Monday, August 12, 2013

An Oyster and a Jewel: Charlotte Mason's 10th Principle

Calling of St. Matthew by Caravaggio
The glimmer of a white satin gown is most pronounced when arranged against a dark background. Stars and lightning make no impression in daylight, but against the black velvet of night they rivet our gaze toward heaven and take our breath away. Artists, lacking an English word to capture this artistic concept of the play of light against dark, long ago borrowed the Italian "chiaroscuro" (pronounced KEY-aura-SKU-ro, with a slight trill on the r's).
Charlotte Mason, who loved both art and languages, was most likely familiar with the concept of chiaroscuro, and I believe it often shows in the way she presents her "light" to us. She creates on her canvas a sort of philosophical chiaroscuro, first laying out the dark parts so we may fully apprehend the light.
Herbartianism provides the dark underlayment for the picture Charlotte begins to paint in principle 10, upon which she layers the light of principles 11 and 12. This trio of principles flows from one into the next like streams gathering into a river--Charlotte even punctuated them seamlessly. They convey individual ideas which coalesce to inform a larger idea, as we shall see over the next three weeks--but it all pivots on an understanding of Herbartian doctrine. So in this Part One of our study, we will simply meet the mind of Herbart, to get us on track with Charlotte's train of thought. Then in Part Two, we will explore Charlotte's response to Herbart, and in Part Three we'll consider some ways in which Herbartian doctrine affects us--you and me--even today.
From our own Lynn Bruce's excellent study of Miss Mason's 10th principle, which you can read in its entirety on our website. And if you are wondering why on earth you should care about "Herbartian doctrine" and what it could possibly have to do with you, she answers that question, too. You just might be surprised.

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