Books & Reading, Educational Philosophy, Other Thoughts

Thoughtworthy (Audio on Sale, Goody-Goody Books, and MORE!)

May 18, 2018

Thoughtworthy

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Did you hear about the 3-audios-for-the-price-of-2 sale? It’s also called buy-2-get-1-free! Either way you look at it, this sale ends Monday, so if you want to take advantage of it, you need to do so ASAP. Here are the available audios right now:

No coupon code necessary — when you add a third talk to your cart, the discount will magically appear.

 

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I’ve had some folks ask about the summer Mothers’ Education Course book list now that the Mother Culture list is out. Don’t worry! It’s in the works and if all goes as planned, it’ll be available on Monday morning.

 

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This month in 2010:

My big boy, who will be 16 next week, was only 8 when I wrote this. Hard to believe!

 

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This week’s links collection:

 

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Answering your questions:

Question: I was listening to you on Scholé Sisters the other day, talking about twaddle. One of you mentioned, in an aside, that Charlotte Mason discouraged the reading of “goody goody” books that young girls are prone to want to read. Can you expound on what that means? Is that the same idea as calling someone a goody two shoes? We don’t want our kids reading books where a character is impossibly good and never fails or always does what is right? Can you give some examples?

Answer: I think it helps to get the full context of what Charlotte Mason was talking about. In School Education, she writes:

We need not ask what the girl or boy likes. She very often likes the twaddle of goody-goody story books, he likes condiments, highly-spiced tales of adventure. We are all capable of liking mental food of a poor quality and a titillating nature; and possibly such food is good for us when our minds are in need of an elbow-chair; but our spiritual life is sustained on other stuff, whether we be boys or girls, men or women. By spiritual I mean that which is not corporeal; and which, for convenience sake, we call by various names––the life of thought, the life of feeling, the life of the soul. (p. 168)

In Formation of Character she writes:

It is inadvisable to put twaddling “goody-goody” story-books into the hands of the young people: a revulsion of taste will come, and then, the weakness of this sort of literature will be laid to the charge of religion. (pp. 211-212)

And also:

I do not offer a plea for indiscriminate novel reading. Novels are divisible into two classes — sensational, and, to coin a word, reflectional. Narrations of hairbreadth escapes and bold adventures need not be what I should call sensational novels; but those which appeal, with whatever apparent innocence, to those physical sensations which are the begetters of lust, — the ‘his lips met hers,’ ‘the touch of her hand thrilled him in every nerve’ sort of thing which abounds in goody-goody storybooks, set apart in many families for Sunday reading, but the complete absence of which distinguishes our best English novels. To read that a girl has been betrayed by no means affects an innocent mind; but to allow oneself to thrill with the emotions which led to the betrayal is to get into the habit of emotional dram-drinking — a habit as enervating and as vitiating as that of the gin-shop.  (pp. 374-375)

In Towards a Philosophy of Education, she writes:

Late in the last century goody-goody books were written about the beauty of influence, the duty of influence, the study of the means of influence, and children were brought up with the notion that to influence other persons consciously was a moral duty. (p. 83)

These quotes taken altogether offer us the best and fullest picture of what to avoid in novel reading. Goody-goody books often use religion as a way to get away with bad writing. Some of us excuse them because they contain good doctrine, and we’ll even set them apart for special Sunday reading because of it. Goody-goody books are appealing to the senses — they are seeking to give a thrill, a sensation, she says.

Goody-goody books are preachy. If a book makes you roll your eyes, you might be reading a goody-goody book. The epitome of a concerning, sappy goody-goody book would be something in the line of Elsie Dinsmore. (Most Christian fiction I read in my youth also meets this criteria.) A great example from the 1908s is the ValuTales series.

Charlotte Mason contrasts this with what we want, which she calls the “reflectional” novel:

By the reflectional novel I mean, not that which makes reflections for us, after the manner of a popular lady-writer of the day. He who would save us the trouble of reflection ministers to the intellectual slothfulness which lies at the bottom of the poverty of our thoughts and the meanness of our lives. The reflectional novel is one which, like this of Pendennis, awakens reflection with every page we read; offers in every character and in every situation a criterion by which to try our random thoughts or our careless conduct. If we bear in mind that the obvious reflection proposed to us is as vicious in its way as the sensation suggested, we shall find that this test — the property of arousing reflection — eliminates all flimsy work, and confines us to the books of our great novelists.

Our best bet is probably to keep seeking out books that meet this final test: Does this book arouse reflection in the reader?

 

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3 Comments

  • Reply Brooke Favorat April 9, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    I am so glad I came across this, Brandy. (I literally searched ‘afterthoughts elsie dinsmore’, hoping to find your take on them.) I haven’t read Elsie Dinsmore, but we happen to have it (I think it was actually an ‘extra’ recommendation in our old curriculum, yikes!). My 10 year old daughter likes them (also had a few others by the same author, same style) and requested the second…now I’m regretting just having ordered it on thriftbooks! Do you have a post in your archive about how to go about purging those twaddly books? Like a bandaid, or just gently introduce new, better books and hope her mental sweet tooth wanes?? 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 10, 2019 at 8:50 am

      When my children were small, books would just disappear at night and no one knew where they had gone. 😉 At 10 I think we have to be careful, though. There is a relationship there that needs to be respected, even if we don’t love it. I would focus more on better books and hope the taste develops that way.

      We once had a child who needed a boost into more challenging books. She read a lot, but always avoided the AO free reading pile I had made for her. With her, we didn’t forbid any of her other reading, we just told her she needed to choose one of those free reading books and read in it for 15 minutes per day. After about a year of that she realized that most of the books in the pile were books she loved and she stopped avoiding it.

      • Reply Brooke April 10, 2019 at 9:31 am

        That’s excellent advice. I like the idea of piling up AO free-reads and requiring small amounts to entice and build taste. She generally loves the better books, so I think that will go over well…her current favorite is the Little White Horse. ? ☺️ Thank you!!

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