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Discipline Education

10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Children

This is from the excellent book by Anthony Esolen.

1. Keep your children indoors as much as possible.

A child weighed down by busywork (homework), endlessly distracted by flashing screens, will find the outdoors boring.

And so they will find life boring.

As a consequence, they will *be* boring. If they spend too much time outside, they might learn something outside of a controlled setting.

The outdoors is wild and untamed, which is a danger to children who must be slotted into pre-ordained grooves and roles. “Life is to be spent inside the four walls of the house, the school, the office, and the hospital, in preparation for the four walls of a coffin.”

Anything they do should be virtual, not real. They should never feel the joy of discovering a real, climbable tree. 

2. Never leave children to themselves.

Supervise and plan out their entire day. We don’t really want them to be independent.

Truly independent children grow up to be unmanageable adults.

We only want to let them *pretend* to be independent. Children who can organize a pick-up baseball game by themselves will grow up to be able to govern themselves.

They become free men and free women.

And we can’t have that.

We must drown them with notes from a planning committee. Television is an excellent supervisor.

“It has marched like Sherman to the sea, cutting a wide swath through a child’s day, with hardly a twisted railroad track or a burnt barn to show for it.” 

3. Keep children away from machines and machinists.

Do not let them tinker.

Safety must be valued above all else.

Theoretical knowledge must be honored more than manual labor. All topics must allow for political preaching so as to snuff out any wonder. Children must learn that the whales must be saved, and avoid any actual fascination with whales themselves. The political slogan itself doesn’t really matter. It can be swapped out with its opposite.

We have always been at war with Eastasia, after all.

Teach Astronomy, but for goodness sake, never let them touch an actual telescope. 

  • No hunting
  • No raising animals
  • No table saws
  • No axes
  • No knives
  • No soldering
  • No engines
  • No taking apart electronics to see how things work

Treat these things as beneath them. Your children are meant for something better: government work. 

4. Replace the fairy tale with political cliches and fads.

Fairy tales present evil stripped of any of its pretensions. It is ugly. It is gross.

A child’s moral imagination should not be trained with such stark truth. Boys should not be inspired to pick up a sword to slay dragons.

That is too close to toxic masculinity.

Better to raise them on cliches. Spin every story so it serves the latest political platitude like “all religious people are bigots” or “women are never frail.” All stories must be relevant and homogenous. They must be banal.

No one should care about these stories after 30 years. Their job is to impart propaganda and then fade away into the mist. Fool children into thinking that they are virtuous because they believe the correct position on something they know nothing about.

They must not know the humility of Cinderella. But they should know that Ronald Reagan hated gay people. 

5. Cast aspersions on the heroic and patriotic.

Teach children to hate their own culture.

Never speak of Washington or Churchill unless you also make it known that they were obviously racist.

Focus on the grime. Do not let them focus on beauty. Forgive no blemish. The only people of history we should hold up as heroes are those who can make a convenient mascot for modern political propaganda. 

6. Cut all heroes down to size.

Inflate the word “hero” so it doesn’t actually mean anything. Everybody is a hero. You didn’t beep your horn when someone cut you off. You are a hero.

Your mother made you dinner. She is a hero. Everyone is a hero.

“So genuine heroes will go unnoticed in all the mindless self-congratulation.” Children should be taught that they are virtuous simply for holding the correct political opinion.

Teach them to condemn anyone who fights for anything, and then to preen themselves for preferring peace. Do not teach them about the Battle of Marathon.

Do not teach them about the Poles defending against the Turks in Vienna.

But if you do, be sure to look down on these men of courage. Our kids should prefer people who talk about peace a lot from positions of comfort. Above all, teach them to be flippant.

If they spot excellence, they should sneer and nitpick. They should have nothing to be proud of but should be able to scoff at humility.

The only hero they should be allowed to worship is themselves. 

7. Reduce all talk of love to narcissism and sex.

The love between a man and a woman is meant for private satisfaction and is mostly arbitrary. It has no societal implications. It is an emotional itch that needs to be scratched. Treat sex as clinical. Banal.

It is all about controlling the hardware and keeping everything clean. Nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing really special about womanhood.

There is nothing really special about manhood.

When they unite, there is nothing mysterious happening. Just machines to be lubricated. 

8. Level distinctions between man and woman.

They are just individual carbon units.

They should just grow up to be an adult with no greater ideal to strive for.

It is dangerous for them to know that there are such things as manliness and womanliness. There should be no rites of passages for boys so they know when they become men.

There is nothing special about being a woman, except that they can pretend to be third-class men. They should not discover that men and women, working together, possessing deep virtues, tamed a continent.

Instead, speak of “traditional” manhood or “traditional” womanhood with a wink and a sneer. 

9. Distract the child with the shallow and unreal.

They should never be alone with their thoughts. Silence and solitude are dangerous.

Television is a great help here, of course. A child who cannot sit still and let his eyes “rest on something beautiful as a stretch of sea and sky can hardly be expected to dwell upon an imaginary sea or an imaginary sky.”

We want kids who can read, but who have no time to read, nor do they care. We want children who only chat through computers, not face to face.

We want children who only go on the manufactured adventures of video games, and not actual adventures.

Drown out everything with noise, noise, noise. The point is to dampen a child’s imagination so they are numb.

We don’t want to warp it so they become criminals.

They need to be cogs in the machine. Cogs that don’t squeak. 

10. Deny the transcendent.

Teach them they are just the result of random chance. Nothing more than bags of chemical reactions.

Imagination thrives on mystery and wonder. Make sure they have nothing to wonder about and no mystery that is inaccessible. “Only” is the most useful word in the dictionary.

A beautiful sunset is *only* the light striking the atmosphere at a specific angle.

Love is *only* an evolutionary impulse to reproduce.

God is *only* a projection of wish-fulfillment, something we have outgrown.