The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Threefold Education

By Leader Scott.
Volume 2, 1891/92, pg. 832-849

[Lucy Baxter, 1837-1902, began writing at age 18, and used her earnings to visit Italy, where she met and married a man from Florence. She wrote many books, many related to Italy, under the pen name "Leader Scott," both maiden names of her grandmothers.]

And God said, Let us make man in our own image after our likeness.--Gen. i. 26.

There is no text which emphasises the threefold complexity of human nature more distinctly than this one with its significant plurals. It has been taken by the earliest writes as a proof of the Divine essence in man, and of his triune nature.

St. Augustine says that the three persons in one divine essence were, in some mystic way, reflected by the triad of the human soul, reason and freewill, though he adds that "the image of God in man is only a partial and not a perfect resemblance." The truly happy man can only exist in the complete harmony of good health, clear intelligence, and pure conscience.

A body abnormally trained materialises the mind; intellect, over-educated, ruins the physical health; while a person who is "all soul" is unfitted to compete with the world. Education then should not be exclusively intellectual, as is our English system, but it ought to be physical, intellectual, and psychical, thus aiding the development of man's nature equally in all its three forms.

This truth has been recognised by many of the deepest thinkers of the last century. Rousseau says education may, in a certain sense, be said to be triple--the education of nature, of man, and of circumstances. "The development of the interior of our faculties and organs is the education of nature; the use we are taught to make of this development is the education of man; and the acquisition of our own experience in respect to the objects which operate upon us is the education of circumstances."

"What a fine heritage you will leave to your posterity," said Lady Morgan once to the Marquis de la Fayette, as she passed into one of his finest chateaux. "Chere madame," he replied, "there is but one fine heritage--it is a good moral, intellectual, and physical education." "And a right direction of their intelligence for the benefit of society," said she. Here, too, is Daniel Webster's ideal. "Knowledge," he says, "does not comprise the whole of education. The feelings are to be disciplined, the passions restrained, true and worthy motives are to be inspired, a profound religious principle instilled, and pure morality cultivated under all circumstances." All this is comprised in education.

Let us glance at the relative proportion of training in the typical English school. The mind is certainly filled, or would be so if the pupils assimilated all the mental pabulum offered to them. There are classes, lectures, and lessons innumerable, perhaps too many and too didactic. It is a question to be considered whether the system might not be improved into a more truly educative one, which would cram the mind less and train the reason more, leading the child to self-development, by guiding him to seek conclusions instead of having the result of knowledge given him whole. However this be, the mental instruction is plentiful, and the young minds are stimulated to receive it by the prizes and medals awarded to the best learners.

We have also our full physical training; every facility is provided to make our boys and girls strong and healthy. Prizes are offered for gymnastics, and honours reward prowess in sport and athletics. In fact, and rightly so, muscles are as much trained as brains, and if they do not reach as high in the estimation of the masters, they certainly are more respected by the scholars.

But when we come to psychical training, we seem to fall short, and have little to show. What systematic teaching have we in our public schools for the development of the morale, and what prizes or honorary distinctions are bestowed on the scholar whose virtues are most trained?

There is, it is true, that vague environment which distinguishes the best schools, and is called tone--a tacitly understood standard of morality and code of honour; and there are the Bible-reading and the college chapel as means of religious instruction. But the means are too vague and impersonal to reach the end effectively. The Bible-reading is perfunctory, and seldom, if ever, put to practical use during the day. The sermon?--well! we all know the attitude of a schoolboy towards a sermon; it is a thing to be sat through and endured with such distractions as his roving eyes and thoughts can find. The preacher must scatter his seed broadcast, and it is only into one boyish heart in ten that some unusually earnest sentence sinks in and bears fruit.

It should be required that the moral and religious teaching be made as personal and practical as the school lessons and physical exercise are. For instance, if instead of a girls' school reading chapter by chapter straight through the Bible, a certain verse were given every morning, and expected to be made the keynote to conduct throughout the day, a short "talk" on the text and its bearings on personal action taking place between the teacher and the girls in the morning, a much more practical use of the Scriptures would be the result.

It is one of the laws of education that application should follow and be the test of knowledge. Would reading and hearing lectures on gymnastics do anything towards developing the muscles of a child unless the actual exercise were added? And how much knowledge of mathematics would a class attain to by mere lectures, if the attention were not kept up by knowing that the practical test of working out the problems would be required of them?

If in these things practice is bound to follow on knowledge, how much more should it be required in the training of a soul, which is the ruling spirit of the human being? School morality may keep a boy from "sneaking" or tale-bearing, from telling a lie, or crying out when caned, in fact it "may make a man of him;" but only a man, mark you! For it does not teach him the Christlike quality of mercy to the younger and more helpless lad whom he scorns as a new chum, and is permitted to fag or to domineer over in the character of prefect or monitor, nor does it teach him to respect the sanctity of innocence in the child fresh from home who is not allowed to say his prayers without undergoing a moral martyrdom of derision for being "goody goody;' nor does he learn justice to the rival from whom he is using every means fair and foul to wrest the prize, nor humility to give honour to others besides himself. A boy who neglects his lessons in punished, one who shirks his games is admonished, but what is the stimulus and how is it applied to urge the full use of moral faculties?

Indeed, it might be almost feared that selfishness is actually cultivated by the system of competition which tends to nullify a lad's sympathy, and makes it his chief ambition to boast " I can lick Tom Harris." Or "I can tell Joe Brown he hasn't a shadow of a chance against me for the mathematical prize," &c. Again, has not the system of fagging--now, happily, almost extinct, or nominally so--been for a long time a direct encouragement to overbearing cruelty? In the national character this quality if euphonised as "dominance," and pride in "English supremacy" is the keynote to an Englishman's mental attitude towards the world.

May English supremacy hold its place for ever and aye,--as long, that is, as it is duly tempered with mercy and justice, but if true test of moral right were applied to our national conduct, it might be found that among its brilliant achievements this quality of dominance has left many a stain on England's dealings with conquered nations abroad, and many a slur on her acts at home, where wealth is made an idol, and men sacrifice both principles and truth to it and tread down the classes beneath them in their eagerness to attain it. It was an axiom of Thiers that a national education which gives a nation neither religion nor morality, nor civil liberty, nor political liberty, is an education not worth having, and good old Archbishop [John] Sumner in one of his charges put his veto on the arguments with, "We therefore cannot doubt but that the only sound, secure and proper system of education--that on which is constructed the edifice of human knowledge--must be based on religion and morality, and that any other is totally incompatible with the happiness of the individual and of the community of which he is a member."

The subject is a great one and requires a stronger hand than mine to cope with it. I can only throw out a few slight suggestions. For instance, there might be a series of lessons or lectures on similar lines to those on political economy, and class books simply and clearly written on the subject of the moral qualities and their action, on conscience, its uses and training, so that even a child may learn the natural results of his actions and opinions on his own character and happiness and on those of others. He should be shown how virtues neglected in the cultivation degenerate into those weeds of character which we call vices, and how a fault may by a right direction be improved into a virtue and rendered useful instead of noxious, how national sufferings and sins come from the general tone of its individuals, and how the well-doing of the mass depends on the consciences of the units. I believe we have no such class book as this in our curriculum' but Italians are ahead of us in this direction. They use in their normal schools a book named "Dei Dirittie e de Doveri" (on rights and duties), by Guiseppe Allievo, and "Sunti di Morale," by Professor Angelo Volentieri. For the Liceo and Gimasio, which answer to our grammar schools and high schools, they use an adaptation of Silvio Pellico's "Dei Doveri degli Nomini" (on the duties of man), and in the very infant schools you may hear a young mistress asking a row of little black-eyed scholars "Have we any obligations or duties to fulfil in the world?" and the tiny mites will answer with a triad, "We have three kinds of duties, duty towards God, towards our neighbours, and towards ourselves." A second triad answers the question on duty to God, "To know, to love, and to serve Him"--the action of the mind, heart, and body; duty to one's parents is also tripled by the same distribution to obedience, respect, and gratitude.

[Proofreader's note: perhaps this is what inspired Charlotte Mason to write "Ourselves" in 1905?]

"What are our duties towards ourselves?" asks the mistress. "There are many; some belong to our body, some to our intelligence, and others to our will," reply the child metaphysicians, and a socratic argument brings out from the children themselves a description of these complex duties. The elder scholars at the normal schools are brought through a series of chapters on the definition of man, society, and government, and the explanations of rights and duties, till in the chapter on natural rights they reach a similar conclusion. "It follows then that every man has by nature the triple right to happiness, truth and virtue, or in other terms he essentially possesses the faculty of developing his personal activity, as much as, and in the manner which, is necessary to the scope of the threefold human well being." The section treating of civil rights is also very well argued, and ends with a clear description of the organisation of the national government--a limited monarchy, which, it is judged, best respects the rights of its subjects. The teaching is in fact a system of elementary political economy in its higher sense, and something similar adapted to English morality and society might be a very useful school book to begin the development of the oral and social faculties and the laws which should govern them. If the boy who cribs his lessons were taught that truth lies as much in deed as in word, would he not as a man be ashamed of giving his fellows adulterated bread and shoddy clothing? If the boy were trained to acknowledge the equal rights of others, would the man's conscience allow him to enrich himself by the ruin of his fellow men?

It is a theory, or shall I say a credence, that while the school takes care of the mind, the parents and the home train the soul. It ought to be so, and there are hundreds of blessed homesteads in England where the souls of the children grow and blossom out into sweet Christian deeds like flowers in God's sunshine, but these are not the majority. In numberless cases it would be very difficult for parents living in society, and devoting themselves to appearances, to live up to the principles they feel they ought to be teaching their children. Others would not know where to begin moral training, for few realise that it begins in the cradle, and that every word and action of the parents has its influence on the soul-growth of the child.

The awakening of the conscience and the making it active ought certainly to be the starting point of moral growth as soon as the child has enough perception to know right from wrong. This is very much sooner than people think, as we see from the fact that very young babies creep out of sight of the nurse when in mischief.

A child should never be forced to do anything which it is conscious of being wrong, and when once the conscience becomes an active influence, the ground is prepared for all other moral teaching.

Let the teaching be made as light and pleasant as possible, so that goodness may become what it was meant by God to be--happiness, and wrong-doing unhappiness, not from outward punishment but from inward uneasiness. For home influence there are several ways of waking up children to the active and intelligent use of the moral faculties. A mother of a family having this aim in view and not wishing to make preachments which might be repellent to the lightness of childhood instituted what she called the "thinking bag." A list of questions on a specified moral subject was appended to a certain bag on the wall of the children's day room. Each one was allowed a week for thought and for the writing of a little essay (anonymous) on the subject, the questions were of course only to give form and show the lines the theme was to go upon. For instance, one week the subject was conscience, and the questions were:--

1. What is conscience?

2. What is the difference between conscience and inclination?

3. How do we know whether we are following the one or the other, and when may we safely act according to inclination?

4. What are the outward guides of conscience?

It may be thought that these are difficult questions for young children, but the result proved that they were capable of thinking them out. A young girl of thirteen thus defined the distinction: "Conscience is the voice of the Holy Spirit within us telling us whether we do right or wrong. The soul is the part nearer to God, so conscience leads us to do what God wishes us. Inclination is the part nearer ourselves, and by following it without asking our conscience we often do wrong." The youngest member, who had not mastered the art of spelling, wrote that the voice of conscience "is so small that often the wish to do a thing for our own sake, called inclination, chokes conscience and makes us wicked. But when we do not listen to it we feel uneasy and want to repent." All the children named the Ten Commandments, the teaching of the Apostles, and the life of Christ as the outward guides. Another week the subject was "Self and other selves," with the questions: --

1. What is, or ought to be, the course of our life in regard to others?

2. Are we all free to please ourselves, and has this freedom any limit?

3. What effect has selfishness in one person's conduct on the happiness of a household?

4. Does selfishness lead us into any other sins; if so, what are they?

5. What virtues do we train by unselfishness?

6. Give some instances from history of this fault, and show the consequences which resulted.

Here the children got hold of some valuable truths, such as, "The greatest happiness that can be had in the household is peace, and to have that peace we must practice unselfishness." "Of course we have a right to do what we like as far as it does not bother or annoy other people, but even if it is a very small thing, and only a small person is annoyed, it ought to be stopped if possible." "All this might be expressed in one word, which is Love." The youngest but one went into realism and described the histories of a selfish family very graphically, from the mother who neglected her children for visiting friends, the elder sister who read novels, and the little ones quarrelling in the nursery. The historical characters, of course, marked the children's favourite hero or pet aversion. The essays were taken out of the bag on Sunday evening and read, their anonymous character being respected. Any explanatory talk on the subject was held after the reading, questions standing alone beforehand to get the children's spontaneous reflections on them, and the result was enough to prove that very young people can think and reason much more deeply than their elders imagine, and that psychology in its elementary forms is as fit a study as geography and history. Indeed, it forms an aid to the intelligent understanding of history.

Another practical hint as to the threefold application of teaching may be gathered from a little Italian book for boys named "Testa" (head), written by the well-known Professor Paolo Mantegazza. Strange to say, he has put his pearl of wisdom into the mouth of a priest Don Evarista, who, when a lad of his flock was embarking on his first voyage, said that though he had no rich parting gift to offer he would give the boys of his best--a present of good counsel. "Every day when you rise," he continued, "and have offered your prayers, you must propose three good things to be done during the day, and every evening before you go to sleep examine yourself to know if the three things are done." The boy acted on this, dividing his three good things thus--a moral action, a mental lesson, and a physical exercise. In after years, when passing on this same counsel to his little nephew, he said, "I have of late years read many philosophical books, but I can assure you that in them all I found that the really good simple and pure philosophy was only that which I had in my mind when I tried to make myself better day by day." The little nephew takes up the advice, and here are a few entries from his private chronicle: --

1st day.--Find out which are my defects in mind, body, and heart.

2nd day.--Get up early and not shrink from the cold bath.
Name the best man whose life I have read, and say why he is the best.
Find why I don't like Tom as well as I used. Is it my fault or his? Can I help it?

3rd day.--I find in rowing my left arm is weakest: I will strengthen it.
Find whose legislation has most improved England, and in what way.
I don't like to be laughed at and called young; will overcome the feeling.

4th day.--I will learn to write with my left hand; translate into French a page of my favourite book.
I fought Tom yesterday, knowing he was right in calling me a "sneak." I will apologise today.

Think what the world might become if every man, woman, and child in it were to do an action which raised himself or benefited his neighbour every day. Why! A kingdom of 38 million inhabitants would be bettered by 13,870,000,000 good deeds, and as many wise thoughts and healthy actions. And this might be the case if from infancy we taught our children to daily exercise their hearts and consciences and expand their moral faculties equally with their limbs and brains. Surely in a few generations some of the evils which come of a selfish and immoral use of talents, capital and power would be remedied, and the state of society be higher and purer.

Typed October 2013 by Dawn Duran; Proofread by LNL, June 2024