Thursday, March 27, 2008

Let's Talk About...Red Flags in Catholic Homeschool Catalogs

Yes, that time of year is once more upon us! It's Homeschool Shopping Season! Homeschool conference season is upon us, leaving parents with bags of books and (hopefully) happy memories. But – ah! - a homeschool catalog is a horse of a different color. We can still peruse catalogs at our leisure, lingering over them in our favorite corner of the couch, gleaning ideas by scanning book lists and descriptions, and feel ourselves motivated merely by flipping through pages. A homeschool catalog, unlike a conference, is always waiting for us. A homeschool catalog holds a different kind of…potential. You have to be a homeschooling parent to understand what I mean by that remark.

I’m more than a bit concerned, however, when I read through the (still) relatively few Catholic homeschool catalogs available today and see a variety of Red Flags in at least one of them that shall not (yet) be named. One worrisome example is Charlotte Mason, “affectionately” known by her “followers” as “CM.” For those who don’t know, the long deceased Charlotte Mason’s philosophy was anti-Catholic. One might say that “CM” aspired to be the "New and Improved" (albeit female and Victorian) version of Rousseau, one of her favorite philosophical “mentors.” (She had quite a few - Pestalozzi, Froebel, Huxley...and the list goes on.)

Mason knowingly embraced the philosophy of Rousseau, the so-called Father of the Enlightenment, aka the “Age of Reason” in which Our Lord was deposed from His altar, in which Our Lady was replaced with the “Goddess of Reason” and in which countless faithful were martyred at the guillotine.

Yes, dear readers, that's real history with what Hillaire Belloc called “the Catholic conscience.” As he explained so well, a true Catholic sees and understands history “from within” and not with a “perspective” or an “aspect.” I realize that many Catholic homeschooling parents, themselves cheated of a Catholic education in which religion (and the Catholic conscience of history) permeated all the subjects, never heard of the French Revolution. Not knowing much, if anything, of the French Revolution, it cannot be expected such parents know of Rousseau, much less expect that they have they read his infamous novel, Emile or understand its significance in this discussion. (Let it suffice to say that the theme of Emile was simply this: Children should be raised for the State, not for God).

But Mason knew all that Rousseau advocated in that regard - and she thought it a grand idea. Can there really exist a Catholic parent who does not find that fact alarming?

Since there are well-meaning Catholic homeschooling parents who do not yet know these characters or about these important facts of history, I explain to them, with a detailed "overview" in my books and speeches, why “Rousseau” is a huge, billowing Red Flag. I do so to further explain why Charlotte Mason's educational ideas or methods were not of a kind which we Catholics should respect or emulate.

It's one matter if parents really didn't know the truth about Rousseau, Pestalozzi, the French Revolution, or even Charlotte Mason herself. However - lest we forget the Church's teaching regarding culpability - we become morally responsible if, once charitably warned, we refuse to accept the truth for what it is.

The truth is that Rousseau was a degenerate and Charlotte Mason knew it; still, she admired him, calling him a "prophet" and a "genius." Since she admired Rousseau, an enemy of the Catholic Church, and since she promoted errors condemned by the Church, what did all of that make her?

A heretic, for one thing. A rationalist, for another. And let's not forget a Communist (under the guise of Christian Socialism), a feminist, a humanist, a Darwinian, and host of other sundry terms that might make even the most liberal Catholic a tad nervous.

Right reason, combined with even a superficial knowledge of Catholic history and a budding Catholic conscience of history, makes a world of difference in understanding what is wrong with Charlotte Mason. Once one studies the French Revolution (and its lingering effects) with a fully formed Catholic conscience of history, no further explanation is necessary.

That's why so many parents who intrinsically understand what it means to “Keep It Catholic” don’t allow the Charlotte Mason "Method" (or anything "CM") in their homes. So what is the faithful Catholic to do when flipping through at least one Catholic homeschooling catalog, as I did this past week, only to find a few books about CM, like “The Charlotte Mason Companion,” proudly displayed and sold? That very fact alone brings forth questions about the company itself.

Can it be that a Catholic homeschool company that has been around for quite some time truly doesn’t know anything about the real “issues” about Charlotte Mason? It hardly seems possible. Could it be that they don't know the real history of the French Revolution?

If that is true, can we really trust their history recommendations for our Catholic homeschools, much less their recommendations in other study areas? Or is that they can blithely and completely disregard Charlotte Mason's admiration for Rousseau, the man who fathered and then abandoned his illegitimate children, and set in motion the ideals that led to the French Revolution? One might as well admire the person who admires Karl Marx, Lenin and Stalin - and be done with it.

Continuing with this serious reflection, does or does not this Catholic-owned business accept the Church’s condemnation of the very same errors embraced and promoted by Charlotte Mason? If they accept it, they will abandon carrying anything to do with CM.

And then there is the “Great Books” philosophy, which is also being touted in the same catalog. (It falls within the realm of what people today think is "classical education.") As I humorously ask my audiences, “Who decided what’s so great about the Great Books, anyway?”

In fact, in my book,
Home Education Guide, Volume I, I explain the worldly thinking that is the "Great Books" philosophy. We cannot pretend we don’t “get it,” we cannot “gloss over” these very real and very important issues, and we cannot pretend that we can somehow “catholicize” Charlotte Mason.

We can’t do that because we cannot “catholicize” heresy. So keep cultivating both your Catholic Conscience of History and your Red Flag Instinct. And when you see Red Flags like Charlotte Mason or “Great Books” in a Catholic homeschooling catalog, please --- do yourself (not to mention countless other homeschooling families, as well as the company) a huge favor:

Give them a phone call or drop them an email and let them know how important it is that their customers can trust them to be Catholics of integrity, and not just a company out to make a quick and easy dollar. Ask them to drop anything that promotes or supports Charlotte Mason or the Great Books, and replace those products with more items that help you and yours “Keep It Catholic.”

(One line slightly edited. First posting June 29, 2006 to the original blog, Keeping It Catholic - with Marianna Bartold)

No comments:

Post a Comment