October 19, 2023
The Powerful and Neglected Voice of Charlotte Mason with Elaine Cooper
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 the first in a series about each of the monographs. Each gives a snapshot into the author's motivation for writing, the various topic and content of each monograph, and suggestions for who might benefit most from the work.
Elaine Cooper's monograph is titled The Powerful and Neglected Voice of Charlotte Mason: A Coherent, Holistic Approach to Education for Our Times. Elaine has been committed to educational research since first encountering Charlotte Mason's dynamic approach to the philosophy and practice of education whilst working many years ago alongside Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, author of For the Children's Sake. As a consequence of that book, she was involved with the educational charity Child Light and privileged to commission and edit When Children Love to Learn. In 1999 an International Charlotte Mason Conference was held at Scale How in Ambleside, bringing interested American educationalists to Britain. She was also able to reprint The Story of Charlotte Mason in two separate editions (Child Light, 2000, and Lutterworth Press, 2021), as well as reprinting Jenny King's succinct book Charlotte Mason Reviewed (Child Light, 2000). She has been involved with Heritage School in Cambridge, UK, where she lives, near to her children and grandchildren.
What motivated you to join this research project?
Elaine Cooper: I have been a keen Mason student since first discovering her writings and a small PNEU school in the late 1970's. During Covid 2019, I finally had some time to produce a paper for the British Society for the History of Philosophy Journal who were doing a special focus on unknown women philosophers. However, they did not publish it; so when I heard about the monograph project, I decided to send it to Dr. Deani van Pelt who thought it could be useful.
Why did you pick your topic?
Elaine: Outside of Mason circles, Mason is not really known about, and it seemed that an overview of her life, context, and thought from a 21st century perspective could be helpful in correcting that.
What was the most interesting thing you discovered during your research and writing?
Elaine: Learning more about Mason, her life and commitment to Christ the King was very affecting, and through her writings one is drawn into a 'living' relationship with this quiet but remarkably gifted lady. Her profound insights into children and philosophy seem to have been honed by the very real difficulties in her own life, and she emerged as an examplar of the transformative education she was trying to promote.
What one or two ideas do you most hope people take away from reading your monograph?
Elaine: 1. The importance of understanding the power of mind in young children, that they are beings of immeasurable power and that their education is necessarily a spiritual endeavour.
2. That children should be helped to become aware of their inheritance of all the good things in the world; nature, literature, history, art and music, and of the best things of the past, the present, and the future.
Who do you think should (especially) read your monograph?
Elaine: Young teachers, parents, college of education undergraduates and school administrators.
From the Text
"This paper considers Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason's rise to prominence as an original thinker and philosopher of education in the late 19th century. The work of Mason has, until recently, received little attention in the history of modern educational thought, possibly due to her clear religious convictions and an increasing state provision of education. But her work is interesting on many counts: her achievement as a woman in the history of education in England; her philosophical and religious perspective which formed the basis of her critique of mainstream educational thinkers of her day; and her unique synthesis of an applied educational philosophy making use of the emerging physiological/psychological sciences. Contemporary interest in her work is now contributing to a more settled legacy, particularly--but not exclusively--in faith-based education." (p.13)
"Children are separate and complete beings even in their dependency, capable of reflecting some of God's attributes." (p.24)
"Mind is that power within the person that actively seeks to know about the world and what it encounters, and the chief concern is not to starve these fertile intelligences." (p.46)
Consistent with [Mason's] fundamental idea that children are persons is that they want to know--about everything." (p.52)
Elaine's monograph is available in print as a physical or digital copy.
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