In preparation for the next Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival , I was reading through the section of Charlotte’s third book called “Some Unconsidered Aspects of Intellectual Training.” There is really so much in this section that it is hard to know what to say about it or where to begin.
The big idea, I think, and certainly the one that most convicted me as I read this section, is that we must submit our intellectual lives to God as much as we do other areas. As Charlotte says, it is easier to give over our physical state to the Lord. We talk easily of being good stewards of our bodies, of doing everything in moderation. But what about our thoughts?
I think the hardest part of giving our thoughts over to God is recognizing that we can control our thoughts. We tend to think of them (at least I do) as something almost uncontrollable, something that comes upon us, rather than something that we can choose or not choose. We believe, as Charlotte says, that “Every man is free to his own opinion, however casually formed” (p. 113).
Charlotte goes on here to talk about the limits of reason and how we really use our reason to justify our own preconceived ideas and cannot therefore trust it as a neutral party. This is an important concept that I think many people today, especially those who think of themselves as more scientific, miss. It is definitely something I want my kids to understand before they go out into the world. But, personally, this is not the area I struggle in.
What I find hard is just basic thought control (sounds like a loaded phrase I know but I mean something perfectly innocent by it). I don’t know about others but I was not raised with the idea that I can choose what to think about and what thoughts not to let into my little brain. All those things that my kids in a Charlotte Mason education are supposed to be learning, the habit of attention, concentration, being able to focus all their mind and to remember after one reading, I am horrible at those things. Perhaps that is why I am so attracted to Charlotte’s methods; I want something better for my kids. My mind always drifts during sermons. And I rarely remember things I read well. That’s actually why I blog on books so much — so that I can look back myself and remember what I read. It’s actually kind of nice when it comes to movies because I can watch them again without knowing what is going to happen :)
But enough about me. Here are the big points Charlotte makes, as I see them:
1. Our human reason is fallen and we cannot entirely trust it. Usually we use it to justify positions we already hold or want to hold.
2. We must cultivate good intellectual habits like attention, concentration, thoroughness, accuracy, intellectual volition, reflection, and meditation.
3. We must be careful what we let into our minds and must feed them on living ideas. Ideas are the food of the mind. Without them, they will atrophy. But we must also act as doorkeepers and only let in those ideas which are worthy. This is why a large part of the teacher’s responsibility in a CM education is just choosing the books.
As I have said, I struggle most with the second point above. How about you? Is there an area which you have more trouble with here?
There is more I can say on this passage, but I think those thoughts will wait for another post.