Editing an article for an upcoming issue of the Magazine, I needed to find some information about Lucy Fitch Perkins' The Dutch Twins, and found via Google a digital library which contained it. The Baldwin Project is a real time-sucker of a place--that's a compliment--and after reading about the Twins and their ever-informative mother ( "I shall have milk enough to make butter and cheese," said Vrouw Vedder. "There are no cows like our Dutch cows in all the world, I believe") I found myself wandering around the place, which is apparently intended primarily as a resource for home-schoolers of a certain ilk, such ilk being those parents who believe anything worth reading was published before their own grandparents were born.
While I understand that the Baldwin Project necessarily only collects works that have gone out of copyright, and that we have much to learn from the past, I sure hope that no parent thinks these books will constitute an education. Along with digital editions of the books themselves, the site includes outlines for two curricula, Waldorf and Ambleside (based on the ideas of English educator Charlotte Mason) apparently in some repute among homeschoolers. But surely Waldorf founder Rudolf Steiner and Charlotte Mason would take issue with the assumption that the world would not move on without them. Could they truly endorse the idea espoused in Ian D. Colvin's South Africa, published in 1910, that, in considering the rival claims of the Boers and the English settlers of that country, that:
The British ideal has been in the long run a better one. We need labour for mines, and railways, docks, farms, and plantations. Therefore we give the native peace and justice, and a share of the land which is surely big enough for all. But at the same time we must be master of the black people. No good British Governor or British settler has ever preached equality: that has been left to the old ladies at home.
This is only an egregious extreme of a collection that is for the most part middlebrow and harmless (and valuable for those interested in an archive of what has been thought appropriate for the young) but do parents really teach from it? The world must look exceedingly strange to them, and let's hope their kids get some unsupervised time at the public library.