What are the popular topics that circle in today’s educational field? We talk about STEM, mathematics, technology, critical thinking, integration, emotional intelligence, robotics, health, bullying, learning disabilities, obesity, teacher to student ratio, social skills, virtual learning, adequate facilities and resources and the funding for them.
Here is one topic that an internet search of educational topics does not bring to the surface – Character. Charlotte claims this as one of the top priorities of education. She talks repeatedly about Character training in all of her Volumes. Volume 4 is specifically devoted to it. The following is a quote from Volume 6 where she claims that education is to be about the business of character training. No mention of mathematics, science, learning environment- just boring ‘ol character.
As you read, keep in mind, when Charlotte uses the term ‘good will’ she is not speaking of what we might picture as good nature or a happy, generous, kind motive. Our common perception of ‘good will’ might be the angel scene in the Christmas story – “peace and good will toward men”. This is not the idea Charlotte is conveying in ‘will’. As you read ‘will’ use the word-picture she uses – “choosing.”
Also as you read, keep in mind our current educational buzz topics and social circumstances. Volume 6 was published in 1925. Pause a moment to reflect on her words and whether they are outdated or have validity for today.
And one more piece of background, in this section Charlotte references Mansoul. This is a reference to Volume 4. It is an allegory of what goes on inside each person- their will, their conscience, their heart, their reason, their intelligence… It is therefore titled, Ourselves.
“Every assault upon the flesh and spirit of man is an attack however insidious upon his personality, his will; but a new Armageddon is upon us in so far as that the attack is no longer indirect but is aimed consciously and directly at the will, which is the man; and we shall escape becoming a nation of imbeciles only because there will always be persons of good will amongst us who will resist the general trend. The office of parents and teachers is to turn out such persons of good will; that they should deliberately weaken the moral fibre of their children by suggestion is a very grave offence and a thoughtful examination of the subject should act as a sufficient deterrent. For, let us consider. What we do with the will we describe as voluntary. What we do without the conscious action of will is involuntary. The will has only one mode of action, its function is to ‘choose,’ and with every choice we make we grow in force of character. – p.129
For right thinking is by no means a matter of self-expression. Right thought flows upon the stimulus of an idea, and ideas are stored as we have seen in books and pictures and the lives of men and nations; these instruct the conscience and stimulate the will, and man or child ‘chooses.’ An accomplished statesman exhibited to us lately how
the disintegration of a great empire was brought about by the weakness of its rulers who allowed their will-power to be tampered with, their judgment suggested, their actions directed, by those who gained access to them.
There is no occasion for panic, but it is time that we realised that to fortify the will is one of the great purposes of education, and probably some study of the map of the City of Mansoul would afford us guidance: at least, a bird’s eye view of the riches of the City should be spread before children. They should themselves know of the wonderful capacities to enter upon the world as a great inheritance which exist in every human being. All its beauty and all its thought are open to everyone. Everyone may take service for the world’s use, everyone may climb those delectable mountains from whence he gets the vision of the City of God. He must know something of his body with its senses and its appetites: of his intellect, imagination and æsthetic sense: of his moral nature, ordered by love and justice. Realising how much is possible to Mansoul and the perils that assail it, he should know that the duty of self-direction belongs to him; and that powers for this direction are lodged in him, as are intellect and imagination, hunger and thirst. These governing powers are the conscience and the will. The whole ordering of education with its history, poetry, arithmetic, pictures, is based on the assumption that conscience is incapable of ordering life without regular and progressive instruction. We need instruction also concerning the will. Persons commonly suppose that the action of the will is automatic, but no power of Mansoul acts by itself and of itself, and some little study of ‘the way of the will’—which has the ordering of every other power—may help us to understand the functions of this Premier in the kingdom of Mansoul. – p.130-131
So, Is Character Training an Educational Hot Topic? I think the answer for today’s educational climate = No.
But it CAN BE for YOUR educational climate.
You can get a handle on the idea of
Will and Conscience in Volume 1 p.317-340.
Also Volume 6 p.128-138.
Then for practicality Volume 4 Ourselves is a must. You can read alone yourself or with your children and students. If you and your students are new to CM doing this as a family or group study would be beneficial and practical.