Tuesday, July 9, 2013

G.K. Chesterton On Parents and Education

"If children see that their teachers despise what their parents desire, there is and must be a conflict of authorities. And there is, and must be, in the modern State, a monstrous discovery; that it is the more new and unnatural authority that has the power." 

-G.K. Chesterton (New Witness, Dec. 27. 1918)

I just read this quote the other day in Gilbert Magazine and it made me stop and think. I couldn't find the article from which this quote is from unfortunately. When reading Chesterton it's important to not just extrapolate from a quote completely because sometimes Chesterton throws a random quote or connection into an article without really dealing with the subject of the quote at all throughout the rest of the article. Of course this is part of his brilliance, the ability to make connections between things that seem completely unrelated, and it makes his writing so Catholic and thus universal. But I am curious to see if this particular quote is part of a larger idea or issue he was dealing with.

I like this point which at first seems obvious but has pretty strong ramifications. A child who's being raised Catholic, especially today where our schools are an even stronger propaganda tool of the government or just the politically correct culture, will learn that there is indeed a huge gap or disconnect between what their teachers, or at the very least what the teacher teaches, and that which the parent is trying to instill in their child at home. Obviously, the politically correct ideals are way more powerful than our Catholic ones in society right now. Its also completely natural for a child to make the connections between the authorities in their life. If what the teachers teach is opposite of their parents try to teach at home, mostly on a philosophical and moral level, then the child will realize this head-butting of attitudes. The next step is simply to understand that the natural authority over the child, his parents, is pretty much made irrelevant by what he's hearing at school since its so supported by society at large. 

I think this just goes to support one of the most important ideals of homeschooling which is to preserve the family as the place of moral learning especially as the gap between Catholic morals and ideals and those of society becomes greater and greater. It becomes so difficult to fight against a school and education system that so blatantly goes against what the child is being brought up with. I think the argument for many of our "catholic" schools to be an even worse example of this happening as the child is being told he's receiving a "catholic" education when most teachers and curriculum is anything but. Or at least is the case with the Catholic system in Canada. The consequences in the child being deprived of the proper authority of their parent is pretty staggering. It exposes the child to view the culture as more of a moral authority than the parents, which in turn damages the dependence and bond between parent and child. I think just the effects of this concept could garner its own post, or article, or book. 

(Also: I've been remiss in not letting everyone know about this great Chesterton reading list to help you start reading Chesterton without being completely overwhelmed! Its a good one!)

(Annndd, I found a wonderful 1906 edition of Heretics on Ebay yesterday! Sooo happy!)


  1. So much to work through about education, it's rough! I wonder though, do teachers in Canada have to follow a stricter set of rules or rubrics than in the States? We have core standards, but within that they can choosing materials, etc. I did the public school thing in the states my whole life and never felt that my teachers were doing more than teaching the basics in their subjects. In the upper grades there was plenty of introduction to other forms of thinking, materials, etc. but most of my teachers were pretty open to opinion and interpretation. Of course, it helped that my parents were the end authority on everything in my life - I once got in trouble for hitting at school (protecting myself from someone much bigger than me in 4th grade) and when the Principle called up to see what discipline they would be doing at home because of my actions I saw my mother tell him "Nothing. We're proud of her, she did exactly what we want her to do when someone is touching her in a way that makes her uncomfortable." End of story ;)

    I admit I might have gotten lucky in my school district as in high school we had clubs for everyone - from the liberal socialists to the most conservative republicans, prayer groups, etc. It never felt like they were trampling our personal values too much.

    I'm curious which values your most afraid of them loosing in your school system?

  2. I always love your reflections on Chesterton, Christy!

    Haley @ Carrots

  3. Ooh, GOOD quotation!

    I teach at a secondary school (grades 7-12), and I'm a music teacher so I'm mostly isolated from teachers who really make judgement calls on what values they teach. I grew FAR more convicted in my belief in homeschooling when a retiring government teacher gave a speech about how proud he was of his model congress for passing a bill allowing gay marriage "even before our own government!"

    While it may not be obvious to everyone, and may not always be present, MANY teachers are pushing their own values, whether they mean to or not. Heck, I'm pushing MY own values when I talk about my kids, going to church, being open to having more kids... And while I think it's good for my middle school girls to have a positive female role model (me) who isn't Miley Cyrus (blech), I'm sure there are things I'm teaching them that are contrary to what their parents believe.

  4. I TOTALLY agree about the homeschooling/public schooling/catholic schooling...esp the catholic schooling. My catholic high school was much less catholic than my small town public elementary school. the culture of our small town reflected into the school (principal reading at mass, teachers playing guitar at mass, other teachers attending mass with their families). Thanks for this reminder. Sometimes I question how will i ever be able to homeschool! But cahtolicism and morals are good tools for motivation!

  5. Nice article informative for many parents


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