Charlotte Mason, “Children are born persons.”

Although I base my philosophy of education on Charlotte Mason’s “Education is an atmosphere” and I am keen to ensure my children have plenty of “living books” and are not subjected to “twaddle” – that is not the root of my philosophy. The root is my agreement with Miss Mason that children are persons. I can’t remember in which book she wrote this, but I guess it was one of her earlier books. Her writing is more or less contemporary with Charles Dickens, and of course she met Gilbert and Frances Chesterton. Dickens used his stories to challenge the prevailing view that children were commodities of labour. Chesterton wrote a great deal on the inherent dignity of the person,and had a deep and rather touching understanding of the real value of children, so Mason is part of that voice of the people that tried to remind the powers-that-be that children cannot be used as cheap labour, cheap consumers or worse still, cheap objects for the wants of adults.

Sadly it is not a lesson we have learned. In fact it would seem that we have forgotten the whole notion of personhood altogether, let alone the truth that children are persons.

So what is a person? If you want to know the answer in it’s finest form then you can start HERE with Dear ol’Tam. His understanding is second to none. The notion of personhood of course pre-dates St. Thomas Aquinas and is found in it’s earliest forms of understannding in some of the early Church Councils, most notably Niocea where the persons of the Holy Trinity and the natures of Christ were defined.

A person is an individual with a nature that can be rational. I remember school day debates where we thrashed out the possibility of persons with natures that could be fully rational but not human (aliens) and whether they would be fallen and in need of redemption. We never got very far because we never really got to grips with the business of natures and persons and what all that meant. (Ah the ’70s and ’80’s – educationally challenged times).

Children are persons, as Miss Mason attests, because they have a human nature and a human nature has the potential for rational thought. I also remember being told self-awareness was part of this.

There is also an incommunicable part of our nature-of being who we are and not being someone else.

Our culture does not seem to recognise or accept the personhood of the individual because of their human nature. It certainly does not see the need to treat with respect and ackowledge the inherent dignity of the person, if that person is too young, too old, too sick or whatever other reason for denying them personhood and humanity the strong-men come up with.

Part of the reason we have “experts” telling us that children can be bullied at school and that’s ok is because children are not seen as persons. Part of the reason children are not seen as persons is because we have ditched anything with remotely Christian roots to it so that we can do what ever we like and at the expense of anyone weaker than us.

The fact is, personhood is an embarrassment to “experts” who do not want to have to acknowledge that children are, from the very moment of conception, fully human persons made in the image of God and therefore possessing an inherent dignity with all the inherent rights that go with that. The right to life, the right to be treated well – not bullied or exploited or have every ounce of innocence ripped from them.

I have been increasingly fed up, and a little alarmed at the lack of respect for children showed by people like Ed Balls, Graham Badman, Lord Soley, Barroness Deech and the mirriad of “experts” the BBC wheels out for occasions in which parents who are treating their children like persons gets shocked news coverage.

Now, go and get the tissues and then read what Sarah Palin wrote about her son Trig when they found out he had Downs. (apparently these emails were dug up to embaress her,- well this one does her proud).


3 responses to “Charlotte Mason, “Children are born persons.”

  1. peter and carol

    your right about the lack of respect show to children by Ed Balls Graham Badman and Lord Soley but they only see children as a threat something to control!

    you could well be right about lack of respect to children due to many of us losing our christain values i think it is to late to get many of these values back you only have to look around you and see how people behave selfish lack of care for others is common place! but on saying that at a pub i visited beefore a wedding i brought some drinks cost was 7 pound 2o i only had 2oo pound note bar did not have coreect change so this guy i did not know paid for them quite amazing!

  2. I am always worried by definitions of personhood which cite rational thought or self awareness; I have worked with children so profoundly handicapped and/or brain damaged that it would be impossible to be certain they had either of those gifts. but i would still contest that they were persons.

  3. B – so am I and in many respects for the same readons. I too worked with children who would be judged by others as having no noticable rational thought.
    Hence it is important to note that human nature is a nature that has the potential for rational thought. Just as my unborn babies with God never reached that potential, doesn’t make them uinhuman or less human, so with a child or adult who has never reached the “Fully rational” stage does not in iteslf undermine them as human or make them lesser humans.

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