Christianity, Philosophy
Comments 2

Charlotte Mason’s Prescription for Modern Social Ills by Tara Schorr

One doesn’t have to look far to see the devastating effects that modern society has had on relationships.  Divorce rates are through the roof, and that is for the decreasing number of people who still choose to get married in the first place.  People can hop from friend to friend, church to church, or club to club with a consumer mentality that approaches all of life like a wine-tasting party.  Try it, get whatever enjoyment out of it that you can, spit it out, and then critique it as you move on.

God’s purpose for creating us was for fellowship.  We have a need for intimacy with God and to be united with others in love as a part of the fabric of our beings.  The consequence of the current lifestyle is a wake of brokenness, inability to trust, feelings of isolation, and searching for fulfillment in unhealthy ways. Thus, it is critical that our children be equipped to enter into God’s plan for relationships.

I have heard that teens these days are so lacking in intimate relationships that they will refer to somebody as “a really good friend” because they have put clichés in code as comments on their MySpace page.  I have also heard the growing murmur rising about the decline in healthy communication since the obsession with text messaging has taken our culture by storm.  Email has also gotten its fair share of blame in the public conversation.  I wonder however, if it is unreasonable to say that the education that most are receiving, with vocabulary deficient and dumbed-down texts, contrived shallow materials with which to think upon, and the lack of discussion of ideas (even to the extent that many schools now forbid talking during lunchtime), is also contributing a lion’s share to the destruction of our community life.

As Charlotte Mason educators, our little pupil’s minds are filled with adventures, great ideas, inspiring heroes, and appreciation of beauty.  That richness of soul affords them much more interesting conversation than being limited to talking about a video game that is played obsessively and never touches on thoughts with any consequence or lead to an intimate connection.  It seems that the deeper things to which a Charlotte Mason student is introduced awaken their own depths.  Additionally, they are equipped with the language to express it in an articulate and engaging way.  Surely this is a foundation that serves to facilitate and strengthen fellowship.

The most important ingredient I see that Charlotte Mason included in her recipe of life with children is duty to God and duty to man.   Even the word “duty” is hardly ever used these days, let alone lived out as an example before us.  Charlotte Mason had a hearty sprinkling of that word throughout her writings.  She charged a child’s authority figures in terms that left no uncertainty in statements such as “you will see that it is because of the possibilities of ruin and loss which lie about every human life that I am pressing upon parents the duty of saving their children by the means put into their hands. Perhaps it is not too much to say, that ninety-nine out of a hundred lost lives lie at the door of parents who took no pains to deliver them from sloth, from sensual appetites, from willfulness, no pains to fortify them with the habits of a good life.”  There would be a transformation in our culture if that advice were heeded.
A community that embraces a sense of “duty to man” would understand commitment.  People would keep their word, following through even when it was inconvenient or stopped being fun.  There would be greater honor for one another, consideration of how actions impact others, and self-control; all things that God uses to bring us life, blessing, and to grow us up.

Many stories of days gone by have heroes that are moved by a sense of duty that puts others first and shine with nobility.  We are struck with reverence for those heroes and their actions resonate in our hearts as ones that are right and true.  We are inspired to rise to that standard because inside something is telling us it is greatness.  So, why do the masses shy away from instilling such character?

I believe many are harmed by abusive authority.  For some it was authority that tried to instill right behavior without regard to the fact that they were working with people.  In the church-world we would call it legalism.  There is such a fear of legalism that we don’t know how to embrace discipline or administer it.  For others it was authority that was negligent in training or supervising.  I appreciate how Charlotte Mason presented the whole picture by always approaching children as persons, even when speaking of duty, as demonstrated in this quote:  “Be courteous, be candid, be grateful, be considerate, be true; there are aspects of duty enough to occupy the attention of mother and child for every day of the child-life; and all the time, the idea of duty is being formed, and conscience is being educated and developed. At the same time, the mother exercises the friendly vigilance of a guardian angel, being watchful, not to catch the child tripping, but to guide him into the acting out of the duty she has already made lovely in his eyes; for it is only as we do that we learn to do, and become strong in the doing. As she instructs her child in duty, she teaches him to listen to the voice of conscience as to the voice of God, a ‘Do this,’ or ‘Do it not,’ within the breast, to be obeyed with full assurance. It is objected that we are making infallible, not the divinely implanted conscience, but that same conscience made effective by discipline. It is even so; in every department of life, physical or spiritual, human effort appears to be the condition of the Divine energizing; there must be a stretching forth of the withered arm before it receives strength; and we have every reason to believe that the instructed conscience, being faithfully followed, is divinely illuminated.”  Can anything else so beautifully illustrate how life-giving grace can walk hand-in-hand with the proper training of our students?

I want the atmosphere of my school to be infused with that kind of honor, depth, and intimacy.  I want my kids to aspire to that degree of nobility of character.  I want to impart a value of relationships by modeling it in the way that I interact with them.  How about you?  If we take this mandate afresh to heart we might just save a life from emptiness, loneliness, being a quitter, casual sex, irresponsibility, divorce, broken relationships with their own children, and many other devastating things.  Instead, they might live righteously, thriving in family and community, being stable, and reliable.

This entry was posted in: Christianity, Philosophy


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.


  1. willowspring says

    How very intuitive, Tara! I am completely convicted by this: “you will see that it is because of the possibilities of ruin and loss which lie about every human life that I am pressing upon parents the duty of saving their children by the means put into their hands.” I have been “coasting” for a while now, relaxing after working for so many years to build a sense of magnanimity within the hearts of our children. The truth is, there is no standing still. We have to be vigilant so that their lives will be saved from loss and ruin. Thanks for the reminder. I bought a book recently called “The Prayers of Peter Marshall.” I’m going to start using these in the morning before official studies begin to bring that reminder of our children’s duty to God and man to them. Ordinarily we read a Corrie ten Boom book each semester — to gently urge them to be who they should be. This year we did not continue and I can see a lack of fruitfulness that wasn’t there before. Not that we need to “instill” anything within them as if they’re buckets to be filled with godly character. It’s much deepr and wonderful than that. Magical, even. We place books, opportunities, and such in front of them. Opportunities to serve within our neighborhoods, mowing the grass for an elderly neighbor or the woman across the street who has cancer. There are countless ways we can urge them toward good deeds and godly character.

    I also think in our fast-paced society it’s easy to push magnanimity aside. We’re too stressed to be the bigger man. I just saw a news report about a woman who lost her home due to foreclosure. She went to the auction house, to grieve and attain closure. A woman there saw her and asked why she was crying. When she found out, she bought the woman’s house and gave it back to her. That was above and beyond the call of duty. But isn’t it nice to know there are still such people in the world, despite the social ills we’ve created for ourselves?

    Lovely post…


  2. storybookfamily says

    Amen Tara! Well said! I too long for my children to have hearts filled with the beauty and grace of Christ and that they in turn will reach out to a hurting world with His love.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Beth S.

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