What shall we do to ensure that the fire of heroism never kindles in the hearts of our children? I suggest the following easy steps. . .Read More
"We watched in silence, not understanding the half of what was going on. The commander barked out an order. Clock clock, went the rifle bolts. Fire! And again, and again, a salute of twenty-one guns. Then amid the curling smoke, and the boom still reverberating in our eardrums, and the birds frightened into flight, came the lone plaintive call of taps. . . . You didn't really need the words. For as we boys stood there, listening, we suspected that something of dreadful importance had gone on, something that had to do with being a man, and even more, with belonging to a nation."Read More
In this chapter our devilish guide begins to take his task of destroying imagination deeper, now into the realm of the moral imagination, the most important imaginative realm. If we can keep the moral imagination suppressed, he argues, our children will be ripe for political sloganeering, cliché thinking, and pop emotion which are perfect fodder for the madman political demagogue to feed on.Read More
The layman and certainly children are discouraged in every possible way from “looking under the hood” of the machines they use day in and day out. Seamless plastic packaging (even in car engines), warranty voiding stickers and touchscreens push our curiosity, and thereby our imaginations, away from the device. They scream like the Wizard of Oz, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."Read More
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!”
10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child
By Anthony Esolen
To give you all something to chew on this summer as you enjoy the delights of having the kids home from school (hopefully at least occasionally), I thought to pass on some highlights over the next few weeks of a book I am reading right now.
The book is written in the style of C.S. Lewis' “Screwtape Letters” in which a neophyte devil receives advice on how to corrupt a Christian from his more experienced uncle. So in this book we learn all we need to know, and perhaps see much that we already do to destroy the imaginations of our children.
Esolen is provocative and extreme so perhaps take it with a grain of salt but I hope it will provoke some helpful thoughts as you navigate the maze of raising children in the 21st Century. Feel free to comment, push back against his ideas, or push them further. Enjoy.