Chesterton was clearly an advocate for both parental involvement in education and education in the home. His wife, Frances, was involved with Charlotte Mason, and Chesterton wrote at least two columns where he mentioned her by name, and many more where he discussed ideas related to her philosophy. Clearly, he knew that the mother had a primary role in the education of her children, and that there was no substitute for her involvement.
In his essay, Education and the Domestic Life, published August 5, 1922 in the Illustrated London News, Chesterton points out that education is very important, likewise, domestic life, and the role of parents are also important.
“People of the progressive sort are perpetually telling us that the hope of the world is in education. Education is everything. Nothing is so important as training the rising generation. Nothing is really important except the rising generation. They tell us this over and over again, with slight variations of the same formula, and never seem to see what it involves. For if there be any word of truth in all this talk about the education of the child, then there is certainly nothing by nonsense in nine-tenths of the talk about the emancipation of the woman. If education is the highest function in the State, why should anybody want to be emancipated form the highest function in the State?“
He goes on to say that “if education is the largest thing in the world, what is the sense of talking about a woman being liberated from the largest thing in the world?” In deed, the mother educating her own child is doing the most important work in society – so what are we doing to support that? How can we reorder society so that we truly put children first and allow the one who loves them the most to form their intellectual and spiritual lives.
In Chesterton’s view, public education was an “illusion of wealth.” In fact, for the child of moderate means in a family where a governess was not a possibility, the mother is the only one who could educate the whole child. As Chesterton says, ” it is impossible to cut up the soul of a single child and distribute it among specialists… And even in the case of a wealth child it is by no means clear that specialists are a substitute for spiritual authority.”
Chesterton knew that the mother’s work in educating the child was important, and the most important work in society. As he says “All tends to the return of the simple truth that the private work is the great one and the public work the small. The human house is a paradox, for it is larger inside than out.”
This essay would be great to discuss in a homeschool support group or local Chesterton Society meeting. Here few questions to help begin the discussion:
- Does our society value education? In what ways do we show that?
- Are we successful in educating our youth under the current prevailing system?
- Do you see the work of woman in the home educating her children as the most important role in society? If not, what is the most important role in society?
- In what way is parental power and education correlated?
- What do you feel is the best way to educate children? Do you agree with Chesterton that tutoring is the best method? Do you believe the mother is the best person to educate her children?
- Is Chesterton correct that the human house is larger inside than out? If so, in what way is he correct?