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.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Table of Contents:
- Introduction: A Bad Day for Grendel
- Why Truth is Your Enemy, and the Benefits of the Vague
or, Gradgrind, without the Facts
- Method 1: Keep Your Children Indoors as Much as Possible
or, They Used to Call It "Air"
- Method 2: Never Leave Children to Themselves
or, If Only We Had a Committee
- Method 3: Keep Children Away from Machines and Machinists
or, All Unauthorized Personnell Prohibited
- Method 4: Replace the Fairy Tale with Political Cliches and Fads
or, Vote Early and Often
- Method 5: Cast Aspersions on the Heroic and Patriotic
or, We Are All Traitors Now
- Method 6: Cut All Heroes Down to Size
or, Pottering with the Puny
- Method 7: Reduce All Talk of Love to Narcissism and Sex
or, Insert Tab A into Slot B
- Method 8: Level Distinctions between Man and Woman
or, Spay and Geld
- Method 9: Distract the Child with the Shallow and Unreal
or, The Kingdom of Noise
- Method 10: Deny the Transcendent
or, Fix Above the Heads of Men the Lowest Ceiling of All
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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