Tag Archives: ten ways to destroy the imagination of your child

Visions Too Strong for Our Nerves

“People do not paint, in rapture, the rise of the dollar on the world money market. There is no Bach to compose a fugue like a waterfall, joyously heralding the advent of some political hack, the joy of man’s desiring. No one will travel over half the world to look at a mural dedicated to Collaborative Learning, or Development of Social Skills. The ancient Hebrews dared not sculpt the Lord God, because they had been warned that any representation of him would be an idol, a lie – such was the awe wherein they were to hold the craftsman who sowed the skies with stars thick as a field of grain. We now must take the commandment given to the Hebrews and twist it inside out. We will not sculpt anything that has to do with the Lord God, because we do not wish to feel the awe that makes all our efforts seem puny. We do not want to say, with Dante, that to describe what we have seen, our words are no better than a baby’s ‘who wets his tongue still at his mother’s breast.’ Such visions are too strong for our nerves. They probably would not do our economy any good, either.”

– Anthony Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (p. 231)

On the Bookshelf XXV


Our Culture, What’s Left of It by Theodore Dalrymple
“Holy epic essays, Batman!” This book is tremendous. It’s going to be required reading for each of my kids before they leave the house. (What’s that? Of course I don’t have kids yet. Just planning ahead here.)
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
One of the finest books I’ve ever read – which is why I’m reading it again. I figure it deserves that kind of attention at least once a year. You can check out the review I wrote awhile back, but you’d be better off just buying the book and reading it yourself. Everybody should. If I had my way, everybody would.
Collected Works by Arthur Machen
Lovecraft led me here, and for that I am truly grateful. Machen is a genius.
The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought by Marlynne Robinson
“Whether rescuing Calvinism and its creator Jean Cauvin from the repressive ‘puritan’ stereotype, or considering how the McGuffey readers were inspired by Midwestern abolitionists, or the divide between the Bible and Darwinism, Robinson repeatedly sends her reader back to the primary texts that are central to the development of American culture but little read or acknowledged today.” I’m on binge here with this kind of thing, in case you haven’t noticed. First Bradbury, then Dalrymple, now Robinson. And it ain’t even February yet, so my brain my very well go blooie.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Loved the story the first time through, and wanted to visit it a second time. If you enjoy sophisticated science fiction, tales of the apocalypse, or just long for the days when vampires used to be scary, this book is a gem.

What’s on your bookshelf right now?

2012 Year In Review: Non-Fiction

Top Ten

wages of spin
1. THE WAGES OF SPIN by Dr. Carl Trueman
I predicted back in April that this book would probably be “the best piece of non-fiction I read in 2012.” Turns out I was right. This essay collection is short, sharp, challenging, and frequently hilarious: a prime example of why Trueman is one of my favorite writers. Full review
The title is potentially misleading: this is not a book exclusively for parents. Anybody can (and should) read this book, because anybody can (and will) benefit from it. It’s a witty, gritty, and delightfully subversive assault on the Bastions of Modern Educational Theory and Practice, and Esolen’s satiric flair is worthy of Uncle Screwtape himself. Full review
3. WORDSMITHY by Douglas Wilson
My favorite writing book. Whether you want to write full time, or merely have a passing interest in it – this slim little volume should be on your shelf. It’s just that good. Full review
4. BLACK HAWK DOWN by Mark Bowden
One of the ugliest, most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Ugly for its depiction of modern warfare; beautiful for its depiction of the men who endured it. A must-read if there ever was one. Full review
5. JUST DO SOMETHING by Kevin DeYoung
Want to know what the subtitle is? How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know. Full review
Continue reading 2012 Year In Review: Non-Fiction

Sneering at Virtue and Beauty

“[We must] instill in our students the easy habit of sneering at virtue and beauty. I say it is an easy habit, because a little veneer of intelligence will usually suffice to persuade one that all the people in the world who lived before one’s time – say, all the people who lived before two in the afternoon on July 2, 1965 – were knaves an fools. They all believed the world was flat; they kept slaves; they burned witches; they smoked cigarettes; whatever easy stupidity or immorality can be pinned on them, we pin it. They cannot answer the charges themselves, and students ignorant of history can’t answer them either. So we talk glibly about traditional manhood and traditional womanhood, with a knowing wink – meaning brutality and idiocy. That such men and women, possessed of virtues we ignore, tamed a continent, is not to be considered.

Have children understand that manliness and womanliness are contemptible. The true man is a cartoon figure, a crazy mixture of steroid-exploded muscle mass, grunts, and a bad shave. Otherwise men are fat, sloppy, and stupid. They paint their bellies for football games and drink beer. They are incompetents in the workplace. Their conversation revolves around fast food and fast women. For their part, the women are skinny to the point of emaciation. They wear clothes that would make the whores of old blush. They are fussy, snappy, and feline. They enjoy humiliating men, who always come back for more anyway. They have studied martial arts, and can be choreographed into delivering a backhand slap from a thin-wristed arm that will defy all the laws of physics and send a 250-pound man reeling. They have foul mouths, but they do not come by the foulness honestly; a sort of sneaky, sniggering arch foulness.

Let these be the creatures held up for our children’s emulation. They cannot excite the imagination, no more than cardboard can excite the appetite. They may possess a lot of money, a sharp wardrobe, and a glamorous job, but those things are the false goods that glut the soul rather than whet its longing for what is beyond our immediate range of sight. They not only possess no virtue; they corrode what virtues are left in the young. They leave children with the cynicism of a twice-divorced harridan or cad. Men are not worth looking for, women are not worth looking for. Feed young people enough of that, and you will not only ensure that they lose the ideals of manhood and womanhood. You will go far toward making their souls incapable of any real virtue at all.”

– Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (pp. 196-197)

Book Review: Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

One day, God willing, I want to meet Anthony Esolen face-to-face. I want to shake his hand. And I want to thank him for blowing my mind.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child is a book I might never have picked up had I not first read The Politically-Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, also by Esolen (he has a thing for long titles). His contribution to the P.I.G. series was terrific, to say the least, sooooo… I decided to look up more of his work.

Whoa. Didn’t expect me to do that, didya?

I mean, come on: whoever heard of finding a good writer and then reading just one of his books? Might as well eat just one potato chip. Only idiots do that.

Then, lo and behold, what sight did meet mine Elven eyes, but that of Ten Ways residing on my Mother’s shelf. I’m not sure why she never told me it was there; perhaps she forgot, or (what is more likely) she was concealing its whereabouts in hopes of getting to it first. Whatever the reason, I found it, and it was begging to be read. So I obliged.

I will say that the title is potentially misleading: this is not a book exclusively for parents, nor is it a “parenting book” (at least, not in the usual sense). Whether you’re a teacher or a student, whether you’re young or old, with ten kids or none at all, you should read this book. Anyone and everyone can benefit from Esolen’s keen writing and even keener insight. Clear enough? Let’s move on…

Ten Ways is a witty, gritty, and delightfully subversive assault on the Bastions of Modern Educational Theory and Practice. With a satiric flair worthy of Uncle Screwtape himself, Esolen offers his readers a way of “extinguishing the minds (and souls) of our children in ten easy steps.”

I do not claim that it is an exhaustive list. No doubt, many of my readers, blessed with a keener attention to the needs of the child, will have come up with others. But I am sure that a judicious application of even three of four of these methods will suffice to kill the imagination of an Einstein, a Beethoven, a Dante, or a Michaelangelo. Good luck! (p. xiii)

From beginning to end, the author’s pen drips with irony; his sense of humor is biting and bleakly funny. Remember the serrated edge? He wields it like a surgeon, and every cut is deep, precise, and painful. The truth hurts – and Esolen isn’t big on anesthetics.

Of all the endorsements I’ve read of this book, Father Dwight Longnecker’s is by far the most imaginative and (in my opinion) the most accurate: “Esolen rides forth like a noble knight to joust with the dragons of modern thought, the giants of contemporary culture, and the bevy of beasts that inhabit our post-modern wasteland.” I like it, don’t you?

Over the course of two-hundred forty pages, Esolen demonstrates how imagination is being strangled at nearly every turn: in the rearing of children almost entirely indoors; in the scorning of the true, the heroic, and the patriotic; in the reduction of love to mere narcissism and sex; in the leveling of the distinctions between men and women; in the way we preoccupy children with the shallow and the unreal; and in our stalwart, stone-hearted denial of the transcendent.

I like to imagine a blaring sign over a gigantic shopping mall, with these messages alternating every five seconds, forever and ever:


And not only hope, but community life, personal independence, common sense, virtue, and money.

For the great threat of the imagination, roused to life like Lazarus from the grave by the faintly heard voice of God, is that it makes a man a man, not a consumer, nor a clotpoll to be counted off in some mass survey. The praise of God is inscribed upon the heart of man, says Saint Augustine, “man who bears within himself his mortality, who bears about within himself testimony to his sin and testimony that you resist the proud.” Yet even so man longs to praise and cannot truly be himself unless he praises God, for as Augustine says in Confessions, “you rouse him to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until is rests in you.” If we have love of God, the saints all testify, what do we need from anything else? And if we do not have that love, not all the creature comforts and tricksy gadgetry and rubbings and itchings of appetite can fill up the tiniest corner of the chasm that remains. Yet we will try to fill the chasm anyway. That is what shopping malls are for. (p. 230)

I wanted to include the entire quote, except that it’s much too long to share here. Which brings me to the one complaint I have about this book: it’s too bloody quotable. Writing down all the magnificent passages that caught my eye proved impossible, since there were passages like that on just about every page. Highlighting? Forget it. The entire book would be yellow by the time you’re done. It’s too rich, too well-written. The unconvinced would do well to think of it this way: Esolen’s book is like a three-course meal, in an age when most people are content with dishing up McPamphlets. Get the picture?

Obviously, I loved this book. I think you will, too. On the other hand…

Egalitarians will hate this book for its affirmation of biblical manhood and womanhood. Proponents of government-run “education” will hate this book for its savaging of the public school system. Multiculti fanboys will hate this book for its support of patriotism and love of country. And liberal statists will hate this book for the same reasons they hate anything Judeo-Christian and conservative – because it’s radical, reasonable, and right.

If you are any one of the above, I would almost advise you to skip Esolen’s writing entirely. But I can’t. Because of all the people who need this book, you need it most of all.