In Ourselves, the "House of Mind" section begins by introducing "My Lord Intellect." If education is a passport to the lands beyond our own kingdom, then Intellect is the travel agent and guide. On some journeys (such as to the realm of History) he is accompanied by "my Lord Imagination, Chief Explorer"; on others (such as Mathematics), by "My Lord Attorney-General Reason."
What are the initial threats to our relationship with Intellect? First, inertia that will not let us begin something (because it looks like too much work); second, too much habit and too much specialisation, turning us into what the Victorians called "cranks" about an idea or a favourite topic. (See Book One, Chapter Three in Ourselves.) "It is a mistake, perhaps, to think that, to do one thing well, we must just do and think about that and nothing else all the time. It is our business to know all we can and to spend a part of our lives in increasing our knowledge of Nature and Art, of Literature and Man, of the Past and the Present. That is one way in which we become greater persons, and the more a person is, the better he will do whatever piece of special work falls to his share. Let us have, like Leonardo, a spirit 'invariably royal and magnanimous.'" (Ourselves, Chapter Three)
Then we have some "good servants, bad masters." Imagination is one of those: it has the potential for good, but can be used in bad ways as well. "Just ask yourself, who is the chief person in all the pretty pictures you make, in all the plans you form? If you have to confess that you, yourself, are, why, Imagination has just been making pleasure-houses for Self instead of collecting pictures of the great rich world." (Ourselves, Chapter Four)
Next is Reason: also both positive and negative. "It is quite true that good laws, benevolent enterprises, great inventions, are the outcome of Reason; but you will often be surprised when you hear good people talk and try to convince others of those things of which their own Reason has convinced them." (Ourselves, Chapter Six)
Charlotte has more to say about each of these--some of it quite important--in the above-mentioned chapters of Ourselves. But since we're looking at Volume Six, we just have to take her summary and move on.
The chapter now shifts to a section called "Intellectual Appetite." Again, Charlotte seems to be summarizing directly from her earlier writings, because the next chapter of Ourselves starts like this: "We consider the Lords of the Exchequer, the Desires, after the Intellect, because their office is to do for Mind pretty much what the Appetites do for Body. It is as necessary that Mind should be fed, should grow and should produce, as that these things should happen to Body; and, just as Body would never take the trouble to feed itself if it never became hungry, so Mind would not take in what it needs, if it, also, had not certain Desires to satisfy." She describes the desire for approbation (the approval of others, which is not a bad thing in itself, but which can get twisted into Vanity); the desire to excel; and the desires for wealth, power, society, and knowledge.
"There they are, those desires, ready to act on occasion and our business is to make due use of this natural provision for the work of education." (Philosophy, Chapter Three)
What is the due use of our children's natural intellectual desires? (One response to that question.)
How do our children's schools, home schools, Sunday Schools, or other learning situations provide for a healthy balance of these mental servants and desires? Do 21st-century schools promote competition or short-term rewards over the desire for real, in-depth knowledge for its own sake? Do we--teachers, Christian educators, homeschooling parents--encourage our children to "know all we can and to spend a part of our lives in increasing our knowledge of Nature and Art, of Literature and Man, of the Past and the Present?" Do we do that ourselves? How?
How do we keep the children--and the adults--from "admiring the wrong things, or, what is morally worse, [becoming] arrogant in the belief that it is only we and our kind who are able to appreciate and distinguish beauty?"
"Children are not to be fed morally like young pigeons with predigested food. They must pick and eat for themselves and they do so from the conduct of others which they hear of or perceive. But they want a great quantity of the sort of food whose issue is conduct, and that is why poetry, history, romance, geography, travel, biography, science and sums must all be pressed into service. No one can tell what particular morsel a child will select for his sustenance. One small boy of eight may come down late because "I was meditating upon Plato and couldn't fasten my buttons," and another may find his meat in 'Peter Pan'! But all children must read widely, and know what they have read, for the nourishment of their complex nature."--Philosophy of Education, Chapter ThreeChapter Three isn't quite done yet; one more post to come on this one.
Charlotte Mason, Oliver, and Ali-Baba: Chapter One
No more paper pizza: Chapter Two
Body and Mind, Heart and Soul: Chapter Three, Part One