some go to the lower region of the brain. We have many sensations that we never know about. When we do become aware of sensations, it's because the nerve fibers act like telegraph wires and send these impressions to the conscious brain. This happens when we give our attention to any one of the multitude of messages that the sensory nerves are carrying. The physical anatomy of the senses is too complicated to mention here, but it's fascinating. Probably the best introduction to it is Professor Clifford's little book, Seeing and Thinking (Macmillan). The senses are like the Five Gateways of Knowledge, which is a title of another little book that many of us remember from the past. Any intelligent person should be consciously aware of the sensations he receives, and able to form accurate judgments about them.
We all understand that training the
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five senses is an important part of education. I need to make one warning: right from the beginning, a child's sensations should be treated as matters of objective, rather than subjective, interest. For example, orange marmalade isn't interesting just because the child thinks it's 'good,' whether he likes it is something that shouldn't be dwelt on at all. Marmalade is interesting because you can detect different flavors in it, and notice how the oil from the rind modifies it. We'll be able to discuss this topic more later, but for now we'll just state that it's useful when educating children to focus a child's attention outward on the object he's sensing rather than on himself and how he feels about it.
The purpose of so-called object lessons is to help a child find out all that he can about an object by carefully examining it so that he experiences it with his various senses. General information about the object is thrown in and retained because the child's senses have been active in the exercise, and his interest has been stimulated. Object lessons aren't as popular these days for two reasons. First, pitiful fragments of the world are presented to the children. These fragments lack much of the character of the object in its natural setting, and can provide inadequate information, or even the wrong ideas. And, secondly, object lessons are often used to introduce children to hard words like opaque and translucent. These concepts won't become part of their living thought until they pick them up incidentally when the need arises. But just because this kind of teaching has been abused doesn't mean that it doesn't have some use. No child grows up without some object teaching every day, although it may be casual and incidental rather than well-planned. The more thorough this object teaching is, the more intelligent and observant the child will become. It's
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remarkable how few people are able to develop an intelligent curiosity about even the most attractive objects, unless their interest is stimulated from an outside source.
We can learn a lot about how to teach object lessons from babies. Of course, the baby is his own student, but he makes amazing progress. At first, he doesn't see any difference between a real cow and a picture of one. Big and little, far and near, hard and soft, hot and cold are all the same to him. He thinks he can hold the moon in his hand, or sit on top of the pond, or poke his finger into the flame of a candle--not because he's foolish, but because he's utterly ignorant about the nature of all the different things in this confusing world. But he works hard! He bangs his spoon to see if makes a sound. He sucks it to see what it tastes like. He fumbles and feels it all over and discovers whether it's hard or soft, hot or cold, rough or smooth. He stares at it as intently as only an infant can so that he can internalize the way it looks. By the time he sees it again, it's like an old friend that he can't wait to see because now he's learned how much joy there is in a spoon. This goes on for a couple of years until the baby has acquired enough knowledge about the world to conduct himself in a dignified, rational way.
That's the way nature teaches. For the first five or six years of his life, everything, especially things that move, is an object of intelligent curiosity. A street or a field is a panorama of delight. The neighbor's dog, the garbage truck, a man with a lawn mower are all vividly fascinating. He has a thousand
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questions to ask. He wants to know about everything. In fact, he has an unlimited appetite for knowledge. But we soon fix that. We keep him busy with books instead of things, and we arouse other desires within the child instead of allowing his own craving for knowledge to motivate him to learn. And the result is an unobservant man (and an even more unobservant woman) who can't tell the difference between an elm, a poplar and a lime tree--and misses out on a lot of the joy of life. By the way, why doesn't a baby intently exercise his sense of smell? When he's taught to smell a flower, he screws up his little nose, but he isn't really smelling, he's just striking a pose. He doesn't act out natural experiments to see whether things have a strong smell, yet each of his other senses bring him so much enjoyment. Undoubtedly his little nose is unconsciously busy with incoming smells, but is his inactivity with the sense of smell a hereditary failure? Maybe all of us allow ourselves to go through life with unresponsive nostrils. If this is the case, then this is something that mothers should consider. They're the ones who should bring up their children from a young age to perceive smells as well as involuntarily receiving them in a vague, random way.
There are two things we need to be concerned with when it comes to educating the senses. We need to help the child to educate himself using the same methods that Nature uses, and we need to be careful that our 'formal education' doesn't crowd out and replace nature's methods. Object lessons should be casual and unplanned. In this, the home has a big advantage over the school. It's almost impossible for schools to give anything but pre-planned lessons, but at home, this kind of lesson can be done when the subject comes up. If a child finds a wonderful, beautiful paper wasp's nest attached to a larch twig, he can have his object lesson right
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there on the spot from his mother or father. The gray color, the round shape, the cup-and-ball way it's arranged, the papery texture, the size of it, what it feels like, whether it has a smell, how light it is, the fact that it doesn't feel cold--the child discovers these and fifty other facts all by himself, or with the help of a brief word here and there to direct his attention to a particular detail. One doesn't find a wasp's nest every day, but a lot can be learned from any common object that comes the child's way. In fact, the more common, the better--a piece of bread, a lump of coal, a sponge.
At home, it's not necessary to do a comprehensive observation of every object. One quality might be focused on with one object, another quality in something else. When we eat bread and milk, we notice that bread absorbs, and we carry this bit of data to other things we're familiar with that we know are also absorbent. That leads us to try and see if those things are more or less absorbent than the bread. This is very important. An unobservant person will say that an object is light and assume that he's said all there is to say. But an observant person, although he may say the same thing, has a relative scale in his mind. His judgment has more value because, in his mind, he compares the object with other things that are also light.
It's important for children to recognize that words like high, sweet, bitter, long, short, and pleasant are 'comparative' [relative] terms, while words like square, round, black, and white are 'positive' [absolute] terms that aren't relative to how they compare with other objects.
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Being careful in this regard will result in better moral and intellectual development. Half of the conflicts in the world arise from an indiscriminate use of labels. [But children can be encouraged to learn better.] A child might be asked at dinner, 'Would you say that your bread is light, or heavy?' The child would probably say, 'Pretty light.' 'Yes, but we can only say that a thing is light after we've compared it with other things. What is bread light compared with?' 'A rock, a brick, a piece of cheese or butter the same size as the bread.' 'And what is it heavy compared with?' 'A piece of angel food cake, a sponge, a piece of cork, or cotton,' and so on. 'How much do you think it weighs?' 'An ounce,' or, 'an ounce and a half.' 'Let's weigh it after dinner. Here, take an extra piece and hold on to it.' And the process of weighing the bread is a fun project. The ability to tell what things weigh is a skill worth developing. The other day I heard of a man who had to try and guess the weight of a humongous cake. He considered it and said it weighed eighteen pounds fourteen ounces. And he was exactly right! All other things being equal, the man who can make this accurate judgment gains more respect than the vague person who guessed that the cake might weigh ten pounds.
Letters, boxes, an apple or orange, a vegetable core, or fifty other things in the course of a day can provide opportunities for this kind of object teaching. I'm talking about the practice of determining judgments about the relative and absolute weight of things by how they feel against our muscles when we pick them up. Little by little, children can be trained to understand that the relative weights of objects depend on their relative
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density, and to understand the fact that we have a standard measure of weight.
In the same way, children should learn to estimate the size of objects by looking at them. How high is that candlestick? How long and wide is that picture-frame? etc, verifying their guesses. What's the circumference of that bowl? of the face of the clock? of the flower pot? How tall is this person, or that person? How tall are the vehicles of the different people they know? Divide a sheet of paper accurately into half, then thirds, then quarters without a ruler. Try to lay a walking stick so that it's exactly at right angles with another one. Notice when a picture, curtain or something else isn't hanging quite perpendicular. These sorts of exercises will develop what's called a correct, or true, eye in children.
A quick, discriminating ear is something else that doesn't come by nature. Or, if it does, it's usually lost. How many different sounds can you distinguish when it suddenly gets quiet outside? Let the child name them in order from the quietest to the loudest. Let him try to notice different bird notes, both bird calls and songs. Let him try to listen for four or five distinct sounds that a brook makes as it flows. Develop accuracy in distinguishing footsteps and voices. Have them practice telling the direction that a sound is coming from with their eyes closed, or which way footsteps are moving. Try to tell the difference between different vehicles driving by only from their sound--such as a truck, van, or sports car. Music is unquestionably the best way to train this kind of ear culture. Mrs. Curwen's book 'Child Pianist' provides carefully graduated exercises of this kind for the parent. Even if a child never becomes a performer, acquiring a cultivated and correct ear is a big part of music education.
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We don't attach enough importance to discriminating smells, whether to protect our health, or for our own pleasure. Half the people we know have noses that can't detect the difference between the atmosphere of a large, spacious (supposedly airy) room whose windows are never open, and a room that's ventilated regularly with fresh outside air. Yet our health depends to a great extent on being sensitive enough to perceive how pure the atmosphere is. The smells that indicate diphtheria or typhoid are noticeable, even if only slightly, and a person whose nose has been trained to detect even the slightest trace of harmful particles in food, clothing, or the home, can protect himself from disease.
Also, our nose is quicker than our other senses to let in--
That are felt in the blood and along the heart.'
Those sensations add a lot to our general happiness because they merge with our bodily joy by making links of association. We're constantly hearing or saying things like, 'I can never smell wild baby's breath without being reminded of--' but we don't stop to realize what a debt we owe to the flower's scent for this joy (or sorrow, if the memory is a sad one) for the memory of the pleasant influences around us when we pick the flower, and possibly the more personal memory of an experience we were having that we now associate with that flower. Every new smell we experience is a warning, or a source of pleasure or interest that we can relive every time we re-encounter that smell. We're familiar with far too few of springtime's smells. Just this spring I discovered two unusually delightful new smells that
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I'd never experienced before--the scent of young larch twigs, which resemble the type and strength of scent as the flower of a syringe [tree?], and the pleasant, musky aroma of boxwood. Children can be trained to close their eyes when they come into a room and try to guess what's in the room simply by smell. They should try to distinguish the different scents that are let loose after a rain shower:
'Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it.
* * *
'The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation,
it is odorless,
It is for my mouth for ever, I am in love with it.
* * *
'The sniff of green leaves, and dry leaves, and of the shore, and dark-colored sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn.'
Perhaps Walt Whitman has done more than any other poet to express the pleasure that can be found in odors. This is one area where we could do so much more. We haven't even explored a fraction of the amount of smell that we've done with sound and color.
Flavor also offers lots of opportunity for delicate discrimination. At first glance, it seems like it would be impossible to teach a child to cultivate the sense of taste without turning him into a gourmet. But the truth is, the strong flavors that stimulate the taste buds destroy the ability to differentiate flavors. A young child who lives on milky foods probably appreciates flavors in a way that someone who eats out a lot could never appreciate, even when he has a meal prepared by a four-star chef. Still, it's preferable for the child to focus on taste as a matter of interest rather than
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as a sensory pleasure. It's more beneficial for him to make an effort to discern a flavor with his eyes shut instead of being allowed to think or say that foods are 'good' or 'yucky.' That kind of pickiness shouldn't be tolerated. It isn't good to force a child to eat something he doesn't like, since that will only make him dislike that particular food for the rest of his life. But he should be reproved for a lack of self-control and courage when he expresses a dislike for a healthy food. That's likely to have a lasting effect on his character.
We've barely even touched on the kinds of object lessons for the various senses that should be part of every day incidental family life. We tend to think of Native Americans Indians as uneducated people. But, on the contrary, they are highly educated in the way of being able to discriminate sensory impressions and know how to respond to them. Their ability in this area is bewildering to any book-learned European. It would be good for parents to educate their children along these same 'Red Indian' lines for at least the first six years. In addition to the few suggestions we've already given, a child should be able to distinguish colors and shades of color, relative degrees of heat in materials such as cloth, wood, iron, marble, and ice and know how to use a thermometer, be able to sort items in order of their hardness, and have a cultivated eye and feel for textures. He should be able to get as much information from an object after a few minutes studying its form, color, texture, size, weight, qualities, parts and characteristics as if he'd read many pages out of a book. We're approaching this issue from the perspective of the child's senses instead of from the perspective of the object to be studied because we have an idea
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for some occasional test exercises whose specific purpose is to cultivate the various senses. Being acquainted with Nature and objects from nature is another subject entirely and is handled in a completely different way. A boy observing a beetle doesn't consciously determine to apply all of his senses to observing the beetle. He lets the beetle take the initiative and he reverently follows his lead. Still, a boy who's accustomed to doing some daily sensory exercises will learn a lot more from his observation of the beetle than a boy who hasn't had that kind of training.
With specific object lessons, information about the object is exhausted by each of the senses in turn, and every atom of information that can be had will be extracted from it. Incidental exercises are different. It's a good idea to make this kind of lesson a game. Pass the object around--perhaps a piece of bread. Let each child tell something he discovers about it by touching it. Pass it around again and have each child tell what he learns about its smell, then taste, then sight. Children are innovative with this kind of game, and it provides an opportunity to introduce them to new words such as fragile, or elastic, when they honestly ask for help to find a word to express a property they've just discovered. This game helps children to learn to think with exactitude, to distinguish between words like fragile and brittle. Any common knowledge they gain from this exercise will stay with them forever. Another good game that could be played at a birthday party is to arrange a hundred objects on a table when the children are out of sight. Bring the little group into the room and give them three minutes to look around the table. Then, after they've left the room, have them go into a corner and write or tell the
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names of as many objects as they can remember. Some children will easily get fifty or sixty.
Without a doubt, the best and most joy-giving sensory experience comes from a warm familiarity with the world of nature, but the kinds of exercises we've suggested will help the sensory perceptions to be more acute, and children love the games. The five senses should be developed to be worthy ministers to the child's subjective consciousness. That's an important consideration to keep in mind.
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'These beautiful forms
Have been away from me for a long time, but that doesn't mean
I'm as oblivious to them as a blind man is to a landscape.
Often, when I'm in lonely rooms, or amid the noise
Of towns and cities, in my hours of weariness,
They have been sweet sensations to me
That I felt in my blood and in my heart.
They even passed into my purer mind
And brought peaceful restoration, as well as feelings
Of pleasures I'd forgotten--the kind that
Have had a significant influence
On the best part of a good man's life
And inspired his small, unremembered deeds
Of kindness and love.'
-- adapted from Wordsworth's poem 'Tintern Abbey'
Insight, which gives Wordsworth a scientific basis so that his work is more than sentiment, is one of those beautiful things that transcends our philosophy. Wordsworth writes that, even after all those years, the beautiful forms of Tintern Abbey [the ruins of an exquisite church along the Wye River in Wales] gave him sweet sensations. We tend to think that sensations can only be immediate and have to be felt at the same instant that the event is being experienced by the senses. But Wordsworth, as usual, is absolutely
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correct. It's possible to have reflected sensations, too, because a conscious sensation depends on us recognizing an impression with our senses. This recognition doesn't have to be brought on by a sensation happening here and now. It can be by an association that brings back a memory that the original experience permanently etched into our mind. Wordsworth is completely accurate when he writes about the pleasure of the sensation being repeated. 'In lonely rooms and amid the noise of towns and cities,' the sudden spark of association brings a soothing joy of an image he remembers--'beautiful forms' that have every grace of symmetry, harmony, reverent antiquity seen in the always fresh, gracious setting of a beautiful landscape. The image brightens his mind's eye so that he no longer notices the noise of the cities, and instead his mind hears the sound of the Wye river flowing and the songs of birds, lowing of cattle and hum of insects. He remembers the sweet scent of the meadow flowers and can actually feel the coolness of the grass. All of these are experienced as sensations that are as real to his senses as they were when he first experienced them.
These few lines of Wordsworth's give many, many reasons why children's memories should be stored with lots of images of the outdoors that can provide them with reflected sensations that will bring them pleasure. We should be constantly diligent to help them look, listen, touch and smell. This is done by role modeling. If we look at something, they will, too. If we notice smells, they will
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smell them, too. The other day I heard about a little girl who traveled in Italy with her parents back in the days when people still used the dignified mode of family carriages for traveling. Her parents were conscientious and didn't want to waste a moment of time, so they didn't allow the travel time to be idle. The little girl and her governess had the interior of the coach to themselves and they packed all her schoolbooks. During the travel time, the little girl did her math, geography, probably learned the counties of England and everything else. No time was wasted on idle curiosity about trivial matters like what 'fair lands' they might be passing through. This anecdote shows that we're making progress, but we still don't fully recognize that our role in education should be subordinated with careful thought to Nature herself.
Let's continue our study of Wordsworth's accurate and exquisitely beautiful psychological record. He goes on to write that the sweet sensations are 'felt in my blood and in my heart.' That statement is actually true to fact. An enjoyable sensation makes the tiny nerve fibers around the capillaries relax. The blood flows more freely, the heart beats quicker, there's a sense of well-being, joy and gladness take over, the gloom of a mundane day or the stress of the busy city melts away--delightful memories are like a healing potion of life. When they present themselves to us, they can instantly restore us to a condition of well-being.
But there's more. Wordsworth
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says that these memories 'passed into my purer mind and brought peaceful restoration.' His mind is purer in the sense that it's less physical than his body and less affected by physical conditions, yet still so closely related to the physical brain tissue that the condition of one will necessarily affect the other. Perhaps the mental mind and physical brain have both been exhausted by the unrelenting persistence of a particular line of thought. Then, suddenly, into the 'purer mind' flashes the awareness of a delightful image because of some reference of association to a distant memory. The current weary thought is diverted into delightful new channels, and weariness and brain fatigue are replaced with 'peaceful restoration.'
If mere sensations can do so much for our happiness, our mental refreshment, and our physical well-being, not just at the time we first experience them, but any number of times we relive the memory later, then it seems logical that an important part of our work as educators is to preserve the acuteness of children's perceptions, and to store their memories with delightful images.
Wordsworth continues his study and makes a distinction, commenting not only on 'sweet sensations,' but also 'feelings from pleasures I'd forgotten.' Not many people are able to distinguish between the sensations and the feelings that are felt when a memory comes to mind from some spark of association. Wordsworth's psychology is delicately nice and very accurate. The distinction he defines is important to the educator. Actually, feelings are a bit out of vogue now. Henry Mackenzie's Man of Feeling is a person who just doesn't matter much. If he still exists at all, he stays hidden in the shade, while being aware, because of a certain quick
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perception that he has, that any sign of blossoming in his character would be immediately smashed by someone wielding a sledge hammer. The Man of Feeling has only himself to thank for this. He's the one who allowed his feelings to go overboard. His sweet sensitivities ran away with him. He meant pathos and said bathos. He became a cliché, an exaggerated type, and Society, to preserve itself, responds by removing the offending bough. Thus, The Man of Feeling is no more.
This isn't the only accusation that 'feelings' are up against. As long as feelings remain objective, they're like a final perfection to a beautiful character, like the blush of a peach. But as soon as they become subjective, and every feeling concerns itself with the ego, then morbid conditions are set up in the same way as it is with sensations. First, the person becomes overly sensitive. Then unreasonableness takes over, and perhaps depression. The life is totally ruined. George Eliot writes about a perfect illustration of these subjective kinds of feelings. She says that a philosophical friend commented that the surface of a mirror might be covered with tiny scratches going in all directions. If you hold a lighted candle up to the surface of the mirror, these random scratches seem to be arranged and radiated around the flame. It's the same with a person who has allowed his feelings to affect his conscious ego. Everything in heaven and earth is 'felt' through the way they affect his own personality.
What are feelings? Perhaps they can best be expressed in
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Coleridge's phrase when he writes about 'a vague craving of the mind.' We can clarify what feelings are by examining what they aren't. Feelings aren't really sensations because they aren't experienced via the five senses. They're separate from the two great affections (love and justice) because they're not actively bestowed on any specific object. They're different from desires because they don't demand to be gratified. They're not the same as the intellectual activity that we call thinking because thought proceeds from ideas, is active and arrives at a conclusion, but feelings come from perceptions. They're passive and don't progress towards any conclusion or result.
Every feeling has its positive and its negative, and these are in any variety of degrees: pleasure or annoyance, appreciation or disregard, anticipation or foreboding, admiration or contempt, assurance or hesitation, doubt or confidence, etc., and many other subtle nuances of feelings that we could name--and even more that are too illusive to be pinned down with words.
All of these feelings have certain conditions in common. None are distinctly moral or immoral. They are developed to the stage of definite thought. They exist vaguely in what seems to be a semi-conscious intellectual region. Why, then, do we need to concern ourselves with this mysterious unknown aspect of human nature? This is the question that prose philosophers ask. But Wordsworth sees deeper. In one of the most beautifully discriminating passages
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in all of poetry, he writes about feelings of unremembered pleasures having a significant influence in a good man's life. They're the sources of 'small, unremembered deeds of kindness and love.'
It's possible for the spark of association to be touched so lightly that a person relives a vague feeling of the former pleasure without reliving the actual physical sensation, or sees the image that produced the sensation, and experiences just a vague hint of the pleasure. For example, when a person hears the word 'Lohengrin,' he doesn't wait to regain the sensation of musical delight. He just catches a waft of the pleasure that the original experience brought--the feeling of unremembered pleasure. It's intangible and indefinite, but it creates a glow in the heart that warms a person and inspires him to do 'deeds of kindness and love' that are as small and nameless as the feelings that inspired them.
Even though these deeds are small and nameless, Wordsworth ranks them as the 'best part of a good man's life.' But these kind deeds can only come out of a good man's heart because the feelings themselves aren't moral. They merely influence what's already inside the person. The point is, the influence that these feelings have is indirect yet powerful. Why should the memory of Tintern Abbey cause a man to do some small, kind deed? The only answer we can offer is the ultimate one: 'God made us in such a way' that even a feeling of
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unremembered pleasure can prompt a good person to give of the good treasure that's in his heart in kindness and love. We only have to consider the result of feelings on the negative side to prove how accurate Wordsworth's psychology is. Imagine that we're unpleased--not displeased, but indifferent and unmoved by any feeling of pleasure. With our feelings in this condition, would we be prompted to any outpouring of love and kindness towards our fellow man?
This is another aspect of feelings, and it's very important to those of us who educate children.
'I do not like you, Doctor Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell.'
That's a feeling we all recognize. In fact, it's that intuitive part of our character--one of our best feelings and best guides in life--that tends to get hammered out of us by the constant attempt to beat our sensitivities down to what's obvious and definite. Why do people complain about disloyal friends, dishonest servants and disappointed affections? If we could keep our feelings in truth and simplicity, they would undoubtedly afford us a reliable standard of character in those we come into contact with, and we'd be spared from having to make unreasonable demands of people on the one hand, and suffering disappointment on the other.
Orators love to play upon the range of our feelings. They throw in arguments, and brighten their talk with vivid word pictures, metaphors and similes.
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For their final effect, they rely on the impression they've been able to make on the audience's feelings, and they're usually successful.
It isn't only our little nameless deeds, but also the great purpose of our lives that arise from our feelings. Enthusiasm itself isn't thought, but it arises when we're
'sparked with the rapture of a sudden thought.'
Enthusiasm is a glowing, adaptable condition of the forces of our nature. When enthusiasm strikes us, all things seem possible. All we need is some leading. In its earliest stages, enthusiasm is insignificant, incoherent and lacking in purpose. Yet it's the great state that all of life's great purposes shape themselves from. We feel something, which leads to a thought, which prompts us to say something, which results in us taking action. That's how most of our activities originate.
But our feelings depend on what we are, just like our thoughts. We tend to have the kinds of feelings about things that we've become used to feeling. But the point I want to make is that our feelings can be trained, and by educating the feelings, we can modify the character. A serious risk in this day and age is that we might exchange the delicate task of educating the feelings for the simpler task of blunting them. This is almost inevitable in a system where training is given to students as a group. But it doesn't necessarily have to happen, because the attitude of the head teacher is almost always spread to the whole school. Still, the perfect blossoming of feelings can only be preserved under individual care and instruction--in other words, it can only be done by parents!
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The tool to use in this task is always the same--the blessed sixth sense of Tact. The desired feeling can be summoned with merely a look or a gesture; it can also be driven away with a careless rude comment. Our silence, our sympathy, our perception can validate and encourage the feelings we desire in our children. The same methods are equally effective at discouraging the feelings that shouldn't be there and making them slink away in shame.
Be careful of words. It's better to use our eyes and imaginations when dealing with very young children. We need to try to see what they're feeling and help them by responding with our own feelings. But words, even when they're encouraging and kind, can blast this delicate bloom of nature like a hot gust of wind, and make it vanish. Let's carefully consider which feelings we want to stimulate and which ones we want to repress in our children. Once we've made up our minds, let's not say anything about it. We all know how children shrink, as if they've been touched in a sore place, when they receive a well-intentioned comment from a tactless friend.
A sense of the Spirit's touch is the only guide we have in the area of feelings, but that's enough to attune our children's spirits to great issues, as long as we believe that they're capable of all kinds of great things. We want them to be reverent. Before it becomes a thought or action, reverence is a feeling, and it can be communicated from one person to another in the same way as the light from a torch--but only by contact. A feeling of reverence fills our own souls when we see a bird on its nest, or an old man sitting on his front porch, or a church that's been the center of a community's hopes for generations. When we feel this reverence, our children feel our
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feeling, and they feel it, too. A feeling is communicated by this kind of sympathy, and might not be communicated any other way. Likewise, the unworthy habit of depreciation is, first of all, a feeling. It's not difficult to pass on to children the attitude of feeling reverent and appreciative by how appropriate and good something is. We all know how easy it is to appreciate or depreciate the very same thing. The fact that one thing can cause two such opposite reactions shows how important it is to instill the right attitude, because among the minor aspects of character, nothing differentiates people more than whether someone or something evokes satisfaction or dissatisfaction in their eyes.
The habit of feeling appreciative is a source of peaceful joy to the person who possesses this attitude, and it makes the people in contact with him relaxed and contented. The habit of criticizing everything, on the other hand, might stimulate a bit of excitement because it appeals to the ego--it says, 'I dislike this person or thing, which proves that I know more and am superior to other people.' That kind of attitude disturbs tranquility. It puts a person out of harmony with himself and his surroundings. No stable contentment comes of depreciation. Yet, even when dealing with our children's feelings in this area, we have to remember that the only tools at our disposal are tact, sympathy, and communicated feelings. Feelings aren't like thoughts that can be reasoned with. They aren't moral or immoral by themselves, so we can't praise them or chastise them. We have to be unassertive when we deal with these feelings in our children, and diligently watchful so that a careless slip doesn't bruise a tender blossom of feeling.
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Here's the problem with the habit of joking banter in family conversation: a little bit is fine and perfectly harmless, but this kind of fun should be used with a great deal of tact, especially by the adults. Children understand each other very well, so there's less risk of hurt feelings from a tormenting peer than there is from a respected grown-up.
There's only one case when feelings shouldn't have free play, and that's when feelings reflect the conscious ego. The feelings that are usually referred to as sensitive feelings--meaning susceptibility for oneself and about oneself, and a tendency to be quick to perceive neglect, insult, condemnation or recognition--are sometimes considered to be a sign of a fragile, delicate character. But they're actually feelings of a lower, less worthy class. They should be carefully directed to prevent unhealthy thought patterns from being set up. The ability to ignore wisely is an art. A girl who yearns to know what you thought of her when she said this, or did that, doesn't need to be told brutally that you didn't think of her at all. It's enough for her to see that your attention is focused on something that's impersonal to both her and you. In this way, she gets the hint and takes her focus off herself without anything being said to hurt her feelings. It seems to be an unchangeable law that our feelings as well as our sensations need to be occupied with something outside of ourselves. As soon as they're turned inward on ourselves, harm is done. The task of dealing with young people's susceptible tendencies is one of the most delicate tasks that we adults have, whether we're parents or friends. Indiscriminate sympathy is dangerous, and bluntness of perception is very damaging. We're between a rock and a hard place, and
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we need to tread humbly and carefully in this delicate task of dealings with the feelings of children and youth. The only safeguard we have is to value the 'soft, meek, tender soul' in ourselves that's sensitive to God's touch, and that's able to deal in soft, meek, tender ways with children, who are fragile, delicate beings.
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They say that the English are no longer characterized as a truth-speaking people. This is a disturbing accusation, but we can't easily brush it off. Maybe we're in a period of civilization that tends not to produce people who are courageous enough to be completely truthful. A person who has no fear usually doesn't lie, either. A nation brought up among heroic war deeds dares to be truthful. But we live in peaceful times. We no longer have to defend the truth of our words with physical strength. We have very little sense of responsibility about what we say because nobody challenges us and makes us accountable. Those who do tell the truth do so because they have a pure truth of heart and upright life. When our nation was young, she was trained in the habit of truth, although the methods may have been rough and violent. But we seem to be losing that habit. As we're growing up, the truth among us may be of a higher quality than the mere general truthfulness of ancient days. It's true that truth is like the white flower of a blameless life, rather than the mere result of a habit of
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being fearless. Our task is to bring up our children to this higher kind of truth. We can't treat this or that specific lie or deceitful deed as a sore that just needs the right lotion or bandage. We need to consider it as a symptom of a deeper issue pointing to an urgent fault in the child's character. It's that fault of character, not the symptom, that we need to work on.
Darwin said that opinion without knowledge is worthless. When dealing with the common childhood tendency to be untruthful, we should have a lot of a special kind of knowledge. Treating a child from scratch by analyzing him from a moral perspective, recording our observations, formulating an opinion based on that child, and doing the same with as many children as we can is undoubtedly a worthwhile mission that will benefit the public. But that's work for a trained expert, not a busy parent or teacher.
Unaided common sense and good intentions aren't enough for the delicate art of child-study. We can't afford to discard the wisdom of the past to start all over again by working to collect and systematize, and hope to accomplish as much or more in our short time span than wisdom of past centuries has brought us. After all, the child is a human being. He may be immature, but, still, he might represent a human being at his best. Who among us adults has such gifts of seeing, knowing, understanding, imagining, and such capabilities to love, give and believe as the 'little child in the midst'? The highest praise that we can give to the wisest and best among us is that they're as fresh and quick in their interests and passions as a little child.
When it comes to lying, for example, unaided common sense
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will probably start from one of two theories: either the child is born honest and pure and you need to keep him that way, or else the child is born manipulative and lying and you need to cure him of it. These days, popular opinion leans towards the first theory--that children are born true. Since we only perceive what we believe, we might tend to take children's truthfulness and honor a bit too much for granted. It's a fact that, if you want children to be true, you need to treat them as if they are true and as if you believe that they're true. All the same, it isn't wise to be like an ostrich. The previous generation believed that their children were born false, and that belief probably turned more children towards falsehood [because their mistrust became a self-fulfilling prophecy.] I'd guess that some of the lack of truthfulness in our day can be traced to the dogmatic teaching that our ancestors were raised on.
The wisdom of the ages--meaning philosophy and, more recently, modern science, especially physiology and psychology--shows that both of these extremes are inaccurate, and any theory founded on either of these two positions or somewhere in between is also mistaken. The truth is, a child is born neither true nor false. When he comes into the world, he has neither virtue nor vice. Yes, he has tendencies, but these aren't any more or less virtuous or evil than the color of his eyes. Even a child born to parents who lie isn't necessarily born a liar, because acquired tendencies aren't transmitted at birth. But still, a child born into a family that's been in the subservient class for generations might be less naturally predisposed to truthfulness than a child born into a
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family that's been a member of the ruling class for generations. [It seems that even Charlotte Mason couldn't totally remove Victorian class stigma from her thinking!] In the physical world, all substances need to be reduced to their purest elements before they can be chemically worked with. It's the same way in the moral world. If we want to treat a fault, we need to trace it back to the underlying elemental property of human nature that it probably originated from.
Lying, even the worst forms of lying, isn't the fundamental, elemental problem by any means. Ambition is elemental. Greed, vanity, gratitude, love and hatred are elemental. But lying isn't. It's a secondary symptom. That makes treatment all the more difficult. It's no longer as simple as, 'the child lied and he must be punished.' It's a matter of finding the weakness of character, or the gap in his education, that's the root cause of his habit of lying, if it even is a habit. The issue isn't how to punish the lying, but how to treat the character flaw that's behind the lie. From this perspective, let's consider the way that American educationalist Professor G. Stanley Hall classified lies in a Jan. 1891 American Journal of Psychology article. The following headings are his classifications.
Jessica thinks she might have glanced at Megan's math paper and seen her answer. Comparing both papers shows that she didn't, but, in an effort to avoid telling a lie, Jessica has actually told a lie. This kind of hyper conscientiousness makes a child overly anxious about other forms of sin in her life. I once knew a sick girl, fourteen years old, who was distressed because she wasn't able to kneel up in her bed when she prayed. Was this the 'unpardonable sin'? she asked in genuine
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terror. I agree with Professor Hall about the cause of this common form of anxiety, that it's not a moral problem, but it stems from physical causes. I should also mention that it's more common in girls than boys, and in children taught at home than those taught in school. Healthy interests, time spent outside, fun and stimulating handicrafts, keeping busy enough with things so that thoughts don't become all-consuming, and avoiding any stray comment or suggestion that might cause self-consciousness or a habit of introspection, will probably go a long way in getting a young child with this tendency through a difficult stage of life.
The heroic lie is predominantly an issue with schoolboys. It's not caused by any love for lying, It's caused by a lack of moral balance. It means that the boy has been left to form his own code of ethics. Little Tyler is asked, 'Who spilled the glue?' and he says, 'I did it,' because Jason, who really did it, is his hero at the moment. In Tyler's eyes, faithfulness to a friend is a higher virtue than mere rigid truthfulness. And if Tyler has never been taught, how is he to know that it's wrong to value one virtue at the expense of another? When we consider how little clear, definite, authoritative teaching children get about ethical issues, it's a wonder that most people formulate any kind of code of ethics or code of honor for themselves at all.
This kind of lie is different from a heroic lie because it doesn't necessarily bring any risk to the person telling the lie. But, like heroic lies, it displays moral ignorance, and we don't always recognize it because we confuse innocence with virtue. It's very natural
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for a child to believe that truth is relative and not absolute, and that whether a lie is a lie depends on who you're talking to. The child is unconsciously mimicking Pilate, asking, 'What is truth?'
For this kind of lie, superficial treatment is a waste of time. The lie and its root cause are so connected that they can't be separated. Professor Stanley Hall correctly points out that schools are a fertile ground for this kind of lying. But it's the selfishness that has to be dealt with, not the lying. If you cure the selfishness, the lies will disappear on their own. But how do you cure it? This is a difficult question. The only thing that can deliver a boy or girl from this kind of vice that is served by lying is a strong impulse to heroic unselfishness that's initiated and sustained by God's grace. Prayer, patience, and watchfulness for opportunities to convey the inspiring ideas are needed. Every child has the potential to be a hero. The worst kind of betrayal is the kind that gives up on curing a fault of character in a young child, no matter how serious the fault might be. At the same time, parents who haven't allowed selfishness to do direct battle with virtue (whether it's in the form of truthfulness or any other name) are fortunate. It's easy to direct the tendencies of a child, but it's almost impossible to change the character of an adult once it's set.
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I saw little Madison at the park one day. She didn't look my way and I didn't recognize who she was playing with. I was preoccupied with the friend I was with, and I didn't think that Madison even noticed me. But, after she went home, she told her mother that I had hugged her and asked specific questions about how her family was doing! What could her motive have been? There was no motive. Her actively imaginative little mind had played over the little dialog that would likely have taken place if we had exchanged greetings, and that seemed so real to her that it obscured the reality. To Madison, what she had imagined seemed to be real. She probably didn't even remember what actually happened. This sort of lapse in spoken truth is very common in imaginative children. It requires prompt attention and treatment, but not the kind of treatment that a hasty and righteous parent might tend to adopt. In this situation, there's no need for moral indignation. It's not the child who is to blame, but the parents. Most likely, the child's ravenous imagination isn't satisfied daily with enough mental nourishment--fairy tales when the child is young, and adventures later. We can believe that children arrive 'trailing clouds of glory' from a place where all things are possible and any wonderful thing might happen. Our pathetic grown-up limitations of time, space and laws of matter are inconceivable annoyances to them that trap their free souls like wild birds locked in a cage. If we refuse to give the child outlets into the world of fancy where anything is possible, then their imagination, like Ariel, the delicate sprite, will still work, trying to express imagination within the narrow confines of our mundane tasks. Thus every bit of our mundane lives will be played over with a thousand different variations that are bound to be more vivid and interesting than the dull reality of what actually happened.
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And the created incident is more likely to remain in the child's mind than what really happened when he's asked to tell what happened. What's the cure? Allow the child to enter in, live abundantly and joyfully in the kingdom of make-believe. Let him imagine that every canyon is populated with fairies, and every island is peopled with Robinson Crusoe. Let him imagine that every bird and animal has human interests, which he'll share as soon as his fairy godmother arrives and is introduced. Let's rejoice and be happy that all things seem possible to children. We should recognize that, because of this condition they're in, they're more fit to receive. believe and understand the things of God's kingdom in a way that we, unfortunately, can't. The age of faith is a prime time for sowing belief, and was undoubtedly designed in God's scheme of things especially to provide parents with a time to make their children familiar with spiritual things before exposure to the world makes them more concerned about materialistic things.
Yet, at the same time, the more imaginative a child is, the more he needs the boundaries of the make-believe kingdom defined, and the more he needs to be held to exact truthfulness in everything concerning the limited world where the grown-ups live. It's simply a matter of careful education. He needs daily practice at giving exact statements, without any unpleasantness or righteous indignation from his mother about misstatements. A child who conveys a long message with accuracy, who tells you what Mrs. Brown said and no more, or who tells what happened at Hayden's party without adding any embellishments should receive warm, loving encouragement. Every day provides opportunity for at least a dozen little lessons in accuracy. Gradually, the more precise beauty of truth will dawn upon the child whose soul is already blessed with the gift of fancy.
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I don't have much to say in this area except to advise parents to keep watch at the place where the waters let out. This tendency is a pathological disorder and needs professional help, not punishment. But I believe that it's a disorder that never needs to get a foothold in the first place. A girl who's been able to gain some honor for who she is and what she does won't be tempted to make things up. A boy who's found lots of opportunities to give outlet to his physical and mental energy won't have any left for creating delusions. This is a situation that shows how important it is for parents to familiarize themselves with the vague border of human nature that relates to both the physical and spiritual. Parents who want to avoid the possibility of psuedomania getting started in their child should know about the way that spiritual thought interacts with the physical brain tissue, how the brain and nerves are inter-dependent, how fresh air and healthy diet affect the blood that nourishes the nerves, and how the nerves in turn have dictatorial influence over physical health.
It's a good idea for those who deal with young people to be familiar with one or two signs of this mental condition, such as the child stealing a glance at you from under half-closed eyes to see your reaction, or the child talking on and on with a slightly vacant preoccupied look, indicating that he's making it up as he goes.
It's not necessary to go into detail about lies to cover up, lies of terror, or other common kinds of lies such as boasting lies,
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inaccurate lies of carelessness, and, worst of all, malicious lies of false witness.
It's good to bring the subject of truthfulness to the attention of parents because, although children may be more prone to one tendency than another, truthfulness doesn't come by nature any more than the multiplication tables do. A child who seems totally truthful isn't that way by chance. He's been carefully trained to be truthful, even if his training has been indirect and unconscious. It's better to take the trouble to cultivate the habit of truth than to deal with lying later on.
Moral teaching should be as simple, direct and definite as intellectual lessons. It should be presented with religious authority and inspired by religious impulses, but not limited to the Scriptural mandate or Biblical penalties against lying.
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Like Ward Fowler's Wagtail, we've been asking, Why? for a long time. We asked, Why? about linen underclothes, and we decided they weren't necessary and abandoned them. We asked, Why? about wearing so many petticoats, and they're on their way out. We're asking, Why? about lush carpets, indulgent easy chairs and other items of extravagance, and, as a result, in the year 1910, there probably won't be many of those things sold. It's good for us to seek the practical Why? instead of the merely curious 'Why does a wagtail wag its tail?' kind of puzzles that only result in worthless guesses and the kind of psuedo-knowledge that makes a person conceited. But when our Why? leads us to discover that we shouldn't do a thing and motivates us to stop, then that kind of Why? is like stirring back into flame a fire that was dying and going out.
Why is Tyler Johnson sent to school? 'To get a good education, of course,' his parents say. And Tyler is sent off with eager hopes that he'll be the best in his class. But there's never anything said about the joy of learning, or the glorious delights of Nature, or the
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new thoughts that his school lessons will open up for him. 'Behave and be the best in your class,' is the last parting remark to Tyler, and that final thought inspires his young soul with purpose. He won't disappoint Dad, and he'll make Mom proud. He'll be the top student in his class. In fact, he'll be the top student in the whole school, and get honors and rewards, and won't that be great! Tyler doesn't put these thoughts into words, but his mother can see the purpose in his eyes, and she blesses her valiant little boy. So off Tyler goes to school, a happy boy, spurred on by his father's hopes and his mother's blessings.
Soon the progress report arrives, and the most exciting thing it says is that Tyler is the best in six subjects. He gains more honors, distinctions, commendations, and, in the course of time, even scholarships. Before he's even twelve, Tyler is able to earn the rest of his future school career by honing his skill at taking exams. Now he sets his sights on bigger goals--exams that carry more possibilities, exams that will carry him through his years in college. His success is almost guaranteed because the tricks of exam-taking can be perfected like any craft. His parents are congratulated, and Tyler is admired and seen as a kind of hero to his parents and peers. He loves exams! There was never an easier way for a youth to distinguish himself, assuming, of course, that the youth was born with the gift of intelligence. But the student who isn't so lucky--well, he can go to vocational school and maybe that will make a man of him.
It's not much different in girls' schools. Labels of 'Junior,' 'Senior,' 'Higher,' 'Intermediate,' 'B.A.' and all the rest, distinguish the
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phases in most girls' lives. You might think, 'that's better than having no phases at all.' Yes, of course it is. But the fact that the process of progressing to the next goal requires passing an exam of some kind that youth have to work for with feverish urgency and unwarranted stress should prompt us to analyze and ask, Why?
First of all, people rarely make any real progress beyond their own personal goals. Their goal is to pass the test, not to gain knowledge. As John Ruskin said, 'they cram to pass instead of to know, and the result is that they do pass, but they don't know.' Most of us who know a 'candidate' have to admit that there's some truth in Ruskin's words. Undoubtedly, there are a few people who not only pass but also know. But, even so, it's still open to question whether passing an exam is the most direct, simple, natural and efficient way to obtain knowledge, or whether those who do pass and know might not be the kind of clever, resourceful people who could get blood out of a stone, or sap out of sawdust.
To repeat, except for the human mind's wonderful power of resistance that ensures that most people who go through the grind of exams get through the experience as disinterested in intellectual pursuits as they were when they started--except for this, the tendency of the school grind would be to jeopardize the individuality--the one incomparably precious birthright that we each have. The very existence of public exams necessitates every student who takes it to study the exact same thing in the same way.
Some may insist that there's no required limitations to what students can study outside the exam agenda, and, in fact, there are no restrictions at all about how students go about even studying that--but that's not true.
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Whatever public exams a school uses, the whole momentum of students and staff progresses in that direction. As far as the method of study, that's determined by the type of questions on the exam. Dry-as-dust usually wins out because it's a lot easier and more objective to grade definite facts [and fill-in-the-blank questions] than it is to grade the free expression of creativity or brilliance. So the end result is that there's absolutely no choice for most students in schools and many students at home about what to study, or how to study it. A planned syllabus is so convenient that parents and teachers are both relieved to make use of one.
It would seem, then, that students are at the mercy of teachers, and teachers are at the mercy of examiners, and parents do no more than submit. Would parents be shocked to find themselves like the man who quoted prose all the time and yet didn't know any of it? For the most part, the oppressive tyranny of exams is supported by parents. I say 'for the most part' because it's not totally their fault. Teachers enthusiastically play a big part, but they have no power to do anything that isn't supported by parents--without that support, they wouldn't be able to present any candidates except their own sons and daughters. Also, it has to be admitted that the whole system is forced on the teachers (although perhaps not entirely against their will) by certain negative qualities of human nature that are manifested in parents. Ignorance, idleness, greed, and ambition don't sound very nice. If those of us who believe in parents dare to hint at such ugly motives in the father proudly basking in his
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son's success, we should also add that the rest of who aren't parents are even more to blame. It's very difficult to run against the current of popular opinion. 'Harm comes from lack of thinking.'
Ignorance can sometimes be excused, but not when it's deliberate ignorance. It's time for conscientious parents to examine themselves and decide whether it's their duty or not to make a stand against the system of competitive exams. Note that it isn't the exams themselves that are evil. It's the competitiveness. If the old saying is true, that the mind can't know anything except what it answers to its own question, then it must also follow that knowledge that comes from outside a person can only be tested with a method outside the person. Study from a specific syllabus can probably only be tested to be sure of definite knowledge and steady progress with a final exam. All I'm asking is that the exam not be competitive.
Some might argue that it's not fair to call public exams such as the Universities' Local exam competitive. Admittedly, they have done a lot to raise the standard of middle class education, especially regarding girls, and their exams don't determine prizes or ranking. They are rarely competitive in the sense of bestowing extra rewards on students. Fortunately, we're not so far away from righteousness for distinction itself to be its own reward. Students are justifiably willing to work to earn a certificate that distinguishes them as the elite among their school. The schools also compete
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("compete" comes from two words, con and petere, which mean to seek with) with each other to see which will send the most candidates and gain the greatest number of Honors, Scholarships, etc. Those distinctions are well publicized. Parents who are looking for a school to send their son to prefer to choose a school where their son has the best chance for distinction. Exams that test the entire school and rank students according to their score are something else. Although they appeal to the desire to be the best, they don't cater to that desire excessively, and that's worth noting.
Why should such a useful incentive to work hard be questioned? There are certain facts that we can assume about every person who isn't in desperate poverty. Everyone wants to succeed. Wherever we might happen to be, we always want to be promoted a little higher. Everyone wants to be rich--or, at least, to be better off than they are, even if the wealth they seek is autographs instead of money. Everyone wants the company of his peers. If he doesn't, we call him a hermit and say he's not quite normal. We all want to excel and be the best, whether we're playing tennis or taking an exam. We all want to be in the know, although some enjoy knowing about their neighbors' gossip, and others want to know about the stars in the sky. Everyone, from the sergeant in his work uniform to the commanding officer with all his medals, wants to be well-thought of. All of these various desires--power, wealth, society, excelling, knowing, and esteem--are foundational springs that motivate every human being to action. If any one of these desires is touched in
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a savage or a savant, a response is guaranteed. A Russian peasant can't stop asking a traveler passing through about all the places he's seen--because he wants to know. A little boy gambles with his marbles because he wants to get. A farmer's daughter puts a new bow in her hair because she wants to be admired, and that's the only kind of attention she's aware of. Thomas steers the ship when the boys play pirates because he wants to be the leader. Madeline works herself to a frenzy studying for her exam because she wants to excel, and passing the exam is the sign of excellence--meaning, what distinguishes those of excellence.
These desires aren't virtuous or vicious. We all have them, and they're necessary to all of us. They seem to have the same role in motivating our mental/spiritual selves that appetites have in motivating our physical well-being. They stimulate us to keep striving, and that's what's needed both for progress and health. Everyone knows that a soul that thinks that nothing is worth the bother will stagnate.
Anybody who would allow himself to be beaten everywhere he turns would be a pretty pathetic person. We don't challenge the existence of ambition any more than we challenge the fact of breathing. One is as natural and necessary as the other, and no cause for accusation. But educators need to realize that children don't come into the world like a one-stringed harp. Continually plucking the same string throughout a child's adolescence is evil--not because ambition is wrong, but because the child's character becomes unbalanced when one desire is stimulated at the expense of all the others.
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The divinely planted principle of curiosity is just as strong, just as natural, and just as sure of prompting a responsive stir in the child's soul. The child wants to know. He wants to know continually and desperately. He asks all kinds of questions about everything he comes across. He pesters his elders and is told to stop being such a nuisance, to be a good boy and stop asking so many questions--but only sometimes. For the most part, we try to take the time to answer Thomas's questions to the best of our ability, and we're humbled and ashamed that we're so easily stumped by his insatiable curiosity about natural objects and how things work. But Thomas's questions are rewarded.
The most educational feat that humans accomplish is the amount of knowledge that children amass by the time they're six years old. An admiring and astonished father will say, 'He knows as much as I do about--' whatever topic is being discussed. If he's taken to the beach, within a week he can tell you all about trawling, mackerel fishing, what fishermen do, and anything else that his inquisitive mind can find out on its own. The poor child would be able to tell all about sand, shells, tides and waves, too, but he needs someone to help him get that kind of information and there's no one to give it to him. But he does find out everything he can about what he sees and hears, and he amasses a surprising amount of specific knowledge about things and their properties.
Once Thomas starts school, his parents find that his incessant why? no longer plagues them. They're probably so glad to be let off the hook
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that it never occurs to them to ask, 'Why doesn't Thomas wonder Why anymore?' Up until this time, Nature has had an active role. She's been allowed to stimulate the most appropriate desire for helping his mental growth in the same way that, left alone and untampered-with, she's able to stimulate his appetite so he eats and grows physically. She's been given free reign to do what's best. The craving to know has been the most stimulating aspect of Thomas's childhood. But then he goes to school. When he first starts school, knowledge is pure delight to him. If his lessons appeal to his nature, instead of being scheduled along the lines of subjects deemed proper for education, then he has no choice. He won't be able to help learning and loving to learn, because that's how he was created.
But this concept of presenting knowledge to Thomas in a way that matches his nature is a difficult and delicate task. Not every teacher, any more than every parent, is enthusiastic about giving Thomas what he needs when it comes to necessary knowledge. Let's pretend that a teacher named Cognitus discovered a new and better way. Let's say that he's had a hectic morning baffled by questions from students who wanted to know. How is this teacher, who had put some time into novel new lessons, supposed to keep up with these eager young minds? That night, in a vision, Cognitus sees that there's another way, an easier way. The desire to know isn't the only desire that's active in a child.
Just as much as a child wants to know, he wants to excel--to do better than everyone else. 'Every one of them wants to be the best at something--if not at lessons, then at sports.'
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Now, Cognitus is a philosopher. He knows that, generally, only one desire can be active within a person at a time. If children's ambition is stimulated, then the whole class will have to do the same thing in the same way in order to judge who can do it best. The students will no longer want to know. They'll get their fair share of learning in regular ways and make better progress than they did when the restless spirit of inquiry was driving them. And, Eureka! A discovery has been made. There's honor and distinction for both the teacher and the students. There's no longer any need for the rod or coaxing because ambition is the best disciplinarian. Now there's steady, quiet work instead of the incessant tiring rabbit trails that the craving for knowledge leads to. 'The parents will be so pleased,' Cognitus thinks. He knows that parental love likes a little sustenance from paternal vanity every once in a while, and the child who does well is adored.
Perhaps Cognitus saw, as if in a vision, the scholarships and money awards that would fill parents' pockets, or at least ease their financial education burden. This is indeed a better way, and Cognitus and parents will be glad to agree on this. Everyone is happy, everyone's content. Nobody's worried and a lot of learning is gained by the students. What more could you ask for? Just one thing, respected Cognitus--the keen desire for knowledge. Gone are the incessant Why's? that Thomas brought to school with him, and which should have kept him curious and inquisitive about all good, great and wise things throughout all the years of his childhood that were supposed to be used to lay the groundwork of character.
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We can't entirely blame Cognitus. It's pretty certain that he arrived at his conclusion by a consensus of opinion, and with parents pressuring him with considerable urgency. How can we accuse someone for starting something that's a huge improvement over what things were like before? But knowledge is advancing, and it's time for us to reconsider our educational principles and rethink our methods. We desperately need to get rid of the competitive exam system if we don't want to be reduced to the kind of appalling mediocrity that we see in exam-ridden empires like China.
The world has probably never seen finer educationalists than the teachers and administrators at our Boys' and Girls' schools. But these capable men and women have practically lost their originality and wonderful initiative. The schools are overly focused on exams, so the heads of the schools can't attempt important new directions in education. Let's begin our efforts by believing in each other--teachers having faith in parents, and parents having faith in teachers. Both parents and teachers have the same goal--to advance children in character development. Both parents and teachers are oppressed under the limits of the system we have now. If we have courage, our united, coordinated effort will overthrow this destructive force that we've made.
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A quote from Matthew Arnold might help us as we attempt to redefine education's extent and methods. On page 61 of A French Eton, he says, 'The education of every socio-economic class should have its own ideal. That ideal should be determined by the needs and desires of that class, and where it wants to go. Some people imagine that society is so uniform that the same kind of education will work for everyone. But we don't live in that kind of a society. In fact, that society doesn't exist in any European country. If we look at our British society right now, you could say that the best education for each class should be different because the goal will vary according to the needs of each group.'
I am hesitant to completely agree with his comment, but it does help us to define our position. When it comes to differences in classes, I think that science gives evidence for my own ideas. For the most part, the Fathers of Education (why shouldn't education have Fathers in the same way that religion does?) worked out
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their educational ideas with an emphasis on poor children.
Pestalozzi noticed that the children he dealt with had a very limited vocabulary and hadn't been trained to use their ability to observe. He taught them additional vocabulary by having them say things like, 'I see a hole in the carpet. I see a small hole in the carpet. I see a small round hole in the carpet. I see a small round hole with a black edge in the carpet,' etc. That kind of exercise might have been beneficial for his students. But what about the children we're dealing with? We believe that scientific evidence proves the validity of heredity, and experience confirms our belief.
Punch magazine has illustrated our point: 'Come and look at the choo-choo, dear.' 'Do you mean the locomotive, Grandma?' As a matter of fact, a child of four or five has a wider, more exact vocabulary in his everyday language than many adults who are older and more educated, and he's constantly adding new words with amazing quickness. So, giving these children vocabulary lessons isn't a necessary part of their direct education. We also know that nothing escapes the notice of these children's sharp scrutiny, so there's no need to train their perceptive abilities. What they need is to develop the habit of observing methodically and reporting the details accurately.
Working class people have spent generations doing physical labor. Their heritage doesn't tend to breed imagination in their children. For that reason, it's a good idea to initiate games for the children of working class parents and carry them through little dramatic plays until, hopefully, they're eventually able to create their own little stories for themselves.
But the children
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of educated parents are more at risk of living too much in the world of make-believe. They can hear a single sentence in a lesson or talk, just the slightest details of a historical character, and they'll role play for a week, inventing all kinds of scenarios to pretend. Like Tennyson as a child, they'll carry on a pretend game of defending a castle under siege (with a mound for the castle and some sticks as the garrison) for weeks and weeks. A child who's engrossed with important interests like this feels a reasonable loss of dignity when he has to flap his wings like a pigeon, or skip like a lamb. Still, he'll do it gladly for his beloved teacher. In the children of educated parents, imagination craves food. It isn't languishing because it's starving for culture. In their case, education doesn't need to work at developing their ability to conceive and create. When it comes to these children's reasoning abilities, most parents have had an experience like the mother of five-year-old Thomas. She happened to be talking about the Atlantic Cable with him and said that she didn't know how it was insulated. The next morning, Thomas said that he'd been thinking about it and wondered if perhaps the water itself wasn't an insulator. Instead of needing to developing their children's ability to reason, most of these parents pray for God's help to answer their intelligent children's constant stream of 'why?' questions.
Developing the child's so-called faculties is education's main purpose when working with uneducated or otherwise deficient children. But the children of educated parents aren't uneducated in that sense. They're alert to the world and eager for knowledge. Their
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faculties are sharp. Therefore, the concept of heredity makes us re-think our ideas about education's purpose. We have to admit that the child of educated parents has obtained faculties that are already developed.
Therefore, education is naturally divided into teaching children of lettered parents, and children of unlettered parents. We're anxious to evade the issue of class differentiation in common life, but it becomes a practical issue in education. We have to deal with each child individually and say, 'this part of education is necessary for this particular child, or this particular class of children, but not as high a priority for this child or group of children.'
Scientific evidence limits the kind of work we can do in the area of developing the so-called faculties, but it expands what we can do in the area of forming habits. We have nothing new to announce about habits. Thomas a Kempis said, 'One custom overcomes another one,' in the 1400's, and that still says it all. But now physiologists have discovered why this law of habit works. We know that a parent's most important duty is to form the right habits of thinking and behaving in his child. We know that this can be done successfully for every child within a specific timeframe. But we've already discussed all of this. All that's needed is to remind parents of what they already know.
We believe that a parent's next duty is to nourish the child every day with loving, right and noble ideas. Once the child has received the Idea, he'll assimilate it in his own individual way, and work it into the fabric of his being. A single sentence that his mother utters might prove to be the catalyst that gives him an interest
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that could make him a painter, poet, politician or philanthropist. Lessons should have two goals. They should help a child develop the right mental habits, such as attention, accuracy, promptness, etc., and they should provide the nourishment of ideas that might bear fruit in his life.
These aren't the only educational principles that we keep in mind and put into practice. But for the moment, it's worthwhile for us to focus on the fact that one of our purposes is to emphasize the importance of education in the two areas of forming habits and presenting ideas. At the same time, we need to recognize that developing faculties isn't a priority with children of the cultivated classes because this has already been done in a previous generation [and passed down to the children in the gene pool??]
But how do we put all of this into practice? Is it practical? Is it the most important issue we need to address today? It must be practical because it fully recognizes both facets of human nature: physical and spiritual. We're prepared to acknowledge everything that even the most advanced biologist can ask us. If he challenges us by saying, 'Thought is nothing more than a physical reaction,' then we're not dismayed. We know that 99 out of 100 thoughts that pass through our minds are involuntary. We can't help them because they're the result of the modifications of the brain tissue that were caused by habit. A mean person thinks mean thoughts, a noble man thinks great thoughts, because we all think the kinds of thoughts we're used to thinking. Physical science shows us why. At the same time, we recognize that the spirit within us is greater than the physical body that it governs. Every habit started
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somewhere. The beginning of every habit is the idea that comes with a stir and takes possession of us.
Ideas are the power in life that motivate. Because we recognize the spiritual potential of an idea, we're able to bow reverently and accept that God the Holy Spirit Himself is the Supreme Teacher. He deals with each of us in the things we call sacred and things we call secular. We submit ourselves to being open to the spiritual impact of ideas, whether those ideas are transmitted to us via text in a book, a human voice, or without any visible means.
But ideas can be either good or evil. We've learned that choosing between all the ideas that present themselves is every human being's most important responsible work. We try to give our children the ability to choose well. We ask ourselves, 'Is there a fruitful, productive idea underlying this or that particular subject that my children are studying?' We discard the notion that 'developing the faculties' is the most important task of education. Any subject that doesn't arise from some great thought of life is rejected because it isn't nourishing or fruitful. Usually, but not always, we keep the subjects that promote habits of clear, orderly thinking. We still use some mental gymnastics to train the habit of clear, orderly thinking. Mathematics, grammar, logic, etc., aren't only academic. We suppose that they develop intellectual muscle. We don't reject the staples of traditional school education in any way. In fact, we value them even more--not for their distinct role in developing specific mental 'faculties,' but for
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their ability to develop habits by leaving physical impressions on the brain tissue.
With this in mind, our priority in nature knowledge should be to make sure that the child has a personal, vital familiarity with the things he sees in his environment. It's more important for him to know the difference between snakeweed and Lady's Thumb, or hawkweed and dandelion, and where to find this or that plant and what it looks like as it grows, than it is for him to be able to define terms like epigynous and hypogynous. There's nothing wrong with knowing scientific terminology, but that should come later, after the child has seen and studied the real thing in its own habitat, and tried to reproduce it in his nature notebook.
It's the same with object lessons. We're in no hurry to develop his ability to make detailed observations about little parts of everything and have him label them as opaque, brittle, flexible, and so on. We don't want these kinds of exercises to dampen his curiosity. We'd rather leave him to be receptive and respectful so that he asks questions and discusses things with his parents like the lock in the river, or how a mower works, or why fields are plowed, and provides opportunities for his parents to talk. These are the kinds of concepts that provide seeds to the child's mind, and we don't want to make him a show-off who thinks he knows it all.
As I've said before, we know that a great storehouse of thought exists that holds all the great ideas and concepts that have ever moved and changed the world. More than anything else, we're eager to give the child the key to this wonderful storehouse. Some people claim that the education of our day isn't producing reading people. We're determined that children should love books. That's why we don't come between the book and the child. We read him books like Tanglewood Tales, and, when he's older, Plutarch's Lives, not
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trying to break them up or water them down, but leaving the child's mind to deal with the material in its own way as best it can.
We try to make sure that the way we treat children and what we teach them is in harmony with nature--their nature as well as our own, and we don't buy the concept of a distinct 'child nature.' We believe that children are human beings at their best and sweetest phase, but also at their weakest and least wise. We're careful that we don't dilute life for them. Instead, we present to them the portions and amounts of it that they're willing to receive.
To sum up, we're fiercely protective of the dignity and individuality of our children. The concept we recognize is that children have steady, regular growth--with no transition phases [no developmental stages for education to treat differently]. Our concept is current with science, but has also been around as long as common sense. We believe that our common sense has a physiological scientific basis to back it up. We can show reason and logic for everything we do. We recognize the science of 'the proportion of things.' We have our priorities in balance enough to put first things first. Instead of taking too much of the burden and effort on ourselves, we leave time and room for Nature and a Power even higher than Nature herself to work.
One more principle makes it able for us to have guidance and stimulation. We don't totally disagree with Kant's doctrine that the mind is born with specific evident truths that need no proof, or Hume's idea that the mind is born with some ideas already ingrained. But it seems closer to the truth that the mind has eager cravings for universal knowledge in all different fields of experience. We've found that children will lay hold of any and all knowledge that's appropriate for them and presented in an appropriate, interesting way. That's why we declare that we owe them an immensely comprehensive and lavishly abundant curriculum.
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(A Catechism is a summarized manual, and is traditionally done in a question/answer format.)
The philosophy behind any educational or social plan is its most important element. Therefore, it might be a good idea to state some of the fragments of thought on which our method is founded, even if we can only state it vaguely. Here are the things we believe:
1. Temperament, intelligence, and talent are things we're pretty much born with.
2. Character is something that's achieved. It's the one practical goal that's attainable for anyone, child or adult.
3. All real progress in individuals, families or nations, is in the aspect of character.
4. Therefore, directing and helping character development is education's main priority.
But maybe we'll make it clearer by outlining a little of the PNEU's [Parents' National Educational Union] teaching in a question/answer format, like a catechism.
What is character?
It's what results from conduct; it's the consequence of what we do.
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In other words, a person becomes whatever he makes of himself by the thoughts he's allowed himself to think, the words he's spoken, and the deeds he's done.
Where does conduct itself come from?
For the most part, it comes from our habitual ways of thinking. We think in the way we're used to thinking, and, therefore, we do what we're used to doing.
And where do these habits of thinking and doing come from?
Generally, they originate in the temperament we inherited. A person who is generous, or stubborn, or short-fused, or devout, is usually that way because that strain of temperament runs in his family.
Are there any ways of modifying the temperament we inherit?
Yes. Marriage can bring fresh blood to the gene pool and modify the temperament of a race. Education can modify the temperament of an individual.
How can a bad habit that was passed on genetically be corrected?
By developing the opposite good habit. As Thomas a Kempis said, 'One habit overcomes another one.'
Let's trace the beginning of a habit.
Every action comes from a thought. Every thought modifies the physical structure of the brain tissue a little. I mean that the nerve substance of the brain grows in response to the kind of thoughts we think. Habits of action are the result of habits of thought. A person who tends to think, 'That's good enough, it'll do,' or, 'It doesn't really matter,' is forming a habit of negligent and sloppy work.
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How can this kind of bad habit be corrected?
By introducing the opposite kinds of thoughts, which will lead to the opposite kinds of actions. 'This must be done well because . . .'
Is it enough to think that kind of a thought only once?
No. The stimulus of the new idea needs to be applied again and again until it's at home and comfortable enough in the mind to arise involuntarily and automatically.
What do you mean by involuntary thought?
The brain is at work unceasingly. It's always thinking, or, actually, always being acted upon by thought in the same way that a piano is played by the fingers of the pianist.
Is the person aware of all of the thoughts that act on the brain?
No, the person is only aware of those that are new and different. The old, familiar way of thinking continues to beat on the mind without the person even being conscious of it.
What is this kind of thought called?
Involuntary thinking, or unconscious cerebration [brain action].
Why is that important to an educator?
Because most of our actions come from thoughts that we aren't even aware of, or that are involuntary.
Is there any way to alter the direction of our unconscious thoughts?
Yes, by diverting them into a new path.
The unconscious thoughts of a greedy child
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are always in the area of candy and treats. How can this be corrected?
By introducing a new idea, such as the pleasure of giving joy to others by sharing these good things.
Is a greedy child capable of receiving this kind of new idea?
Absolutely. Benevolence--the desire to do something good for someone else--is one of the wellsprings of action that's in every heart. It only needs to be stimuated to put it into action.
Can you give an example to prove this?
Mungo Park, the missionary, was dying of thirst, hunger and exhaustion in the African desert when he found himself near a tribe of cannibals. He gave himself up for lost, but a woman from the tribe found him and took pity on him. She brought him some milk, hid him, and nourished him until he was recovered enough to take care of himself.
Are there other wellsprings of action that can be touched and have an effect in every human being?
Yes. The desire to know, the desire for the company of others, the desire to be noticed for some distinction, the desire for wealth, friendship, gratitude are just a few. In fact, it's not possible to inspire a human being to any good and noble deed without touching one of these responsive wellsprings.
Then how is it possible for human beings to do such wrong things?
Every good feeling has its opposite bad feeling--bad wellsprings also waiting to be stimulated. Malevolence is against benevolence. It's just as easy to imagine that the tribal woman might have been the first to devour the same man
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she nourished and protected if one of her tribe had given impulse to the wellspring of hatred that was within her.
Knowing that we all have these internal impulses, what is the teacher's duty?
He needs to familiarize himself with the wellsprings of action that are within humans and learn how to touch them with wisdom, gentleness and moderation so that the child, without being totally aware of it, is being led into good habits that will help him to live a good life.
What are some of those habits of good living?
Diligence, reverence, gentleness, truthfulness, promptness, neatness, courtesy--actually, all of the graces and virtues that people have who have been raised well.
Will simply stimulating one of these wellsprings of action once, such as curiosity, or the desire to know, be enough for the child to develop a habit?
No, the stimulus has to be repeated, and the behavior that it inspires needs to be done again and again before the new habit is formed.
What common mistake do people make in forming habits?
They let lapses happen. For instance, they might train a child to shut the door after himself twenty times, but then allow him to leave it open the twenty-first time.
What's the result of such a lapse?
The training has to be done all over again because the physical growth of brain tissue and forming of cell connections that accommodates the new habit has been disturbed. The result seems to be the same kind as when a
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wound in the skin is disturbed just when the healing process is knitting the flesh back together.
So then, the teacher should commit to a certain time period in order to form habits? How long does it take to replace a bad habit with the opposite good one?
About 4-6 weeks of constant diligence should be enough time.
But that seems like an impossible task for the teacher to be constantly vigilant and careful for that long!
Perhaps, but it's no more time than a parent would spend nursing a child through a physical illness like the measles or scarlet fever.
So then, a person's thoughts and actions can be regulated mechanically, so to speak, by setting up the right nerve paths in the brain?
Sort of, but only in the same sense that you could say that the piano keys are what produce the music.
But don't the thoughts, which are like the fingers of the piano player, run their course without the person being fully conscious of his thought process?
Yes, they do. I'm not talking about vague, flitting thoughts, but definite thoughts that run their course and follow one another in a mostly logical sequence according to what the person has gotten used to thinking.
Can you illustrate this?
Mathematicians have been known to think out some pretty complicated problems in their sleep. Poets are able to improvise, authors can reel off pages of text without any prior plan or deliberate intention of writing what comes out onto the paper. Their thoughts follow each other according to whatever habits of thinking they've already formed.
Do you mean that thoughts go around and around a subject like horses working a grain mill?
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No. It's more like a horse pulling a carriage, always staying on the same high road, but following that road into new, ever-changing scenic landscapes.
From this perspective, isn't the way you begin to think about any particular subject the most important thing?
Yes, exactly. The initial thought or suggestion touches the wellspring that sets a potentially endless succession or chain of ideas into motion. These thoughts are expanded in the mind almost without any conscious awareness of the person.
Are these thoughts and successive chains of ideas random, or do they lead to a conclusion?
They lead to a logical conclusion that should follow the initial idea.
So you're saying that the reasoning ability can be set to work involuntarily?
Yes. Apparently, Reason's single interest is to work out a logical conclusion from any idea presented to it.
But isn't this ability to reason out the rational conclusion without any voluntary awareness the result of education and generations of enculturation?
The ability to reason exists more or less, depending on whether it's been disciplined and exercised. But it isn't in any way the result of education, at least not in the way education is usually understood. Take a look at this anecdote from Thompson's Laws of Thought:
'When Captain Head was traveling across the South American pampas, his native guide suddenly stopped him and pointed up at the sky. 'A lion!' he cried. Captain Head was surprised at this exclamation and pointing. He looked up
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and was barely able to make out a group of condors circling overhead immeasurably high over a particular spot. The native guide knew very well that the carcass of a horse was laying there at that particular spot out of his and Captain Head's view, and a lion was standing over the carcass while the condors enviously watched from high in the sky. Just seeing the condors was as convincing a proof to the guide that the lion was there as seeing the lion itself would have been to Captain Head. This conclusion took no concerted effort. It was as simple as looking into the sky. But for us, who aren't familiar with South American lions, this conclusion would have taken some calculated steps and deliberate effort.'
So then, what we call reason is inborn in humans?
Yes, it's inborn and it's true for all of us that it acts without our voluntary will. But it gets stronger and more accurate as it's cultivated and educated.
If the reason, especially when it's trained, is able to come to the right conclusion without the person's effort or even conscious will, then doesn't that make the reason a practically infallible guide for directing our actions?
No, actually, reason's only obligation is to follow a suggestion to its logical conclusion. So much of the history of religious persecution, family feuds and wars are based on confusion between what's logically inevitable, and what's morally right.
But according to your view, any theory whatsoever can be conclusively shown as logically inevitable.
Yes, that's right. Once an initial idea is accepted, the difficulty isn't in proving that it's plausible. The difficulty is in preventing the mind from proving it.
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Can you give an example?
Suppose a child allows himself to entertain thoughts of jealousy about his brother. Once he allows that thought, he's almost startled by the rush of convincing proofs to justify his jealousy. What began as a simple hint of suspicion in the morning turns into undeniable proof that everyone likes his brother more than him, and the unfairness of it all, and, by bedtime, he's convinced that he has good cause to be jealous:
'To a person with an infected eye, everything looks infected,
In the same way that the whole world looks yellow to a person with a jaundiced eye.'
But perhaps the child actually does have good reasons for being jealous?
It doesn't make any difference--once the initial idea is entertained, his reason is quite capable of proving that it's logically true, whether it is or not.
Do you have any historical examples of this surprising theory?
It could be that every failure of conduct, whether it's the actions of individuals or of countries, is the result of confusion between what the reason finds logical, and what external law says is morally right.
Does the Bible recognize a distinction between the two?
Yes, very clearly. In the Bible, the transgressors are always those people who do what seems right in their own eyes--in other words, what their reason justifies. But in our day, we feel that it's perfectly acceptable for people do what seems right in their own eyes, although now we call it 'acting according to the knowledge they have' or 'obeying the dictates of their own reason.'
A while ago, a mother whose cruelty caused the death of her child was let off in
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court because she had acted 'from a mistaken sense of duty.'
But don't you think it's possible for someone to do something wrong out of a mistaken sense of duty?
Yes, it's not only possible, it's inevitable when a person makes his own reason his lawgiver and judge. Consider the most unparalleled crime that was ever committed in the history of the world--the crucifixion. It was clear that the people responsible for the death of Jesus were acting under a misguided sense of duty. The patriotic leaders of the Jewish nation said, most reasonably, 'It's more practical for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to perish.' They relentlessly hunted down the Man whose influence over the common people and rumored claims to kingship were seen as a threat to the Jewish people, until He was killed. And Jesus, Who is Truth, said, 'They don't know what they're doing.'
All of this may be very interesting to philosophers, but what does it have to do with bringing up children?
It's time for us to resort to the teaching of Socrates, the wise man who said: 'Know thyself' in season and out of season. It will be helpful if we can recognize that familiarizing a child with himself and what it means to be a human being is an important part of education.
I'm not sure I understand why. It seems like a lot of harm can come from too much morbid introspection.
Introspection is only morbid or harmful when the person thinks that everything he discovers about himself is
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exclusive to himself as an individual and makes him different or special. But knowing what's common to all people is a solid, tonic antidote for unhealthy self-contemplation.
How does it work?
Recognizing the limits of our reason is a safeguard that protects all of the duties and relationships of life. If a person understands that loyalty is his first duty in every one of his relationships, and that he can't be loyal if he entertains doubtful, grudging, unloving thoughts because once those kinds of thoughts get in the door, they'll prove themselves to be right and fill his whole field of thought, then that person will be on his guard and refuse to admit any kind of mistrusting suspicions.
And that rule of life should affect even a person's relationship with God?
Yes, absolutely. If a person refuses even a hint of doubtful thoughts about his mother or father, or his child or spouse, can he do any less for God, who is more than any of those, and who is the Lord of his very heart? Every time a question intrudes to cast doubt on God's truth, that person will remember that 'loyalty forbids' such thoughts.
What about when others you respect ask questions and tell you about their 'honest doubt'?
Now that you know where their doubt originated, you can take it for what it's worth. It began with a suggestion, and once that suggestion was entertained in that person's mind, it was naturally compelled to reach its logical conclusion to the bitter end. Jesus, who didn't need anyone to tell Him about people, since He knew what was inside them, said, 'Be careful that you don't enter into temptation.'
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If people are made of the habits that they form deliberately or by default, and if their very thoughts are involuntary and the conclusion to those thoughts is inevitable, then he's not really a free agent. We might as well just say that thought is a chemical reaction and man isn't a spiritual being with any ability to control himself. Isn't that how it is?
It's safe to say that almost everything has a biological explanation, as long as we remember that man is a spiritual being whose physical parts behave in response to non-physical ideas. For example, the hand writes what the mind thinks in obedience to stimulating ideas.
Do ideas originate from within the person?
Probably not. It seems that, in the same way that physical life is sustained by appropriate food from outside the body, the non-physical life is sustained from its own kind of appropriate food, which is ideas transmitted in spiritual, invisible ways.
Can the words 'idea' and 'suggestion' be used interchangeably?
Only in the sense that ideas convey suggestions that are carried out in actions.
What role does the person play in receiving the non-physical food of ideas?
The person is like a man standing guard at the door of his house deciding whether to invite in or turn away the various ideas that come around and claim to be good for his home.
Is the will's decision to accept or reject ideas the only responsibility that people have in conducting their lives?
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Probably, because once an idea is allowed to enter, it will run its own course unless another idea supersedes it--and even that idea is accepted or rejected by the person's will.
How do ideas originate?
They seem to emanate from spiritual beings, as when one man communicates to another spiritual person an idea that's actually a part of himself.
Does it take the physical intervention of a person's presence to convey an idea to someone else?
No. Ideas can be conveyed through images or printed words. Objects in nature can convey ideas, too, but perhaps in that case the initial idea is still traceable to another mind.
Do you mean that the ideas that sustain our spiritual lives are derived from human beings, either directly or indirectly?
No, and this is the great fact that educators need to recognize. God Himself, the Holy Spirit, is the supreme Teacher of people.
He opens people's ears every morning so they can hear as much of the best truth as they're able to receive.
Are the ideas that come from the Holy Spirit limited to religious life?
No. When Coleridge wrote about Columbus and the discovery of America, he credited the origin of all great ideas and inventions to the fact that 'certain
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secular ideas are presented to minds that have been prepared to receive them by a power that's even higher than Nature herself.'
Is there any teaching in the Bible to support this view?
Yes, there's quite a bit of teaching in the Bible. Isaiah, for example, says that the plowman knows how to do the various aspects of farming because 'his God instructs and teaches him.'
Are spiritually-originated ideas all good?
Unfortunately, no. Sadly, mankind has experienced evil ideas that were also communicated spiritually.
What is man's responsibility?
To choose the good ideas, and to reject the evil ones.
Does this concept that ideas are the spiritual food that sustain physical life shed any light on Christian doctrines?
Yes. It means that the Bread of Life, the Water of Life, the Word by which we live, the 'food to eat that you know nothing about,' and much more, are more than figurative expressions, but we have to use the same words to describe man's physical and spiritual sustenance. We understand that ideas that emanate from Jesus and are of His essence, are the spiritual food and drink of His people who believe Him. It's no longer difficult or confusing to understand that we need to sustain our spiritual selves upon Him in the same way that our bodies live on bread.
Does this understanding of ideas have any practical consequence for the teacher?
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Yes, now the teacher knows that his job is to put the daily nourishment of ideas in front of the child. He can provide the correct initial idea in every subject, and the ideas that respect the relationships and duties of life. Most importantly, he recognizes that he has divine co-operation as he directs, teaches and trains the child.
Can you summarize the functions of education?
Education is a discipline--the discipline of good habits that the child is trained to have. Education is a life that's nourished and enriched with ideas. And education is an atmosphere that the child lives and breathes in. That atmosphere is the ideas that govern his parents' lives and emanate from them.
What part do lessons and schoolwork in general play in this view of education?
They should provide lots of opportunity to practice the discipline of good habits that the child has been trained to have. They should convey interesting initial ideas in different subjects so that his pursuit of knowledge in those things is a delight that lasts his entire life.
Does the child have any natural attraction to knowledge?
Yes, he seems to have a natural affinity for all knowledge, and he has a right to a wide, generous curriculum of subjects.
What responsibility do parents and teachers have who regard education this way, as a way to elevate character almost without limits?
Maybe they're responsible to make deliberate
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attempts to spread the word about this kind of education if they truly believe that 'progress in character and virtue' that has never been realized or even imagined before is possible for the redeemed human race. 'Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.'
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One observer noted that, 'The PNEU continues to move along on its own steam without any fanfare or fuss,' and it's making unusually rapid progress. Even now, there are thousands of children with thinking, educated parents being raised pretty much conscientiously and with a definite purpose along the lines of the PNEU. Some parents are reading the Parents' Review and our other information, some parents are members of our various local branches or other departments, and even more parents are being influenced by these parents. All of them have one thing in common: the passion of working for an inspiring idea.
The force of this group of educated parents can hardly be overestimated. When we think of these children growing up under the influence of these ideas who will one day be helping to govern and lead our country, we're struck with a solemn sense of great responsibility, and it's a good idea to stop and ask ourselves again the two
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main questions that every organization should re-evaluate from time to time: Where have we come from? and where are we going?
A person who's content with his home has no desire to move. The mere fact that there was a 'movement' indicates that there was dissatisfaction, and that there's been some kind of motion in a direction that's different from the common, accepted way. But there's one thing we don't want to lose from the old way of education.
Exceptionally fine men and women were brought up by our grandparents, and even by our parents. Those who are wiser and older among us may observe what we're doing with goodwill, but they probably also have an unexpressed feeling that, in the old days, people were made from a mold that we'll have a hard time improving upon. They didn't turn out such fine people by chance, and such people weren't that way because of their primers, spellers, or William Pinnock's Catechisms [of Botany, Grammar, Drawing, History, etc. 'to be learned by heart'] that we've abandoned with good reason.
The school lessons of the old days couldn't have been much worse. The training was inconsistent, lacking any sound physiology or psychology, but our grandparents had one saving virtue, although, for the past 20-30 years, we've been working hard with a determined will to get rid of it. That saving virtue was that the older generation recognized that children were reasonable beings with minds and consciences just like theirs. They just needed guidance and control from adults since they didn't have much knowledge or experience yet. Just look at the strange, quaint books they used to read. More than anything else, these books talked to children as if they were reasonable, intelligent and responsible (extremely responsible!) people. This
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pretty much represents the attitude of family life in those days. As soon as a baby became aware of his surroundings, he became aware that he was a morally and intellectually responsible being. One of the secrets to effectively dealing with other people is realizing that human nature tends to do what it's expected to do, and to be what it's expected to be. Don't confuse this with a blind faith, like the affectionate and foolish Mrs. Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer, who bestowed that kind of belief in Tony Lumpkin. Expectation stimulates another impulse, the chord of 'I am, I can, I ought' that needs to be alive in every heart because that's the way we were created. All of the capable, dependable men and women that I know were raised this way.
But what about now? These days, many children are brought up with the old style of discipline, but without the unfaltering confidence of those earlier times. There are other concepts floating around that confuse us. One leading psychologist says that a baby is like a huge oyster. Its job is to eat, sleep and grow. Even Professor Sully, in his delightful book, Studies of Children, seems unsure and torn between two concepts. The children have won him over and convinced him beyond a shadow of a doubt that they're people just like us, only even more so. Yet, he's also an evolutionist, and feels obligated to accommodate the principles of evolutionary theory into his concept of the nature of the child. So, he says that the child supposedly goes through a thousand stages of moral and intellectual development that lead him from the phase of being like a savage or an ape, to becoming an intelligent, cultivated human being. If children refuse to fit neatly into his outline of stages, then it's their fault, and Professor
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Sully loves children too truly not to accept them as they really are, with gaps that don't always fit into his evolutionary pattern. But I have no evolutionary theory that I'm committed to advancing. I'm inclined to believe the evolutionary model because it sounds so logical, scientifically speaking. But the reality that I see with my own eyes make me think otherwise.
When we consider the enormous intellectual work that an infant goes through in his first year getting used to his environment, learning the difference between far and near, round and flat, big and little, and a thousand other specifications and limitations of this baffling, complex world, then we're not surprised that John Stuart Mill was learning Greek at age five, or that Arnold could tell all the Kings and Queens of England by looking at their pictures when he was three, or that a baby with a gift for music should know an impressive repertoire of classical music.
One time I was saying that children could easily learn to speak two languages at the same time. A man who was there said that his son was a missionary in Bagdhad, married to a German lady. Their three year old could express everything he had to say with equal fluency in three languages--German, English and Arabic. He used each language depending on who he was talking to. One thoughtful little four year old girl asked, 'Nana, who does God love best? Little boys, or little girls?' Her good-natured Nana wanted to please her, so she answered, 'God loves little girls the most, of course.' 'Well, if God loves little girls the most, then why wasn't He a little girl Himself?' Which of us more sophisticated
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adults who have supposedly reached a more advanced stage of evolution could have come up with a more conclusive argument than that? That same little girl asked another time, 'Nana, if bees make honey, then do birds make jelly?' That wasn't an illogical question. In fact, it only shows that we grown-ups are too dull and unobservant of Nature's mysteries to appreciate the wonder of bees making honey.
This is how children are--their intelligence is more acute than ours, their logic is sharper, their powers of observation are more alert, their moral sensitivities are more delicate, they're more abounding in love, faith and hope--in fact, they're everything that we are, only more so. Yet they're totally ignorant about the world and the things in it, about us and our ways, and, most of all, about how to control and channel and realize the unlimited possibilities that they were born with.
The way we relate to children depends on our concept of them. If we subscribe to the 'oyster' theory, then having fun will be the emphasis of our dealings with them. In fact, most of our children's books and our theories about education are based on this concept. 'Look how happy he is!' we say, and we're satisfied, because we believe that if he's happy, he'll be good, and that can be true many times. But in the olden days, they believed that if you were good, then you'd be happy. And this is a concept that inspires the wellspring of effort, and it doesn't only work through all the different stages of childhood, but it's true of all of life and even the hereafter. A child who has learned to 'endeavor himself,' as the Prayer Book says, has learned to truly live.
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Our concept of 'Where have we come from?' includes our perception of the nature of the child as:
'A Being who thinks with every breath,
A sojourner between life and death,'
which is an old perception that our grandparents believed. But our concept of the goals and methods of education is new. It was only made possible during the late 1700's because it rests one foot on the latest scientific advances in biology, and the other foot on the mystery discovered in recent days, the mystery that matter serves the spiritual like a tool, and the spirit shapes, molds, and completely rules physical matter. The spirit can affect the physical changes of the brain, influencing what we might call the heart.
We know that the brain is the physical foundation and origin of habit, and behavior and character are both the result of the habits we allow ourselves to develop. We also know that an inspiring idea can initiate a new habit in the mind, and, from there, a new habit of life. Knowing these things, we recognize that education's great mission is to inspire children with living ideas relating to the relationships of life, all subjects of knowledge and fields of thought, and to devote careful guidance to forming the habits of good living that come from the inspiration of living ideas.
In this great work, we seek and are certain to receive the Spirit's cooperation. We recognize that He is the Supreme Teacher of mankind, teaching them everything that's considered secular as well as all things sacred, although this concept is new to our modern way of thinking.
We're free to throw ourselves wholeheartedly
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into these two great educational efforts--providing inspiring ideas, and developing good habits--because, with the exception of some mentally handicapped children, we don't consider 'developing mental faculties' as part of our work. After all, we can see for ourselves that children's so-called 'faculties' are already sharper than ours!
We also have in our possession a way to test Systems that we come across so that we can assess their educational value. For example, a while ago, the London Board Schools exhibited some work, and one exhibit that got a lot of attention was from New York, representing a week's worth of work from a school using Herbart's methods. The students had spent a week studying the theme of 'an apple.' They modeled it out of clay, sketched it in paint, stitched the outline on a sheet of cardboard, pricked it, formed the shape of the seed pod's pentagon out of sticks. Older students made a model of an apple tree complete with a ladder for climbing up to pick the apples and a wheelbarrow to cart them away, and there was more along the same lines. Everyone exclaimed, 'That's neat! How clever! What an ingenious idea!' and went away thinking that they'd finally seen something worth labeling education. But I have to ask, 'What was the foundational idea?' The whole study was based on the external shape and internal contents of apple, and these are things that children are already very familiar with. What mental habits had they gained from their week's work? Yes, they learned to really look at an apple, but imagine how many other things they could have been introduced to in that same week! The students probably never felt bored since
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the teacher's enthusiasm urged them on. But just imagine:
'Rabbits hot and rabbits cold,
Rabbits young and rabbits old,
Rabbits tender and rabbits tough.'
These children probably had had enough of apples. The most education this 'apple' study provides is in showing us how the human mind tends to accept and rejoice in any neat, laid-out system that appears to produce immediate results. Instead, we should be analyzing every school lesson and testing to see if it does or doesn't advance one or both of our great educational principles [presenting living ideas, and developing habits].
Where are we going? Our question, 'Where have we come from?' opens a world of delightful and unlimited possibilities and destinations. Since we're all working for the progress of the human race through the individual children we teach, let's carefully consider which direction this progress should move towards, and then exert determined effort to educate our students so that they move in that direction and advance with the tide. 'Can't you discern the signs of the times?' A new Renaissance is just around the corner, and it will be even more important than the last one. We're raising our children to lead and to guide in that renaissance, and to help in many ways with that progress that the world is going to make by leaps and bounds. But 'Where are we going?' is too great a question to end a chapter with.
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Biologists make the disordered chaos called evolution sound very convincing to thinking people. It's almost impossible to doubt that man is no more than a combination of chemical processes that took long ages to develop, and what's even more bizarre, that each individual infant, from the moment of his conception until his birth, goes through an incredible number of evolutionary stages in the process of his development. This fact has made a great impression on people. We feel like part of a grand process ourselves, and we also feel called on to help the process, not so much for ourselves, but for the world within our sphere of influence, and especially for any children we're responsible for. But we've seen that there comes a point where we have to stop and protest. Perhaps there's no scientific reason to doubt evolution on the physical level, but that's not the case with the spiritual/mental level. Evolution there is not only unproven, but the entire body of evidence we have seems to prove the opposite.
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The age of materialism has gone as far as it can go. We know now that matter is force, but it's force that's totally subject to something else. The spirit of a person shapes and uses his own material matter [his body] in his own ways for his own purposes. Who can tell the way of the spirit? This may be the ultimate question for mankind, the one that no amount of speculation can solve. When we consider the nearly unlimited capacity for loving, trusting, discriminating, understanding, perceiving and knowing that a child possesses in comparison to the dulled sensitivities and slower understanding of grown-ups of similar intelligence, we no longer think that spiritual life--the part of us that loves, worships, reasons, thinks, learns, and applies knowledge--always grows from less to more, or small to great. In fact, it seems that God gives the Spirit in unmeasured amounts to every child, according to his degree, like He did with the child Jesus.
It's interesting how the Bible is always way ahead of our most advanced scientific thinking. The Bible says that Jesus 'grew in wisdom and stature.' What kind of wisdom, or philosophy, does that refer to? Doesn't it mean the ability to recognize relationships? The first thing we have to learn about is the relationships of time, space and matter. That was the kind of natural philosophy that made Solomon so wise. Then, slowly, little by little, more and more, we learn the moral philosophy that determines our proper relationships of love, justice and duty to others. Later we might reflect on the profound and puzzling question of the inter-relationship of our innermost being,
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which is mental philosophy. And in all of these and more, we begin to understand, slowly and faintly, the highest relationship of all--our relationship with God. This philosophy is called religion. What we call wisdom includes this science of the relationships of things. Nobody is born with wisdom, apparently not even Jesus Himself.
Jesus grew in wisdom--in the sweet, gradual understanding of all the relationships in life. But the ability to understand, and the strong, subtle, discerning spirit that grasps and understands and puts all the relationships that bind everything to each other to their proper use--this wasn't rationed out to Him in a stingy amount. And we can reverently believe that it's given to us just as generously.
It's obvious that there are differences in people. How tall they are varies, and even their intellectual and moral abilities are different. It's good to recognize that these are differences in kind, not degree. Because of the law of heredity, different people receive more of one aspect and less of another so that mankind as a whole is balanced and complete. This is a different concept than the idea that children have only a small, feeble amount of heart and intellect until they reach the strong, mature spiritual development that, according to scientific evolutionist, distinguishes adult humans from young humans.
These aren't just abstract principles that we can set aside as irrelevant for any purpose except to give scholars something to debate. These are practical and simple things that everyone who's trusted to care for a child should consider.
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In fact, we're not fully realizing children for what they are. We're under-estimating them. In the words of Scripture, we're 'despising' them, even though we have the best intentions in the world. The problem is, we confuse their underdeveloped physical bodies and complete lack of knowledge about the relationships of things with a lack of spiritual power. But it's more likely that the intellect is never as sharp, the moral sensitivity is never as strong, the spiritual perception is never as acute as it is in those days of childhood--days that we regard with a patronizing, yet kind smile.
A child is a complete person with all the possibilities within him, present even at this very moment. They aren't educated into him after years of effort by his teachers. But that doesn't mean that our method of education minimizes the teacher's influence. In fact, it's an even greater thing to direct and use this wealth of spiritual power within the child than it is to 'develop the faculties.' I can't say urgently enough that, whether we like it or not, our educational system will depend on the concept we have of the nature of children. If we consider them like instruments that are suited and able to carry out God's divine purpose in the progress of the world, then we'll try to discern the sign of the times, recognize which direction we're being led in, and prepare children to carry forward the world's work by giving them inspiring ideas that relate to at least some aspect of that work.
Now that we've settled once and for all that both adults and children live to advance the race, that our work is directly involved with them, and, through them, our work touches everyone, and that children are perfectly suited to receive the ideas and concepts that are the inspiration
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of life, then our next step needs to be considering in which direction we should try to set up spiritual/mental activity in the children.
In the last chapter, we tried to establish our question of 'Where have we come from?' in the ability of the child. Now we'll try to look for our new question, 'Where are we going?' in current living thought, which probably indicates which direction the human race is heading. When we examine current thought, what do we find? We find that people everywhere are fascinated by science. The whole world is watching and waiting for great new discoveries. We're watching and waiting, too, and we believe what Coleridge said so long ago, that great concepts of Nature are delivered to minds that were prepared for them by a power even greater than Nature herself.
At one of the previous meetings of the British Association, the President of the Association lamented that scientific progress is hindered because we no longer have field naturalists closely observing Nature as she is. A literary magazine printed an unfortunate comment in response. The writer said that everything is written in books, so we don't need to go to Nature herself anymore! But the knowledge we get about Nature from books isn't real knowledge. Let's make a passion for Nature our first priority. Intimate familiarity with every natural object he can reach is the first part of every child's education, and very possibly the best part. He benefits personally because, all his life, he'll be soothed by
'The living balm,
The silence and calm
Of quiet, non-living things.'
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And, when it comes to science, he'll be in a position to do the very thing that's needed most. He'll be a close, loving, first-hand observer of Nature. He'll be storing up knowledge, and free from greedily hoarding lists of facts.
We think we can discern the sign of the times when we look out at the world of Art. Some of us are beginning to understand the lesson that a great prophet tried to teach us in this or the last generation. We're beginning to realize that highly crafted technical skill, no matter how perfect, whether it's getting the right shade of skin tone in a painting, the correct proportions in a statue, or a complicated and difficult musical arrangement, isn't necessarily High Art. We're beginning to realize that Art is only as great as the idea it expresses. The technical skill in rendering should be adequate enough to express the idea. But what do these lofty themes have to do with raising children? Everything. First of all, we shouldn't allow any psuedo art in the same house as our child. Then, we should analyze our own simple tastes and opinions, keeping in mind that our children absorb our thoughts whether we're conscious of it or not. And last, we need to inspire our children with the great ideas that will create a demand for great Art.
In literature, we have definite goals in mind, both for our children, and, through them, for the whole world. We want children to grow up and find joy and refreshment in the taste and flavor of a book. When
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we say book, we don't mean any printed text with a binding. We mean a work that possesses certain literary qualities that can bring the kind of sensible joy to a reader that comes from a literary word fitly spoken. It's a sad fact that we're losing our sense of joy in the written word. We're in such a hurry to collect facts or hear the latest theory that we don't stop to linger over the way a thought is put into words. But this is a mistake, because words have power to delight and inspire us. If we weren't so blind, we would have discovered a truth a long time ago that the Bible clearly indicates: once something is said in the most perfectly appropriate way, it can never be said again. It becomes a living power in the world forever after. But in literature, the same as art, it takes more than mere form and technique. Great ideas are brooding over the chaos in our minds, and the one who can put the vague idea we're all thinking into words, will seem like a teacher sent to us from God.
What about children? They should grow up with the best. There should never be a time in their lives when they're allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy. There's no time when they aren't equal to worthy thoughts put into well-said words, or well-told inspiring stories. If William Blake's Songs of Innocence sets the standard for their poetry, and Daniel DeFoe and Robert Louis Stevenson set the standard in prose, then we'll train a generation of readers who will demand true literature--meaning inspiring ideas and pictures of life expressed suitably and beautifully. Maybe a form letter requesting that children not be given books as gifts in a particular family would help [in maintaining control of book selections for the children's library.]
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One more point. In all directions, there's an effort to reach out after the concept that's called 'solidarity of the race.' We've probably never felt as much of a bond with all people everywhere as we do now. Everything that's human is valuable to us. We feel that the past belongs to us in our own times, and we linger tenderly over evidences that give us insight into the personalities of people who lived long ago. An American poet expresses this sentiment with the intensity that's typical of westerners, yet he isn't exaggerating when he writes that he's the soldier who was wounded in battle, he's the galley slave, he's the hero who has come to the rescue, every pulse of a human heart is his pulse, every fall is his fall, and every moral victory is his triumph. I remember when the concept of the common sisterhood of women came to life for me in a way that I've never forgotten. I was driving from station to station in London as a girl when I saw a drunken woman being carried on a door. The shock of pain that I felt and the very real tears from just seeing the woman told me that the woman wasn't just a detached person outside of me. In some mysterious way, she was a part of me, part of my very self. This was a new perception for me, and one I never lost sight of. These kinds of shocks of realization probably happen to most of us, and when they come to the great-hearted people of the world, that's when we end up with Elizabeth Fryes, William Wilberforces, and Florence Nightingales. Compassionate deeds have been done throughout the Christian era, and, in fact, throughout all times and places where humans have been allowed the freedom to listen to their hearts. But having pity on someone else isn't the same as having an awareness, even if it's only a dim awareness, that our fellow man is completely bound up with ourselves. Feeling compassion for someone else and feeling that connection of one-ness with the human race are two different things. We're bold enough to believe that this feeling of connectedness is where
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the education of mankind, under God's direction, has come in our day. In previous times, people did good because they loved God or wanted to save their own souls. They did the right thing because it was in their best interest to be fair and just in their dealings. But nowadays, the motives that inspire us in our relationships with one another are more intimate, more tender, more vague and compel us more strongly. We have no way of knowing what the issues will be when we figure out how to get around this new awareness to avoid our responsibilities to others, but we hope it's a sign that the Kingdom of God is coming upon us.
If we reverently consider these signs of the times, how should we bring up children accordingly? A child's tender sympathy should be allowed to flow in kind, helpful ways towards all life that touches his own life in any way. One five-year-old girl I knew came home from a walk obviously upset. 'What's the matter, H--?' she was asked. She said quickly, 'Nothing' in a non-communicative way, and her family couldn't get anything else out of her for quite a few minutes. Finally, a hug reduced her to tears, and in a flood of compassion, she burst out amidst sobs, 'A poor man, no home, no food, no bed to sleep in!' Even as young as she was, the common life of humanity had come upon her as a revelation. She felt like she was one with the beggar, and she suffered with him. Of course, children need to be shielded from intense suffering, but it's wrong of a parent or caregiver to shield a child by systematically hardening the child's heart. This little girl was able to find some relief by helping, and therefore the pain of her sympathy was softened.
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No matter what our opinion is of the world and of human nature, we need to be careful not to let children hear about impostors [those who pretend to be needy to get a free ride] until they're old enough to understand that if a person is an impostor, that only makes him someone to pity all the more. It takes more wisdom to help such a person because the goal isn't to bring him relief by providing resources, but to reform him.
Children are as vulnerable to vanity as they are to any other evil disposition that humans fall to. They need to learn to give and help without any smug concept that giving and helping makes them good. It's very easy to keep them in the right attitude, since that frame of mind comes naturally to children--the attitude that serving is like a promotion since we don't have any personal claim to be in a position to bestow benefits on others. The child's range of sympathy needs to be broadened. He needs to have love for people far away, near, rich, and poor. He should be equally touched whether the problem is overseas, or at home, and he should always provide some kind of help at real cost to himself. When he's old enough, he should read about real needs from the newspaper.
Children should learn, for instance, that atrocities in Armenia are the real reason that British people are having trouble in their families [because England didn't step in to stop the Armenian Genocide of 1915-17]. There are cases of abstract right and wrong for nations as well as individuals, and they don't make allowances for what's most practical or convenient. Helping our neighbor when he's in mortal distress is one of those cases. Anyone who is suffering at the hands of a cruel oppressor is our neighbor, whether it's a person or a nation. Let's not bring up our children in
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glass houses because we fear that the ravages of pity will be too much strain on their tender hearts. Let them know about any distress that they would naturally know about, and let them ease their sympathy by doing something helpful to relieve some of the suffering that they're upset about. Children weren't given to us with unlimited potential for love and compassion so that we could choke up their wellsprings of pity and train them to harden their hearts. No, it's our mission to prepare these little ministers of grace for the wider, fuller revelation of God's Kingdom that is coming upon us.
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John Ruskin did modern thought a great service when he interpreted for us the harmonious and inspiring presentation of education and philosophy that's recorded on one of the four walls of the Spanish Chapel attached to the Church of St. Maria Novella, in Florence. He calls it the 'Vaulted Book.'
Many of those reading this book have probably studied, with Ruskin's help, the enlightening lessons of the frescoes that cover the roofs and walls. But I don't think any will mind being reminded of the message they reflected on with reverence and awe. 'The descent of the Holy Spirit is on the left (of the roof) as you enter. The Madonna and the Disciples are gathered in an upper room. Underneath them are foreigners such as Parthians, Medes, Elamites, etc., all hearing the Disciples as if they're speaking their own language. There are three dogs in the foreground. They symbolize the lower animals made gentle as a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit . . . On this side and the opposite side of the Chapel, the artist has represented the Spirit of God's power to teach, and the saving power of the Son of God working in the world,
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shown according to the understanding of Florence at the time of the fresco.
'Let's look at the intellectual side of the fresco first. In the point of the arch, underneath the outpouring Holy Spirit, are the three Evangelical Virtues [love, faith, hope]. Florence believed that without these, you couldn't have science. Without Love, Hope and Faith, there could be no intelligence. Under these are the four Cardinal Virtues--Moderation, Caution, Fairness and Resoluteness. Underneath these are the great Prophets and Apostles. Under the group of Prophets are the mythic figures of the seven religious sciences and the seven natural sciences, as if they're powers that were summoned by the Prophets' voices. Under the feet of the sciences are the Captain/teachers of those sciences who presented those subjects to the world.'
I hope you will continue to study Ruskin's teaching about 'the Vaulted Book,' which is part of his book, 'Mornings in Florence.' It's full of wonderful teachings and suggestions. But our immediate concern is with the seven mythic figures who represent the natural sciences, and the Captain/teacher of each one. First is Grammar, pictured as a gracious figure teaching three children of Florence. Its Captain/teacher is Priscian. Next is Rhetoric, who is strong, calm and composed. Its Captain/teacher is Cicero, who has a beautiful face. Then comes Logic, with perfect poise and a lovely expression. Her Captain/teacher is Aristotle, who has keen, searching intensity in his half-closed eyes. Next is Music, with her head inclined to one side as she listens intently to the sweet, solemn notes she's playing on her antique instrument. Her Captain/teacher pictures Tubal Cain (not Jubal) as the inventor of harmony. That might be the most marvelous statement that Art has ever created about the impact of a great idea on
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the soul of a man [Tubal Cain] who was only semi-civilized. Astronomy is next. She has a majestic brow and her hand is upraised. Her Captain/teacher is Zoroaster, pictured as exceedingly beautiful, a 'delicate Persian head made even softer with its elaborate crown of silky hair.' Next, Geometry looks down, contemplating some practical geometry problem, with a carpenter's square in her hand. Her Captain/teacher is Euclid. And last is Arithmetic, holding up two fingers as an aid in calculating a sum. Her Captain/teacher is Pythagoras, and he's wrapped up in solving some math problem.
'The thoughts of God are broader than the whole span of man's mind.'
Yet in this fresco, we have minds that are so broad and wide in the sweep of their intelligence, and so profound in their insight, that we're almost startled to realize that, here, pictured on these walls, we see a true measure of the thoughts of God. Now let's take a look at the concept of education in our own time.
First of all, we divide education into religious and secular. Those of us who are more devout insist that religious education be covered as well as secular ['academic'] education. Many people don't mind completely foregoing religious education, and prefer what we label as a 'secular' education, but they limit secular to only this tangible, visible world.
Some Christians expect a little more and have a bit of a higher standard. They recognize that even grammar and arithmetic can be used for God in some vague way. But the truly great thing we need to recognize is that God the Holy Spirit is personally the One who imparts
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knowledge. He is the One who instructs our youth, He inspires genius. This concept is so far lost to us that we think it's irreverent to imagine the Holy Spirit cooperating with us when we teach our child something secular, such as his arithmetic lesson. But the Florentines in the Middle Ages went even beyond this. They believed that, not only the seven Liberal Arts were under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, but every productive idea, every original concept, be it Euclid, grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with no concern about whether the person chosen to disseminate the idea to the world claimed to be a Christian, or even recognized where his inspiration came from. All seven of the captain/teachers are people we'd consider to be pagans, and who would be considered outside the arena of divine inspiration. It's difficult for our minds to wrap themselves around this bold concept about the education of the world, although the people of ancient Florence accepted it in simple faith.
But we shouldn't accept any idea blindly, even an inspiring one. Were these people in the Middle Ages correct in their plan and concept? Plato hints at similar thoughts when he insists that knowledge and virtue are fundamentally the same. Therefore, if virtue has a divine origin, then knowledge must, too. Ancient Egypt was also aware of this concept. 'Pharaoh said to his servants, can we find someone like this, a man who has the Spirit of God within him?' [Gen 41:38] This Egyptian king didn't consider practical discernment, knowledge of everyday matters, and dealing with emergencies, as teachings that were beneath God's Spirit. 'The Spirit
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of God came upon him and he prophesied among them,' the Bible says about Saul, and we can safely believe that this is how it worked with every great invention and every great discovery of Nature's secrets. 'Then David gave his son Solomon the details of everything that he had received from the Holy Spirit pertaining to the courts of the Temple.' This suggests where every concept of beauty that's expressed in the various art forms comes from.
But the Holy Spirit doesn't only concern Himself with exalted matters of science, art and poetry. Sometimes we wonder who first invented the most basic necessities for living. Who first discovered how to produce fire, or nail two pieces of wood together, or shape iron, or plant seeds, or grind corn?
We can't even imagine that we ever lived without knowing these things, yet each of them must have been a great idea when it first came to the person who discovered it. Where did he get the idea from? Fortunately, we're given the answer in an example that's so typical, we can apply it to the others.
'Doesn't the plowman plow all day to prepare for sowing? Doesn't he open and break up the clods of dirt on his land? When he's prepared the ground, he tosses the spelt, scatters the cummin, and plants the wheat, barley and rye in their appropriate places. For his God instructs him wisely and teaches him. Spelt isn't threshed with a threshing machine, and cummin isn't ground with a wheel. No, spelt has to be beaten out with a staff,
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and cummin has to be beat with a rod. Corn meal has to be ground, otherwise you'd be threshing it forever. A wheel would crush it and his horses would ruin it. This knowledge also comes from the Lord of Hosts. It's beautifully wise, and practically effective.' (Isa. 28: 24)
In matters related to science, art and practical living, 'God instructs him and teaches him (or her!) This should be the mother's key to all of education for each boy or girl. I don't mean her children collectively, because the Holy Spirit doesn't work with plural nouns. He works with each individual child. He is infinite, so even the entire world isn't too big a school for this inexhaustible Teacher. And since He's infinite, He's able to give all of His infinite attention for the entire time to each of His many students. We don't rejoice nearly enough in the abundant wealth that God's infinite nature provides for us.
So, what subjects are taught under the direction of this Divine Teacher? Faith, hope, love--we already knew that. Moderation, fairness, discretion, perseverance--we probably could have guessed that. Grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic--we might have forgotten these if the fresco in Florence hadn't reminded us. Practical skills in the use of tools and instruments from silverware to microscopes, and the sensible managing of the affairs of life--these also come from the Lord, and they're beautifully wise and practically effective. For his God instructs him wisely and teaches him. The mother
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should visualize this thought as if it's an illuminated scroll on her infant's T-shirt. She should never contemplate any kind of deliberate instruction for her child, unless it's under the guidance of the Holy Spirit's co-operation. But we need to remember that, in this matter, just like everything else, the infinite and almighty Spirit of God works under certain limitations.
Our cooperation seems to be the one requirement for every work of the Spirit. We recognize that this is true in what we think of as spiritual matters, which means things that relate to how we approach God. But the concept that's new is that subjects like grammar can be taught in such a way that we invite and get the cooperation of the Divine Teacher, or taught in such a way that God's enlightening presence is excluded from the schoolroom. I don't mean that the teacher manifests spiritual virtues and encourages them in her students during the grammar lesson. This is undoubtedly true and worth keeping in mind. But the point I'm talking about is that, by its guiding ideas and simple principles, without an elaborate presentation and long-winded lecture, we believe that the true, direct and simple teaching of even a grammar lesson can be accompanied by the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, Who is all knowledge.
The opposite is just as true. Elaborate, long-winded lessons wrap the child's mind in so many words that his own thought can't penetrate it. He gets rules, definitions and tables instead of living ideas. This is the kind of teaching that excludes the Spirit and makes Divine cooperation impossible.
Recognizing this great truth resolves that disjointedness in our lives that
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most of us are aware of. We're willing to subordinate the tangible things of the senses to the things of the spirit. At least, we're willing to make an effort in that direction. We lament our failures and try again, certain that this is like the Armageddon of every person's soul. But that's debatable. Isn't it true that our spiritual life is a real fact, and demands our single-minded interest and focused effort? Yet we have a brain, too, and the demands of the intellectual mind and the aesthetic sense of taste press on us persistently. We need to think, we have to know, we're compelled to appreciate and create beauty. If all the passionate, burning thoughts that stir in the minds of men, and all the beautiful creations they give rise to are things that are separated from God, then we must have a separate life, too--a life separated from God. That would mean that we ourselves are divided into secular and religious, or discord, which implies discord and unrest. I believe that this is the source of the doubt and lack of faith we see today, especially in young, passionate minds. The demands of the intellect are urgent. Our mental life is a necessity that won't let us neglect it. It's impossible for these intense young thinkers to conceive of themselves as having a dual nature. How can they have a dual spirituality? If there's another claim that opposes their intellect, then they reject that claim. Thus, the young person, so full of promise and ability, becomes an agnostic free-thinker, or whatever you want to call him. But once the intimate relationship of Teacher to student in all things of the mind and body is recognized, then our feet are set in a large, spacious room. There's room to develop freely in every direction, and this free, natural joyous growth, whether it's growth of the heart or mind, is recognized as being a step that brings us closer to God.
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Various activities that share a united aim help to bring peace and harmony into our lives. Even more, this perception of how God's Spirit deals intimately with our spirits in intellectual matters as well as moral matters keeps us aware and alert in both areas for any sign of temptation or evil. We become aware that sin is possible in our intellectual lives, not just our moral lives. We see that, even in the area of pure reason, we need to be careful not to enter into temptation. We can rejoice as much in the expanding and evolving of our intellect as we can in the broadening and enlarging of our heart, and the easy freedom we have because we're always in direct contact with the inspiring Teacher who graciously provides infinite stores of learning, wisdom, and virtue for our use.
When we recognize the Holy Spirit's work as mankind's Teacher of intellectual things as well as moral and spiritual things, we have 'new thoughts of God, and new hopes of heaven.' It gives us a sense of harmony in our efforts, and helps us to accept all that we are. So, what is it that prevents us from this realization that could make our lives more blessed? We don't fully see ourselves as spiritual beings who live inside a living, emotional physical body. These bodies, which are sometimes a snare to us, and sometimes a joy, are nothing more than tools and instruments of our spiritual intention. When we realize that, every time we're with a friend, our spirit is dealing with his spirit, and the people who serve us are beings whose spirits connect with our spirits, then we'll understand how constant the communication is between our spirit and the Divine Spirit. That realization will be like when a person stops talking and stops thinking in the
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springtime, only to realize that the world is full of birds singing that he hadn't heard before. In the same way, we'll learn to pause our thoughts, and then we'll hear the clear, sweet, encouraging and inspiring tones of our spiritual Guide in our intellectual and moral beings. I'm not specifically talking about the religious life, or deliberate approaches to God in the form of prayer and praise. Almost all Christians understand these things fairly well. I'm talking about our intellectual mind. Developing children's intellectual minds is the whole aim of our subjects and educational methods.
What if we're willing to recognize this great truth, and to make it our business to accept and invite the Spirit's participation in our children's school lessons every day, and every hour? How should we adjust our own actions to make this Divine cooperation happen, or to even make it possible? We're told that the Spirit is life. So, it follows that anything that's dead, dry as dust, nothing but bare bones devoid of any life, can have no part with Him. All it can do is smother and deaden His life-giving influences. Therefore, the first condition of this Spirit-filled, life-giving teaching is that all the thoughts that we offer to children need to be living thoughts. Mere dry summaries of facts won't do. If children are given the vitalizing ideas, they'll be quite capable of hanging dry facts on those living ideas, which will be like pegs strong enough to hold everything that's needed. We begin by having faith in children as spiritual beings who have unlimited intellectual, moral, and spiritual abilities that can receive and constantly enjoy intuition from intimate communication with the Holy Spirit.
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If we begin with this concept of a child, then we'll realize that whatever seems dull and pointless to us is going to seem dull and pointless to him. Every subject can be taught with a fresh, living approach. Is it time for geography? The child can make discoveries right along with the explorer, go on journeys with the traveler, and receive new, vivid impressions from someone else's mind as his pen records his first impressions. Why should the child receive impressions that have been rendered flat and stale after intermediate editors have filtered through it and put what's left into a textbook? Is he learning history? He has no interest in strings of dates and lists of names, or pleasant little stories that have been dumbed down to their supposed comprehension level. We know better. We realize that his comprehension level is at least as great as our own, although we need to fill in surrounding circumstances and background information as best we can because he doesn't know about them yet.
We recognize that, for the child, history is all about living in the lives of those strong personalities that distinguish themselves in almost every age and every country. But you can't get that from pleasant little history books that have been written specifically for children, whether it's Maria Callcott's Little Arthur's History of England, or someone else's 'Outlines.' [perhaps 'Outlines of English History' by Ince, Ince and Gilbert ?] Instead, we take the child to living sources of history. Even a seven year old can fully understand Plutarch in his own words (translated into English) without any diluting and with very little explanation. If you give the child this kind of living thought, then you make it possible for the Divine Teacher to cooperate in history lessons. The child will progress by leaps and bounds, and you won't be able to pinpoint why. In the same way, when teaching music, if you let him
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understand the beautiful laws of harmony just once, and let him see the personality of the Music from the page of strange little black notes, then his piano lesson won't be a chore to him anymore.
We don't need to go into more details. Every subject has its own living way that it can be approached from. Coleridge says that every subject has 'a guiding idea' at its head. A lesson will only really educate a child when we discover the living way to teach it. No methodical, tidy system will be of any use--the very nature of a system is that it gets stale as it's used. Every subject, every section of each subject, in fact, every lesson needs to be analyzed before it's ever presented to the child to see whether it's living and vital enough to invite the cooperation of the living Intellect of the universe.
There's one more thing that's of vital importance. Children must have books--living books. Even the best books aren't too good for them. Anything less than the best isn't good enough for them. If there's a need to economize, then let all the extra luxuries that contribute to soft, comfortable living be sacrificed first before giving up the obligation of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of fresh books, that are needed to constantly stimulate the child's intellectual life. We don't need to say that the teacher needs to have living thought herself. After all, it's only when a teacher is intellectually alive that he can be effective in the wonderful process that we flippantly call 'education.'
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Listen to the carolers!
Slowly they play, poor careful Souls,
With wistful thoughts of Christmas joy,
Not realizing how their music eases
The weariness of the passing year.
And hearing their charming, simple song,
Our thoughts return to the innocence of our childhood
When our very heart beat in time
To the rhythm of the stars.
[from a poem by John Davidson]
In these days of equality, we like to think that everyone has the same opportunities in one direction or another. But not everything can be appreciated by everyone in the same way. Take Christmas joy, for example. Sometimes, those who are in need, or in sorrow, or suffering from some other hardship can enjoy the Christmas season with joy and thanksgiving because extra blessings are often bestowed on them. But it takes the presence of a child to help us realize the concept of Christ, the Eternal Child. The Spirit of the baby Jesus is with the children, and their presence makes us see the season through their eyes and take joy in their delight. Every mother
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rejoices in fullness of her own heart, and that makes her truly understand what the birth at Bethlehem means. Even those of us who don't have children catch some of that joy. We hear the wondrous Nativity story read in church, the carolers sing the tale, the church bells ring it, and fond memories of our own childhoods come back to us, making us humble and gentle, loving and sweet like little children. Unfortunately, it only lasts for a little while until the thought fades. All too soon, the dreariness of our mundane daily routine settles down on us again, and we have to admit that we start to get impatient with the cheerfulness that's expected of us at Christmas.
But it's not that way where there are children. The old, old story seems fresh and new as we tell it to the eager listeners. As we listen to it ourselves with all of their enthusiasm and rapt attention, it becomes as fresh and real to us as it is for them. Our harsh thoughts drop away from our minds like scales from our eyes. The children's young life makes us feel young again, and we're vaguely aware that, somehow, this is eternal life. What a mystery it is! Doesn't every mother who's experienced salvation feel with an apprehensive awe that when Jesus said, 'The same is my mother,' that it applies to her, too? [Matt 12:50; Mark 3:35]
Every child is a true St. Christopher--a literal 'Christ carrier.' The light and life of Jesus are within him. Every baby's birth is a message of salvation, as well as a reminder that we need to humble ourselves and become like little children. Maybe this is the secret of the world's progress--that every baby comes into the world with a message of hope and good news, and it can't help but to witness to his parents' hearts. We're also God's children, and He wants us to be like children. That's the message, and
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the newborn infant never fails to deliver it, even if we ignore it or forget it soon after we hear it. It's good for parents to reflect on these things because the child's state is a holy one, and it's the duty of parents to protect the little heir of blessedness.
It isn't possible to treat such a big subject comprehensively, but it might be useful to look at two or three characteristics of the child's state. After all, how can we protect what we don't even recognize, and how can we recognize something that we haven't given a careful look at? The mark of childhood is, more than anything else, humility. What we call innocence probably works like grace--it's offensive to man's nature until he crosses over and accepts and embraces it, and then he recognizes that it's something divine. An old, saintly writer, William Law, has an enlightening thought on this subject of humility:
'There has only been and only will be one humility in the whole world, and that's Christ's humility. No man since the fall of Adam has the smallest amount of humility unless it comes from Christ. Humility is one in the same sense and truth that Christ is one, the Mediator is one, redemption is one . . . There aren't two Lambs of God that take away the sin of the world. But if there was some other humility other than Christ's, then there'd have to be something else that could take away the sin of the world.' Now, if there's only one humility in the world, and if that humility is Christ's humility, and if Jesus said that little children are humble, it must be because of the divinity that dwells in them. It must be the glory in children that we call innocence.
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Our common concept of humility isn't quite accurate. We tend to think that it's a relative quality--we humble ourselves to this person or that person, we bow to princes and lord it over commoners. That's why, if we're really honest with ourselves, the quality of humility doesn't appeal to us. We feel like humility isn't consistent with self-respect and the kind of independent character we value. We've been taught that humility is a Christian trait, so we don't voice our distaste out loud. But this misconception makes us confused about a subject that's very important. Humility is absolute, it isn't relative. It has nothing to do with taking our place among our peers according to some scale, as if some are on a higher level than we are, and others are a few grades below us. The Bible makes no reference to a humble soul being above or below others. A humble person is just as humble whether he's with a baby, a beauty, a villain, a beggar, or a prince.
If we think about it, that's the way children are naturally. Everything and everybody draws their attention because everything and everybody seems so interesting to them. A little prince pleads, 'Please, can't I go make mud pies with the boy in the street?' He can't see any difference at all, and the little boy in the street would be just as unaffected if he were to meet the prince.
What's the secret of this absolute humility that can be equally humble to people of lower or higher class, and is oblivious to those kinds of distinctions? We tend to think that a humble person is someone who thinks negatively about himself. We think of a person who says things like, 'I can't do that, I'm just not that talented,' or, 'I'm not cut out for work with the public, I don't have any ability to influence people,' or,
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'I hope he'll be a better person than me; I don't think much of myself, anyway,' or, 'Your children are so blessed. I wish my children had a mother like you, but I don't have the kind of wisdom you do.' These kinds of things are often said without the least hint of Uriah Heep's pathetic self-depreciatory sentiment. The thing I have a problem with is that those who use these comments tend to think that, if nothing else, at least they have the saving grace of humility. It's worthwhile to remember that the Bible doesn't give any evidence that Jesus, the Example of humility that we're supposed to follow, ever made those kinds of self-depreciating remarks. Since there's no evidence that Jesus, who was all humility, had any of this kind of humility, then we should rethink our idea of what humility is. Children don't make self-depreciating remarks, either. That's because they're humble. With Jesus and children as our example of humility, we can be sure that humility has nothing to do with thinking too little of ourselves. Humility is a higher principle and a blessed state that very few grown-ups ever attain, but children live there naturally, and it's God's will that we should let them stay in that state of natural humility.
Humility doesn't think too highly of itself, and it doesn't think too little of itself. In fact, it doesn't think of itself at all. It's not a quality that you have, but a quality that you don't have. It's the absence of self-consciousness, not the presence of a specific virtue. A person who is unaware of himself is capable of all kinds of lowly tasks, all kinds of suffering for others, and being cheerful and optimistic in the face of small anxieties and frustrations in everyday life. This is the quality that makes heroes and saints. We might be capable of praying, but we can't truly worship or praise and say, 'My soul magnifies
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the Lord,' if we're self-absorbed in the innermost chambers of our hearts.
By its very nature, Christianity is objective. It offers a Divine Person Who is the Desire of the World for us to worship, reverence, serve, adore and delight in. Simplicity, happiness and a broadened heart result from a heart being outpoured onto something that is completely worthy. But we mistake what we really need, we're preoccupied with our own falls and our own repentance, and our many states of consciousness. We seem to think that our religion is more subjective than objective. But it's the opposite. Our religion is objective first, and if we still have any time or care to think about ourselves, it's partly subjective after that.
Children tend to be totally objective, not at all subjective. Maybe that's why they're said to be the first in the kingdom of heaven. This isn't some abstract philosophical distinction that has no bearing on everyday life. It's part of the key for training children. The more our training develops a subjective focus, the more it lowers our children's purpose, character and usefulness throughout their whole lives. But the more we develop the objective focus that our children are born with, the more we make them capable of love, service, heroism, and worship.
It's interesting to notice how every function of our complex human nature can have a subjective and an objective side. It's possible for a child to eat and drink and rest with absolutely no
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regard for those details because his parents take care of arranging those things in his best interests while making sure that his focus is never turned to the pleasures of appetite. But we don't need to dwell on this. Conscientious parents have no problem planning their children's meals so that they're usually pleasant and varied enough for the child to eat contentedly, with little or no thought about what he's eating. Most parents are careful enough that children aren't overly self-obsessed about what they eat.
But parents are less aware of the need to control their child's bodily sensations. We still kiss their boo-boo to make it better, and make an obvious fuss if a string is uncomfortable or a seam is irritating our child's tender skin. We've forgotten the seven Christian virtues and the seven deadly sins from earlier generations. As we raise our children, we don't really consider whether our children are developing the grace of endurance. Now, endurance has higher and lower roles. It's concerned with matters of the mind as well as physical things. I think it's safe to argue that endurance is only possible on the higher plane when it's become a habit in the lower [physical] nature. Babies can be trained to endure, and they'll be much happier for it. A child should learn that it's beneath him to notice cold, heat, pain or discomfort. We don't notice the bodily sensations that we don't focus on. It's possible to forget even a bad toothache if we're absorbed in some new and fascinating interest. Health and happiness are largely a matter of how much we can disregard sensations. The child who's encouraged to say things like, 'I'm freezing!' or, 'I'm so tired,' or, 'This shirt is scratching me,'
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is more likely to become a hypochondriac or a hysterical adult because, just like our appetites, it's a strict law that, the more focus we put on bodily sensations, the more they'll dominate us until the slightest sensation of pain or discomfort will overshadow our entire consciousness. Then we become unable to perceive any joy in living, or beauty in the earth.
But these are only the least important reasons why children should be trained to put up with minor discomforts and take no notice of them. A child who has been allowed to become self-aware of his sensations is in the same predicament as the child who's obsessed about his appetites--he has lost his child's condition. He's no longer humble, he's in a state where he's thinking about himself instead of that blessed condition of not being aware of himself at all. And we can't let ourselves make an exception for unhealthy or handicapped children. It's even more important for them than for healthy children to learn not to focus on their bodily sensations. There are many brave, heroic little children who endure affliction without any conscious thought. Because of that, their suffering is infinitely less than it would be if they were persuaded to dwell on their pains. I say persuaded because, although a child might cry when he feels a sudden discomfort, he doesn't really think about his aches and pains unless the people around him turn his thoughts to his ailments.
I'm not advocating a harsh Spartan regimen. We should never deliberately inflict harshness on a child to teach him to endure. Our concern is merely to redirect their awareness away from their own physical sensations. There's a well-known
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story about a man who had to have his leg amputated before there was any such thing as anesthesia. He endured it without any conscious sensations of pain because he determined to keep his mind occupied with other things. That's an extreme but noteworthy example of what can be done in the area of sensations. At the same time, while the child should be taught to disregard his own sensations, they should be carefully watched by his parents. They should consider and act on any danger signals that the child might miss because he's learned to disregard them. But it's usually possible to keep an eye on a child's sensations without him being aware that they're being observed.
This issue of sensations is only one example of how the operations of a child's complex nature can go in an altruistic direction, or an egotistic direction. In the same way, his affections are another area that can become subjective (self-focused) or objective (outward/others-focused), depending on the suggestions that he receives from those around him. 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
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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.
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.
This matter of humility isn't just a path to godly character,
vol 2 paraphrase pg 290
but might possibly be the highest road to godly character. It's a noble effort, and we suggest it to parents because we're confident that no endeavor is too difficult, no aim too high for those who are doing the most important part of advancing Christ's Kingdom by raising godly children.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 291
1. What did Rousseau wake parents up to? How did he do it?
2. In what ways is a family like a commune?
3. Why should the family be social? In what ways?
4. Show some ways in which families can serve struggling neighbors.
5. What ways are available for family to serve its country?
6. What is the Divine Order as it relates to families and their relationships with other nations?
7. Discuss some ways that families can be friendly towards other nations.
8. What do we mean by 'the restoration of the family'?
9. Add some comments of your own about each of the points discussed in this chapter.
1. In what ways is the family an absolute monarchy?
2. Explain why the parent's rule can't be delegated.
3. Give some reasons why parents sometimes abdicate.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 292
4. What makes up the 'majesty of parenthood'?
5. Explain how children are a public trust and a divine trust.
6. What are the limitations and scope of parental authority?
7. Add some comments from your own knowledge and experience about any of the points discussed in this chapter.
1. Explain and verify what is meant by 'parents owe their children a
2. How is this supported by science?
3. What steps and methods are needed to attain this second birth?
4. Summarize Dr. Maudsley's comments about heredity.
5. What's the difference between disposition and character?
6. What does Dr Maudsley say about the physical effects of 'certain experiences in life?'
7. List the articles in our era's great educational outline.
8. Comment on any of the points above.
1. Summarize the last chapter (chapter 3).
2. Why aren't the educational concepts of the past valid now?
3. Explain and define Pestalozzi's theory.
4. Explain and define Froebel's theory.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 293
5. In what ways is kindergarten a vital concept?
6. But science is changing from the foundations up. How does this change the way we think about education?
7. What bearing does heredity have on education?
8. Does education have any influence? Discuss this.
9. Explain why our individuality isn't at the mercy of speculative critics.Is this a good thing?
10. Why is the word 'education' inadequate?
11. How is the term 'bringing up' more accurate?
12. Give a more adequate definition. Explain why it's more adequate.
13. Explain the importance of 'method' being a way to reach a desired end.
14. Analyze how the life of the mind needs ideas to grow.
15. What is an idea?
16. Trace the rise and progress of an idea.
17. Tell about the beginning of an idea.
18. An idea can exist as a vague appetite. Give some examples.
19. Explain how children draw iInspiration from the everyday life around them.
20. Describe the order and progress of definite ideas.
21. What is Plato's doctrine of ideas?
22. Explain why nothing but ideas matter in education.
23. What should our educational formula be?
24. What is 'infallible reason'?
1. Why must parents be the ones who reveal God to their children?
2. Why must they be the ones to fortify their children against doubt?
3. What three ways are there of doing this?
vol 2 paraphrase pg 294
4. Why is the first way unfair?
5. Explain why 'evidence' isn't the same as proof.
6. How does the outlook on current thoughts affect young people?
7. Discuss children's right to free-will in thought.
8. What can be done to prepare them?
9. In what ways should children learn to have patient reservations in the area of science?
10. Knowledge is progressive. How should this affect our mental attitude?
11. Explain why children should learn some laws of thought.
12. Explain why children should inspect thoughts as they come.
13. What does the appeal of children rest on?
14. Explain why children should have the thought of God as a 'hiding-place.'
15. From your own experience, show that the mind of the child is like 'good ground.'
16. Is it true that children suffer from a deep-seated discontent? If so, why? Explain.
1. What is the main thing we have to do?
2. Which two concepts of God are especially appropriate for children?
3. Why shouldn't we 'work up slowly through the human side?'
4. What's the difference between logical certainty and moral right?
5. How might the Crucifixion seemed to a conscientous Jew? How about a patriotic Jew?
6. Which of a child's earliest ideas come from his parents?
7. Discuss a child's first approaches to God.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 295
8. Discuss the issue of using archaic language in children's prayers.
9. How is a child well suited for 'the shout of a King'?
10. How is a child well suited to fight for Christ against the devil?
11. 'It's so hard to be a Christian!' Is this typical of a child's experience?
1. What do we tend to expect the teacher to do for a child?
2. What are the different reasons why this is often left for the teacher to deal with?
3. What kind of children is the teacher successful with?
4. Why don't the habits of school life always carry over into the child's life?
5. Discuss Edward waverley as an example of mental 'slouching.'
6. Explain why we were never meant to grow up like wild and free animals in Nature.
7. Explain how the first function of the parent is that of discipline.
8. What's meant by 'Education is a discipline'?
9. What's the difference between discipline and punishment?
10. How are disciples attracted?
11. Explain how discipleship means steady progress using a careful plan.
1. How much does heredity count?
2. Explain why opportunity is valuable.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 296
3. Describe an interesting experiment in art education.
4. Explain why character is an achievement.
5. What are two ways of preserving sanity?
6. Explain why developing character is the bulk of education's work.
7. Give some reasons people sometimes use for doing nothing to develop character.
8. How does scientific research affect the issue of character training?
9. What's the parent's responsibility when it comes to positive family traits?
10. What's the parent's responsibility when it comes to distinctive qualities?
11. What are the four conditions of culture?
12. Explain how this works in the case of a child who inherited a gift for languages.
13. Why is working and wasting brain tissue necessary?
14. What is the danger of being eccentric?
15. What are some causes of weirdness in children?
16. How can we save our 'splendid failures'?
1. What is the ultimate purpose of education?
2. How are parents concerned with 'the defects of their qualities' in their children?
3. Give some examples of children with defects.
4. What's the special treatment in each case?
5. Explain why moral sicknesses need urgent attention.
6. Explain why 'one habit overcomes another' is such good news for parents.
7. How is there a physical record of educational efforts?
8. Why isn't a mother's love enough for child-training?
vol 2 paraphrase pg 297
1. Why are Sunday Schools necessary?
2. Explain why educated parents should teach their own children religion.
3. Describe a result of the Australian Parents' Union.
4. What is the gist of one committee's report on the 'Religious Education of the Upper and Middle Classes'?
5. What are some reasons why parents neglect this duty?
6. Discuss the issue of Scripture being discredited.
7. Discuss 'Miracles Don't Happen.'
8. Explain why our concept of God depends on miracles.
9. Discuss the concept that miracles are contrary to natural law.
10. Show how appropriate Christ's miracles are.
1. What does Mr. Huxley consider the only practical result of education?
2. Do we have an infallible sense of ought?
3. Explain the Bible's educational value as classic literature.
4. How might a mother's diary be useful?
5. Explain how fairy tales can be used in teaching morals.
6. Explain how fable can be used in teaching morals.
7. Explain how Bible stories can be used in teaching morals.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 298
8. Why should we use the Bible's original phrasing in our teaching?
9. Should Biblical miracles be used to teach children morals?
10. Should the whole Bible be given to children?
11. Name some moral rules from the Pentateuch.
12. Why are the 'Odyssey' and the 'Iliad' useful in moral teaching?
13. What's the main problem with 'secular morality'?
14. What is the benefit of lessons about duty?
15. Explain how manual training can be helpful with teaching morals.
16. What's wrong with careless moral teaching?
17. Why are methodical lessons in ethics important?
1. Explain how British educational thought tends to lean towards
2. What are Madame de Staël's thoughts about Locke?
3. Explain how our educational efforts lack any kind of definite aim.
4. Explain how we're on the verge of chaos.
5. Explain how we're also in the midst of an educational revolution.
6. Is our system of education going to come from naturalism or idealism?
7. Can you comment on the ethical perspective in education?
8. Explain how no attempt has been made to unify education.
9. What is Philosophy's claim about why it should be an educational tool?
vol 2 paraphrase pg 299
10. Why should a nation be educated for its proper functions?
11. How do minor morality issues become matters of habit?
12. How is a habit initiated?
13. Can the spiritual world have some kind of impact on the physical world?
14. How is children's individuality safeguarded?
1. Why are 'sacred' and 'secular' not religious distinctions?
2. How does all communication of thought happen?
3. Why is it obvious and natural that the Father of Spirits should maintain open access to men's spirits?
4. Why is easy tolerance such a bad thing?
5. Explain how man lives by faith, whether he's dealing with God or man.
6. What is faith in God?
7. How is faith natural?
8. Explain why faith isn't an impulse that we generate ourselves.
9. Comment on the worship of faith.
10. How does Canon Beeching define righteousness?
1. Why is poetry valuable to education?
2. How is Beowulf our English Ulysses?
3. Explain how Beowulf represents the English ideal.
4. Can you give any examples of English riddles?
vol 2 paraphrase pg 300
1. Explain how we're facing a moral crisis.
2. How does this crisis show that we truly do love our brother?
3. How are we affected by the 'idol of size'?
4. For whose benefit? Explain how this attitude can have a paralyzing effect.
5. Can character be changed?
6. What is the question of the age?
7. What is the essential miracle?
8. Why do we doubt that Booth's plan will be successful for those who inherit a cruel nature?
9. Why do we doubt that Booth's plan will be successful for those who are immoral because of ingrained habit?
10. Why do we doubt that Booth's plan will be successful for those who have corrupt imaginations?
11. What hope is there in the latest word from science regarding heredity?
12. Explain how education is stronger than inherited nature.
13. Explain how there's a physical preparation for salvation.
14. Explain why conversion is no miracle.
15. Explain why conversion is not contrary to natural law.
16. Explain how there can be many conversions in the course of a lifetime.
17. What are the conditions bearing on the power of an idea?
18. Discuss how the concept of powerful ideas is compatible with Christianity.
19. Why is healing treatment necessary?
20. Why is it a relief to be included in a strong organization?
21. Tell how work and fresh air help.
1. What do people usually mean by discipline?
2. What's the difference between a method and a system?
vol 2 paraphrase pg 301
3. Comment on 'wise passiveness.'
4. Discuss the concept of punishment by consequences.
5. Why do children sometimes enjoy punishment?
6. Explain how wrongdoing is followed by its own penalties.
7. Does punishment reform?
8. What are the best teachers?
9. Comment on the mother who's 'always reminding' her children to do this or that.
10. Give nine practical suggestions for a parent who wants to deal seriously with a bad habit.
11. For example, how would you deal with a nosy child?
1. Explain how 'common sense' is usually based on scientific opinion.
2. Where do the senses originate?
3. Why sensations be treated with objective interest?
4. Why are object lessons no longer popular?
5. Explain how a baby works hard at object lessons.
6. What effect do Nature's early lessons have?
7. What two things do we need to be concerned with when it comes to educating the senses?
8. Explain why object lessons, to be of any use, need to be casual and unplanned.
9. What advantages does the home have in this sort of teaching?
10. How should children learn to be careful with positive [absolute] and comparative [relative] term?
11. How would you deal with a child's indiscriminate use of labels?
vol 2 paraphrase pg 302
12. How would you teach a child to judge weight?
13. How would you teach a child to judge size?
14. How would you teach a child to discriminate sounds?
15. How would you teach a child to discriminate smells?
16. How would you teach a child to discriminate flavors?
17. Can you give some suggestions for sensory training?
18. Can you give some suggestions for sensory exercises?
1. What are reflected sensations?
2. Explain how this gives us a good reason for storing outdoor memories.
3. How are delightful memories a source of physical well-being?
4. How are delightful memories a source of mental refreshment?
5. What's the difference between sensations and feelings?
6. Why should feelings be objective rather than subjective?
7. Explain what feelings are, and what they're not.
8. Explain how every feeling has its positive and its negative.
9. Are feelings moral or immoral?
10. What is the connection between unremembered feelings, and actions?
11. Certain little deeds might be the best part of a good man's life. Why?
12. Is the perception of character a feeling?
13. Discuss its subtlety and its usefulness.
14. How do feelings influence our behavior?
15. Discuss enthusiasm.
16. How do most of our activities originate?
17. Explain why we modify the character when we educate the feelings.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 303
18. Comment on the sixth sense of tact.
19. Why should we beware of words?
20. How is a feeling communicated?
21. What is it that differentiates people?
22. Explain why dealing with children's feelings is a delicate task.
1. Explain how, as a nation, we are losing and gaining in truthfulness.
2. What are the two theories regarding lying?
3. Is lying an underlying problem, or a secondary symptom?
4. How would you treat false guilt?
5. How would you treat the heroic lie?
6. How would you handle 'be true to friends, but it's okay to lie to enemies'?
7. How would you treat lies motivated by selfishness?
8. How would you treat deceptions caused by imagination and play?
9. How would you treat psuedomania?
10. How should children be trained to be truthful?
1. What good things have come of asking 'why'?
2. Why does Tyler go to school?
3. Explain how this same impulse carries him through school and college.
4. What's the tendency of studious grind?
5. Explain how the tyranny of competitive exams is supported by parents.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 304
6. Are exams themselves evil?
7. Under what conditions should exams be held?
8. What are the primary desires?
9. Are those desires virtuous or vicious?
10. What do they do for us?
11. Explain how, throughout a child's school career, one natural desire displaces another one's rightful place.
12. Why are schoolchildren no longer curious?
13. How is this harmful to children?
14. Describe how ambition is an easier spring to work with than curiosity.
15. Discuss how an exam-ridden empire would be a disaster.
1. How much of education's ideal should be different for each
2. What differences are there in areas like vocabulary and imagination between children of educated parents, and children whose parents are uneducated?
3. When is it important to develop children's 'faculties,' and when isn't it?
4. What are the main things that a teacher needs to do?
5. Why is it important to recognize the physical and spiritual principles of human nature?
6. How does this lead us to recognize the Supreme Teacher?
7. How can we assess the value of school subjects?
8. How does Nature knowledge educate a child?
9. Comment on the use of good books in education.
10. Discuss the concept of a specific 'child-nature.'
11. Why are we fiercely protective of children's individuality?
vol 2 paraphrase pg 305
12. Why do we need to consider the 'proportion of things' in our
13. Explain why children have a right to knowledge.
1. Explain how character is an achievement.
2. What is the origin of conduct?
3. What ways can we modify temperament?
4. Trace the life history of a habit.
5. How can a bad habit be corrected?
6. Explain how what we do generally depends on unconscious or subconscious thinking.
7. How do the habits of well-raised people make their lives easier for them?
8. Why does developing a new habit take time?
9. Trace the way a logical notion develops.
10. Explain why Reason isn't an infallible guide to direct our actions.
11. Explain how confusion between what's logical and what's morally right influences the history of the world.
12. So then, why is it important for a child to know that he's a human being?
13. How is knowing this a safeguard?
14. What's the Will's role in receiving ideas?
15. How are ideas conveyed?
16. What does the Supreme Teacher's do regarding spiritual and secular things?
17. What role do lessons play in education?
18. Because children have a natural attraction to knowledge, what kind of curriculum do they have a right to?
vol 2 paraphrase pg 306
1. How did people perceive children in past generations?
2. What mental labor does a child go through in his first year?
3. Comment on the intelligence of children.
4. Discuss how children are highly gifted, but ignorant.
5. Which is better as an educational model - happy and good, or good and happy?
6. How should educational systems be tested?
7. Explain our obligation to advance with the tide.
1. How are children great?
2. What does wisdom mean?
3. Explain wisdom increases, but intelligence doesn't.
4. Explain how all possibilities are present in a child.
5. Explain how we all live for the advancement of the race.
6. Explain how 'From where' concerns the child's ability.
7. Explain how 'To where' concerns current thought.
8. How should current thought influence education in the area of science?
9. How should current thought influence education in the area of art?
10. How should current thought influence education as it relates to books?
vol 2 paraphrase pg 307
11. How should the concept of the solidarity of the race affect
12. How can we teach children that serving is a promotion?
13. How can we guard them from considerations of expediency?
1. Explain how education isn't divided into religious and secular.
2. Explain how knowledge, like virtue, is divine.
3. Do we have any authority to confirm that science, art and poetry come 'by the Spirit'?
4. Do we have any Scriptural lessons about where the concepts for common, routine things came from?
5. Explain how divine teaching waits for our cooperation.
6. What kind of teaching invites, and what kind repels divine co-operation?
7. Explain how recognizing this great truth resolves discord in our lives.
8. How does this concept protects us from intellectual sin?
9. How does it bring harmony to our efforts?
10. Why does our teaching need to be fresh and living?
11. Why must books be living?
12. Why can't we abdicate our responsibility by using some methodical, tidy system?
13. Why do children need the best books?
1. Explain how every baby bears witness of Christ.
2. Explain how children are humble.
vol 2 paraphrase pg 308
3. Explain why humility is absolute, not relative.
4. Discuss how the Christian religion is very objective.
5. Discuss how children tend to be objective.
6. Explain why we need to be careful that every function has an objective focus, not a subjective one.
7. What role should endurance play in education?
8. Explain why a child who's focused on himself is no longer humble.
9. Discuss how children's sensations and affections can tend towards an altruistic direction, or an egotistic one.
10. How can we apply this to a child's complaint that, 'It's not fair'?
11. Discuss how humility is the highest road to godly character.
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Paraphrased by L. N. Laurio; Please direct comments or questions to AmblesideOnline.