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Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

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Esolen shows how imagination is snuffed out at practically every turn, and then he confronts contemporary trends in parenting and schooling by reclaiming lost traditions. This practical, insightful book is essential reading for any parent.


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Esolen shows how imagination is snuffed out at practically every turn, and then he confronts contemporary trends in parenting and schooling by reclaiming lost traditions. This practical, insightful book is essential reading for any parent.

30 review for Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    I tend to enjoy most books I read (easily entertained, I guess), but don't let my low book standards detract from my statement that this is one of the best books I've ever read. While it appears to be a book on child-raising (and sort of is), I'd recommend it to anyone, parent or not. The author is clearly brilliant, but he's also hilarious. Several times throughout the book he'd make a joke (in a very intellectual and sarcastic manner) and I'd have to read it again just to convince myself -- di I tend to enjoy most books I read (easily entertained, I guess), but don't let my low book standards detract from my statement that this is one of the best books I've ever read. While it appears to be a book on child-raising (and sort of is), I'd recommend it to anyone, parent or not. The author is clearly brilliant, but he's also hilarious. Several times throughout the book he'd make a joke (in a very intellectual and sarcastic manner) and I'd have to read it again just to convince myself -- did he really just SAY that? The book is offered in the style of "The Screwtape Letters," written as an advice manual for adults who want only to subdue children and suppress their naturally wild imaginations and creative inclinations. And while I'd recommend this book to anyone, it's a MUST-read for any parent, in my opinion. While I'd already given thought to many of his points (less television, more outside time, encouraging imagination, etc), I hadn't thought about them in the way he presents them, and hadn't thought of many of the pro-imagination approaches he suggests. I seriously can't and don't want to stop thinking about this book. Just so you get an idea of the content of the book, along with a tiny taste of his humor, here are the ten ways (each is given a chapter): 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 Personnel Prohibited) Method 4: Replace the Fairy Tale with Political Clichés and Fads (or Vote Early and Often) Method 5: Cast Aspersions upon 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) Lastly, a warning: Esolen references a LOT of other books in his own, as recommended reading, and as examples of those whose imaginations have NOT been stifled, so I must add that when you finish this book, you will probably have discovered 50 more that you want to start. But that's not really so bad, is it?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    This book made me understand better how most of my own imagination was destroyed. I think I can get some of it back, and look forward to exploring the world a lot more. The only problem is that I'm now an "adult," when I should have been a man by now. That can be fixed, too. There are two main reasons to read this book. The first is as I have already indicated; you can see where the locusts have devoured in your own life, and work to replace those years. The second is for the sake of your own ch This book made me understand better how most of my own imagination was destroyed. I think I can get some of it back, and look forward to exploring the world a lot more. The only problem is that I'm now an "adult," when I should have been a man by now. That can be fixed, too. There are two main reasons to read this book. The first is as I have already indicated; you can see where the locusts have devoured in your own life, and work to replace those years. The second is for the sake of your own children. If you want your kids to grow up to be controlled and manageable, you don't want them to have an imagination. If you want to raise visionary leaders and people who can be free to live, you want to foster imagination. It mostly has to do with letting kids play. Along the way through the book Esolen made me curious to explore literature. He has this way of giving you a taste of something mysterious as a passing reference that makes you hungry for more. I feel ashamed that I have never read Milton or Dante, but now I have an appetite for them! His ten ways overlap a little, and sometimes he gets a little whimsical and nostalgic. But those aren't so much weaknesses of the book as they are endearing personal charm. Things are not ever going to be like the good old days Esolen remembers from his childhood. You know, some people live in inner city settings that are pretty dangerous. Should you let your kids disappear to be with their own kind in such a setting? That complication does not counteract the goodness of the book, however. It just means you have to apply your imagination! Hopefully yours is intact so you can.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Maybe this book objectively deserves more than two stars. But two stars is how I feel about it. Modernity is all bad; good old days were all good. Blah blah blah. One note at the outset though: This book really should be titled Ten Ways To Destroy the Imagination of Your Boy, because girls get the short shrift. Any study of women in history is derided as feminist propaganda. The only activities mentioned as being appropriate for girls are (a) churning butter, (b) singing folks songs in a broom cl Maybe this book objectively deserves more than two stars. But two stars is how I feel about it. Modernity is all bad; good old days were all good. Blah blah blah. One note at the outset though: This book really should be titled Ten Ways To Destroy the Imagination of Your Boy, because girls get the short shrift. Any study of women in history is derided as feminist propaganda. The only activities mentioned as being appropriate for girls are (a) churning butter, (b) singing folks songs in a broom closet, or (c) eating popsicles while watching boys play baseball (not, understand, playing softball themselves). I understand Dr. Esolen’s concern for the over-feminization of education for boys. I also understand that he leans heavily on his own childhood experience, and he was a boy, so he writes a lot about what boys do. Still, so help me, I want to encourage my girls to play sports if they are the least bit inclined and I also want to teach them about the suffragist movement. I’m just that radical. But back to the book generally: I grew up in an idyllic, homeschooled little Catholic bubble, one with lots of outdoor time and hands-on work and old-fashioned books. I was further educated at a more-Catholic-and-less-politically-correct-that-thou college. I left the Bubble just long enough to pick up the habit of dropping bad words when I’m mad and to notice that moral relativism really is a Thing. I then retreated (advanced?) into the Bubble when it came time to raise my own children. The way in which one should raise a child, as explained by Dr. Esolen, is essentially the way I was raised and the way in which my husband and I, almost by default, are raising our children. So. I have trouble seeing the forest for the trees with this book. But all I can do is describe the trees as I see them. So here they are: Dr. Esolen’s main points, as best I can summarize them, are as follows: Acknowledge the existence of Truth and encourage its pursuit, Let your children have lots of unstructured, outside play, Expose children to machines and machinists, Expose children to fairy tales and not political cliches, Extol the heroic and patriotic, Preserve the Mystery and Sublimity of Love, Acknowledge the Differences Between Men and Women, Acknowledge the Transcendent. This book is written in a satirical style. You have to take what are described as the ways to destroy your child’s imagination and then formulate the opposite and do that instead, as I have attempted with the list above. Most of Dr. Esolen’s objectives can be achieved by (1) providing a loving home life but (2) leaving your kid alone to do his own thing as much as possible while (3) avoiding public schools if possible and (4) exposing your kid to good literature. But those who need to hear this the most are the least likely to read this book, and vice versa. (And I don’t mean to hate on anyone sending his child to public school. But Dr. Esolen is very critical of them. Just sayin’.) Dr. Esolen indulges heavily in nostalgia, often referring to his childhood in the 1960s–particularly its dangerous, unsupervised, outdoor exploits–for examples of what builds a child’s imagination. It’s hard to describe exactly how this happens, but the satire and the nostalgia blur the main points of the book, at least they seem to for conscientious Catholic mothers. We probably are not the target audience, but I’m quite sure we form the bulk of the actual audience. The other conscientious Catholic mothers in my book club and I reflexively fixated on this or that aspect of Mr. Esolen’s idealized childhood, and we berated ourselves for falling short. “Oh, if only I were a good enough mother to expose my child to more danger,” we fretted. As if our pesky biological drive to keep that kid alive at all costs might destroy our child’s imagination. Sheesh. Just let your kid read Huck Finn. You don’t have to try to recreate Huck Finn’s life for your child. A few more thoughts: Simcha Fisher likes Dr. Esolen. Simcha! Upon whom I always can count to be snarky toward people and schools of thought that annoy me. But if Simcha likes Dr. Esolen, I probably do too. Also my cold, hard heart softened somewhat toward him when I read an article he wrote about his autistic son. ***Edited to add: Simcha Fisher more recently wrote that Prof. Esolen's "schtick of constant scolding and hand-wringing is tiresome, and he will someday have to answer for laying such heavy burdens on parents whose children somehow failed to spend their entire childhoods playing out his bucolic fantasy of overalled youngsters plashing in brooks, playing tag in wheat fields, and the plopping down to read Homer under the shade of a chestnut tree." Those are my thoughts exactly, in a better-articulated nutshell.*** Initially I thought this book would be a diatribe against television, and it’s not. Dr. Esolen actually writes favorably of some shows, like Wallace & Gromit and Gunsmoke. You know what does contain a diatribe against television? My favorite parenting book of all time! (The Three Martini Playdate) What can I say? Whether I like a book is determined about 90% by tone and 10% by content. So those are the trees I observed. If you read it, tell me what you thought of the forest, er, the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David

    I absolutely loved parts of this book and other parts I was not so sure about. The funny thing is, my wife checked this book out of the library thinking it was a parenting book. She expected a series of ten things to avoid, for they would destroy your child's imagination. It is not that sort of book at all. Instead, it is a snarky critique of the ways contemporary culture already works to destroy the imagination of children. That said, there are lessons in here for parents. Much of what Esolen say I absolutely loved parts of this book and other parts I was not so sure about. The funny thing is, my wife checked this book out of the library thinking it was a parenting book. She expected a series of ten things to avoid, for they would destroy your child's imagination. It is not that sort of book at all. Instead, it is a snarky critique of the ways contemporary culture already works to destroy the imagination of children. That said, there are lessons in here for parents. Much of what Esolen says is right on. Kids do sit inside too much watching television and playing video games. He goes beyond that, arguing that adult-organized activities are not the answer. Instead kids should be outside, with other kids, playing games they organize on their own. I thought what he said about culture was brilliant: the teaching to many kids is how bad western culture is in its history of oppressing others. Esolen points out that if you disparage the culture you live in and then say all cultures are the same, you won't love any cultures. In other words, only by appreciating your own culture can you see the good in others. Thus, multiculturalism leads to a bored cynicism. Esolen also writes in a witty, enjoyable to read style. So whether you agree or disagree, the book is a fun read. And there is a lot to disagree with. I think the problem is that Esolen is responding to people who point out how bad tradition is and how awful people in the history of western culture have been. But in responding, he goes too far the other direction, almost hinting as if everything before 1950 was great. Esolen is upset that people like Jefferson and Washington are disparaged for owning slaves. I agree with Esolen that this alone does not make them evil, that they were great men who did great things. Yet, they did own slaves. Correcting a mistake by going too far the other direction is still a mistake. Esolen talks about how kids should just play outside all the time without adult supervision. Ideally yes, but the world is different. If you live in certain cities, that is just not safe or smart. Also, many of Esolen's examples come from great people like Shakespeare, Dante, and Leonidas (we will fight in the shade!). But most people in history were not those people. Did most kids have time to play like Esolen laments no one does today? Or were they working in the fields, perhaps as slaves? Esolen is upset we no longer glorify war heroes, such as King Leonidas of Sparta. But I remember watching Saving Private Ryan, when the boats opened and hundreds of kids died immediately. That movie taught a desensitized generation that war was not glorious, it was bloody and awful. Most soldiers who die in battle are kids whose famous last words do not make the history books. I think Esolen has written an important book. His critiques of the way we educate children is often brilliant. It is stupid that everything is political so instead of having kids read classics we make them read whatever we can to cram some political notion down their throat. I could go on with stuff I agree with. By the four stars, you can tell I liked the book. I just think a bit more balanced tone, a little criticism of the past, would get this book in the hands of more people. At any rate, as a new father, I hope to remember some of the lessons from this book, because I want my daughter to have an imagination!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lara Lleverino

    Still not quite finished with this book but my enthusiasm is definitely lagging. The books started off saying with biting succinctness what we are already know as the failure of education and child rearing, the poison of our plush society and the fear we all live under that keeps our kids and ourselves for experiencing life so that the dangers of society don't hurt us. However as I read on the satirical tone made me more and more realize this author is preaching to the choir and it began to feel Still not quite finished with this book but my enthusiasm is definitely lagging. The books started off saying with biting succinctness what we are already know as the failure of education and child rearing, the poison of our plush society and the fear we all live under that keeps our kids and ourselves for experiencing life so that the dangers of society don't hurt us. However as I read on the satirical tone made me more and more realize this author is preaching to the choir and it began to feel like reading a rant. What initially felt like him giving words to what I felt but didn't quit know how to say began to feel like a pointless stirring of the pot. There were times that his political satire became so tongue in cheek I couldn't tell if he was being serious or in jest partially because he switched often from truth to sarcasm with so few signals it was sometimes hard to read. Either he was unintentionally unclear or he made the regretful assumption that all readers political opinions would fall on lines clearly defined by his opinion. The problem with writing a book with the voice of biting sarcasm is that after a certain point all disagreement makes the reader feel like the author thinks to have any opinion other than his means the reader is glaringly stupid. Often I felt to make a point the author dove spectacularly over the line of common sense ...especially when advocating children being allowed to play for an entire day outdoors without checking in or boundaries for exploration. Maybe if you lived on a large ranch or out in the country but with most of the population now living in higher populated cities this doesn't seem wise. The damage that can be done by a moment of sexual assault can undo any possible good an afternoons exploration could have. Don't get me wrong there were some salient points in the book and I'll list some of my favorite quotes in a final review. I consider the book a worthwhile read but think that some of the finer points were lost and the audience definitely vastly decreased by the voice the author chose to use.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Corey

    A three-course meal in an age of McPamphlets.

  7. 5 out of 5

    ladydusk

    Own. Miracle of miracles. I finally finished this book - it has taken more than a year. It's very good, well written, but perhaps a little too smart for me. Plus, it was a book-club book. I'm bad at those. And, I keep getting distracted while it gets buried. I found this book both encouraging and terrifying. I both do and don't do a lot of things Esolen recommends. That's a tricky sentence to compose because he's supposed to be writing from a position of destroying your child's imagination, but ev Own. Miracle of miracles. I finally finished this book - it has taken more than a year. It's very good, well written, but perhaps a little too smart for me. Plus, it was a book-club book. I'm bad at those. And, I keep getting distracted while it gets buried. I found this book both encouraging and terrifying. I both do and don't do a lot of things Esolen recommends. That's a tricky sentence to compose because he's supposed to be writing from a position of destroying your child's imagination, but even he occasionally seems to lose the side he's arguing for (or against). I'm trying to say that I both preserve and destroy the imagination of my children ... and I think that to some extent - even without the modernists - all people do and have so done. A call to careful, intentional, wise parenting and educating of a child? Yes. But more than that an indictment of man's sinfulness in all generations. I think Esolen finally makes it clear that it isn't nostalgia for his own childhood that he finds perfect, but that even Dante recognized materialism and power-hunger as dangers in his day. That even Cain and Abel dealt with the issue at hand in this book. Man (and I use that as an inclusive term, the old way), man is something more than the animals and nature. Man is "a little lower than the angels" and in order to keep him from being deprived of his position, we must do those things which dehumanize him and bring him to conformity. This conformity contrasts with the God-ordained freedom man was given in the beginning. Many things to consider here. I encourage you to spend some time.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    "For in that deep quiet of the heat we hear things. We hear that the world as we know it is passing away. We are passing away. Yet the world is beautiful, and good is no illusion. Evil is the illusion; it is weak, a shadow, a parody of good, a specter." This is one of the most glorious things I've ever read. "For in that deep quiet of the heat we hear things. We hear that the world as we know it is passing away. We are passing away. Yet the world is beautiful, and good is no illusion. Evil is the illusion; it is weak, a shadow, a parody of good, a specter." This is one of the most glorious things I've ever read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Becky Pliego

    ¡Bravissimo! This is not a book only for parents. This is a book for those who love to read, to write, to imagine, for those who still believe in fairies and dragons. It is for those who love to think and soar at the same time. It is a book for those who know that we are living in God's story. ¡Bravissimo! This is not a book only for parents. This is a book for those who love to read, to write, to imagine, for those who still believe in fairies and dragons. It is for those who love to think and soar at the same time. It is a book for those who know that we are living in God's story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    When I got to the chapter on "Never Leave Children to Themselves", I almost stopped reading this book. The author's description of the 'lifeskills' involved in something as simple as a pickup game of baseball, and the reminder that such things have been replaced by adult-organized soccer leagues, broke my heart. I don't think of myself as a young pioneer, but I have many fond memories of playing outside with neighborhood kids, left to our own devices and imaginations. Yet my children's lives loo When I got to the chapter on "Never Leave Children to Themselves", I almost stopped reading this book. The author's description of the 'lifeskills' involved in something as simple as a pickup game of baseball, and the reminder that such things have been replaced by adult-organized soccer leagues, broke my heart. I don't think of myself as a young pioneer, but I have many fond memories of playing outside with neighborhood kids, left to our own devices and imaginations. Yet my children's lives look so very different.... The author writes with passion and great devotion to his subject, the enlarging of our children's souls. I will continue to ponder these ideas.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Too bad he mucks up some essentially good (common sense) ideas with myopic religious conservative claptrap topped with a sour cherry of relentless, grating, condescension. So it goes. Admittedly, I should have known better. See also, his "Defending Marriage: 12 Arguments for Sanity" for example. Instead of stopping at "12 Arguments" (fine) the "...for Sanity" part belies his rigidity, arrogance and reliance on scathing sarcasm to belittle any dissention to his worldview--guaranteeing that only t Too bad he mucks up some essentially good (common sense) ideas with myopic religious conservative claptrap topped with a sour cherry of relentless, grating, condescension. So it goes. Admittedly, I should have known better. See also, his "Defending Marriage: 12 Arguments for Sanity" for example. Instead of stopping at "12 Arguments" (fine) the "...for Sanity" part belies his rigidity, arrogance and reliance on scathing sarcasm to belittle any dissention to his worldview--guaranteeing that only those who agree with the title's sentiments will want to read, and thus review, the book. Blech.

  12. 4 out of 5

    M.G. Bianco

    I read this book a couple of months ago, just getting around to writing the review. But do NOT take this as an indication that the book was not satisfactory. This is my favorite book of 2011 thus far. I do not expect it to be overtaken, although it is a possibility. Esolen writes with wit, humor, and great insight. Reading this book reminded me of reading The Screwtape Letters. Esolen writes as if you want to destroy the imagination of your child. This makes him funny and insightful. I hadn't gott I read this book a couple of months ago, just getting around to writing the review. But do NOT take this as an indication that the book was not satisfactory. This is my favorite book of 2011 thus far. I do not expect it to be overtaken, although it is a possibility. Esolen writes with wit, humor, and great insight. Reading this book reminded me of reading The Screwtape Letters. Esolen writes as if you want to destroy the imagination of your child. This makes him funny and insightful. I hadn't gotten through the first nine pages before I realized I was well on my way to destroying my children's imaginations. While he revealed failures in my own child-rearing, he left plenty of room for correction. Thus, I didn't walk away having read a giant guilt-trip, but was rather motivated to encourage the imagination. Thank God for Anthony Esolen and this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    L.C. Fiore

    If there is a point to this book, it's buried miles deep beneath long passages of classic works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and the author's own barely relevant reminiscences--this guy really loves to hear himself talk. He also takes a bizarre point of view where instead of making recommendations, or analyzing...anything...he positions himself to sarcastically comment on modern parenting tactics that "destroy the imagination" of children. Far from practical, this is basically an English If there is a point to this book, it's buried miles deep beneath long passages of classic works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and the author's own barely relevant reminiscences--this guy really loves to hear himself talk. He also takes a bizarre point of view where instead of making recommendations, or analyzing...anything...he positions himself to sarcastically comment on modern parenting tactics that "destroy the imagination" of children. Far from practical, this is basically an English 101 primer interspersed with the most annoying narrative voice imaginable. If you ran into this guy at a party, you'd run.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Morag Gray

    Anthony Esolen makes some good points about the way today's (Western, middle-class) children are herded and organised all the hours of the day. However, it seems that he is arguing the only way a child (i.e. a boy) should be brought up is as he was, and his arguments are largely from nostalgia. The raising of girls doesn't seem to be a feature of his thinking. Anthony Esolen makes some good points about the way today's (Western, middle-class) children are herded and organised all the hours of the day. However, it seems that he is arguing the only way a child (i.e. a boy) should be brought up is as he was, and his arguments are largely from nostalgia. The raising of girls doesn't seem to be a feature of his thinking.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jaquelle Ferris

    This was an excellent book. A lot of his examples are geared towards raising boys, which is irrelevant to me these days (I'll definitely save this for reference should I ever have a son). That said, there was still a lot in this book for me to reflect on and appreciate as I raise my daughter. This was an excellent book. A lot of his examples are geared towards raising boys, which is irrelevant to me these days (I'll definitely save this for reference should I ever have a son). That said, there was still a lot in this book for me to reflect on and appreciate as I raise my daughter.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    This book demands our urgent attention. As an unlikely childcare provider for a decade, I've had a unique vantage point from which to observe our cultural confusion. My "peers" are the people who use childcare, and whose wealth and power allows them to make the rules that govern us. The tragic irony is these are people who have never changed a diaper until they've had a child, who know very little about children, who have been isolated in a strange urban elite environment with no exposure to pov This book demands our urgent attention. As an unlikely childcare provider for a decade, I've had a unique vantage point from which to observe our cultural confusion. My "peers" are the people who use childcare, and whose wealth and power allows them to make the rules that govern us. The tragic irony is these are people who have never changed a diaper until they've had a child, who know very little about children, who have been isolated in a strange urban elite environment with no exposure to poverty, sustainable living, the elderly, or (most ironically of all), people from actually diverse backgrounds. It's one great hodge-podge of self-congratulating elitists who have made themselves experts by reading books like "What to Expect" while having no first-hand knowledge of how to really raise children, what makes a family work, and what makes for a healthy community (hint: not excessively mobile areas where no one is home during the day and everyone is on social media and playing apps during the evening). Esolen's book is the great corrective to this mentality. He understands the self-hating, consumerist mentality that lurks beneath the child-centric approach to education. We talk down, rather than raise up. We cater to whims, as opposed to helping navigate. We utterly fail to "educate desires": we instead reinforce self-satisfaction over elevation. This is truly tragic, because while we avoid conflict with our children when they are young, they still hunger for transcendence. We have raised a generation of children who have been told their bodies are "SUPER cool machines!" and who all suffer from anxiety as a result. We have demeaned homemaking, thrust women out of the home, shoved children into the arms of strangers, all so we can achieve wealth and "success." We then fail to connect that with our insane drive to self-medicate. This will continue apace, because our larger culture cannot bear to accept limits. Without limits, though, we sink deeper and deeper: limits are what give us the steady footing to do great things. Without them we may be free, but it is the freedom of quicksand. Read this book to prevent your child from being lost to the formless consumerist, anxiety-inducing culture. Read this book to prevent yourself from becoming the kind of parent who outsources everything, most especially responsibility.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    By the translator of the Divine Comedy, this is a tremendous attack on the erosion and dismantling of the imagaination of our children. Here are the ten ways: 1. Keep your children in doors as much as possible; 2. Never leave children to themselves; 3. Replace the fairy tale with political cliches and fads; 4. Keep children away from machines and machinists; 5. Cast aspersions upon the heroic and the patriotic; 6. Cut all heroes down to size; 7. Reduce all talk of love to narcissism and sex; 8. Level di By the translator of the Divine Comedy, this is a tremendous attack on the erosion and dismantling of the imagaination of our children. Here are the ten ways: 1. Keep your children in doors as much as possible; 2. Never leave children to themselves; 3. Replace the fairy tale with political cliches and fads; 4. Keep children away from machines and machinists; 5. Cast aspersions upon the heroic and the patriotic; 6. Cut all heroes down to size; 7. Reduce all talk of love to narcissism and sex; 8. Level distinctions between men and women; 9. Distract the child with the shallow and the unreal; 10. Deny the transcendent.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mary Beth

    Absolutely brutal in the best of ways.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anne White

    I read through this quickly as preparation for leading a group study. I expected to like it, and I did see many connections, for example, between this book and Charlotte Mason's Formation of Character. We do need much space and solitude, and we do need to take what we can from works of literature. Providing a cotton-wool childhood should not be the goal. However, I was left with mixed feelings. In emphasizing the mysterious differences between boys and girls, the girls here seem almost excluded a I read through this quickly as preparation for leading a group study. I expected to like it, and I did see many connections, for example, between this book and Charlotte Mason's Formation of Character. We do need much space and solitude, and we do need to take what we can from works of literature. Providing a cotton-wool childhood should not be the goal. However, I was left with mixed feelings. In emphasizing the mysterious differences between boys and girls, the girls here seem almost excluded and unwelcome, especially from the "brotherhood" activities that bind boys together. One sees the point of this in, perhaps, having a boys-only church class; but when that attitude extends, as it did for centuries, to keeping women out of science and art and politics and law and whatever else, it becomes not respect but sulking. As one reviewer pointed out years ago, there are cultures that do strictly separate boys' activities from girls', but others of us grew up in situations where boys and girls worked, played, and worshipped together, without any particular damage to our "imaginations." Even Frances the Badger had to remind her friend Albert that girls could also be good at catching snakes. If you can get past that, though, along with the somewhat heavy-handed sarcasm, there is much to be gained from the book. I liked the metaphor of the flashing GNAC sign, an intrusion that blocks the thinking of both adults and children, but which can also be fought against. The challenge is made clear: will we settle for what is soothing and comfortable (or comfortably noisy), or will we choose something bigger and better?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Father Nick

    Esolen is a favorite author of mine, and while I did enjoy this book, I think it misses the mark: not in content, but in form. His Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child is written in the style of the Screwtape, a conceit that is perhaps designed to justify the periodically sarcastic tone of Esolen's thoughts on the subject of the formation of children's minds. Not that such sarcasm is unjustified--certainly not; so much of what he points out as laughably inadequate to the task of ini Esolen is a favorite author of mine, and while I did enjoy this book, I think it misses the mark: not in content, but in form. His Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child is written in the style of the Screwtape, a conceit that is perhaps designed to justify the periodically sarcastic tone of Esolen's thoughts on the subject of the formation of children's minds. Not that such sarcasm is unjustified--certainly not; so much of what he points out as laughably inadequate to the task of initiating young men and women into adulthood hits spot on. Esolen does a fine job of specifying what exactly we should understand when the word "imagination" is used. It carries a meaning of fantasy or dreaminess that can often dismiss it as something proper only to children or the lazy. But in a more philosophically precise sense, imagination is the faculty by which we conceive images; and in this sense, imagination is active every time we make use of images, which is just another word for sensory input. Words are images. So are smells, textures, and sounds. All of them, mediated by memory and in concert with one another, become what the ancient Greeks recognized as "the doorway to the soul." If the activity of our mind is mediated by the imagination, its structure and content takes on paramount importance. Reflect for a moment on the symbolism of a beautiful cathedral. Consider the scene: though what’s important is front and center, beauty is on all sides and leads one to a greater appreciation of the central reality of divine worship. Think of the windows. Is there not a subconscious effect exerted by these windows’ artistic beauty? In the process of allowing light to enter, a magnificent work of art is made visible which heightens the experience of the light and what it illuminates. Consider the effect that mundane or even ugly images in those windows would have (not a difficult exercise given the churches in which many of us worship today--a subject on which Esolen has no shortage of words). I would liken the imagination to the windows of a cathedral. Much like the scenes upon the windows, the contents of the imagination affect the workings of the mind and heart, and ultimately, how we perceive reality, as it streams in through our senses. By taking advantage of the memory and the influence it has upon the imagination, men have the power to adorn the windows of their soul with truth, goodness, and beauty, all of which lead one to a heightened appreciation of the mystical quality of daily life. We sniff at memorization, as hardly worth the name of study. That is wise of us. For the most imaginative people in the history of the world thought otherwise. "Zeus became enamored with fair-haired Memory," sings the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, "and she produced the nine Muses with their golden diadems, who enjoy festivities and the delights of song." The great epic poets invoked the Muses not to stir in them something supposedly "original," which usually is merely self-centered and peculiar, but to give them the twin gifts of memory and prophecy. "They breathed into me their divine voice," says Hesiod, "that I might tell of things to come and of things past, and ordered me to sing of the race of the blessed gods who live forever, and always to place the Muses themselves both at the beginning and at the end of my song." A few points that stood out for me include the section on "piety of place." Being a Kansas resident, I do realize that my state is everyone's favorite fly-over state to hate. Yet I was encouraged by Esolen's insistence that attachment to place, a particular place, is constitutive of thought and imagination. Drawing from the work of Shakespeare and Flannery O'Connor, it's clear that the enemies of imagination find a great enemy in a love for a place and a country: We see here the products of easy cynicism. Learn to despise the place where you were born, its old customs, its glories and its shame. Then stick your head in a comic book. That done, you will be triple-armored against the threat of a real thought, or the call of the transcendent. Some people have no worlds for God to pierce through. I also enjoyed his perspective on food, and the hunting by which one may acquire it: Deer hunting was a popular pastime in the rural Pennsylvania where I grew up. People who know nothing about the subject suppose it is for beer-drinking men who want to show off their prowess. Encourage that bigotry in your children. Do not let on that you know that hunting requires actual knowledge of anything, which a young person must learn from someone who is proficient. You have to know how to clean and take care of a rifle; what the difference between one gauge and the other is; what "trajectory" means. You have to coordinate your efforts with those of your fellow hunters, sometimes flushing the game, sometimes waiting, with numb fingers and aching knees, for the quarry to come. You are, at best, pitting your skill and your strategy against the animals, appreciating their strange ways, and not at all taking them for granted as creatures of strength and speed and keen instinct. Many of the points he makes are grounded in his own experience of growing up in Pennsylvania, and so there is a decidedly autobiographical thread that runs throughout his catalog of imagination-slaying practices. My own opinion is that he should have stuck with autobiography--and the sarcasm would have come across as curmudgeonly and in earnest rather than being forced to carry the weight of a publisher's desire for an "angle."

  21. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    This book lays out ten great ways to destroy your child's imagination. It's like long-form sarcasm, the opposite of the argument being the actual position of the author. Kind of like The Screwtape Letters, but less smooth in execution. Here are some of the main themes Esolen deals with: the power of truth (even just facts) for nurturing the imagination, the wonder of the outdoors, the importance of heroes and patriotism and virtue and fairy tales, the magic of romance and love, and the need for This book lays out ten great ways to destroy your child's imagination. It's like long-form sarcasm, the opposite of the argument being the actual position of the author. Kind of like The Screwtape Letters, but less smooth in execution. Here are some of the main themes Esolen deals with: the power of truth (even just facts) for nurturing the imagination, the wonder of the outdoors, the importance of heroes and patriotism and virtue and fairy tales, the magic of romance and love, and the need for the transcendent. Esolen is a gifted and provocative writer. He makes his points sharply and unapologetically. At times he overstates his case, and does have some blind spots (as other reviewers have pointed out). But he is largely right and has so much to offer anyone engaging in the activity known as parenting. Esolen has a firm grasp of the classics and is constantly making reference (or re-telling portions of) these foundational stories, as well as Biblical narratives and countless anecdotes from history. He throws in a bunch of CS Lewis for good measure. So as he's making his points, your familiarity with these works stretches and grows. The highlights of the book for me were the dozens of passages where Esolen calmly dismantled the modern secular soulless approach to childhood by laying it side by side with a fully human joy-filled alternative, at once inspiring and revealing how far we have fallen. For anyone fully immersed in our modern world, putting these truths into practice is an exercise in swimming upstream. But it is an also an exercise in truly living. What a refreshing vision of life fully lived, with our faculties engaged and aware and amazed at the incredible world around us. As Chesterton said, "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." Esolen helps every parent who wants to be fully awake to the paltry state of childhood and fully alive in pursuing something much better for oneself and for one's children.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Weitz

    Review on my blog: http://thereadingmother.net/2016/07/1... "Consider what happens to people whose night skies are spangled with constellations like The Master of Hestviken, or Moby-Dick, or The Brothers Karamazov. These people are hard to fool. They are also hard to enlist in pursuit of the trivial and ephemeral. It is as if we had given them a powerful telescope atop a high mountain, and shown them how to use it, and directed their attention to the Orion nebula, and once they had learned to do Review on my blog: http://thereadingmother.net/2016/07/1... "Consider what happens to people whose night skies are spangled with constellations like The Master of Hestviken, or Moby-Dick, or The Brothers Karamazov. These people are hard to fool. They are also hard to enlist in pursuit of the trivial and ephemeral. It is as if we had given them a powerful telescope atop a high mountain, and shown them how to use it, and directed their attention to the Orion nebula, and once they had learned to do so and to love the beauty they found there, expected them to look at light bulbs on a marquee." "(Dickens) arranged his wild horde of characters as the intricately ordered parts of a living thing. If you don't want your child to write long novels wherein each character plays an orchestrated part to bring about the effect of the whole, you should keep him away from abstract structures generally. Best to sit him in front of a piece of paper and ask him to write about what he feels. Self-expression is the finest antidote for a perky imagination ever invented." "They will never have the linguistic wrenches, pliers, hammers, and chisels to fashion a grammatical spree . . . " "A developed memory is a wondrous and terrible storehouse of things seen and heard and done. It can do what no mere search engine on the internet can do. It can call up apparently unrelated things at once, molding them into a whole impression, or a new thought." "People who can organize themselves and accomplish something as devilishly complicated as a good ballgame are hard to herd around. They can form societies of their own. They become men and women, not human resources. They can be free."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn

    This book is indeed about ten ways to destroy the imagination of a child, but is done is a very tongue and cheek way. He basically shows what is desirable, what will foster imagination, in a child, and then why we must not have that, and what we must do instead. I am torn between three and four stars for the book, because while I generally agree with what he is saying, he lost me many times. I felt dumb sometimes, because I am not an English lit professor like he is. I've never read Dante, or Vi This book is indeed about ten ways to destroy the imagination of a child, but is done is a very tongue and cheek way. He basically shows what is desirable, what will foster imagination, in a child, and then why we must not have that, and what we must do instead. I am torn between three and four stars for the book, because while I generally agree with what he is saying, he lost me many times. I felt dumb sometimes, because I am not an English lit professor like he is. I've never read Dante, or Virgil, or Plato, etc. So many references, though he tries to explain their story, are beyond my current "read" list. Sometimes he also just seems to throw quotes out there that I don't understand why they were there. But, that being said, a very thought-provoking read, though perhaps difficult to read at times. It took me a while to read through this book, though that wasn't entirely the books fault, but it's too smart to just pick up where you left off often, and is a book you should try to read when not distracted every 2 minutes by little kids (as was my case).

  24. 5 out of 5

    An Idler

    Esolen takes a few cues from C.S. Lewis in this acerbic attack on the flattening of the human experience - especially, but not exclusively, during its childhood beginnings. Esolen writes like a Chesterton with his classical references and contrarian attitude, but the structure of the book borrows from The Screwtape Letters by taking the antagonistic position suggested by the title. (And the book's theme is surely inspired by another Lewis book, The Abolition of Man.) Esolen uses weaponized sarca Esolen takes a few cues from C.S. Lewis in this acerbic attack on the flattening of the human experience - especially, but not exclusively, during its childhood beginnings. Esolen writes like a Chesterton with his classical references and contrarian attitude, but the structure of the book borrows from The Screwtape Letters by taking the antagonistic position suggested by the title. (And the book's theme is surely inspired by another Lewis book, The Abolition of Man.) Esolen uses weaponized sarcasm to describe how much of the richness of humanity is dropped out or rooted out of modern childhood, and what we stand to lose.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Barker

    I loved the writing style of Esolen in this book. He incorporates sarcasm, real life stories, and passages from classics to drive home his point. One point that he made is that we tend to laugh at what we don’t understand. That truly struck me bc I realized how true that really is in our current society. Where has our humility gone? I’m not sure that he mentioned anything that I hadn’t already heard, but this book was an excellent reminder of how easy it is as a grownup to squash the imagination I loved the writing style of Esolen in this book. He incorporates sarcasm, real life stories, and passages from classics to drive home his point. One point that he made is that we tend to laugh at what we don’t understand. That truly struck me bc I realized how true that really is in our current society. Where has our humility gone? I’m not sure that he mentioned anything that I hadn’t already heard, but this book was an excellent reminder of how easy it is as a grownup to squash the imagination of my children.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    This was a very intriguing book. I read it because it was suggested by a blogger I follow. This is a type of book I wouldn’t typically pick up on my own. The style is a little different, but when she described it, it captured my attention. The beginning was so good. The way he write is very witty and a bit sarcastic. It did take me a while to get used to it. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. Towards the end (8, 9, 10) I felt it was getting a little long. But it may have just been because I read so mu This was a very intriguing book. I read it because it was suggested by a blogger I follow. This is a type of book I wouldn’t typically pick up on my own. The style is a little different, but when she described it, it captured my attention. The beginning was so good. The way he write is very witty and a bit sarcastic. It did take me a while to get used to it. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. Towards the end (8, 9, 10) I felt it was getting a little long. But it may have just been because I read so much all at once. I would suggest it to those who have kids. It makes you think about things a little differently.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    I would give this book ten stars if I could. It should be required reading for anyone with children. Esolen writes in the form of irony. He tells you all the effective ways that will kill your child's imagination, sense of wonder, creativity, appreciation for nature, a healthy view of love and sex and body image, and sense of the transcendental. His narration is bitingly sarcastic and might not be appreciated by everyone, especially if you don't agree with him. Each chapter breaks down exactly how I would give this book ten stars if I could. It should be required reading for anyone with children. Esolen writes in the form of irony. He tells you all the effective ways that will kill your child's imagination, sense of wonder, creativity, appreciation for nature, a healthy view of love and sex and body image, and sense of the transcendental. His narration is bitingly sarcastic and might not be appreciated by everyone, especially if you don't agree with him. Each chapter breaks down exactly how to accomplish this. Carefully follow his instructions and you too can have a child that will roll along on that assembly line of "correct" thinking, and conform to ideologies dictated by mass entertainment (he refused to call it pop culture because there's nothing cultural about it) and they will be shoved out at the end into a nihilistic, bleak, adult who can then turn around and start the process over with their own children. A few of his admonitions: 1. Don't peddle truth; only shades of grey because all ideas have equal merit. 2. Keep your child indoors as much as possible, preferably in front of a television set so they will be unable to truly socialize with other children, create their own games, songs, chants, or how to resolve conflict for themselves. Keep them forever monitored. 3. Keep them in public school for longer and longer hours and shrink summer vacation because spending eight hours or more a day under florescent lights in a windowless room is healthy. Make sure recess is minimal as well as lunch to prevent any free socialization. This must all be managed by adults- but not their parents; their parents need time to be themselves as they pursue their careers. 4. Games must be formal and structured by adults in the form of sports. This also will prevent actual socialization and cull the imagination. 5. Replace fairy tales with political cliches and fads. Better yet, crush their spirit by making them constantly fearful that the world is about to be destroyed by evil people who are bent on destroying the environment, making animals endangered, and let's not forget "global warming" oh wait... we're calling that "climate change" now...anyway, don't let them read actual books from bygone times. Oh, and don't let them look at great art or listen to great music. Those things irreparably spark the imagination. 6. Ridicule anything that is heroic or patriotic. 7. Reduce all talk of love to narcissism and sex. 8. Level distinctions between man and woman (or spay and geld). 9. Distract children with the shallow and unreal. And surround them with noise. They must never, ever have moments of silence. and finally: 10. Deny the transcendent or fix above the heads of men the lowest ceiling of all. I thought the book was refreshingly honest, especially after spending several years as a public school teacher. He knows what he is talking about and expresses his acutely perceptive observations with a shrewd eye for language or as someone who actually spent most of his childhood outside, reading quality books and quietly contemplating the transcendent.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Mary

    I first saw this book in the ISI site’s bookstore and was pleased to find it at the public library (inter-library loan). I’d highly recommend it to anyone with children and wish I’d read it earlier in my home schooling career. There are definitely some things I’d consider doing differently based on the opinions given here. I may buy a copy so I can reread it periodically. There are many quotable passages, but this one, in a chapter entitled Cast Aspersions upon the Heroic and Patriotic, finally m I first saw this book in the ISI site’s bookstore and was pleased to find it at the public library (inter-library loan). I’d highly recommend it to anyone with children and wish I’d read it earlier in my home schooling career. There are definitely some things I’d consider doing differently based on the opinions given here. I may buy a copy so I can reread it periodically. There are many quotable passages, but this one, in a chapter entitled Cast Aspersions upon the Heroic and Patriotic, finally moved me to post it. Here, Esolen comments on the topic of multiculturalism: … But we want no patriots. Therefore we want no lovers of their own place. The very purpose of what is miscalled multiculturalism is to destroy culture, by teaching students to dismiss their own and to patronize the rest. Hence the antidote to love of this place is not only a hatred of this place, but a phony engagement with any other place. Multiculturalism in this sense is like going a-whoring. Pretending to love every woman you meet, you love none at all. Nor do you genuinely get to know any of them, since it never occurs to you that there are any depths to learn to appreciate. If there’s nothing to claim your devotion to Georgia [referring to a Flannery O’Connor quote earlier in the chapter], what should there be to do so in South Wales? We will raise, at best, the mildly interested tourist, who collapses everything he sees into the two dimensions of a social fad. They will rack up places they’ve seen just as callous safari hunters rack up skins and horns, only without the danger that might awaken the heart. Or they will stay home, since one place will be as dull as the next.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    In Ten Ways, Anthony Esolen presents in delightfully witty and satirical prose a surefire recipe for stunting a child’s innate wonder and imagination. Of course, Esolen intends to encourage exactly the opposite, but he uses this conceit as a clever and effective arrow to skewer his true target: the ideas, practices and institutions pervading American society that hinder the effective fostering and nurturing of children’s imaginative capacities. In Esolen’s crosshairs is the dull-minded impositio In Ten Ways, Anthony Esolen presents in delightfully witty and satirical prose a surefire recipe for stunting a child’s innate wonder and imagination. Of course, Esolen intends to encourage exactly the opposite, but he uses this conceit as a clever and effective arrow to skewer his true target: the ideas, practices and institutions pervading American society that hinder the effective fostering and nurturing of children’s imaginative capacities. In Esolen’s crosshairs is the dull-minded imposition upon children of, inter alia: busy work, over-scheduling, disuse of the power of memory, mindless entertainment, a dearth of classic art, books and folk tales, separation from the world of adults, the dismissal of creativity and curiosity about how things work, a politicized worldview, modern sex education, and a denial of the transcendent. As an antidote to these cultural afflictions, Esolen encourages parents to fire the imaginations of their children by immersing them in the old folk and fairy tales and great works of Western culture, allowing them plenty of unsupervised play, grounding their learning in rigorous but playful creativity, and cultivating the practice of Christian virtues. Much more could be mentioned about this enjoyable and provoking book, but it will suffice to say Esolen’s book is a droll but serious call to resist the numbing effects of superficial American popular culture by adopting an enriched way of life in which children are nurtured in a spirit of playful, intelligent wonder at God’s creation.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cris

    This book is good plug for Classical Education and a scathing critique of recent educational trends told in biting intellectual voice by Esolen. However I have to wonder what his motives were for writing this book. Is talking to the choir or the general public? If I were asked for a recommendation about classical education, I would NEVER hand this to someone who was not already embracing his ideals (one parent at home, low-key parenting and at least theistic); for even those who might already be This book is good plug for Classical Education and a scathing critique of recent educational trends told in biting intellectual voice by Esolen. However I have to wonder what his motives were for writing this book. Is talking to the choir or the general public? If I were asked for a recommendation about classical education, I would NEVER hand this to someone who was not already embracing his ideals (one parent at home, low-key parenting and at least theistic); for even those who might already be interested in classical education might find this book's tone off-putting. To be sure, if you have the mood and patience, there is much to be learned here about how modern educational methods kill the imagination of children by denying them facts, autonomy and by flattening ideals to a level plain. However, it is too much to hope that working mothers, Charlote Mason adherents, or atheists are going to give these ideas a fair shot on account of the sarcasm. And the rest of us classicists already know or can find more concise books about this if we are not in the mood for biting humor.

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