No one waxes a rented car
The speaker was making a point about the difference between employee mentality and business owner mentality; that, generally speaking, people care more for something, in this case a business, when they are the ones who own it.
What about in Education? Do you think the same principle applies?
In Vol. 6, Chapter 7 Charlotte Mason talks about Herbartian Education. While I don't know anything about it myself, reading CM's notes it sounds very much like what we find in Unit Studies today (Konos, lapbooks, etc.).
She goes through an example of "A Robinson Crusoe Concentration Scheme," a series of lessons given to children in Elementary School.
First we have nine lessons in literature and language, the subjects being such as 'Robinson climbs a hill and finds he is on an island.' Then, ten object lessons of which the first is,––The Sea, the second, A Ship from Foreign Parts, the sixth, A Life-Boat, the seventh, Shell-Fish, the tenth, A Cave. ... The third series are drawing lessons, probably as many, a boat, a ship, an oar, an anchor and so on. Then follows a series on manual training, still built upon 'Robinson'; the first, a model of the seashore; then models of Robinson's island, of Robinson's house, and Robinson's pottery. The next course consists of reading, an infinite number of lessons,––'passages from The Child's Robinson Crusoe and from a general reader on the matters discussed in object lessons.' Then follows a series of writing lessons, "simple compositions on the subject of the lessons. ... the children framed the sentences which the teacher wrote on the blackboard and the class copied afterwards." Here is one composition,––"Robinson spent his first night in a tree. In the morning he was hungry but he saw nothing round him but grass and trees without fruit. On the sea-shore he found some shell-fish which he ate." ... Arithmetic follows with, no doubt, as many lessons, many mental examples and simple problems dealt with Robinson"; the eighth and last course was in singing and recitation,––'I am monarch of all I survey,' etc. "The lessons lasted about forty-five minutes each.
It seems like a great idea. There is so much that can be built upon any one of our books that we read. And why not?
Here is CM's view:
The whole thing must be highly amusing to the teacher, as ingenious amplifications self-produced always are: that the children too were entertained, one does not doubt. .. but of one thing we may be sure, an utter distaste, a loathing, on the part of the children ever after, not only for 'Robinson Crusoe' but for every one of the subjects lugged in to illustrate his adventures.
The conscientious, ingenious and laborious teachers who produce these 'concentration series' are little aware that each such lesson is an act of lese majesté. ... every approach to knowledge suggests avenues for boredom, and the children's minds sicken and perish long before their school-days come to an end.
That children like feeble and tedious oral lessons, feeble and tedious story books, does not at all prove that these are wholesome food; they like lollipops but cannot live upon them; yet there is a serious attempt in certain schools to supply the intellectual, moral, and religious needs of children by appropriate 'sweetmeats.'
As I have said elsewhere, the ideas required for the sustenance of children are to be found mainly in books of literary quality; given these the mind does for itself the sorting, arranging, selecting, rejecting, classifying...
In my afternoon's reading I came upon another very apposite remark in the letters of John Stuart Mill. Let me read it to you:
"What the poor, as well as the rich, require is not to be taught other people's opinions, but to be induced and enabled to think for themselves..."
Our chief concern for the mind or for the body is to supply a well-ordered table with abundant, appetising, nourishing and very varied food, which children deal with in their own way and for themselves.
Speaking about an 11 year old girl who had vividly told her mother about all the things she saw in a museum, CM writes...
and of the effort involved in teaching and learning...
Education is not after all to either teacher or child the fine careless rapture we appear to have figured it. We who teach and they who learn are alike constrained; there is always effort to be made in certain directions; yet we face our tasks from a new point of view. We need not labour to get children to learn their lessons; that, if we would believe it, is a matter which nature takes care of. Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn them with delight. ... As we have already urged, there is but one right way, that is, children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages and tell what they have read, they must perform, that is, what we may call the 'act of knowing'.
And there it is - the children must own the knowledge, it must be theirs, they must be the ones who perform the act of knowing. And when lessons are so contrived, so predigested and so prepared with all the connections already made, who is really the one doing all the work?
How we balance this to ensure that they are the ones performing the act of knowing, while also being involved enough to ensure rigor and right direction is the topic of our local meeting this month, which I am very much looking forward to. I hope to post some of what we glean from our discussion here later this month.
In the meantime, Ambleside Online continues to provide subtle opportunities for my children to own their knowledge and experience excitement in their ability to make connections themselves.
The hymn we learned in January was O God, Our Help in Ages Past, which Isaac Watts wrote as a paraphrase of Psalm 90.
Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men:”
At the same time, in reading Chapter X of Children of the New Forest, Jacob Armitage, a sort of father figure to four children, dies and leaves them with the task of placing him in the grave and saying a few words over him. In trying to find a proper portion of the Bible to read, the children recall Psalm 90 "that the days of man are threescore years and ten."
A connection my daughter was perfectly capable of making herself.
We also read in Our Island Story, Chapter 78 how Charles I was Brought to his Death, which is the history set as the backdrop for the story Children of the New Forest.
Admittedly, my daughter did confuse the story a bit thinking that in Children of the New Forest they burned the King's house - which they didn't, they burned the children's house and beheaded the King as they did in real life, so I did clarify that.
But what I love is that she is thinking on these connections. She is pondering, comparing and bringing up the topic to point out her perceived discrepancies without my pointing it out for her.
It is a matter of respecting the child as a person and not undermining what they are capable of; something that I am continually in the process of learning and re-learning.
In Charlotte Mason's 20 principles, I believe point 11 and 12 touch on this very idea:
11. But we, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas. Out of this conception comes our principle that,––
12. "Education is the Science of Relations"; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of––
"Those first-born affinities
"That fit our new existence to existing things."