While reading A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason this morning, I was struck by the relevance of Charlotte Mason's words to the work of Jeffrey Schwartz. Jeffrey Schwartz, who ASI is hosting September 27th of this year, wrote a book titled You Are Not Your Brain. I read it over a year ago and many ideas have taken root. One overarching idea is that the mind is distinct from the brain and capable of changing the way the brain processes input and, therefore, output. This has been a critical understanding for me as an adult as I seek to retrain certain brain pathways formed as a result of years of fearful thoughts as a child. It is also critical for me in my role as a teacher.
At pages 259-260 in A Philosophy of Education, Ms. Mason writes (*note that Ms. Mason uses the word materialism in this passage to mean the belief that all things originate in and are material):
"We are paying in our education of to-day for the wave of materialism that spread over the country a hundred years ago. People do not take the trouble to be definitely materialistic now, but our educational thought has received a trend which carries us whither we would not. Any apostle of a new method is welcome to us. We have ceased to believe in mind, and though we would not say in so many words that "the brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile," yet the physical brain rather than the spiritual mind is our objective in education; therefore, "things are in the saddle and ride mankind," and we have come to believe that children are inaccessible to ideas or any knowledge.
The message for our age is, Believe in mind, and let education go straight as a bolt to the mind of the pupil. The use of books is a necessary corollary, because no one is arrogant enough to believe he can teach every subject in a full curriculum with the original thought and exact knowledge shown by the man who has written a book on perhaps his life-study. But the teacher is not moved by arrogance but by a desire to be serviceable. He believes that children cannot understand well-written books and that he must make of himself a bridge between the pupil and the real teacher, the man who has written the book."
In my understanding, one of the most pivotal overarching principles of Ms. Mason's philosophy is that a child is born a person in the image of God and as such is spiritual (as well as physical). Therefore, education must provide spiritual nourishment via living ideas in rich literature. Mr. Schwartz may agree with Ms. Mason that the brain is not the focus of education, rather the mind, because the mind directs the brain. Spirit directs matter. I will continue to let these thoughts direct the focus and efforts of school planning for this upcoming year.
Oh Lord, may I truly be "serviceable" to my students (my children) in the development of their minds.