Pursuing a Christian Classical Education

“They Used to Call it Air” – Reflections on Chapter 1

“They Used to Call it Air” – Reflections on Chapter 1


As I read the chapter, I found Dr. Esolen’s thoughts and stories convincing.  Certainly he described a boyhood in which the mere opportunity to observe and collect created an appreciation of things in the world around him, even if it wasn’t quite wonder or a search for knowledge.

The boundless possibilities of the sky, the powerful, and untameable elements, the challenges of survival in the wilderness and of provision … but then …

I was brought up short by other realities I have seen.  Healthy children whose lives have been spent mostly out-of-doors because indoors is dark and hot, for whom the infinite expanse of sky by day and night means nothing more than intense heat, or threatening rain, or relief from heat, for whom the stars and moon are simply there, unnoticed; for whom neither cracks in the concrete, nor weeds or swept dirt in the yard spark imagination; nor does the whine of mosquitoes, or the kraik-kraik of frogs.

So … just being out of doors is not enough to fuel the imagination.  But can being confined within walls contribute to its destruction?

I thought, too, of his comments on self-reliance and the power to provide for ourselves which knowledge of the real world brings, and which the world of the ‘virtual cow’ hides from us.  And I wondered about how the modern Robinson Crusoe would fare with his diet of National Geographic (if he’s lucky), but I’m not sure he’d do so badly after all.  Crusoe had some of the skills he needed, but other things he had only read about, and maybe the person who has seen such things on TV is no worse off when it comes to needing some innovative ideas to survive on a desert island (Bear Grylls has his place).  I suspect most of us, no matter how civilised and insulated our upbringing would surprise ourselves if we were truly called on to survive outside of suburban life, and dependence on the supermarket – I know that I have surprised myself with what I can do given the need, by contrast with what I’m used to doing.

The question that is increasingly bothering me is:

What is the vital thing that sparks the imagination?

Esolen points out that the spark of imagination is hard to destroy, yet I can introduce you to people whose lives are the epitome of unimaginative – people who have not been shut up between walls, or deprived of facts, or stories (mostly of one-dimensional heroes), or kept from growing things, and the harsh realities of animal husbandry, (to mention only the elements we have covered so far in the book) – and they are not all poor.

  • Is imagination cultural?
  • Is imagination hereditary?
  • Is it like life which we can take away, but cannot give?
  • What is this precious thing that call imagination?

This post was originally part of a discussion with a Cindy Rollins of Ordo Amoris and several other blogs and there was a significant stream of comments (all lost in my January 2013 Website meltdown).  If you found this post interesting please go to Cindy’s site where you can connect with the fuller discussion.

A Summary of “Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child”

Some of you have asked for more details about the ten ways so I’m outlining his methods here, and over the next few weeks  I will explore some of the points Dr. Esolen raises. Each chapter is full of examples, so this is merely a bare-bones outline of his points. There are two introductory sections:Continue Reading

“Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child”

You may be asking, “Why would anyone want to do that?” I don’t have an answer to that question.  I hope it’s not a deliberate policy, but the reality is that the way we treat our children and organise their lives does conspire to destroy his imagination, and in his witty and ironic style Dr.Continue Reading

Writing – The Skill That Can Help You Stand Out From The Crowd And How To Improve Yours

Think of the billions of dollars companies spend each year producing written material to promote, explain, and expand their business.  These include advertising materials, reports, proposals, manuals, memos, plans and many other things.  While some are the province of special departments in larger corporations, small businesses often do much of this work themselves, and employeesContinue Reading

Why Should I Bother About Writing Now I Don’t Have Any More Exams To Pass?

The most important reason to improve your writing is to enrich your life.  Writing is an important way of communicating with others and if we lose the ability to do so effectively then our lives are poorer, and the busier and more harassed we feel the more need there is to take part in thingsContinue Reading

A Brief and Depressing Snapshot of Contemporary Education

“Education and instruction are the meanes‥to make our naturall faculty of reason‥better.”  Hooker, 1593 Modern schools have forgotten that their purpose is to educate our youth and have tried to provide a cornucopia of other services, in so doing they have sunk to the level of babysitters.  We protest against employers of child-labour with DickensianContinue Reading

How Writing Stimulates Thought

Just as writing helps us to learn about ourselves and to look at our lives selectively and consider what is most important in our daily routine, so it helps us to learn.  As people committed to learning for our personal growth, rather than for grades we may think that simply reading widely is enough.  AlthoughContinue Reading

Did Johnny REALLY Do Nothing All Day?

Have you ever had this conversation with your child after school? Parent:  What did you learn today, Johnny? Johnny: Nothing. Parent (trying again): What did you do at school? Johnny: Nothing. So, you get upset with the school and think about home schooling Johnny, but then you realise that you get the same result whenContinue Reading

The Amazing Power of Writing!

Writing to Learn About Your Life A commonly quoted prayer says, “Lord give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  In the midst of our busy, crowded lives how can we find enough distance from our dailyContinue Reading

Looking Back on 2010

At first glance this may not seem to be particularly related to education, and in a way it’s not, but on the other hand throughout life we either learn from our experiences or we stagnate, so perhaps it is. Once again we are celebrating a quiet New Year at home in Quelimane with most ofContinue Reading