Monday, March 20, 2017

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

I am on a French Impressionist track these days.  Currently I am listening to Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major, Second movement.

A couple of days ago I ran into a woman who worked in the office of the school where I taught for several years.  She reminded me why I don't subscribe to the local paper:  I'm tired of seeing former students photos there.

Not for earning awards or any graduating from college. But because they are dead or in jail.  

My former colleague told me that a student I taught in the fourth and fifth grade was now going to prison for murder.

I remember this boy as being a behavior problem and I did my best by allowing him to come in to my music room and help me set up each morning.  Probably he was glad to get out of his homeroom class, but I found if I could develop relationships with my students outside of class, it helped with discipline issues. 

A couple of years later when I walked into the Middle School where he was, he saw me and greeted me with a big smile.  That surprised me because I had never seen him smile before.

I know there are deeper and more serious reasons why too many children are turning out the way they are but I also saw that the children we taught were getting more and more out of control, not only because of their chaotic home life, but because we as teachers are not allowed to provide any consequences for bad behavior. And, frankly, we teachers spend more time with these children than their parents do.

Why do I mention this? (And sorry if I've depressed my readers, I'm feeling a little depressed myself since I learned about this student.)  Because the book I'm reviewing offers some acute observations as to why too many students are falling through the cracks.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your ChildTen Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

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. 

Perhaps needless to say, his narrative is sarcastic, at times bitingly so.  Those who don't agree with his stance may not appreciate it.

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.

View all my reviews

For those who pray, please pray for this young man.  He is the same age as my son.  They went to school together.  Horrible things happen to people in prison and I just pray for his salvation and protection.


  1. tragic things going on, all over the world; can't help but think a lot of it is due to overpopulation: just too much stress on the planet as a whole, with "room to grow in" decreasing all the time...

    did you ever try his Concerto for Left Hand..?

    1. Hi Mudpuddle. There's no shortage of tragedy in the world, that is true. I know that there are many theories to what caused the crime rate.

      The common denominator I saw in school was that the kids whose fathers were absent had a lot of strikes against them. Also, as teachers, we were hog tied as far as disciplining students. It was perverse.

      I have never performed his Left Hand concerto. I need to listen to it. I can't remember if I had. Time to go to spotify....Have a good week.

      Have you ever performed Jerome Bassano's recorder music? It's quite nice. Of course I like all early music. :)

    2. nooo.... i don't remember it, anyhow; i did quite a bit of recorder stuff at one time, so i might have, but it doesn't ring a bell; teleman fantasia's were wonderful; i never performed one but i used to practice them quite a bit... and Vivaldi oboe concertos and Bach 2nd Brandenburg of course.... great music; i miss it... fingers too old and stiff now to play much... cant forget Handel...

    3. I was just listening to a recorder ensemble that was performing Bassano. It's really nice. By the way, I'm assuming you played alto recorder. Did you play any other?

    4. alto and soprano when needed; reading is only a fourth different; at one time, playing in an orchestra, i used to play some of the easier parts in A on the B flat; also played a little tuba, so i was familiar with bass clef and transposing in general.... my best friend, a horn player, could play anything, except strings, in any key; dead now, unfortunately...

    5. I accompany a tubist. We're working on a recital for the end of April.

      I taught recorder to grade school students. We were able to play simple Renaissance songs by 5th grade. It was hard not to over blow.

  2. Sharon, firstly, about this book: I've seen it mentioned in resources and made a mental note of it. Now I'll just put it on my wishlist on Amazon. I'd love this, even though he'd be preaching to the choir.

    And about the young may - I will pray for him. Have you considered contacting him in prison? Amazing things happen to people when they are completely broken down. My friend's son (who grew up in a Christian home w/ parents who trust and obey the Lord and raised up their children obediently in the Lord) went astray, and it cost him. He is now going to prison, too, for 25 years. Nonetheless, he is now loving and serving the Lord, and so many young men in his facility are coming to know the Lord b/c of him. They (or their family members) are writing letters to my friend thanking her for her son's witness.

    So even in godly households, young men go astray. : ( But there is always redemption and reconciliation, forgiveness and mercy. He needs people to reach out to him and not give up on him. He must come to the realization that he needs to repent and trust in Christ.

    P.S. I cannot agree more that the absence of fathers or the presence of lazy, passive men in the home, is a huge contributor to broken young people and society. Wow! What a weight men carry on their shoulders - and what a burden they have put on mothers and wives when they turn away from their responsibilities.

    P.S.S. I believe it is "climate change" for now. : )

    1. Hi Ruth: Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

      Of course because so many men have now grown up without fathers and because our culture has effectively sold the message that men aren't necessary for a complete family, we are seeing a pandemic of emotionally disturbed children and especially angry young males.

      And, as you say, parents can do everything possible to "raise their child up in the way the should go" but ultimately we all choose our own path.

      I'm glad you mentioned writing. His name is Chris by the way. It's in the paper and he's twenty-two so I guess I can call him by name. And I have been praying for him. I will look into writing him.

      He recently committed the crime (here's the story if you'd like to read it:

      and he's up for trial. I don't think he's getting out of jail any time soon and he might get the death penalty here in Texas.

      Thanks for the encouraging words. :)

  3. Hi Sharon

    I agree with some of the points that the author makes but I disagree with others.

    For instance I agree agree about the shallowness and the level of noise out there. I think that it has terrible effects on children.

    On the other hand the world has real problems that I think that children need to be engaged in. Folks can disagree about them, thus I am in favor of discussing and engaging with different viewpoints. I also believe in fairy tales, but I think that children can be simultaneously concerned about the environment. I think that moderation goes a long way with these things.

    Have a great week Sharon!

    1. Hi Brian! I see where you're coming from. There definitely needs to be a balance. I think the author is stating that there is not a balance. That one modernist viewpoint is being taught in school and opposing viewpoints have been eliminated.

      I think we are seeing the fruits of that manifested in certain universities where any viewpoint other than the students' is violently opposed. Hence the invented terms "microaggressions" and "safe spaces".

      Take care!

    2. Indeed there is a group of intolerant and strident folks out there. As you point out a lot of it is centered in Universities. I see a lot of it on Twitter where even slightly conservative or moderate views will get sometimes gets one labeled as racist or brings a knee jerk, unthinking response of "Check your privilege".

    3. Hi Brian! I think that's why I don't use Twitter. Anonymity can bring the worst out of people. I would probably get my feelings hurt.

  4. That book sounds wonderful, thanks for sharing. The story of your former student is so sad. If only he could take back that one action and start fresh. Unfortunately, handguns make it way too easy to commit horrible acts that can't be undone. :(

    1. Hi Marcia. I thought that too. One horrible act and your life is forever ruined. I also know that this student didn't start there. It was something that was festering in him for a long time: uncontrolled rage.

      I was also wondering why he was carrying a hand gun.

    2. guns are anathema, imo... so much in the popular culture has to do with them; but as you say, one aberrant second and a life is ruined... they should outlaw them all...

    3. I'm divided on the gun issue, Mudpuddle. However, I don't want any in my house, that's for sure.

      I haven't been able to get that young man out of my mind. He killed his daughter's grandparents because they wouldn't let him see her. Obviously with good reason. I don't get it.

    4. And you're right, Mudpuddle. Our popular culture in movies and music has certainly glamorized violence and a gangster culture.

  5. So sad. I'm never surprised when acts of violence are committed in broken relationships - not that I excuse them, but estrangement & brokenness are like toxins if they're let loose.
    I read Esolen's book a couple of years ago & would really like to read 'Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child.'
    Interesting article on him here:

    1. Hi Carol. I just read the article (I subscribe to Crisis-great magazine). Unbelievable that a Catholic School would respond that way. They took a turn somewhere, didn't they.

      I just looked up the Esolen book you mentioned. I need to get that book as well.

    2. Crisis is a wonderful resource. I think that's how I stumbled upon Esolen -- that, or The Imaginative Conservative. I haven't read this yet, but it's definite. I'm in the same boat with Ruth, though, it's a bit of preaching to the choir...I enjoy listening to Dr. Esolen on youtube. He can be cleverly mean when he's attacking something like the academic institution, or the media establishment, or the government...

    3. Hi Stephen. Thanks for telling me about The Imaginative Conservative. I just signed up for their email subscriptions.

      I need to watch him on youtube as well.

      As for preaching to the choir. I find it beneficial to hear or read people who better articulate what I believe than I do. It helps re-enforce my beliefs as well as provide me with greater power of expression when sharing those beliefs with others.

    4. Esolen is definitely good at expression. He has such --- PASSION. When he speaks he gesticulates, and he can get lost quoting poetry.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.