LARK RISE

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PRINCIPLE NO. 1

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Children are born persons.

20 PRINCIPLES

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The first principle of education adopted by Lark Rise Inc. is that "Children are born persons." The brevity and apparent simplicity of this statement belies its radical significance; the word "radical" is used not merely to provoke attention but to invoke its medieval philosophical sense of being "essential," of "going to the origin"—coming as it does from the Latin radicalis, "of or having roots." All that we believe and do at Lark Rise must stem from this root, if we are to fulfill our aims for humane education.


Not only do we call this unassuming principle "radical," we call it "revolutionary." Educational philosopher Charlotte Mason, discussing this same basis of her own practice, asked, "What is a revolution but a complete reversal of attitude? By the time... we have taken in this single idea, we shall have found that we have turned round, reversed our attitude toward children not only in a few particulars, but completely." We call for such a revolution, and with this one principle do battle with a culture of contempt.


In his book The Lives of Children, teacher and author George Dennison gives this account of a student's experience: "One would not say that he had been schooled at all, but rather for five years he had been indoctrinated in the contempt of persons, for contempt of persons was the supreme fact demonstrated in the classrooms, and referred alike to teachers, parents, and children."


In a culture that marginalizes any sense of the sacred, the beautiful, and the mysterious, it should come as no surprise that we devalue persons, who are the most sacred, the most beautiful, and the most mysterious of God's creations. And it should likewise come as no surprise that this diminished view of persons has given us an educational approach warped by meagerness and cynicism.


"Our crying need today," Mason wrote, "is less for a better method of education than for an adequate conception of children—children, merely as human beings." It is our crying need today, more than a hundred years later. Without this adequate conception of children, they become tokens in a game of politicized educational reform.


Until we accept the mysterious immensity of the person, we will have dreams that are too small and too poor. "When we accept dismissive judgements of our community, we stop having generous hopes for it. We cease to be capable of serving its best interests." That is the warning of Marilyn Robinson in her essay "Imagination and Community."


That which too often passes as education in this post-humanist society handicaps both student and teacher with its impoverished view of persons. True education requires exchange in mutual honor and humility. When we barricade ourselves against students with condescension we treat them as much less than they are and do much less than we can.


I close with these words by Charlotte Mason: "With some feeling of awe upon us, we shall be the better prepared to consider how and upon what children should be educated."