Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Club: Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child : Prefer the present to the "eternal*"

I finally read the chapter today.  I've been holding all the posts for Cindy's Book Club Party in my Google Reader trying to not read anyone else's comments until I'd read Esolen for himself (so hard to do!  I skimmed a couple ...)

*I'm having a hard time naming this chapter.  Eternal isn't really what I'm looking for.  Something like "overarching" or "consistent" but it just isn't ringing right tonight.

In this chapter, Esolen seems to me to be talking about how the immediate pushes into a primary place.  (What are those GTD categories, Mystie?) whether it makes sense for it to or not.  His discussions of imposing political views onto historical writing rang true with me.  It's like imposing proto-feminist views on Jane Austen ... people do it, but it isn't what she meant.

It is like eating based solely on the nutrients in the food and not for the meal.  I made sauteed spinach for dinner tonight; if anyone had told me I'd do such a thing three years ago, I would have laughed or been insulted.  But we did it, not because it is full of iron or fiber or B vitamins, but because it was fit for dinner.

Or it is like learning to read by the look-say method.  It may have children "reading" quickly, but the long term will let them down.  I once heard Martin Cothran (I'm pretty sure) compare learning to read with phonics as building a scaffolding on which reading comprehension will build on later.

The immediacy of writing with current day innuendo and the political correctness of the day doesn't give children the need to wrestle with ideas and their own thoughts and understanding the long-term ideas presented.  It doesn't let us or them enjoy the story for the story. 

Take the teeth out of stories: no reward for virtue, no punishment for evil.  I read about Aschenputtel for the second time this week.  The first time was in Cinderella Ate my Daughter, she was appalled at the violence in the story, but pleased by the mother being the provider of the goods for Aschenputtel.  Buck Holler's wife wrote a wonderful comparison between Disney's and Grimm's Cinderellas.  The views on story beautifully illustrate Esolen's point of smoothing out the edges and taking off the teeth of stories.

I think Esolen wasn't so much writing an apology here for the Fairy Tale as he was bemoaning its demise.


  1. Are you thinking of the quadrants? urgent/important, not-urgent/important, urgent/unimportant, not-urgent/not-important? That's from Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

    I looked up "archetypal" in the thesaurus and came up with quintessential, exemplary, representative....maybe relevant v. timeless would fit?

    What good is it to bemoan the demise, though?

  2. Yes! Thanks, Mystie. I guess, I'm thinking that we prioritize that which is urgent and not important over that which has lasting meaning.

    Relevant vs. Timeless! That's perfect. I hate that term "relevant." I meant to talk about it in my post. I find that the relevant doesn't necessarily expand to cover my circumstances. It is "relevant" only to events of that particular kind. Whereas timeless is easy to apply over the broad spectrum.

    Well, mourning gets people like us talking about it :)

  3. I think the point you make about reinterpreting books based on our current mores is an important point of discussion which we haven't touched on too much.

    I am always shocked by what modern 'enlightened' people get offended by in past literature. Huckleberry Finn? Truly they have lost their imaginations.

    And it can go the other way, many people stumble over Charlotte Mason because she is conflicted about evolution not realizing that she had a different set of information about the subject than we have.


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