CMP Review 2023-06-29

CMP Review 2023-06-29

June 29, 2023

“Education should be by Things and by Books,” wrote Charlotte Mason. Not by Things only, not by Books only, but by Both. Writing in 1903, she recognized that “Ten years ago education by Things was little thought of except in the games of public schools. To-day, a great reform has taken place, and the worth of education by Things is recognised everywhere.” But by then perhaps the pendulum had swung too far, and she added: “I think there is danger in giving too prominent a place to education by Things.”

Perhaps nowhere is the tug-of-war between books and things felt more acutely than in the teaching of science. The naturalist calls us to the field. The academic calls us to the book. And Mason calls us even to living and literary books about science. “The French mind has appreciated,” she wrote in her final volume, “the fact that the approach to science as to other subjects should be more or less literary.”

I suppose I naturally incline to the Books. But education must also be by Things. That’s why it helps when an older sister is home for the summer and can lend her own enthusiasm to the Things of the lab. Sometimes it helps to keep the pendulum from swinging too far when a friend is waiting on the other side.