'Freedom of the city of mind': Charlotte Mason's Plan for a Literary Education for All

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-0370-704X
Aguirre, Lisa, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Luftig, Victor, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia

Charlotte Mason (1842-1923), a teacher, teacher-trainer, author, and educational philosopher, is a significant British historical figure whose ideas have present-day import. Mason insisted that poor children should be taught the same liberal curriculum as middle and upper-class children, despite the differences in literacy readiness and access to resources within the home. Mason’s methods were transformational in her own day and provide insight into how to overcome the present-day achievement gap between low-income, minority students and their more privileged peers. A defining feature of Mason’s pedagogy was the exclusive use of literature and belle lettres—not textbooks—to teach the humanities. Mason saw language as a tool of liberation. In her estimation, the belles lettres served as the foundation of knowledge because of the power of literature to convey ideas. Her example demonstrates that wide reading in literature enables the growth of the mind, facilitates critical thinking, and enhances the ability to self-direct future learning.

MA (Master of Arts)
Charlotte Mason, literary education, liberal education, belles lettres, English language arts, social justice
Issued Date: