"Catholicizing" Charlotte Mason
Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved. Keeping It Catholic
This page includes excerpts on or about Charlotte Mason from the Keeping It Catholic Home Education Guide, Volume I. Copyright 2003.
Behind Each Method is a Philosophy
Catholic educators have always recognized the connection between teaching, training and philosophy, and Fr. John Hardon, S.J. confirmed that educational methods are directly linked to educational philosophy in his work entitled John Dewey: Prophet of American Naturalism (1952). Fr. Hardon observed, "It is unfortunate that so many studies on Dewey have concentrated on his pedagogy [Ed. Note: his system of teaching], ignoring the fact that he was primarily a philosopher whose interest in education, of his own confession, was a matter of practical efficiency. He was simply using education as the most effective instrument for putting his principles of philosophy into living practice." (Emphasis mine.) This Catholic observation of Dewey is so important that it must be kept in mind; in other words, educational methods are the means to bringing a philosophy to life.
Charlotte Mason (CM) demands a detailed explanation for two very important reasons. On the surface, the "CM Method" appears attractive, yet it is a serious danger to the soul because its underlying philosophy is anti-Catholic...
...please allow me to say that I understand very well that there will be some Catholics who, having already embraced the "Mason Method," may feel chagrin, disappointment and perhaps even anger when they discover the very serious problems with Charlotte Mason's philosophy. The Catholic response to those very human emotions is to take heart for it is better to learn something late than never.
A woman of the Anglican faith who never married, Miss Mason's teaching career also included instructing both parents and teachers about her educational methods. The irony of it all is that, among the number of today's parents who eschew modern teaching methods and now homeschool, many embrace Mason's methods without truly understanding her philosophy.
Ideas Have Consequences
Since ideas and words usually culminate in actions and ultimately lead to a lifestyle or belief system, parents need to understand that, in Mason's case, there is evidence that her methods sprang forth from her "reserved" admiration and, in many instances, adoption of rationalism and Darwinism. The evidence? Her own books. But let's take a look at the method first
"Living books" and "twaddle free" learning are the apparent educational foundations of the "Charlotte Mason" method. Among Mason's works, she wrote a six volume, detailed educational book series, renamed The Original Home Schooling Series. There is no formal catechesis found in Charlotte Mason's method, and religion does not permeate the curriculum. What does permeate it are Mason's evolving theories, including not only methods but actual child-raising techniques.
Mason's Modernist Heresies
Mason spent more time on the formation of habit than she did her pedagogical theories, and there is an underlying philosophical reason for this. The practice of her whole philosophy leads to the heresies of rationalism (the belief in the sufficiency of reason without faith), pantheism (the belief that God is somehow imminent in nature and not to be sought outside it), and naturalism (the denial of what is not evident to the senses). For these reasons, Catholic homeschooling parents considering Mason's child-raising philosophies and methods will first look to the Catholic Church as their infallible guide; they will not depend solely on Mason's powers of reason.
From Socialists to Atheists, Mason Admired Them All
Mason's Homeschooling Series provides the evidence that she was an avid reader, admirer and promoter of Huxley, Spencer, Darwin, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Carlyle, Ruskin, J.S. Mill and Coleridge. These individuals range the spectrum of Christian Socialists, progressives, rationalists, humanists, liberals, Marxists, evolutionists, unorthodox believers, and atheists - not exactly a healthy mix for any Catholic to emulate.
Her purpose was not to acknowledge their influence upon the thoughts of society or to refute them. No, indeed --Mason emulated them, promoted them, and sometimes felt that she improved upon their ideas.
Choosing Between Charlotte and the Church is an Either/Or Situation
Charlotte Mason's philosophies have never received infallible Church approbation from the Magisterium of the Church - and they never can, immersed as they are in condemned heresies.
...Mason appeared to teeter-totter between firm confidence in her philosophies and irresolution. For example, Mason proposed the false idea that a child must know he is "being brought up for the service of the nation, that his parents are acting under a Divine Commission" but then insisted that parents are mere facilitators and not examples. Mason would write of God or the Scriptures in seemingly beautiful terms; at other times she insisted that "the race is advancing," thanks to human endeavor. She seemed to question those who no longer accepted the Scriptures, only to turn around and hail Darwin. In the end, one is never quite sure of what Mason herself believed, and it is this inconstancy that is a Red Flag itself...the hallmarks of modernism, a heresy condemned by the Catholic Church, are purposeful amibiguity and indecision.
The Church is very clear in condemning the various heresies imbued in modernism, the "synthesis" of all the heresies. Considering that our own culture is plagued with this heresy, our choices come down to heeding the Church's infallible pronouncements or disregarding them in favor of Mason.
Mason's Appeal to Parental Pride
...Throughout her works, Mason made mention of the "cultured classes" or "intelligent parents" who can make sense of and implement her precepts, obvious appeals to her intended audience's pride.
Mason's Own Admission about Method
...And what of Mason's methods? First, an important point needs illustration. She wrote, "Now no man sets himself up for a following of disciples who does not wish to indoctrinate these with certain principles, or at the least, maxims, rules of life...He who would draw disciples does not trust to force, but to three things - to the attraction of his doctrine, to the persuasion of his presentation, to the enthusiasm of his disciples." (Parents and Children, p. 62)
In the event anyone believes that Mason's methods might be adopted while disregarding her rationalist philosophies, consider what Mason herself wrote: "a way to an end is method." In fact, she repeated herself on that score a few times.
And SO MUCH MORE, including Mason's liberal-minded view that the child's conscience is king. Plus, further proof that Mason esteemed Rousseau, Darwin and Froebel, held a communist view of the family, and possessed a derogatory view of the Roman Catholic Church. (Check the KIC Home Page for more information on the Keeping It Catholic series)
All excerpts from the Keeping It Catholic Home Education Guide, Volume I, Marianna Bartold, 2003.
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