Mason says, "Children familiar with the great idea of a State in the sense, not of a government but of the people, learn readily enough about the laws, customs and government of their country;"Vol. 6 p. 187
So, with all that we're trying to accomplish, we see that we should inspire children through the lives of people and their stories and that through this they will "learn readily enough about the laws, customs and government of their country". Really? Does this mean that without memorizing the Articles of Confederation they'll still learn them? How about the United States Constitution and its 27 amendments? They're going to pick this all up just from inspiring stories?
In theory, that sounds great, but in reality does this really pan out? Well, yes and no. I conducted a completely unscientific test to see how well my Mason educated students have "picked up" this information. I printed off a copy of the civics portion of the naturalization test from the USCIS website. An applicant for naturalization would be asked 10 of the 100 questions orally and will pass by correctly answering six of those questions. First, I went through most of it with my college student who did just fine. He did take an AP U.S. Government and Politics course in high school. (Hold on, wait until you see what Mason actually used!) Then I tried it on my 12-year-old. Understandably, she didn't do as well as the college student but she certainly knew more than I thought she would, considering she has only used "inspiring stories".
Okay, so it doesn't really prove much and while I would like them to know lots of information about our government, it's not my first goal at all. I was pleased with what they did know. Notice what Mason says here:
"Citizenship becomes a definite subject rather from the point of view of what may be called the inspiration of citizenship than from that of the knowledge proper to a citizen, though the latter is by no means neglected."Vol. 6 p. 185Here's where the surprise comes in. I believe that had I used everything that Mason suggested, all that "knowledge proper to a citizen" would certainly be connecting with the inspiring stories. As we delve into the materials she actually used, we find some rather textbookish materials. Next time, I'll show you exactly what Mason used in one term and you can see for yourself that the knowledge proper to a citizen isn't neglected.
Further reading from the "Citizenship" series:
CITIZENSHIP Part I: Claiming Magnanimity
CITIZENSHIP Part II: Secret Resolves and Dreamy Eyes