Chapter 1: “Keep Your Children Indoors as Much as Possible”
Chapter one of our Summer Book study gives us a solid first step towards destroying our children's imagination in Anthony Esolen's upside down meditation on parenting and education. His advice? Keep them indoors as much as possible.
“Few parents grasp the danger of children playing outside. The most enlightened educators do grasp it, and have taken steps to ensure that children will be left to their own devices, outdoors, as little as possible. They have shortened the summer vacation, parceling out free days here and there through the school year. The effect is to keep children from developing the habit of learning things outside of school.” p.31
And what happens when children go out doors? What dangerous things might they find? First on Esolen's list is.....the sky. But not just the place far from the center of the earth that has gas and matter in it, but the heavens that “...naturally lead the mind to contemplate infinities.”
He goes on:
“Imagine then never being able to look upon the sky....In Lady Windemere's Fan by Oscar Wilde, Lord Darlington says, 'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.' That is bad. We want our children to look at the gutter, or at the very least, the movie theater or arcade across the street. What we want is to raise human beings that are not burdened with the yearning to look upward–unless they are seeing in the sky some career opportunity as a commercial pilot or a server of diet cola on airplane flights. We want to remove the organ of longing for the sky...The sky suggests the vastness of creation and the smallness of man's ambition. It startles us out of our dreams of vanity, it silences our pride, it stills the lust to get and spend. It is more dangerous for a human soul to fall into than for a human body to fall out of.
But the sky is there, and the best we can do is to prevent the child from stopping to notice it. At this task we have been remarkably successful. It has been many years since I have seen a child, of any age, lying on a grassy field and staring up at the sky. The most likely reason I'll give in another chapter: they do not have time to do it.” p.33
Perhaps it is not only for our own sake that we say at the end of our wits “GO PLAY OUTSIDE!”