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Monday, March 4, 2013

thoughts on sacredness of personality...

If it were possible to whittle it all down to one essential distinctive of a Charlotte Mason education, if I were a gamblin' man, I'd place a wager, that at the core, we'd be left with this one. Of course, I'm not a man, and I don't gamble, but still... I do know, that she wove the importance of it in and out of every subject area. In Philosophy of Education, the idea of sacredness of personality is one that from the start immediately arrests our attention and challenges to the uttermost the cleverness of every parent/educator to the very end. Or at least it should.
Did I hear an, amen?

[Ahem.] ... moving right along.

Everybody is different. Every single one is one-of-a-kind. Unique. I'm sure you've noticed?!
Think: fingerprints, snowflakes.
How much more carefully crafted are those who bear His image?
“...we must admit, whenever we meet the Infinite in man, whether well or poorly understood, we react with respect. There is in the synagogue, in the mosque, in the pagoda, and in the wigwam, a hideous side that we detest and a sublime aspect that we adore. What a subject of meditation, and what a limitless source of reverie is this reflection of God upon the human wall!”
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
Personality is how we bear his image. We bear His image in our persons.
As persons, the children too are image-bearers.
Oh, therefore, how carefully we must tread!

I read recently of an author whose grandmother cultivated prize roses.
“When I came tripping up beside her, all set for sharing two or three of those cozy moments, when no one else stood on the earth but my Gram and me, she would cup a long lovely rosebud in her hand reverently and say:
     “Would ja' jist look at that? Would ja' jist look!”
My grandmother was not an educated woman. And she was not even proud of the fact that she could practically stick a pencil into the ground and make the pencil grow! She expected things to grow. She was simple enough and wise enough to revere the very life of that rose.
She was in awe of it.
In a deep and profound and marvelous way this simple woman and this simple child bowed before the life in that rose.”
Eugenie Price
It's like that with education.

We stand in awe of the child. We don't bow before the child. We bow before the life in the child. The image borne in that child. The child as a learner. The child is fresh yet often wise, delicate yet resilient, fascinating yet often grievously dulled by a lifeless education.

The kind of education that respects personality, requires a great deal of patience, faith and ingenuity on the part of the educator.  But, you may say, “Wait a minute, I agree with everything you've said. Who's to say that I'm not already doing all this? What does it all mean? How is what you're saying specially implemented?”

Charlotte Mason talks about ways that we teachers often encroach on the personality of the child. We pressure, coax or otherwise manipulate our kids to get them to do what we want them to do, specifically in this case: to learn.

But, they will not be forced.
These principles (ie., authority and docility) are limited by the respect due to the personality of children which may not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.
v6, p81

Wily ways of manipulating:
  • Using Prizes & Punishment / Praise & Threats to motivate. “If you do this, I will...”
  • Using Love/Fear as motivators. Tyranny or improper use of affection, “If you loved me, you would...”, or, "This is a requirement if you want to pass this class."
  • Forced consumption and memorization of dry facts, and the various presentations & repetitions of such.
  • Personality of Teacher / Undue Influence (this may be the most subtle: influence, which can be used rightly or wrongly “...the schoolgirl who idolises her mistress, the boy who worships his master, is deprived of the chance of free and independent living. His personality fails to develop and he goes into the world as a parasitic plaint, clinging ever to the support of some stronger character.”)
“Therefore schoolmasters do not amiss in basing their practice upon the Desires whose very function appears to be to bring nourishment to Mind. Where we teachers err is in the stimulating the wrong Desires to accomplish our end.”  v6, p
As educators, we respect Personality when we step out of the driver's seat, into the role of advisor and guide those childish persons to look to, to depend on, to develop and be taught in all things by the Holy Spirit. They are already endowed with wonderful gifts... curiosity, attention, will, etc. Our goal is to help equip them with tools for harnessing and using those to their full potential: books, habits, reason, knowledge (though still, we're only facilitators, the child must choose to take hold and use them).

We don't expect that a rose would grow in the same way as a daffodil. We stand in awe of the uniqueness of each. We water and watch with faith in springtime. In the same way, we wouldn't expect that one boy would turn out the same as the next. We stand in awe of the uniqueness of each. We spread the feast; we guide, pray and watch with faith. 

This one idea of respecting the sacredness of personality, has been revolutionary in my parenting. In life. In ministry. I'm still learning. The longer I live, the more convinced I become that I have so much to learn. It is my sincere hope that something I've written, might prompt you too, to pick this idea up for a moment's contemplation and in time, make it your own.

Read more here.


SilviaBlogs said...

I am gaining a lot from this Carnaval edition, yours is the third post I read from blogging moms who participate in the CMC,  all of them are right ON the proposed topic.
Thanks for your words, as usual, a pleasure to read.


Mama Squirrel said...

I like the rose story!

TL Glaser said...

I LOVE how you traced this back to the idea of being an image-bearer! Brilliant!

amyinperu said...

it was SO perfect, i couldn't believe it almost when i read it! i had to put the book down right then and contemplate the goodness! ;)

laurke said...

Yes, great carnival and great post :)  I'm loving it, especially since it seems that I am doing a decent job of respecting his personality.  Maybe some days more than others, but still... 

Ghanagirl said...

Amy, I so appreciate you taking the time to write these posts. As someone who is still very new to a CM education, there are days when it is very hard to wrap my head around. You thinking it through and jotting down thoughts always spurs my own thinking and understanding. Thank you! Hope all is well in Peru!

amyinperu said...

I'm SO glad to be a help, Patty! But honestly, newbie or longtimer, we both win; 'cause it's got to be just as good for me to process-by-typing, as it is for anyone else who might be reading!

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