January 18, 2024
For the World's Sake with Douglass J. Sikkema
The Charlotte Mason Centenary Series, a multi-authored monograph series commissioned in connection with the Charlotte Mason Centenary, is designed to highlight and explore the continuing educational and leadership relevance of the late 19th-century British educationalist Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) through the collective contributions of The Armitt Museum and Library, the University of Cumbria, the Charlotte Mason Institute, and other scholars and practitioners worldwide.
This post is included in a series on the monographs. Each post gives a snapshot of the author's motivation for writing, the various topics and content of each monograph, and suggestions for who might benefit most from the work.
Dr. Douglas J. Sikkema authored the monograph titled For the World’s Sake: Charlotte Mason’s Enduring Wisdom for the Anthropocene. Doug grew up in Southern Ontario amidst vineyards and peach orchards—and lots of books. Doug has a BA in English from Redeemer University, an MA in English Literature from the University of Ottawa, a Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto, and a PhD in contemporary American literature from the University of Waterloo. His current research explores the relationship of religion, literature, and the environment. Doug is an Assistant Professor of English and the Core Humanities Program at Redeemer University. Doug is currently the Board Chair of Oak Hill Academy, a classical Christian school—inspired by Charlotte Mason—that he helped start with his wife Vanessa and a group of parents. Doug and Vanessa live just outside of Hamilton on a small acreage where they raise their four children (and two dogs).
What motivated you to join this research project?
Dr. Douglas J. Sikkema: As a founding family for a new school in Southern Ontario, I have come to love the vision of education that Charlotte Mason cast over a century ago. As someone who has become deeply indebted to her legacy, I was honoured to give a short reflection on what her legacy has meant not only to my wife and I, but to our children who get nature study, living books, and a deeply relational, rich educational feast every day.
Why did you pick your topic?
Doug: A primary focus of my current research is the importance of the humanities and literature in the current ecological moment - how we imagine the world shapes how we perceive and, ultimately, behave in the world. It was amazing to dive into Mason's work and see that in her industrial context she, too, was deeply concerned about the natural world and a child's relationship to it. From start to finish she advocated that children develop a strong and intimate connection with their place, in ways that now, one hundred years on, are more important than ever.
What was the most interesting thing you discovered during your research and writing?
Doug: Mason's attention to a child's wonder and curiosity as the only proper posture from which to hear the music of the created world was intriguing. One almost hears Mason's own child-like awe in each sentence she crafts about the marvels and mysteries of flora and fauna.
What one or two ideas do you most hope people take away from reading your monograph?
Doug: I want people to take away that the current cultural context is buffering more and more children away from the world. When we stop attending to the world, we stop caring for it. Mason's vision was to cultivate a deep and focused attention to the world through repeated and habituated encounter. My hope is that more parents and teachers will see the absolute necessity of educating the next generation to approach the world with wonder and awe, and a recognition that every moment we rely on nature because we are an integral part of it.
Who do you think should (especially) read your monograph?
Doug: Teachers. Home school parents. Anyone in education!
FROM THE TEXT
Social change starts at home. And recovering Mason’s beautiful vision of home education is, as Susan Schaefer Macaulay put it, indeed for the sake of the children. But, I would argue it is also for the sake of the world. (p.50).
"Mason envisioned an educational recovery for the sake of the child and, I would add, for the sake of the created world. "The best chance we have for a healthy and whole world will start in and through healthy households." (p. 18)
"Even a century after Mason's passing, the industrialized world she reacted against has only grown more potent and its tendrils more numerous. But Mason's educational ideas and ideals were crafted in response to the revolutionary changes wrought through industrialization." (p. 24)
"Mason's belief that education should cultivate a love for the world begins with the way she imagines the student." (p. 37)
"Attention to the world is the antidote to our apathy." (p. 47)
Doug’s monograph is available in print as a physical or digital copy.
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