"The mind, like the body, requires quantity, variety and regularity in the sustenance offered to it. Like the body, the mind has its appetite, the desire for knowledge. Again, like the body, the mind is able to receive and assimilate by its powers of attention and reflection. Like the body, again, the mind rejects insipid, dry, and unsavoury food, that is to say, its pabulum should be presented in a literary form. The mind is restricted to pabulum of one kind: it is nourished upon ideas and absorbs facts only as these are connected with the living ideas upon which they hang. Children educated upon some such lines as these respond in a surprising way, developing capacity, character, countenance, initiative and a sense of responsibility. They are, in fact, even as children, good and thoughtful citizens." Vol. 6 p. 20It should not surprise us that Mason is recommending that we use the literary form - living books - to educate our children. This is not news to most of us. But notice that she says that children educated this way are "good and thoughtful citizens".
For example, take the story of "Horatius at the Bridge". My children first encounter this story in elementary school when we read from Baldwin's Fifty Famous Stories Retold - a favorite book in our house. Here we read of a man so brave, so heroic that even his enemies praised his noble deeds! Here, Mason mentions this very tale in her assertion that wide reading makes for good citizens:
"A good citizen must know about the laws of his country, the means of administration, how the constitution has developed; these things he must learn from a pretty wide reading of history--English, European, French, Ancient,--the stirring tales of services rendered to their several countries by great citizens throughout the ages. No boy reads "How Horatius kept the bridge in the brave days of old," without secret resolves and dreamy eyes." Mason, In Memoriam"Secret resolves and dreamy eyes." Have you read anything lately to your children that produced this?
Next, we'll examine more of Mason's thoughts on citizenship in relation to the entire curriculum.
Further reading from the "Citizenship" series:
CITIZENSHIP Part I: Claiming Magnanimity
CITIZENSHIP Part III: The Inspiration Angle