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    Books & Reading, Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

    Book Club: Ideas Have Consequences {Chapter 6}

    August 15, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]A[/dropcap] lot of what Weaver says in Chapter 6 {The Spoiled-Child Psychology} of his book Ideas Have Consequences has been, of necessity, said many times in recent years. There are a lot of people talking about the entitlement mentality, which is basically the modern wording for “spoiled-child psychology.” If you were reading along and wondering if I’d be able to make the leap to education this week, well … all I can say is it’s in there!

    Ahem.

    How to deal with a cultural pandemic of weak, greedy, consumptive personalities: thoughts on chapter 6 of Richard Weaver's book Ideas Have Consequences.

     

    How the Spoiled Child is Made

    A lot of what Weaver says here is what we’ve heard before, but it is fascinating to me that he said all of this in the 40s. He’s practically a prophet!

    The spoiled child has not been made to see the relationship between effort and reward. He wants things, but he regards payment as an imposition or as an expression of malice by those who withhold for it. His solution … is to abuse those who do not gratify him.

    Weaver also blames the predomination of the city over the country. He believes that country living keeps us in touch with certain harsh realities which cities seem to be able to gloss over. This is true, I think, even with simple things, such as where food comes from. I remember reading an article once in which two little city children refused to eat a carrot fresh out of a garden because they were horrified that it came out of the ground! I’m not sure I’d even call that a harsh reality — it’s just reality. Cities don’t have to be this way, but they often are.

    In general, though, Weaver says that spoiled children have been allowed to be overrun by their own appetites — by their desire to consume. That desire trumps everything else, even the right of the rich man to keep the money that he worked hard to earn.

    The spoiled child is simply one who has been allowed to believe that his consumptive faculty can prescribe the order of society.

    [Capital] may be the fruit of industry and foresight, of self-denial, or of some superiority of gifts… The attack upon capital … is likely to be born of love of ease, detestation of discipline, contempt for the past; for, after all, an accumulation of capital represents an extension of past effort into the present. But self-pampering, present-minded modern man looks neither before nor after; he marks inequalities of condition and, forbidden by his dogmas to admit inequalities of merit, moves to obliterate them.

     

    Spoiled Children and Heroism

    The most fascinating thought in this chapter, in my opinion, was the idea that the entitlement mentality stands in contrast to heroism:

    The truth is that he has never been brought to see what it is to be a man. That man is the product of discipline and of forging, that he really owes thanks for the pulling and tugging that enable him to grow — this concept left the manuals of education with the advent of Romanticism.

    [H]e who longs to achieve does not ask whether the seat is soft or the weather at a pleasant temperature, it is obvious that hardness is a condition of heroism. Exertion, self-denial, endurance, these make the hero, but to the spoiled child they connote the evil of nature and the malice of man.

    The modern temper is losing the feeling for heroism even in war…

    This is, in conclusion, a story of weakness

    We really are weak. Every time I read an old book I become frightfully aware of how weak I am personally, as well as how weak we are culturally. I am a big baby who needs an air conditioner to survive the summer.

    I am no Ma Ingalls.

     

    Educating for Heroism

    I do not think that there is any magic bullet when you’re dealing with a cultural pandemic of weak, greedy, consumptive personalities. But we can deal as well as possible with what we face in our own homes when we design our own lessons.

    Anyone can observe in the pampered children of the rich a kind of irresponsibility of the mental process. It occurs simply because they do not have to think to survive. They never have to feel that definition must be clear and deduction correct if they are to escape the sharp penalties of deprivation.

    So step one appears to be to make them think. We must require it. We must wait patiently when they do not have an answer. We must refuse to fill up the lesson time with our own incessant chatter and explanation. We must ask good questions. We might even need to play Devil’s advocate. But the sloppy, trivial thinking allowed by education-via-worksheets is not good enough by a long stretch.

    When Weaver speaks of the heroism of the Greeks, he gives us this interesting description:

    Privations of the flesh were no obstacle to his marvelous world of imagination.

    This reminds me of Jesus, who had no place to lay His head, and certainly knew privation during the time of His ministry, and yet He was not deterred because He knew what was set before Him. The future goal — the triumph over death and evil, the salvation of the world — animated His struggles in the present.

    [B]ecause culture is of the imagination, the man of culture is to a degree living out of this world.

    So step two needs to be something along the lines of develop a heroic imagination. Childhood is the time to furnish the rooms of the mind. Hero tales are imperative. Theology, likewise, is indispensable.

    I think I’d also add a third step, which is to create an environment in which cause and effect, reaping and sowing, effort and reward are tightly connected. What I don’t mean is that we must create a silly system of grades and sticker charts, which is more like bribing. I’m thinking more about modeling and celebrating the intangible reward of a job well done. We can perfect an art. Document progress in our learning {See how far you have come in x number of months or years? All that hard work pays off!}

    We can also require our children to get a job and pay for their own stuff. This is what my parents did with me, and what we plan to do with our children. This is really the only way for someone to understand the cost of something.

    How do you avoid encouraging an entitlement mentality in your own children? Or perhaps a better question is: how are you training heroes in your home?

     


    Read More:
    More book club entries linked at Mystie’s blog
    Buy the book and join in the conversation!

     

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