My first impulse was to write a clever review to match the cleverness of Anthony Esolen's magnificent book. Finding that an impossible task, I simply submit this is the best book about the imagination you are likely to read. What is striking is that his approach is itself so devastatingly imaginative—instead of droning on about the virtues of imagination, he demonstrates them, along with his own deep love for it, by pretending to encourage parents to destroy any flicker of imagination in their children....while simultaneously presenting the unrestrained joy imagination brings.
If you can read Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child without the fire of imagination rekindling in your mind and soul, either the bad guys have already got to you, or you are the bad guys. And this is a book about good guys and bad guys, none of this "everyone's a winner" nonsense that brings all kids to the same bland average and curbstomps creativity in the name of feelings. But without imagination and originality (that nonetheless is governed by a clear sense of the past—no uniqueness for its own sake here), how will children even know what real feelings are? How will adults know? What is to prevent, in a society of mindless equals, the disappearance of everything good and enjoyable and genuinely emotional?
Nothing, Esolen suggests, if imagination is abandoned. There are plenty of surprises here: children, he submits, live in the same world as adults—it won't do to keep children cut off from all pain and knowledge of sin, just to make sure they know how to think about them. And true education isn't complete without plenty of good old fashioned Facts and Rote Memorization, because it is only with a sizeable knowledge base that anyone can begin to think creatively about anything. He even takes shots at unit studies, one of the sacred cows of many homeschoolers.
Initially the reader might think Esolen is schizophrenic, ranging as he does between encouragements to kill imagination in all its forms, and eloquent odes to the beauty of imagination that will inspire all but the boringest of us. But it's a calculated schizophrenia as he delineates the ways our society seeks to crush creativity, while contrasting them to the importance and wonder of a healthy imagination. Even if your kids don't spend hours in front of the tube each week, you should read this book. If they do prefer video games over the outdoors, you need to drop everything this instant and read Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child before it's too late.