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26 September 2016

20 Principles: Justice (part 2)

This post is part of a series. Please to visit the series index for more thoughts on the writings of Charlotte Mason.

Go here to read Justice (Part One), which covers Truth and Integrity, the first half of Miss Mason's four aspects of Justice:

Truth: justice in word
Integrity: justice in action
Sound Opinions: justice in thought
Sound Principles: justice in motive

Now we're moving away from that external behavior which is seen and on to that internal motivation which is unseen:

Sound Opinions: Justice in Thought

On our journey toward Justice in our actions, I think that, to get the details right, we are going to have to come to a place where we require justice of ourselves in our thoughts -- which will greatly impact the opinions that we allow ourselves to form and to hold. Miss Mason explained it this way:

There is another form in which the magnanimous citizen of the future must be taught the sense of justice. Our opinions show our integrity of thought. Every person has many opinions whether his own honestly thought out, or notions picked up from his pet newspaper or his companions. The person who thinks out his opinions modestly and carefully is doing his duty as truly as if he saved a life because there is no more or less about duty.
-Charlotte Mason, 6:61-62

At first, I was more than a little startled by the assertion that sound opinions could be as weighty as a life saved. Then I thought of the current political debacle with Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton as our candidates, and how unsound opinions are endangering our Liberties -- and how Agency is God's most priceless gift to man, next to life itself. And I thought how the careless opinion, repeated, become gossip and can ruin the reputation of a good man undeservedly, and the pain and heartache that causes. All the sudden, opinions seem much more important.

I have no idea if this is a legitimate Einstein quote, memes from the internet being what they are, but whoever said it, I think there is a great deal of wisdom in it:

In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.

In recent years, I have become more inclined to say, "I haven't researched that topic enough to have a well-formed opinion on the matter," and when I think about this idea of sound opinion reflecting justice in thought, it makes me want to be all the more cautious about forming and especially sharing hasty opinions.

Sound Principles: Justice in Motive

It was the marital arts that really taught me to see what a principle is; it's really remarkable how  techniques, when examined closely, are just so many ways of manipulating the opponents' spine this way or that way.  Once I learned to think of principles as the underlying idea that governs body movement in the martial arts, it was a concept that quickly transferred to and enriched my understanding of my faith.

Take Sabbath observance, for instance. We make "Sunday Cans" to help children think of things that they can do on the Sabbath. That's a technique. There are long lists of techniques that are all aimed at helping people think of things that are acceptable for the Sabbath. I've seen people get into some pretty intense conversations about whether this or that ought to make the cut. But once you understand the principle, it becomes a whole lot clearer: The Sabbath exists to create an opportunity for us to worship alone and in community,  and to assist us in coming to Christ. That's the point; the principle. It's the movement the technique is designed to create. It's the underlying unifying idea that causes us to include or exclude any specific activity. And the passing of the principle to our children is far more important that passing a list of techniques; the understanding and acceptance of the principle is what's going to make the teaching stick over the long run, and help them to sort out what to do with new options that they discover as potential activities for the Sabbath day.

For what, after all, are principles but those motives of first importance which govern us, move us in thought and action? We appear to pick up these in a casual way and are seldom able to render an account of them and yet our lives are ordered by our principles, good or bad.
-Charlotte Mason, 6:62

Christ told the lawyer that all the Law and the Prophets hung on just two principles,  which can be summed up in only six words: love God and love your neighbor. It is no accident that the principle that guides the entire Gospel of Christ deals with the things going on in the heart, and the reason that it's the principle is because love is the motive that guides and creates just actions. And educating children in sound principles - good and just motivations - is at the very heart and soul of what it means to educate a child.

True education seeks to make men and women not only good mathematicians, proficient linguist, profound scientists, or brilliant literary lights, but also honest men with virtue, temperance, and brotherly love. It seeks to make men and women who prize truth, justice, wisdom, benevolence, and self-control as the choicest acquisitions of a successful life.
--David O. McKay, quoted by Ted E. Brewerton, "Character - The True Aim of Education"

Miss Mason put it succinctly, both outlining the duty of the parent and educator, and also pointing out the predictable result of failure to properly instruct:

If a schoolboy is to be guided into the justice of thought from which sound opinions emanate, how much more does he need guidance in arriving at that justice in motive which we call sound principles. ... Small wonder that juvenile crime increases; the intellectually starved boy must needs find food for his imagination, scope for his intellectual power; and crime, like the cinema, offers it must be admitted, brave adventures.
-Charlotte Masons 6:62-63

It's easier, I think, to consider what we justly owe to our fellow men in our behavior and attitudes and motivations. But Justice is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways:

"You ask: Have we then no rights ourselves, and have other people no duties towards us? We have indeed rights, precisely the same rights as other people, and when we learn to think of ourselves as one of the rest, with just the same rights as other people and no more, to whom others owe just such duties as we owe to them and no more, we shall, as it were, get our lives in focus and see things as they are."
-Charlotte Mason, 4:139

Here, of course, we see the problem of trying to separate religion and education. For, if you banish faith from education, on what grounds will you lay your principles? And without a solid principled foundation, how can you build the sort of education that will encourage children to become adults who are honest men of virtue, temperance, and brotherly love who prize Truth, Goodness, and Beauty? These principles are at the heart of religion, which is why Miss Mason said that education is, rightly, religion's handmaid. Others have said it in other words:

Alma discovered this same principle, that “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just--yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword” (Alma 31:5). Why? Because the sword focused only on punishing behavior--or do--while preaching the word changed people’s very nature--who they were or could become.
-Lynn G Robins, Apr. 2011

And that's what we're after - not just a change in behavior, but a mighty change in the very nature of our students. We want Justice not only in the behavior that is seen, but in the unseen, quiet parts of the soul. We want Justice, in all its facets, to be written in the fleshy tables of their hearts.

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