Here's the link for Part 1.
Esolen continues in developing his proposition that, in order to destroy the thinking capacity and sense of wonder among our children, we ought to keep our kids from being exposed to the outdoors. There are several modern techniques that accomplish this goal nicely. For example the outdoors ought to be carefully controlled, fenced in, and cordoned off so that exploring it is the equivalent of a tour through a fairly boring museum -
"One way to neutralize this fascination with the natural world is to cordon it off in parks and zoos, and then to act as if only the parks and zoos were worth seeing ... Children should be encouraged to think they have 'done' rivers, or bird sanctuaries, or botanical gardens, in the way that weary tourists are proud to have done Belgium." (pgs. 37-38)
There are many curiosities that make awaken a sense of dangerous wonder in your child. The very best way of deadening your kids' senses to this sort of thing is to only expose them first to the same thing, except only virtual realities of the same thing. Let them learn about the natural wonders of the world through the internet, not by going outside. For instance -
Another popular modern practice highly conducive to halting the development of a child's thinking skills is to rigorously control even his time outside of the schoolroom. Meticulously organize, schedule, and supervise all your child's play time, especially with other children. Grownups should always be in charge. And here is where we get to one of the best little sections of Esolen's book. From pages 49-55, he tells what is almost a modern Utopian fairy tale, of a world where everyone's existence is minutely controlled and scheduled down to the very last detail. This "ideal" world Esolen describes is hilariously bad, and yet I'm really not sure if there is a single part of it that isn't actually part of our modern lifestyle.
The chief offenders of Tormentaria, or rather those who would grow up to be offenders if they were left to themselves, are the objects of plenty of molding and squeezing, for roughly twenty revolutions of Tormentaria around its sun. When they are hardly old enough to toddle about, they are wheeled away to what is called, in Tormentarian, an asylo , meaning 'rainbow center,' where they are attended to by paid professionals, usually of a kindly disposition, who will feed them at regular feeding times, nap them at regular napping times, give them regularly scheduled 'activities' to keep them from rusting solid, and remember their names. The little Tormentarians learn to look forward to the asylo , because otherwise they seldom meet another of their own kind. Besides, the walls of the asylo are gaily painted with colors unknown to the flora and fauna of Tormentaria - gaudy blues to substitute for the sky and purples and oranges to substitute for fruit, and buds, and flowers. Children, the Tormentarians know, like that sort of thing, and the sheer blare of it all will make Tormentaria rivers and trees and bluffs dull by comparison.
"They get up very early in the morning to board a bus which stops every hundred yards to take on new passengers. This ensures that no child has very far to walk, and that the ride takes an hour or so in the morning and an hour or so in the evening. That will mean nearly two hours ripped out of every child's life, for no real purpose, day after day for twelve years - a significant achievement ..." (pg. 52)
"No matter whether the child's interest is as deep as the sea or as shallow as a rain puddle, and no matter whether the subject is Kings of Old or Being Nice to Animals, the organizing adults will make sure you spend forty-five minutes on it, all of you without distinction, no more, and no less. Every subject will be taken equally seriously, which means, in effect, that none of them can be taken quite seriously at all. After six or seven hours of this - which cannot be called working at a 'grindstone,' because a real grindstone is a swift and lovely tool, and has the property of sharpening, whereas school is intended to blunt ... [T]he child is conveyed back to the bus, for an hour's ride to what is, again with delightfully wry humor, called 'home.' As no one is home waiting for him, he turns on a television to watch a program he has not the slightest interest in; this is called homework . So his life goes on, year after year..." (pg. 53)
Esolen briefly addresses the problems of gangs. In the modern world, most children spend the majority of their time outside their homes and away from their families. It could be argued that this causes the increasing number of criminal gangs in big American cities. But, it's not being away from home that's the problem, and for just a moment, Esolen speaks seriously -
Young kids enter gangs because their families have failed them. The consequences are dangerous, both to them, and to the rest of society. Returning to tongue-in-cheek, Esolen reflects upon the problem of danger. The difficulty here is, for a modern society devoted to deadening our souls, the world is still a dangerous place. The outdoors are just one example, even studying subjects like engineering, physics, mechanics, machinery, chemistry, etc. in school can lead to dangerous activities for an imaginative mind. The point of modern society is to make everything safe and secure. We want our exposure to even things like science to be carefully controlled, dull instead of dangerous. This is why we take our children on field trips. Better a field trip than a science or chemistry experiment.
Another useful technique is to blunt our kids' minds by teaching them what they ought to believe, or what political stances they ought to take about things, rather than actually about the things themselves.
"At all costs we must encourage our children not to be fascinated by the actual habits of whales, or by the design that makes it possible for them to be underwater mammals. We must encourage them to believe that Whales Must Be Saved." (pg. 76)
Even a field trip needs to be carefully controlled to reach the right result. Some field trips, for example, could expose children to the wonder of intricately constructed and powerful machinery that will kill the operator if he doesn't know what he's doing.
Exquisitely crafted machinery could encourage a child to think in terms of the abstract. Just the like the inventors of a cotton mill or a steam engine, many of the great works of art and literature were only created by thinkers who could think objectively and organize thousands of details into one coherent whole. Thankfully we have things like Facebook and Twitter, which discourage this kind of thought or writing. Charles Dickens would never have been able to write novels with dangerous moral implications if he had learned to think by only using electronic social media, or by being taught English under modern public school curricula.
Instructing children that the point of art, writing or any other creative activity is so he or she can be expressive is much more safe. If a kid is told to express himself, then he'll rise in self-esteem and therefore also think and focus on himself. And it is a much more structured and controlled life to always be thinking solely about yourself and your own self-worth. Self-reflection/obsession is to be encouraged. Stories about kids in school, or little Dick or Jane achieving self-worth by growing up to be corporate CEOs are to be encouraged. Stories about magic or beauty are to be discouraged.
Brothers Grim or Arabian Nights aren't exactly best-sellers anymore. Instead of building a sense of wonder by reading antiquated stories about tin soldiers and paper ballet dancers, just let your kid watch the television instead. They'll prefer it, it's less work than reading a boring old book anyway.
I could happily quote Esolen's book for another couple hours worth of reading, but you could also just forgo a couple McDonalds burgers (or that movie ticket to go see The Hangover 2 , or the extra cash to pay for your next 50 cell phone texts for a day ... or just one extra expensive frappe-mocha-carmele-latte whatever at your local yuppie overpriced fake coffee shop) and buy and read the book yourself. Other strategies Esolen discusses that we use to destroy the imagination include:
Chapter 7 - Reducing All Talk of Love to Narcissism and Sex or Insert Tab A into Slot B
"... rather we want to ensure that young people will look upon a Ferdinand and Miranda, or even Stephen and Jane, or William and Annie, as creatures of a fundamentally different species. As indeed they will be. How to ensure it? Reduce sex to hygiene, or to mechanics. Reduce eros to the itch of lust or vanity. Reduce the love of man and woman to something private, arbitrary, and socially indifferent. While you are doing these things, soak television and magazines with pictures of people in a state of undress, so that the only mysteries remaining will be in the cruel, the bizarre, and the disgusting." (pg. 168)
Chapter 8 - Level Distinctions between Man and Woman or Spay and Geld
"... Have children understand that manliness and womanliness are contemptible. The true man is a cartoon figure, a crazy mixture of steroid-exploded muscle mass, grunts, and a bad shave. Otherwise men are fat, sloppy, and stupid. They paint their bellies for football games and drink beer. They are incompetents in the workplace. Their conversation revolves around fast food and fast women. For their part, the women are skinny to the point of emaciation. They wear clothes that would make the whores of old blush. They are fussy, snippy, and feline. They enjoy humiliating men, who always come back for more anyway. They have studied martial arts, and can be choreographed into delivering a backhand slap from a thin-wristed arm that will defy all the laws of physics and send a 250-pound man reeling. They have foul mouths, but they don't come by foulness honestly; a sort of sneaky, sniggering arch foulness ..." (pg. 196)
Chapter 9 - Distract the Child with the Shallow and Unreal or The Kingdom of Noise
- includes Lucretius, John of the Cross, Homer, John Milton, I Kings 19, C.S. Lewis, a section on television entitled "Murders and Toothpaste," Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Geoffrey Chaucer, Sigrid Undset, Harriet Becher Stowe, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Philippe Beneton, Blaise Pascal, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Merton, Laura Ingalls Wilder, the words of Christ
Chapter 10 - Deny the Transcendent or Fix Above the Heads of Men the Lowest Ceiling of All
- includes, well, multiple stories from the Bible
... No, probably the best thing to do is to flatten the mystery. Here we could hardly do better than to follow the lead of those churches that seem determined to produce as many people as they can who will look back on belief with the same seriousness with which they remember a cartoon. These churches produce 'children's Bibles' and 'children's liturgies,' so that what is left imperfect during the week, Sunday school will complete. A child who never hears of God in school may yet be aware, from church and from his family life and from his own reading, of the tremendous mystery of that Father who is utterly different from us, yet who knows our inmost thoughts. But the child for whom God has been reduced to a googly-eyed cartoon of a smiling old man will reject it as he grows older, just as he rejects dressing up as Batman ..." (pgs. 221-223)
So Esolen hints that the churches also are helping out the schools in this regard.
So, go buy it now. I'm guessing most Borders or Barnes & Noble are too modern to want to encourage the reading of this sort of thing, (you'd stop reading and buying 90% of their stock if you agreed with half of what Esolen has to say about it), so you may have to buy it online. The Amazon link is right here. Enjoy.