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    Ten Ways to Destroy Your Child’s Imagination: Introduction

    January 7, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    Cindy started her book club and it’s not too late to join in the fun, if you are at all interested. I was pretty sure I would love this book because I eagerly look forward to Anthony Esolen’s essays on the Touchstone blog. Well, I can honestly say that this book was a feast, and I can’t wait to read through it at a slower speed.

    I said I was pretty sure I would love this book.

    Well, I knew I would love it when I saw that the Introduction was subtitled A Bad Day for Grendel. This even pulled my husband in! For who, having even been a little exposed to Beowulf, can resist the appeal of epic poetry?


    What I wasn’t prepared for in this book was the irony of it all. I knew that the title was Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, but I expected it to be written in the form of a warning. Instead, the book is akin to Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, in this case an instruction manual on how to literally destroy this capacity of children.

    And why would we wish to do this?

    Esolen makes the argument that we ourselves say that “children are our greatest resource.” Resources, he explains, are good, solid, dependable, and inert. Imagination is dangerous because children might get ideas about things and grow up in such a way that they either refuse to or are incapable of conforming to the modern, post-industrial society. In the words of Esolen,

    If we can but deaden the imagination, then, we can settle the child down, and make of him that solid, dependable, and inert space-filler in school and, later, a block of the great state pyramid.

    Why would we want to do such a thing to a child–to our own children?

    Esolen says that our culture betrays us. We may say that we love children, but everything about our culture says that we actually hate them. If we loved them, we would have some (and be excited about it), and we would spend time with them and enjoy having them with us.

    If we had them, we would want them as children, and would love the wonder with which they behold the world, and would hope that some of it might open our own eyes a little. (emphasis mine)

    The ideal, says Esolen, is to not have them, as they can be so troublesome. But, that poses economic obstacles, so:

    Since we must have children, we should be sure to subject them to all the most efficient and humane techniques to fit them for the world in which they will live, a world of shopping malls all the same everywhere, packaged food all the same, paper-pushing all the same, mass entertainment all the same, politics all the same.

    In destroying the imagination, then, the goal is conformity, a standardization of the adult the child will become.

    Read More:
    Cindy’s post, plus links to other book club entries
    Buy the book and join in!

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 12, 2011 at 5:10 am

    Darn! Cindy: You made me put yet another book on my wishlist!

    I suppose it was inevitable…

    I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I am SO happy you didn’t quit blogging.

  • Reply Cindy January 11, 2011 at 3:05 am

    A good book from a protestant POV would be John Piper’s Think. I am going to drag that in one of these weeks but I don’t like my posts to be too long.

    I love your pull quotes. I think they do offer a great summary of the chapter. I am so glad to have you and Mystie on board. I am pretty sure I would have given up blogging years ago if you two hadn’t kept talking to me.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 10, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Sara, I completely agree! I think we’re going to see a lot of ties to a lot of different thinkers we’ve encountered over the years, thanks to Cindy. 🙂

    Heather, Yes and no. Esolen is unapologetically Catholic, that is for sure. But his approach in argument tends to use literature and logic rather than Scripture. It is a feast for the mind, I can tell you that!

    Mystie, Only because it was the intro. I promise.

    At least, I think I do. 😉

  • Reply Mystie January 10, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Hey, you wrote a summary. I thought that was my job. 😉

  • Reply Heather January 10, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Your quotes have intrigued me, I might be tempted to get it sooner rather than later. Is he writing from a Christian POV?

  • Reply sara January 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    The bit about children as resources reminds me of Pieper’s Leisure where he wrote about usefulness and how people are more than mere functionaries. Likewise, Esolen is seems to be saying that children (people) have worth beyond and apart from what they can do for us.

    I’ll be linking Tuesday for chapter one.

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