Principles. (from the Whitsuntide Conference
By Miss C. M. Mason
It gives me and gives us all extraordinary pleasure to meet so many
P.N.E.U. members, especially when one reflects on the fatigues of
travel through the weary hours of a long, hot and dusty day; for
members are here from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, from the most distant
as well as the nearer counties of England, and, of course, London has
sent a large contingent, notwithstanding the 'Season.'
A few delegates from other educational Societies have honoured us by
coming, but the general aspect of this 'great gathering' is undoubtedly
P.N.E.U.; we are used to the same aspect in the children, who soon
develop what used to be called in my early-Victorian youth 'an
intelligent countenance'; and it is that same countenance we see here.
Some of those present have upheld our teaching these thirty years and
more. Lady Campbell brings a daughter who is a mother and a member,
Mrs. Howard Glover does not bring a son who is a father, but we all
know Mr. Cedric Glover who carries on our training in Musical
Appreciation so brilliantly in the Parents' Review, and whom I first
met as a 'musical baby' of three!
To our Honorary Secretary and her stalwart supporters we owe it that as
a society we have lived in good fellowship for more than a generation.
The P.N.E.U. have taken pains to master a distinctive philosophy of
education which some of us believe will do great things for many
thousands of children and their homes.
This spiritual edifice, shall I call it, is a sort of coral atol raised
by innumerable workers. There is our Hon. Secretary who cares more for
our philosophy than even for its results, and who, with her committee,
has afforded never failing sympathy and support to every new
development. To instance one; when our late deeply lamented friend and
colleague, Mrs. F. Steinthal, succeeded during the last decade in
getting a village school in the Yorkshire Collieries to demonstrate
that, notwithstanding a very scanty vocabulary and little in the way of
cultured surroundings--the children of colliers are just as fit to
profit instantly by a liberal education as are those of the leisured
class,--the committee led by their Hon. Sec. threw themselves heartily
into the new departure and appointed an organising secretary to visit
and help these schools. We all know Miss Parish, and some may regret
that she gives to the College what was meant, not for the State, but
for the whole work of the Union. Let me reassure them; her work here is
just as inestimable, and will perhaps prove as far-reaching as that she
did from 'the Office.' Then followed Miss Wix, very able and
enthusiastic, now one of H.M.'s Inspectors of Schools, and lastly, we
all know and rejoice in Miss Pennethorne whose brilliant powers and
enthusiasm have already effected great things. Then, we have the band
of distinguished women, members of the Executive, who have held up
Mrs. Franklin's hands for a generation, half a dozen of whom we have
with us to-day: the race of chair-men, treasurers, etc., of the
Executive, men of distinction; the last and not the least honourable of
whom, the Head Master of Westminster, is with us now at the cost of
much inconvenience. There are the families with home school-rooms, so
largely and delightfully represented to-day; the
heads and teachers of
a great many schools, primary and secondary, also
well represented; that large and touchingly interesting contingent of
families, some of whom are to be found in every one of our Dominions
and Colonies: the four to five hundred old students labouring for the
cause; our fellow-labourers in College, School and Office, who are
doing great and original work; perhaps I may make special mention of
Miss E. Kitching, my oldest (in service) and not least honourable
colleague; in fact, I feel like a drone in a hive of workers,
especially when I look at our present Chairman, who comes amongst us
like a comet with a tail of some seventy schools, great and small, in
the single country of Gloucestershire! Let us all praise famous men,
and one more I am sure you will allow me to name who is prevented by
illness from being with us,--Mr. Willingham Rawnsley, an ever welcome
visitor in the schools of Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and elsewhere, who
has served us, as have many other friends, by means of many addresses
and articles in the Press including the PARENTS' REVIEW.
What after all are those principles which we all labour to advance? Let
me first show a tangible result or two, inviting you to look at many
such specimens in St. George's room, mostly Christmas examination
papers; you notice the bulk of each set, but these are only specimens
of what each child could do. The children read many books, probably one
question is set on each book; a question which the cleverest crammer
could not forecast. Whether they have read 50 or 250 pp., the answers
are equally full, clear, accurate and to the point; and what is more,
all are touched with emotion. Now, if life were long enough, the
children could answer 10 or 20 questions on each book or section of a
book, and each child would send in a volume of 200--300 pp., of
vitalised knowledge all and evermore his own.
As regards the lessons you have listened to with sympathetic pleasure,
may I let you into the secret. The children always pay absolute
attention, nothing need ever be repeated, no former work is revised;
they are always progressing, never retracing their steps, never going
round and round like a horse in a mill.
This infinite power of attention in every child (and grown-up), our
discovery, is on P.N.E.U. principle which puts education on a new
footing, and promises the latter-day Renaissance we all long to see.
People are becoming in love with knowledge, children and grow-ups, for
of course parents and teachers share the delights of their children. No
secondary motive, marks, prizes, place or the like, is required;
children work with joy for the pure love of knowledge.
But what then is knowledge? That is a question which as yet nobody has
been able to answer. Our approach to a solution is to adapt Matthew
Arnold's rather inadequate definition of religion. ["Religion
is morality, touched with emotion."] Knowledge is information touched with
emotion: feeling must be stirred, imagination must picture,
reason must consider, nay, conscience must pronounce on the information
we offer before it becomes mind-stuff. Therefore the current text-books
of the schoolroom must needs be scrapped and replaced by literature, that is, by books into
the writing of which the writer has put his heart, as well as a highly
trained mind. That is another
P.N.E.U. principle; we try to use none but living books.
Then, a healthy mind is as hungry as a healthy body, and wants a large
quantity of fit pabulum; also, the mind too, hates 'everlasting
tapioca,' and must have a very various diet, selected not at random,
but according to its natural requirements. Matthew Arnold gives us,
again, if not a definition, a rough classification of knowledge:
Knowledge of God, of man, of the universe, or, as we might put it,
Divinity, the Humanities and Science; these three are the natural
requirements of every child of man; so his syllabus must needs be wide,
well-proportioned, well-balanced. Here is another P.N.E.U. principle
which we act upon with courage and decision because we know of that
inexhaustible fund of attention, that hunger and thirst after knowledge
and that discriminating taste which can feed only upon literature and
art, which are inherent in every child.
For the knowledge of God, the chief knowledge, we
use the Bible, Prayer
Book, and certain devout and up to date commentaries. We avoid what
school-boys used to call 'pi-jaw.' We do not exhort much, nor appeal to
feeling, nor show pictures, not introduce models or handi-crafts; but
the sincere piety of P.U.S. children is remarkable, and is perhaps
partly due to the fact that they are never bored but always interested.
From the age of twelve or so, they read a Life of Christ in verse; they
seem to recognize that the poetic point of view helps them to realize
the Divine life, in itself the epic of the ages. A girl of thirteen and
a half in her Easter examination tackled the question: "The people sat in darkness" . . . "I am
the Light of the world." Shew as far as you can the meaning of
these statements. She was not asked to write in verse, and was she not
taught by a beautiful instinct to recognize that the phrases she had to
deal with were essential poetry and that she could best express herself
"The people sat in darkness--all was dim,
No light had yet come unto them from Him.
No hope as yet of Heaven after life,
A peaceful haven far from war and strife.
Some warriors to Valhalla's halls might go
And fight all day, and die. At evening, lo!
They'd wake again, and drink in the great Hall.
Some men would sleep for ever at their fall;
Or with their fickle God's for ever be:
So all was dark and dim. Poor heathens, see!
The Light ahead, the clouds that roll away,
The golden, glorious, dawning of the Day:
And in the birds, the flowers, the sunshine, see
The might of Him who calls "come unto Me."
The Humanities cover a wide field: poetry, the drama, history,
literature, biography, languages, essays, in fact where is the line to
You have heard in the lessons some instance of the children's quick
apprehension, complete comprehension and accurate reproduction of
passages, not chosen because they were interesting, but because they
followed in each case last week's lesson on the same subject. Many
parents and teachers here felt no doubt that their children would have
'narrated' in an even more miraculous way; they were right; there seems
to be no limit to what these "incredible children" [Mr.
certain P.N.E.U. elementary schools.] can do.
But I should like to call
your attention to one point which you will see fully illustrated later:
this method of narration lends itself amazingly to the teaching of
foreign languages, and promises to make of us tongue-tied folk a nation
of linguists with copious vocabularies.
The children will read later
(once only) a scene or two
from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
narrate it in fluent French, grammatically used. The students will
listen to a rather long lecture on Moliere, from Mdlle. Pierson, and
when it is finished will narrate it practically without fault or
ommission. Of course they have never heard this lecture before (though
it was delivered to another division of the Senior Class at the
Students' conference a month ago).
Miss Gardener, our Lecturer in Classics, will hear a class construe a
passage from Cicero, and they will narrate the passage, acquiring a
Latin vocabulary and knowledge of construction in the act. Miss Parish
is obtaining results even more remarkable in Italian, and until this
year German has been studied to as good purpose.
In Science, too, we
have perhaps our peculiar methods; we do a great deal of field work, in
geology, geography, botany, natural history, but we also use many
living books. French scientists have perceived the poetry of science,
and France owns a splendid library of scientific work of the nature of
poetry though by no means written in verse; some of these have been
translated and we gladly use them, but, also we have a few volumes of
our own, written by our great men of science which fall under the
heading of 'the Humanities,' because they are literature of the best;
these our children use and they are helped to see what they look at and
learn to wonder and admire. Also they narrate what they have read, and
as a child in a Council School remarked, "We narrate, and then, we
We have, too, quite a code of 'principles' affecting character
and conduct, aesthetic development and so on,
but the few I have dwelt
on, regulating our dealings with mind, are
enough for the moment. Let me add that what Wordsworth calls "The grand
elemental principle of pleasure," is not with us confined to joyous
occasions; joy reigns in all our schoolrooms, every lesson satisfies
the mind-hunger proper to children; they are quite happy and content,
and Satan finds less mischief there for idle minds to think.
P.N.E.U., A SERVICE TO THE STATE.
BY C.M. MASON
Yesterday we spoke of some of our guiding principles and how they
should influence us individually. But these are days when we feel that
we are all due to the country, if only for the sake of our men who have
fallen. Many schemes are being tried for the bettering of the nation;
we hardly begin to see results yet, and some of us are painfully
anxious to do something for which the State will be the better if only
in gratitude for all we have received.
What is wanted is a democratic
education to include not only the fit, the aristocracy of mind, high
and low, rich and poor, but everybody. And now we of the P.N.E.U. are
in a position to state that while an academic education will of
necessity reach only the fit and few, the humanities in English meet a
general appeal. We ceased to count after the first 10,000 children in
elementary schools who shewed themselves capable of doing happy and
excellent humanistic work, but we know now that history, drama, tale,
poems of the best, appeal to every one.
Mind, capable of dealing with
knowledge in its three kinds, knowledge of God, knowledge of man,
knowledge of the natural world, science; mind in this sense appears to
be a universal possession, and every one should have the joy and the
manifold interests that such knowledge affords. Only a few on the other
hand, some dozen, say, in a big school, will excel in academic
knowledge, whether mathematical, linguistic or scientific. By all means
let these have their
opportunity. We shall always want mathematicians and grammarians, but
the rest put in their claims too. The stability proper to persons who
have read wisely if not very widely should belong to us all. At the
present time it does belong to the professional and upper classes, to
public school men, for example, who, whatever may be their
shortcomings, make themselves felt wherever they are, and do a good
deal of the world's work. Home influences, the playing fields of Eton,
anything but their school work gets credit for this admirable
stability. But suppose that after all their humanistic studies have a
tendency to make things seem worth doing even when they are done with
little credit or profit; suppose that a sense of duty impels 'the
educated classes,' and that, however insistent personal claims may be,
they are subordinated to the claims of service; why, here is the very
spirit we want to see in all classes of our countrymen; and the direct
and very possible way to such a temper of mind is through a liberal
We have all heard rumours of educational reconstruction, which possibly
affect us as does the rumble of London traffic--we do not analyse the
roar, nor consider what it all means. Let me invite you to give your
earnest attention to the question of education en bloc, because the
P.N.E.U. is now being called upon to play a distinguished part in the
upbringing of the coming generation: I am not speaking to members now
of their own children but of the education of the country, in which we
are required to give a lead. We may say with the prince in 'Rasselas'
"How the world is to be, not 'peopled,' but educated, is not my concern
and needs not to be yours." That has been our attitude in the past,
even ours as a Society; but great things have happened to us: it has
been found that our P.N.E.U. way of educating our children is capable
of being used with incredible effect on children of all sorts and
conditions. Things that have not been done before since the world was
are now done through the movement which we are 'in.' Our Hon. Sec.
could tell a marvellous tale of children of the slums of a big northern
town; so could members of our executive committees; our Org. Secretary
could unfold tales which should
hold us for days on end. We need not be
afraid that such tales would leave us cold; no, education is a vital
thing whose pulse we feel, and we can no more listen coldly to a tale
of real education than we can to the story of Florence Nightingale or
Shackleton, or any other of our benefactors, for we are all one body.
How is it then that only a philanthropist or a philosopher here and
there has given much thought to the matter? For the same reason that
though machinery of a great cotton mill is wonderful past whooping, the
wonder stales on us in half an hour and we are chiefly aware of
intolerable noise and dust. Our education in all classes of society has
become mechanical with only little interlude of interest; the results
are remarkable but not interesting; examinations are worked for and
candidates pass with distinction; a servant applies (or would apply in
the good old days) for a place in as good a letter as anyone need
write; people, all the people, are educated up to a certain point, but
are not as they would say themselves "the better of it!" Education has
failed to bring to any class of society, as a class, new interests,
keen mental enjoyment, aesthetic pleasure, elevation of character,
principles of conduct. A few here and there try to make up for the
defects of their education in these respects, but not always with much
success. I once dined in the house of a young man who had built a
reputation on Keats. We looked up favourite poems to be ready for a
feast of enlightened talk. But our host was a mere collector, he had
each edition and every commentary and was blank to any remark about the
poems themselves. Apparently he had not read Keats at all, but only
collected. The education we give makes such an attitude of mind
Let us think of our Society as one of the "Services," that is, to the
State; an idea we are all feeling after. "Save the country" appeals to
all. What can we do? Absolutely the first service to the State is to
present it with good citizens, and all sorts of schools, nearly all
families, are in intention at any rate labouring towards that end.
What are the qualities that go to make a good citizen
and how far does a P.N.E.U. child exhibit them? We may for convenience
think of the children here, for P.N.E.U. children besides their family
traits, exhibit a certain hall mark by which they may be known, a mark
composed of many markings: One of the audience suggested 'Integrity' as
one of these; you all know how straight your children are about their
examinations; how free they are from shifty ways, they know or they
don't know, and are quite simple about it. These children do not ''ca
'canny'' or crib or transgress in any of the venial genial ways common
among school children. Is not this attitude which we sum up roughly as
integrity what we want in our citizens of all classes?
Again, the absence of self-consciousness, self-conceit, vanity,
display, has been noticed in these, who are simply average P.N.E.U.
children. These are qualities that should make a citizen put his duties
before his rights; and, once more, should not such citizens be an asset
to any nation?
This audience has been struck by the children's unconscious obedience,
and again, what could a State desire more than citizens who obey its
laws without knowing it, as indeed most of us do.
There is a singleness of purpose and motive about them which augurs
well for their future as citizens, and promises another kind of purity
about which we are all a little anxious, which is best ensured by a
well nourished and active mind, for Satan finds some mischief still for
idle minds to do.
Another asset offered by our P.N.E.U. children is the practice of
instant absolute attention, what is called concentration. Think what it
would be to the head of a house or a factory, a ship or a department,
to be sure of fixed intelligent attention being given to every
instruction! We all serve in one way or another, but the capacity to
serve is dependent on the habit of concentration.
We claim that all these and many more of the properties of a good
citizen depend on due nourishment with fitting knowledge. Let me repeat
knowledge (to offer a
stumbling definition) is information touched with Emotion. For this
reason it is that only literature and art offer children the pabulum
they require. Who can feel emotion over a compendium, however
praiseworthy? But literature, whether in the form of history, poetry,
drama, scientific treatise, nourishes the soul; and with all the world
in one scale and a single soul in the other, the scale holding the
world kicks the beam.
A good citizen must know about the laws of his country, the means of
administration, how the constitution has developed; these things he
must learn from a pretty wide reading of history--English, European,
French, Ancient,--the stirring tales of services rendered to their
several countries by great citizens throughout the ages. No boy reads
"How Horatius kept the bridge in the brave days of old," without secret
resolves and dreamy eyes.
Perhaps the first business of a citizen is to be self-supporting; we
all recognise that boys and girls too should be brought up to earn
their living, it may be by administering their own estates or by more
direct service, and here we are content to let his self-supporting duty
end! But indeed this is only the beginning; think of the people who
bore us by the inanimity, vex us by their flippancy, and the trivial
nature of their pursuits, who use us as pegs on which to hang an idle
hour,--and we shall see there are other ways of supporting himself
which a citizen must practice besides that of providing his own bread
The mind is inexorable throughout life in its demand for daily bread; we do not recognise
this fully, and therefore so many old and middle-aged persons become
inane, tiresome and incapable of sharing the intellectual interests of
their children. The citizen in whose bringing-up P.N.E.U. has had a
part has had many of his innumerable emotions stirred by his "lovely
books," "glorious books," and the emotion of the moment has translated
the facts of history, travel, science, the themes of poetry or tragedy,
into vital knowledge. That is the raison
d'etre of narrating; the reader recovers as it were what he has
read and looks at it, and in this looking his emotion becomes
fired. The Greeks recognised two emotions by the stirring of which
tragedy should educate the people; but we try not only to purge but to
invigorate the soul, by pity, tenderness, awe, reverence, delight in
beauty, noble emulation in heroic action--the hundred impulses that
play upon the mind (or soul) and by this play, transform the
information we receive in literary
form into the knowledge by which we
In seeing that children know good books and plenty of them, we secure
delightful fields of thought and reservoirs of interest for their after
life; the child of the Hall and the hamlet grow up with common
possessions, and their good fellowship is secured. The high moral
standard, the concentrated attention, of school days are brought to
bear on labour for a livelihood, and master and man are alike blessed.
We have tried to show how pictures and music, birds and flowers and
trees, geography, local history and geology, the atmosphere of great
men (and what village is there which has not bred one great man?)
public readings like that we have listened to on "George Borrow," the
drama, useful and beautiful handicrafts and physical exercises, dances
and songs, may become, some home delights, others the joys of the
village community. A village Hall or public room and the Carnegie
Library are all that citizens brought up in our schools require to make
them in every sense, mental, moral and physical, self-supporting.
We have seen how our teachers appear to take a back place while
teaching and let children's minds have free play; so, if I may make the
suggestion, it is better to indicate to these educated villagers or
townsfolk what is open to them in the way of intellectual life than to
use leading strings, get up plays for them, lay ourselves out to amuse
them in many kind ways; the hamlet may invite the Hall to take part, to
sing at a concert, present a character in a play, or the like, but the
village community should organise its own pleasures on the sort of
healthy lines, perhaps, that we have tried to indicate here for indoor
and out-door life.
You will not say, this is working for posterity, and "What has
posterity done for me?" As a matter of fact
we all live for posterity
and have no other business in the world. But we shall not have to wait
for 'posterity' to grow up; what the children know the parents learn
also and delight in; so the field is already white to the harvest. An
apt nucleus for such work is the village P. U. School; already in two
or three cases has a Parent's Association been set up in connection
with a school (owing to Mrs. Franklin's initiative). But Welfare Clubs,
Village Institutes and the like are already widely spread and perhaps
we may be allowed to introduce a more intellectual element into their
working, eschewing lectures, providing concerts and such aids to
amusements, and encouraging the people to be their own
purveyors--perhaps on P.N.E.U. lines.
A full life makes for content and happiness and these stand for the
stability of which the nation is in sore need. All very well, say you,
in Utopia! but what of our unhappy country where industry is
continually interrupted by strikes, called often enough for whimsical
reasons? Education as we interpret it is the only remedy.
We have but to read of the bitter wrongs issuing in the Chartist Riots
in Disraeli's 'Sybil' for example, to be assured that the people must
hold in their hands an instrument of redress; but education should
ensure that this terrific implement shall not be handled impulsively
and hastily. What the League of Nations should do to hinder or regulate
wars, that I believe we of this one insignificant society may do to
hinder strikes. Educate the nation and if the strikes come, they will
be first well considered by balanced minds; no strike will be called
without long and general deliberation; we shall have secured that pause
in relation to social upheavals that the League of Nations aims at in
the prospect of war.
But educate, educate, educate, is the watchword of the day. In what do
we of the P.N.E.U. differ from others? Chiefly in two ways. Equal
opportunity for all, is the offer of the State; this is no new thing;
in countries where there is no hereditary aristocracy, like China and
Turkey, it has been the rule for many ages. The Roman Church which is
before all things democratic (and socialistic), has always offered
unlimited opportunities for the fit,
"The good old rule, the simple plan,--
Let him take who has the power
And let him keep who can,"--
a rule as applicable to stores of the mind as of the pocket. The
demagogue, the Socialist, the Bolshevist are the outcome of an
education snatched as it were by mind-force. We spread education, not
for the fit only, but for all; all partake, even to the backward child;
and we claim to send out contented citizens, capable of a right
judgment in all things, religiously, morally, socially, physically, fit
to take their due part in a happy ordered state. Again, the manner of
our education differs; schools in general send forth scholars who have
learnt 'how to learn'; (they rarely show that they have learned this
art!) We send out scholars who have
learned and do know and find
knowledge so delightful that it becomes a pursuit and source of
happiness for a lifetime.
Two thousand years ago it was said to a dozen undistinguished men, "Go
ye out unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature"; and
they did. We too have, by the Grace of God, a fragment of this gospel
to preach; we who are here and who represent thousands of P.N.E.U.
members, are vastly better provided as far as numbers go to spread this
new Renaissance. Let us be up and doing; the enthusiasm perceptible in
this room alone is enough to convert a world; how much more, to make
our own people able to prefer (and to act) Shakespeare's plays rather
than the trivialities of the Music Hall. Let us do battle with the
schools for "a liberal education" for the boys we send to them. We
cannot make or find a substitute for the Public Schools--a great
national achievement; but we can urge the willing minds of Masters and
Heads to afford at least the six or eight hours a week devoted to
English and History, to the studies and conditions we have found
marvellously effective. For our P.U.S. girls, I do not know that life
offers compensation for the loss of the work in the Fifth and Sixth
Forms; let them work out their scheme of liberal education to the full,
if only that they may be prepared
to take up the crusade which I am
tempted to urge on listeners so responsive and encouraging. We know the
way, we have the means, we see opportunities everywhere--elementary and
secondary, private and public schools are open to attack!
Let us part with the pledge.--
"I will not cease from mortal strife
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till I have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land."
and may God be with us in our labours!
(The writer must apologize if these notes contain more of what she
meant to say than of what she really said. The friendly attitude of the
audience tempted her into informal talk.)
Board of Education.
12th February, 1923.
I do not think it is right that I should allow the death of Miss
Charlotte Mason to pass without recording officially the deep regret of
the Board of Education at the termination of her long and fruitful
labours in the field of education, and their high appreciation of the
great public services which she has rendered.
We know that Miss Mason started her work very early in life, and she
carried it on with unremitting diligence and enthusiasm for over half a
century. The fundamental principle of her teaching--a belief in the
child's natural powers of appreciation--was unfamiliar in England when
she was young. It is far otherwise to-day, and that perhaps is in
itself the best evidence of what we owe to her and the most lasting
memorial of her labours. Her influence, diffused through her books and
the Union which she founded, was a source of strength to many hundreds
of teachers, and though she did not come into direct relations with the
public system of education as administered by the Board and the Local
Education Authorities, there can be no question of
the profound and
permanent benefit accruing to that system from her life and example,
and from her efforts to establish and diffuse the principles which she
followed. She was a high-minded, disinterested and a sincere worker for
the advancement of education, who combined a generous vision and a good
practical judgment, and on behalf of the President and my colleagues I
join with the Parents' National Educational Union in deploring her loss
and paying tribute to her memory.
Yours very truly,
(Signed) L.A. Selby-Bigge,
The Hon. Mrs. Franklin,
Parents' National Educational Union,
Miss Mason was grande dame, grand ame.
Her thoughts and her tastes had
lineage. To be with her, to come under the spell of her courteous and
considerate self-possession, was to know what it must have been like to
meet Madame de Genlis or some other of those great ladies of the
ancient regime who won fine
culture through teaching children and through
sharing with them the love of things which are beautiful and true. Miss
Mason had a genius for education. She had an inbred good sense and an
unfatigued sensibility. Her mind was tempered by great literature. She
loved the humanities. She had a very distinguished gift of leadership
in co-operation. There was a tenderness, a humility in her
self-confidence which recalled Vauvenargues' saying that 'great
thoughts come from the heart.' And the greatness of the thoughts she
lived with made her greater-hearted as her experience deepened and as
the circle of her pupils grew nation-wide
It was fortunate for England to have the guidance which Charlotte Mason
gave with patriotic and unselfish tenacity and with gracious largesse
of heart and mind. What she did, no one else attempted on the same
scale. Others who like her were national figures worked through another
medium. Lady Stanley of Alderley and Mary Frances Buss were steeped in
the same tradition but became preoccupied with the problems of the
public secondary day school for girls. Charlotte Mason represented the
culture of the homeschool at its best. The writers of her generation
had shown themselves a little blind to the beauties of the best
home-teaching and forgetful of what had been achieved in good private
schools, especially for girls. There were not a few private schools in
which an attempt was made to reproduce the stimulus and restraining
influence of a cultivated home. Charlotte Mason was a witness to their
excellence. More than this, she disengaged from her knowledge of their
work a reasoned statement of the educational theory of their practice.
This, I think, was her great contribution to the thought of her time.
But she gave something more precious than this. She gave herself.
As our grateful memories of her fall into perspective, we see what rank
she takes in the succession of illustrious educators. Like Thring of
Uppingham she realised that education is the transmission of life, of
the life of the mind, kindled by the fiery particles which lie
unquenched in noble literature. Like Thring she longed to give new
opportunities to the rank and file, though she was not oblivious of the
claims of the elite or unmindful of the value of their gifts. Her's was
an unselfish, unexclusive humanism, tolerant of variety, never jealous
of superiorities and eager to share in wide commonalty the precious
consolations of culture. Born in an age of historical discovery, when
the records of the past were being revealed with some assuagement of
outworn controversies, history (not least in its appeal to the
imagination) was the centre of her intellectual interest. But her
standards of judgment were ethical. Plutarch and Sir Walter Scott stood
high in her educational canon. Greatness in goodness was her ideal, and
her ideal of goodness had in it, like Plato's, a place for beauty of
pattern, colour and tune.
Through Ruskin and Thomas Arnold of Rugby, she was in direct succession
from Wordsworth. In the luminous summary of principles which she
prefixed to her series on
Education, there is much that might be
illustrated by passages from The
Prelude. "Children are born persons."
"They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good
or evil." "The principles of authority on the one hand and of obedience
on the other, are natural, necessary, and fundamental; but these
principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of
children." "By the saying Education is an Atmosphere, it is not meant
that a child should be isolated in what may be called a child's
environment, especially adapted and prepared: but that we should take
into account the educational value of his natural home-atmosphere, both
as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his
proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to
what has been disparagingly called the child's level." "In the saying
that Education is a Life, the need for intellectual and moral, as well
as physical, sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas and
therefore children should have a generous curriculum." Like Comenius,
she believed in a course of reading which is massive and many-sided.
Like Comenius she had to guard against the dangers of superficiality.
The liberal movement which broke upon education through Rousseau found
expression in Miss Mason's work as in that of her predecessors. But it
had lost its neurotic excitement. Charlotte Mason was a woman of
temperate judgment as well as of eager charity. She was steadied by a
deep religious conviction, by the reverence for human personality which
has in it the quiet awe of faith in Divine guidance.
The Lake School of Poetry and her own Lake School of Education are not
unconnected. She was in the tradition of Wordsworth and the Arnolds.
And the gratitude felt for her teaching and example will be extended to
those who worked with her and by their loyal activities helped in the
diffusion of her ideas.
M. E. Sadler, C.B.
Leeds, February, 1923
February 16th, 1923.
What a wonderful thing personal influence is, or may be! From an
invalid couch in a remote part of England, Charlotte Mason reanimated
and reformed a large part of education in Great Britain. It needed no
long visit to her at Ambleside to understand how this influence made
itself felt. In her conversation, even on trivial matters, but still
more on the greater issues of life and policy, one became vividly aware
in her of a lucid view of affairs, and an intellectual grasp of
principles, animated by the inward warmth of sympathy and hope.
Surrounded by a group of faithful disciples, she directed the course of
many a ship on the educational ocean which personally she never saw;
and like many supreme organizers of great industries, while apparently
at leisure herself, was exactly aware of what was doing in all the
provinces of education where her principles were in action. Yet she was
no bureaucrat; her practice was as various and elastic as her
principles were constant; there was the method and even the letter, but
above all the spirit. I hope and think that the chief secret of Miss
Mason's ascendency was the fine ethical quality of her teaching. From
Ambleside there issued many an earnest missionary imbued not only with
a sense of order, a lover of learning and an insight into rudimentary
and growing minds, but above all sanctified by a lofty ethical spirit,
a spirit not merely added to her system of education, not merely
supplied in parcels of so many hours a week, but penetrating the whole
and carrying it into a higher sphere where it was enlarged, warmed and
enlightened. We lament Miss Mason's death because of our personal loss,
and our sense of what might have still have been done had a longer life
been given to her; but, on the other hand, we may rejoice to know that
she lived at a time of change, just when her hand upon the helm was
most needed, and that her frail life was spared long enough to
mark upon England's education and to build up her own people
for many generations to come.
(Regius Professor of Physics,
Through having common interests in education, literature and religion,
I was made acquainted with Miss Mason, and more than once had the
pleasure of visiting her at Ambleside. To do so was to be made
immediately aware of a mind and spirit that triumphed over difficulties
which in many other people daunt their ambition and activity and in
work. Miss Mason reigned from her couch. And her dominating influence
was as much an inspiration as a governing force. She planned and
schemed her courses of education, yet never once made more of the
scheme than of the spirit of her lessons.
I had good ground for knowing also that to her, more even than poetry
was Religion itself. This was proved in that work to which she gave
much time and effort--the verse paraphrase and comment of much of the
Gospel record, and to which she gave the title, 'The Savior of the
World.' Others will write upon and commemorate her system of education.
To me let it fall to mention the work dearer to her heart, perhaps than
all the rest.
Master of the Temple.
25 Buckingham Palace
February 21st, 1923.
It is a very great pleasure to me to write something about Miss Mason
and her wonderful work.
Never shall I forget the memorable day in May 1922, when I was at last
able to pay my first visit to the House of Education. Its name and fame
is so well-known in the Girl
Guide world, and as a humble worker in the educational field I had long
wanted to meet the founder of the P.N.E.U.
The County Commissioner for Westmorland and I were met on arrival by
the kindest welcome from Miss Mason, and her ready interest and willing
discussion made me feel at once that, though actually somewhat outside
her province, the Guides had her true sympathy and warm approval.
I remember so well one remark she made. After having luncheon amongst
the students she took me to sit on the verandah and then leaning gently
towards me from her wheeled chair, she said, "You know I am a little
afraid of you"! No! not SHE personally of ME personally!--but she meant
that the special appeal and romance of the Guides were sometimes apt to
tug away enthusiasts from some of their urgent and more matter of fact
work and studies.
It was an extreme pleasure to me to have had that time in the company
of one to whom parents and children will always owe so much. In my
mind's eye as I write I can see her sitting with folded hands on the
verandah at Scale How watching her students at play, as keenly
interested in the game as in everything that makes for the happiness
and well being of youth.
(signed with Jane Baden-Powell's
We have received the following from General Sir Robert Baden-Powell :--
A FIELD MARSHALL'S GOVERNESS.
How did the boys scouts start?
Oh Well! I believe it was largely due to--whom shall we say?--A Field
It was this way; the Brigadier General, as he was at that time, was
riding to his home after a field day when from the branches of a tree
over-head his little son called to him "Father, you are shot; I am in
ambush and you have passed under me without seeing me. Remember you
should always look upwards as well as around you."
So the general looked upward and saw not only his small son above him
but also, near the top of the tree, the new governess lately imported
from Miss Charlotte Mason's training College at Ambleside.
Her explanation of the situation was that a vital point in up to date
education was the inculcation of observation and deduction and that the
practical steps to this were given in the little handbook for soldiers
of "Aids to Scouting." The present incident was merely one among the
various field stunts from that book which might be put into practice by
her pupils and herself.
For example, they might as another exercise creep about unseen but
seeing all the time, and noting down everything that the general did;
they might lead him off on some wild chase while they purloined some
tangible proof of their having invaded his sanctum. Taken as a warning
of what he might expect I daresay the governess's explanation opened
the general's eye pretty widely, if only in regard to his own future
security against ambuscades and false alarms.
But it certainly opened mine to the fact that there could be an
educative value underlying the principles of scout training; and since
it had been thought worthy of utilisation by such and authority as Miss
Mason I realised that there might be something in it.
This encouraged me in the direction of adapting the training for the
use of boys and girls.
From this acorn grew the tree which is now spreading its branches
across the world.
The Boy Scout of yesterday--(reduced alas by some ten thousand who gave
their young lives in the war)--is already becoming the citizen of
to-day--(and none too soon)--largely thanks to the Field Marshal's
TIMES, JANUARY 17th. CHARLOTTE MASON.
[By kind permission of
the Editor of THE TIMES.]
A PIONEER OF SANE
Many hundreds of parents and teachers in all parts of the world will
join in mourning Miss Charlotte Mason, who died in her sleep at the
"House of Education," Ambleside, at noon yesterday. She founded the
Parents' National Educational Union so long ago as 1887, and strove
steadily for more than half a century to create a system of education
that should form a balanced union of religious belief and literary and
Her personal influence was probably more widespread than that of any
educationist of her time. The loyalty which she inspired was more than
could be accounted for by the mere weight and force of her educational
philosophy. The "House of Education" founded by her rapidly acquired a
tradition and a spirit radiating throughout the great system which she
evolved of "home schools," with many hundreds of children and
governesses widely separated in space but one in endeavour, working
through the same syllabuses with the same books, and passing by means
of test-papers, sent to Ambleside for correction, through the same
series of grades. Until almost the last it was the pride of Miss
Mason's many disciples that she knew all the children in the "Parents'
Union School," looked through their work, and followed their progress.
The "House of Education" has been, incidentally, the only institution
that has offered special professional training to the private
Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason was born on January 1st, 1842, the daughter
of Joshua Mason, a Liverpool merchant. After a home education she was
drawn to teaching work, and after some experience in various schools
and in a training college, at Chichester she began her work as an
educational reformer, and eventually founded the Union associated with
her name. The principles which she preached and which she lived to see
widely adopted, both in the schools that confessedly carried out her
ideas and in schools that tacitly adopted them, were the hunger for
knowledge, the use of school life as a deliberate preparation for the
larger interests of life, and the cultivation of a natural and earnest
interest in nature and art. She continually preached the one-ness of
education and the universal necessity of knowledge: "Without knowledge
Reason carries a man into the wilderness and Rebellion joins company."
That is a quotation from a remarkable series of letters on "The Basis
of National Strength" contributed to The
Times in 1921. Knowledge well balanced was her panacea for the
dangers of revolution; and such knowledge must be universal. It was the
due balance on different sides of education which in her view made for
The Parents' Union School was founded in 1891 to press forward these
principles, and by 1918 Miss Mason's ideas had permeated some forty
elementary schools [Now over 200.] A number of
preparatory schools adopted the syllabuses in greater or less degree
and became known as "P.N.E.U. Schools," a guarantee to parents that the
home point of view would at least not be disregarded. Great praise of
the method came from various parts of the country--Bradford,
Gloucestershire--and Miss Mason was satisfied to the last that her
scheme of education was making considerable progress in elementary as
well as secondary schools and in private teaching. Miss Mason's
publications include "Home Education," "Parents and Children," "School
of Education," "Ourselves," "Some Studies in the Formation of
Character," "The Ambleside Geography Books," "The Saviour of the World"
(a life of Christ, an issue running into six volumes), "The Basis of
National Strength," and "A Liberal Education for All." Miss Mason's
work was not dethroned by the various modern developments in the
direction of freedom of education. Together with other educational
reformers of to-day she saw children not as little unwilling
receptacles for information, but growing creatures
struggling towards the light, eager to learn, eager to work, and too
often starved of the means of doing so.
THE TIMES EDUCATIONAL SUPPLEMENT,
A PERSONAL TRIBUTE
A correspondent writes:--Charlotte Mason was that rare combination, an
original thinker and philosopher and at the same time a wonderful
organiser and business woman. She was wise and witty, keenly interested
in the things of the world, birds and flowers, books and people, but
with an inner vision for the beyond, and the graciousness of manner and
selfless consideration for others which marked the grande dame of a
passing age. She treated the smallest child with courtesy. She was
gracious to the youngest member of her household just as she was to the
great of the land who were amoung her disciples. Her students and all
who came under her influence caught the fire of her enthusiasm for her
educational principles together with her singlemindedness and humility.
She never allowed her methods of teaching and philosophy of education
to be called by her name, but by that of the society she founded to
spread them. Thus her work will continue and be ably carried on by
those she has trained and appointed for the task. She was at work up to
four days before her death, and personally superintended the many
arrangements for accomodating the ever-increasing number of students
wishing to enter her college. Her end was the passing of a great
spirit. With all her powers of mind and heart fresh and keen, memory
and apprehension unimpaired, she fell asleep after many days spent for
the good of humanity. Her teaching has spread to almost every part of
the globe; the pupils of her correspondence school are to be found in
home schoolrooms, in private and council schools, and many generations
of happy children filled with the joy of living and of learning will
rise up and call her blessed.
FROM OTHER PAPERS
"There is ample reason for supposing that a great educational effort
for the improvement of our methods of teaching our native language and
literature will meet with its reward. We are in truth an artistic
people, though we are shy of acknowledging it . . . and that great
educator, Miss Charlotte Mason, whose death we are now deploring, has
shown us how readily English children respond to the appeal of the
masterpieces of English literature."
"Miss Mason and her gospel had a curiously conspicuous way of arousing
enthusiasm. The present writer recollects, at a distance of thirty-six
years, the sight of the first issue of the "Parent's Educational
Review" and the interest awakened amoung those parents whom Frances
Mary Buss summoned together in 1887 or thereabouts to start the first
London branch of the P.N.E.U. Frequently since then one has come across
in some remote country vicarage a struggling and not very
well-equipped governess who would--on the showing of some
sympathy--open out as a glowing adherent of Miss Mason's methods,
testifying that, through her influence, teaching had been literally
turned from darkness into light; while to meet a student from the House
Of Education, Ambleside, was most assuredly to meet an enthusiast for
education, and, as a rule, a lover of children. It is characteristic of
the fine spirit of the woman that P.N.E.U. methods and ideals have
never advertised her own name; yet to many her death will come with a
of personal loss."
"Of Miss Mason it is difficult for us to speak when there are so
many much better qualified to do so. Out of the love in her heart she
gave up a long life to the betterment and well-being of her fellowmen,
and of late years her influence, her writings and her teaching have
spread far and wide
throughout the world: very high rank will she take amongst the
educationists of this or any other age. But standing out above all
this--that which so greatly endeared her to her students, to her staff
and to her friends--was her humble, loving, Christian faith and
character, the secret which won for her the love of all with whom she
came in contact.