Children Are Not Born Either Good or Bad -Charlotte Mason Principles


Charlotte Mason Principles – Not Born Either Good or Bad

“They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil. ”

Sorry I’ve taken so long to post on this principle. I have been pondering what to write, for I have struggled with part of Charlotte’s statement. After reading the whole chapter I think Charlotte was upholding the popular philosophical idea (theory) of “nurture not nature”. This idea also links closely to her ideas on habits.

When I consider the statement alone I do have to disagree with the first half –Children are not born either good or bad… When I read this principle for the first time, I began to seriously doubt Charlotte Mason’s philosophy for I know that we are all born with a fallen nature-that is the condition of man and why we need salvation. To assume children are born amoral denies a scriptural principle.

Romans 3:22-24 states;

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Within their little hearts there is, like mine, a desire towards sin. Temptation comes their way and they can fall. This is why we need God’s redemptive grace. They do have the possibility for good and evil.

not born either good or bad

Charlotte believed in nurturing children to reach their full potential. She did not believe that some children were incapable of a rich education just because of their “nature” or upbringing. She wanted all children to have the opportunity of an education full of great ideas not stale textbooks. She believed if children were “nurtured” in the right environment they would thrive. Her nurturing included developing an appetite in children for great things and giving them a hearty education, rich with the masters and literature.

I agree we do need to “nurture” our children and give them the best environment that we can. They come with gifts and talents and these need to be encouraged. As parents we have a heavy responsibility and we cannot leave their environment to chance. Our Father God delights in these precious “little ones” . Children are our responsibility while they are young and it is our duty to provide an atmosphere that will help them grow and develop into all that God wants them to be.

Mark 9:42
“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”

In summary to my thoughts on this principle I will have to say I somewhat agree. I don’t believe in Charlotte’s amoral stance. I do believe that there is an innocence in childhood that we need to protect and nurture. I do believe in giving children a “good” education. I do believe that children have a choice for “good or evil” – God gave us all free choice.

Professional Development Resource for Homeschool Teachers

Inspired by Charlotte Mason is for you the home educator. You as the teacher need professional development and this ebook will help you teach. It’s not about resources; it’s the reasons behind teaching the Charlotte Mason way.

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  1. amerebreath  September 20, 2016

    This is an old post, but as it came up when I did a quick Google search, I want to point out some resources which might aid in understanding what Charlotte Mason actually meant by this principle. I myself was ready to throw the whole book out when I first read this statement by Charlotte Mason.

    Karen Glass gives an excellent explanation in her book Consider This. I highly recommend it.
    Also, this blog article might be helpful:

    This is a quote from Karen Glass:

    She lived in a different time. From that time (and perhaps before) date “proverbs”such as “what’s bred in the bone comes out in the flesh” or “blood will tell.” The era of Darwin had everyone very excited about the nature of heredity and the future possibilities for the human race (and CM was part of her culture–she shared some of that enthusiasm). The word you want to think about is “determinism.” This is the idea that character itself–good or bad–is an inherited trait. If your blood is tainted by your murderous father or lying mother, then…there is *nothing you can do about it* and you will fall prey to the same inherited weakness of character. (Books of the period are full of this idea–when you start to look, you will find examples without end.)

    And this is the idea that CM rejects. And this is how her principle “Children are not born good or bad…” would have been received and understood by her contemporaries. It’s much, much less a *spiritual* statement than it is a setting-aside of a ridiculous *physical, pseudo-scientific* idea that was prevalent in the day.

    • Michelle  September 20, 2016

      Thanks for contributing; I love discussing Charlotte Mason’s ideas. I have read Consider This and I do like it very much. I do understand your point of view about determinism and in many ways I agree. However this was also a time when a lot of liberal theology was also creeping in to the church sparked by the German scholar Julius Wellhausen and fuelled by the ideas of evolution (which Charlotte seemed to agree with). According to Machen in 1924 (cited D Breese) liberal theology taught that the concept of sin was an immature concept and as man matured and became enlightened the road to salvation was education not salvation and redemption. So I think it is good to clarify what Charlotte Mason’s principle “children are neither good or bad” meant and on first reading I don’t agree: for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. You comments are very welcome!
      Reference: Seven Men Who Changed the World by David Breese © 1990 Moody Publishing

  2. Renelle  April 12, 2010

    I have to admit I always just breezed over that statement. When I first read it I think I may have even made a 'errh'? sound. I too think that children have an innocence that needs to be protected and guided – and that was really hard when my ds was at school. Thanks for your thoughts. Blessings

  3. joyfulmum  April 12, 2010

    Yea, I also only agree with the latter part of that sentence too!
    I love what she has to say about exposing them to good ideas to help in bringing out the good in them. (my paraphrase)

  4. AFwife99  April 11, 2010

    I agree with you about that principle. Like all human beings, children are born with a sin nature, and it is up to the parents to help lead those children away from that nature- through the exposure to great ideas. Well put!


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