Tuesday, April 26, 2011

William Wordsworth, on Over-Educated Children

 This is from Wordsworth's "Prelude", quoted in Charlotte Mason's Volume 3, Chapter 19:
<<     "That common sense
          May try this common system by its fruits,
          Leave let me take to place before her sight
          A specimen pourtrayed with faithful band.
          Full early trained to worship seemliness,
          This model of a child is never known
          To mix in quarrels; that were far beneath
          Its dignity; with gifts he bubbles o'er
          As generous as a fountain; selfishness
          May not come near him, nor the little throng
          Of flitting pleasures tempt him from his path;
          The wandering beggars propagate his name,
          Dumb creatures find him tender as a nun,
          And natural or supernatural fear,
          Unless it leaps upon him in a dream,
          Touches him not. To enhance the wonder, see
          How arch his notices, how nice his sense
          Of the ridiculous; . . . . he can read
          The inside of the earth, and spell the stars;
          He knows the policies of foreign lands;
          Can string you names of districts, cities, towns,
          The whole world over, tight as beads of dew
          Upon a gossamer thread; he sifts, he weighs;
          All things are put to question; he must live
          Knowing that he grows wiser every day,
          Or else not live at all, and seeing too
          Each little drop of wisdom as it falls
          Into the dimpling cistern of his heart:
          For this unnatural growth the trainer blame,
          Pity the tree...
          Meanwhile old grandame earth is grieved to find
          The playthings, which her love designed for him,
          Unthought of: in their woodland beds the flowers
          Weep, and the river sides are all forlorn.
          Oh! give us once again the wishing-cap
          Of Fortunatus, and the invisible coat
          Of Jack the Giant-killer, Robin Hood,
          And Sabra in the forest with St George!
          The child, whose love is here, at least, doth reap
          One precious gain, that he forgets himself."'>>

This is not a plea for unschooling, but rather a plea to let children be children and to experience the world around them directly and in childish ways.  Then when they learn about the world in more academic pursuits, they'll have the life experience through which to filter that learning.

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