A Brief Post on a Flip-Flop

Not this kind of flip-flop!  I'm talking about  a reversal of a stand or position.

I know I've read these quotes many times before.  You probably have, too. But after listening to yet another discussion on the difference between Mason's philosophy and other popular education models at the CLUSA conference, these quotes struck me anew.  Look closely!

"Children will readily hang the mere facts upon the idea as upon a peg capable of sustaining all that it is needful to retain." Mason, Vol. 2, p. 277

or THIS one -

"It (the mind)  is nourished upon ideas and absorbs facts only as these are connected with the living ideas upon which they hang." Mason,  Vol. 6, p. 20

Did you catch that?  Mason starts even the youngest child with ideas.  She isn't working on getting the facts or rules into the child.  This is a flip-flop from what we normally see, hear and do in education. I know that I've been conditioned to think the opposite way;  that the pegs are the facts that we make sure the children have in place so that they have context for the ideas when we think they are old enough to understand them.

While an orderly and carefully planned curriculum is a must in a relational education, it isn't  about absorbing facts or mastery of rules  in every subject, even at the youngest age.  It is about living thoughts and ideas, presented in literary form, even at the youngest age.  I'd say that's quite the flip-flop.


  1. Some interesting quotes on this:

    Facts apart from their relationships are like labels on empty bottles —Sven Halla

    A fact is like a sack which won’t stand up when it is empty —Luigi Pirandello

    Pirandello expands upon the simile as follows: “In order that it may stand up, one has to put into it the reason and sentiment which have caused it to exist.”
    In contrast...

    The flow of ideas is broad, continuous, like a river —Gustave Flaubert

    The idea came … like a ray of light —Vladimir G. Korolenko

    The idea danced before us as a flag —Edgar Lee Masters

    Old ideas, like old clothes, put carefully away, come out again after a time almost as good as new —Punch, 1856

  2. Beautiful Nancy, I believe I had that wrong as well.
    Pam... where did you get those wonderful quotes too?
    In Ideas Have Consequences we are reminded that nowadays people think as facts as if they were truths, and facts are not necessarily truths.
    Scientific knowledge claims to be the most powerful because it rests on facts, and so many times we hear the argument of something not being valid because you can defend it with facts, while it is the ideas the ones that are true and belong to the real of knowledge.

  3. As a mostly Classical homeschooler, you have given me quite a bit to think about. Thank you for pointing out the flip-flop!

  4. Ideas are so much bigger than a peg! Great Childlight blog by Rebekah that illustrates that.
    I thought you had gone to the beach at first. That was the first idea that came to me. You know when a young child sees an idea and it comes out in orally , their eyes sparkle!

  5. Facts would seem flimsy pegs in comparison to the strength of an idea.

  6. Hence, when you teach to a test in the public school, the facts are forgotten 10 minutes after the test is administered.

    Excellent food for thought!