The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The "P.R." Letter Bag.

Volume 15, 1904, pg. 233-234

[The Editor is not responsible for the opinions of Correspondents]

DEAR MADAM,--I have been very much interested in the manifesto issued by the Parents' National Educational Union, and in Mr. Bradley's reply to it, and I should be grateful if you would allow me, as a teacher of many years' experience, to put in a plea for the oral lesson.

I grant, in the first place, that the oral lesson has been greatly abused; that children, especially in the large classes common in High Schools, have been too much lectured; and that the teacher has often done the greater part of the work, while the pupils' minds have remained inactive. At the same time, and especially in such subjects as Geography, Literature and History, I think that the oral lesson is an indispensable adjunct to right teaching. For, after all, the personality of the teacher is an immensely important factor in education, and knowledge that is conveyed by word of mouth is much more stimulating, vivid and educative than that which is merely conveyed of the printed page.

The oral lesson must not be a substitute for books; rather should it break the ground and prepare the way for the right use of books. But in this matter, everything depends on the parent or teacher, and just as the oral lesson became fashionable owing to the reaction against the old custom of setting a dry passage from a dull book to the learned by heart, so its abuse may throw discredit on what is really an indispensable means of education.

With apologies for occupying so much of your space.
Yours faithfully,
C. L. Thomson,
Examiner in English Literature to the Central Welsh Board,
Joint-Principal of the Kensington Gardens School.

63, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park Square, W.
December 18th, 1903.

[We are sorry that want of space has compelled us to hold over Miss C. L. Thomson's letter so long. We value this lady's opinion because she has given us, through the press, various proofs of the fact that she herself loves books. But, has every teacher who gives an oral lesson the necessary literary power? Does the "personality of the teacher" conduce to love of books, or to a love to the teacher and her "lovely lessons"? And, this is the real question at issue, do oral lessons create a book-hunger, or do they not lead to a dependence upon lectures? We hold with the writer that "the oral lesson is an indispensable adjunct to right teaching." The point is, shall oral lessons or books play the principal part in the work of our schools? We shall be glad of a further discussion of this subject.--ED.]

DEAR EDITOR,--I have read with much pleasure and sympathy the paper on "The Education of Children in True Religion and Worship," in the January number of this review. But are not the passages recommending the attendance of children at the Holy Communion, Children's Eucharists, and Prayers for the Dead, out of place in the Parents' Review, which does not, I think, undertake to publish the extreme views of any religious party or sect, even from the pen of a devout and thoughtful writer? This is not the place to state the theological objections to the practices mentioned and the teaching they embody, even if I had the ability and inclination to do so. The estimate of children, implied in the passages to which I take exception, is at variance with P.N.E.U psychology and teaching, and even inconsistent with some of the other statements in the article. We believe that although children* "are persons like ourselves" they are necessarily without the complex experience, intellectual and spiritual, which life brings, and hence "there are some ideas of the spiritual life more proper than others to the life and needs of the child."

*Parents' Review, Vol. V.

The consequences of expecting children to share the religious experiences of adults, as at Holy Communion and Revival Meetings, are likely to be the "hypocrisy and insincerity" which the writer of the paper truly says are to be feared when children are allowed to use hymns "which portray emotions far beyond their ken."

Again, we believe with the writer of the paper that, in spite of this ignorance and inexperience, a "child's mind is nearer heaven than ours," and that "the spiritual perceptions are never so piercing as in childhood." Are we not then "despising" children, in New Testament language--undervaluing them when we do not recognise that because they are still walking in the light which for us, alas! has faded into common day, the things of this earth have for them a sacramental character? They do not need the Sursum Corda of the ordinance, so precious to the adult Christian, to lift them into another sphere for spiritual communion. If I may slightly alter the well-known words, I would say of them--

"Two worlds are theirs.
'Tis only sin forbids us to descry
The mystic heaven and earth between
Plain as the sea and the sky."

Although I have thus expressed my strong dissent from certain passages in the paper, I cannot conclude without also expressing my sympathy with the truly Christian tone in which it is written.


DEAR EDITOR,--A member has written me saying that she has eight volumes of the Parents' Review to give away. Will you, through your columns, kindly make this known, and ask anyone who would like them to apply to me?

Yours faithfully,
26, Victoria Street, S.W.

DEAR EDITOR,---I should be so grateful if any mother could tell me of a good history of the Kings of Judah, suitable for children 10-14. I am anxious to find one that deals with the state of the country, people, morals, etc., the prophets that taught, wrote and prophesied in each reign, the sins that called forth their warnings and denunciations, and the punishments that followed the disregard and disobedience to their exhortations. I know this can be worked out in Clews to Holy Writ [by Mary Louisa Georgina Petrie Carus-Wilson, 1894], but at the present have no time to do it properly myself, but am most anxious to start the course of teaching on the subject at once.

Yours faithfully,
Strensham, Worcester,
January 26th, 1904.

Typed by Blossom Barden, June, 2023; Proofread by LNL, June, 2023