Born Persons: Week 1

Children are born persons

Have you ever wondered what makes Ambleside such a special place? I often ponder that question and have since I first stepped foot on campus some six years ago. I didn’t know half of what I know now, and I still don’t know half of the whole, but have come to know more about what makes this place feel different. I would like to use this column over the coming weeks to highlight some of the truths I have come to know that explain how Ambleside creates an atmosphere where people see education, and children, differently.

In each of Charlotte Mason’s six volume series she begins with a brief outline of her 18 principles of education. Her first principle states that children are born persons. This principle, so simple, yet so often trespassed, is the foundation on which all the others find their bearing; it is the solid rock upon which stands Charlotte Mason’s house of education and it is the principle that makes Ambleside different from many in the realm of education. CS Lewis echoed this sentiment when he reminded us that, “[we] have never talked to a mere mortal.” We are both material and immaterial beings. We possess characteristics of the finite and the infinite. We are are more than animals. We are not just our brains.

You may ask, then, why does the immaterial component of persons have relevance in education, and not just in the church or in the home? The answer is this: the notion that children are born persons relies on the existence of the mind at the time of birth. The mind is a component of our spiritual being that, from the very beginning, instructs our material being (such as the brain) in the truths we were made to know, thus making it the conduit for the Holy Spirit and the chief instrument of education. Educators must see this reality in order to respect personality.

The practical consequences of adopting this view of persons necessarily restricts the way we can, with respect to personality, interact, teach, care for, and bring up our children and students. More succinctly, if we are to adopt this notion, there are things we must do and things we must not do. I will tackle the practical application, or musts and must nots next time. ~Mr. York