In This Corner…

CHARLOTTE MASON v. LINDA HIRSHMAN

My Amble Ramble Yahoo group (a support group for Charlotte Mason Education) has been abuzz this week over Linda Hirshman's recent assertion that a woman's place is in the office. Reading articles by Hirshman alongside Home Education by my Charlotte Mason, list member Kari Hannon was struck by the incredible difference between these two women.

I can imagine the boxing arena full of cheering women as we set Linda Hirchsman, a prominent feminist thinker up against Charlotte Mason, prominent educator from the late 1800's/early 1900's whose work has recently made a comeback to greatly influence the modern home education movement.

Kari gave me permission to reprint her thoughts here:

In my reading of Hirshman's article, it is clear to me that she has no clue what motherhood and "staying at home" truly is. Of educated women who choose to stay at home she writes, "these daughters of the upper classes will be bearing most of the burden of the work always associated with the lowest caste: sweeping and cleaning bodily waste…They have voluntarily become untouchables." So, she equates it solely with the physical and lowly tasks of cleaning homes and children. A maid or janitor. Contrast that view with Charlotte Mason's understanding of the value of motherhood.

First, Mason, an early 20th Century British educator, quotes another person called Pestalozzi, who said, "The mother is qualified, and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; …and what is demanded of her is–a thinking love…God has given to the child all the faculties of our nature, but the grand point remains undecided–how shall this heart, this head, these hands be employed? to whose service shall they be dedicated? … Maternal love is the first agent in education."

Then Mason writes, "We are waking up to our duties and in proportion, as mothers become more highly educated and efficient, they will doubtless feel the more strongly that the education of their children during the first six years of life is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hand but their own. And they will take it up as their profession–that is, with the diligence, regularity, and punctuality which men bestow on their professional labours." (Home Education, vol.1)

When I first read Mason's words, my reaction was, "Alas…if only that were true!" To me, daycares are much too prevalent and I have not seen this awakening in educated mothers that Mason envisioned.

But Hirshman's article gave me hope! 

Hirshman is non-plussed that all these educated mothers are leaving the workplace and returning home. "This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women," she writes.

The fact that top, "elite", educated women are choosing to stay home and don't see it as "unjust" should clue her in to the fact that maybe it IS natural, brings self-fulfillment and happiness and is, yes, even honorable. If things don't stack up as you think they should, go back and check your hypothesis. But that's unthinkable; instead, she points back at the feminist system and blames it for not going far enough. It targeted education and the workplace, but obviously those were not the correct targets. The real target is the home. "Feminists must acknowledge that the family is to 2005 what the workplace was to 1964 and the vote to 1920." In other words, family is holding women back from their full potential as human beings. Only when they are freed from the traditional understanding of home and family will women be able to "flourish". 

The fact that these women and their families "seem happy" and would consider themselves as "flourishing" means nothing to Hirshman. It doesn't matter what they think, because she knows what is better for them than they do themselves. "We care because what they do is bad for them, is certainly bad for society, and is widely imitated."

Ahh, thank you Ms. Hirshman, for your loving concern. However, I see that your concern is not truly for women. If it were, you would rejoice with them that they are happy in their chosen field of motherhood. Instead, you lament that they have a choice at all. "Prying women out of their traditional roles is not going to be easy. It will require rules."

Her concern is not truly for society, either, for if it were, she would be more concerned about the children she is so quick to hand over to the casual daycare worker. The good of society does not rest solely on the shoulders of those in the workforce or those currently holding the "power"–be it man or woman. A society can change for the better or for worse with each successive generation. Therefore, any society must look to the future and ensure the proper raising of its young. "Children," writes Charlotte Mason, "are, in truth, to be regarded less as personal property than as public trusts, put into the hands of parents that they may make the very most of them for the good of society." And who cares more for the success of her child than a mother? Mason writes further, "This is why we hear so frequently of great men who have had good mothers– that is, mothers who brought up their children themselves, and did not make over their gravest duty to indifferent persons."

No, Ms. Hirshman's concern is for money, power and honor–her own definition of honor, of course, which seems to be related solely to money and power. Her love of money and power has blinded her. She is blind to the truth that, not only are men and women different, but that the world benefits when we embrace those differences, allowing both men and women to flourish in the roles for which they were created.

I would recommend that Ms. Hirshman go back to the drawing board and do a bit more research into 1) the natures of God and man and 2) the importance of training in the development of a child. Once she has a deeper grasp of both of those, she will be able to see why feminism has not "worked" to her current satisfaction. Her response may no longer be a bewildered, "What is going on?" but a victorious, "Hallelujah!"

Thank you for sharing, Kari!

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