Kevin W. Clark and Ravi Scott Jain discuss how personal values directed education in ancient cultures:
[Living out personal values] required trust and commitment, and therefore piety, the proper love and fear of God and man, was the critical virtue, ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:10). This piety aligned the students' will with the family, with society, and with God. Piety expected the young pupils’ desires, beliefs, and habits to be shaped over years in the process of incarnating them. It was more than just head knowledge. Piety required faithful devotion manifest in action (The Liberal Arts Tradition, p. 4).
The goal of classical education is that each student becomes intrinsically motivated by strong morals and virtues to do the right thing, because they love what is good. But what first causes this intrinsic and virtuous motivation? First and foremost it is the inner being of a child that is open to both truth, goodness, and beauty or the opposite. They are ready to be molded and formed in whichever direction they are guided. Charlotte Mason says, “does a child eat or drink, does he come, or go, or play– all the time he is being educated, though he is as little aware of it as he is of the act of breathing. (Home Education, p. 8). Children are open to all that is around them, they will learn, and it is up to us to guide them in the right ways. Children have an inner being that is taking in all information as the brain takes it in and must be formed above all else.
In the book In Vital Harmony, Karen Glass states, “Children are born with active minds, not simply brains, and therefore education must address this nonmaterial, spiritual aspect of a person (In Vital Harmony p. 17). As we educate their inner person we are educating them in using the instrument of their inner being–the physical brain. Charlotte Mason discusses the students’ mind as their inner being and the brain as the physical instrument of the inner being. Mason states, “I am anxious to bring before teachers the fact that a child comes into their hands with a mind of amazing potentialities: he has a brain too, no doubt, the organ and instrument of what same mind, as a piano is not the music but the instrument of music (Philosophy of Education, p. 38). We must work with their inner being teaching them how to properly use the instrument of the inner being–the physical brain.
Secondly, but equal with the final point, zeal is important for the intrinsic motivation of students. Zeal for either good or bad can motivate a student. Learning is not something that simply involves knowledge. Charlotte Mason believed that education must be taught with emotion and not only knowledge. Emotion opens the heart of the student because it moves them deep in their inner being, or mind as described by Charlotte Mason. Mason states, “Education should aim at giving knowledge ‘touched with emotion’” (School Education, p. 220).
Finally, knowledge is needed to help a student properly inform and feed their zeal leading to proper intrinsic motivations. In her book, Karen Glass states, “As we learn to care about various things—things of the natural world or personal virtues such as honesty—our feelings will motivate us to act because of what we know. In this way, knowledge becomes a virtue in a person’s life. We are told in Proverbs 19:2, “Even zeal is not good without knowledge, and the one who acts hastily sins.” We want students to not only have excitement for learning or doing good, but we want them to be properly informed to have the tools necessary to follow through on learning. Students can effectively learn when their zeal is sparked and they are given knowledge.
Practical Demonstration of Classical Education Through Manners & Etiquette
Teaching manners and etiquette is at the core of classical education as it is a training in the virtues. One of the foundational elements of learning classically is to promote within our students a love for virtue. We do this through sparking their zeal and informing their zeal with proper knowledge. Students have a natural zeal to be with one another. Through utilizing this zeal, we can fill them with knowledge of what it truly means to gather in a wholesome community and live virtuously amongst the community. We hope this leads to a lifelong understanding for living virtuously and continuously showing manners and etiquette.
The goal of the Manners & Etiquette program (Tea Party Club) hosted by Jackson Hole Classical Academy is to direct students to fall in love with many virtues through the social tea setting in order to help them spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually fall in love with the virtues. We will be exposed to the following virtues in our time together: gratitude, temperance, humility, patience, diligence, charity, and kindness. We will learn what it means to be grateful for community and the blessings given to us, temperate with our passions and desires when food and drink are placed before us, and humble in the way that we think of others before ourselves when hosting and gathering. We will learn patience while we wait for gathering and enjoying delicious food and drink until it is the proper time. We will learn diligence in the way that we persevere and continue to show hospitality even when we don't feel like it, charity in the way that we give of ourselves to others through hospitality, and kindness through showing true love and grace while we serve and give company.
It is important that the inner being of students is motivated through emotion while supplemented with knowledge in order to promote the desire to continue learning truth, goodness, and beauty. We want to provide students the opportunity to engage their zeal for being among community and marry it with proper knowledge to create a lifelong desire for virtuous behavior. Providing the inner being of the student with the means to zeal and knowledge, can lead them toward intrinsic motivation for the true, good, and beautiful. At the end of the day, our goal is for each student to truly love and respect the classical school setting, to see it as a sacred place, and to treat it as such.
Glass, Karen (2019). In Vital Harmony, Charlotte Mason and The Natural Laws of Education. CreateSpace, Scotts, Valley CA.
Mason, Charlotte (1989). School of Education: Developing A Curriculum. Tyndale House Publishers.
Jain, Ravi & Clark, Kevin (2020). The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education (Third Edition). Classical Academic Press.