Ten Sure Fire Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

About to run out the house to our Columbus Church Picnic! But I thought I would post these first — something I came across in our most recent Memoria Press catalog in an article by Anthony Esolen, advertising his book Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child.  The list is apparently taken from his chapter headings, and the book might be worth getting…

Ten Sure Fire Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

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

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)

Worth a’ponderin’, hmmm?

The laborer is worthy of his wages! Here’s a link to his book: Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child.  This isn’t a recommendation, because I haven’t read it, but I have to admit: he’s got my interest…

14 thoughts on “Ten Sure Fire Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

  1. “Children make liars of us all. Almost everything we say about them is a lie. We believe exactly the opposite, and act accordingly.” And that’s not ten pages, I think, into the Kindle iPod Touch edition.

    I get the strong impression that this author is one of my temperament, maybe even of my personality type, making his particular crusade against bureaucracy such as my type (ENFP) is alleged to make sooner or later. And I find myself having a lot of sympathy with what he says and how he says it…so far.

  2. Steve

    Well, basically, it’s a list of common sense parenting tips. Get the kids outside, play, have fun; let them develop their own interests; etc. It’s a good list.

    But the statement “children make liars of us all…” sounds a little bizarre. It makes me wonder about the author, not some kind of grand truth. Was he listing gripes about his own parents in writing the book?

  3. Howdy, Steve, and thanks for your thoughts. But I wouldn’t be too quick to judge what the author has written. I suspect that the context, of which Rakkav gave us a snippet, would make the comment much more sensible and less offensive than you might think. (Of course, not having read it, I can only assume, but the quoted snippet hints at a larger context.)

  4. Indeed, Dear Sirs. It’s not at all bizarre in its intuitive context. In a stunning crescendo of points (and I am only at the head of the third chapter now), the author documents how we really do say one thing about our ambitions for our children (meaning as a society as well, in many cases, as parents) and then do exactly the opposite required to fulfill those ambitions – for our real ambitions are not our stated ones (“by their fruits you shall know them”, as it were). The children “make liars of us all” by the way we react to their very existence, behavior and needs, not by anything they do to us consciously.

    Bear in mind, this author is almost certainly one of what I’ve come to call self-mockingly “Da Tribe” (Jung/Myers-Briggs ENFP) and as such is an “intuitive ethicist” who expresses himself categorically and with a deft spin of the grid of logical frameworks. (And, he is apparently a teacher.) Much of the Hebrew Bible, by the way, is like that: it speaks categorically, without demanding that every last thing that could be in a given category is actually in said category.

    Apparently nobody appreciates imagination, in himself or in others, more than members of Da Tribe (ENFPs are disproportionately represented in Hollywood, among cartoonists and popular songwriters, and other fields requiring the ability to ask “what if…?”) and it’s as if the author is taking up one of the crusades against _S_J “bureaucracy” run amok that ENFPs are allegedly prone to take up sooner or later.

    More quotes, I hope, as I have time to give them…

  5. Steve

    Thanks for your comment, Mr Smith. Please understand that I wasn’t trying to judge the author or necessarily felt offended by his statement. Perhaps my comment came across differently than intended.

    Here’s the thing. The statement “children make liars of us all…” is a logical fallacy commonly known as a “sweeping generalization.” It purports that the experience of one individual or class must therefore be true for all individuals or classes. Normal, everyday life teaches us otherwise. Not everybody grows up in a dysfunctional family.

    Rather than being judgmental or offended, the author’s odd statement makes me curious about his background. His relationship with his parents, his professional history, and so on. Find out “where he’s coming from.”

    But you’re right, Mr Smith. The quote by Rakkav was only a snippet, and perhaps there is a broader context that I’m unaware of. Good point well taken!

    @rakkav: “Apparently nobody appreciates imagination, in himself or in others, more than [ENFPs].” Again, this is a sweeping generalization. There are too many people attending concerts, plays, art shows, and movies for that to be true.

  6. Steve

    Sorry for the pile on, Mr Smith. But getting back to your original post… I was hoping for a broad discussion of practical methods for implementing the excellent points the author made, where a host of your readers would chime in with their own methods. A real swapping of ideas and experiences; you know?

    Sad to say, it seems like the post got side tracked by an ill timed comment of mine. 😦

  7. Howdy, Steve, and thanks! I’m familiar with the “sweeping generalization” fallacy, but I don’t think that’s what this author is doing. For instance, the gospels report that “all Judea” went out to see John the Baptist, but not to say that every living, individual inhabitant of the nation went out to see him — rather, that vast crowds did so from all over Judah. Paul, too, says, “all Israel shall be saved,” yet that is no reason to believe that every Israelite who has ever lived will, indeed, choose to submit to Christ. Or, to leave the Bible, sayings such as “Time heals all wounds,” which is meant to communicate something quite worthwhile and “near universally” true, but which certainly has it’s exceptions (e.g., some of the “wounds” we see inflicted in biblical history we continue to see “unhealed” in our headlines today).

    I suspect that the author is simply making a case for a temptation that “near universally” faces parents. Perhaps Mr. Wheeler (Rakkav) will give us a book report when he’s done. 🙂

    As for your question about avoiding those pitfalls, that is a good one! I find myself compromising on some of these items (e.g., allowing my kids to indulge in too much indoor, pre-fabricated, electronic entertainment) — which, by the way, puts me in the “liars of us all” category as I understand the author’s turn of phrase, because as much as I state that having them play creatively outside is a priority for me, at times it’s just too easy to allow the status quo to continue just a little bit longer. Practical advice is always welcome!

    Thanks, again, for your thoughts!

  8. Hi Steve…if I understand you correctly your “core type” is ISTP and that means it’s hard for you to understand the contextual way ENFPs use logical frameworks. Our author’s statement is neither a sweeping generalization nor is it any other kind of logical fallacy – it is a contextual statement, qualified by the context by definition. As noted before: not everything that could be put into or excluded from the category, is so included or excluded, yet the category is no less valid for all that. And again, the biblical Hebrew language, especially in poetry, is like this:

    (Psalms 128:1 NKJV) A Song of Ascents. Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways.
    (Psalms 128:2 NKJV) When you eat the labor of your hands, You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.
    (Psalms 128:3 NKJV) Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants All around your table.
    (Psalms 128:4 NKJV) Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD.

    Would you dare say that this is a sweeping generalization? I hope not, yet it is no more or less categorical than what the author of this book gives us above (and elsewhere too). And yet also, you might find this passage a tad more difficult to understand than others. Or if you don’t, it’s because you have the context to say, “OK, this is subject to governing conditions in context and so logically, not every last person who fears the LORD is actually so blessed in detail.”

    And so it is with “children make liars of us all”. Not every last one of us, but categorically so. This book does an excellent job of taking such ENFP-style categorical thinking to its limits and no further. You follow?

    And also, to be unsurpassed in appreciation of creative imagination (I mean in the humanistic sense, in that which makes for one’s unique identity), in themselves and others, is not the same as to be unequaled in that appreciation. Nor are we speaking of some kind of determinism here. For indeed, there are different ways that different people appreciate creative imagination – so that clarification should help you see where I’m coming from.

    We all have the same thought processes but arrayed in different orders and that means concerning any particular thought process, some are more or less naturally good at using it and some must (and thankfully can) rely on skill development to match the same performance level. This is what overcoming is all about, when the Spirit is coupled with talents and skills. None of us are perfectly balanced by nature but we do have particular natural and corresponding spiritual gifts from which we all start as on one or another foundation. Not everyone comes to the same classical music concert for the same reasons; some actually come more for the intellectual than for the humanistic interest (for example).

    Wait until you see more data – preferably by reading the book! – before you judge. Be wary of how the ENFP Trickster – dealing with logical frameworks – can annoy the Swiss cheese out of those with the same process at higher levels in their minds. 😉

  9. Steve

    Thanks again, Mr Smith.

    The author is an English professor at Providence College, and is widely published in Catholic circles. While he is not an expert in child development, he does have a couple of pre-teen children. He wrote “Ten Sure Fire Ways…” as a direct and individual riposte to Amy Chua’s book, “…Tiger Mother.” He often uses a humorous, tongue in cheek style of writing.

    I went ahead and ordered a copy of his book. I don’t believe in repressing a child’s creative instincts, either.

    @Rakav. John! Please don’t try to analyze me, or tell me how I think! You’re way off base. It’s a mistake to assume that your interest in personality typing somehow gives you a special insight into other people. You have been incorrect in your attempted assessments, and you seem unaware of it, much more so than you realize.

    You probably would not want me to write a psychological analysis of your character, based on something you said in a blog comment. And you would be right. I only ask the same courtesy from you. Okay?

  10. Steven Spence

    Point #3 made me remember as a young boy (probably around 9 yrs old) I was standing at the back fence of my parents house in the San Fernando valley with some friends watching the heavy equipment being used to build the 405 frwy. At one point, one of the bulldozer operators stopped in front of us and asked if we wanted to ride in the bucket; of course we all excitedly said yes without a single thought of asking for parental approval. The operator lowered the bucket, we scampered in, he raised the bucket above the cab and off we went. It was a thrill I’ll never forget! We only went about a 100 ft or so before he carefully lowered us back to the ground and watched us hop back over the fence into a neighbors backyard. I remember all of us saying we wanted to be heavy equipment operators when we grew up after going for that ride. Of course now a days in our litigous society something like this this would never happen; but it was a different time and culture then and it surely did incite our young imaginations!

  11. I finished the book not many days ago. TypeLogic.com, in its section on the Myers-Briggs ENFP type (I fit in that category), used to note wryly that ENFPs dislike bureaucracy and tend to crusade against some aspect of it sooner or later. This book reminds me strongly of such a crusade by an author who is ENFP in his outlook. (N.B.: the author nowhere uses personality type terminology save in one regrettably negative case, because the author he’s critiquing – correctly so far as it goes – doesn’t understand the psychology involved himself.)

    That said, he has ten very good overall reasons for his crusading and if one doesn’t let himself get blindsided by his deft sense of irony and satire, one can find himself appalled at how overextended ESTJ-style thinking (the type kind that predominates in the US by a wide margin) on the one hand and various perversions of other temperamental and type gifts toward other immoral ends has taken the heart out of our children’s lves and minds. He does have the two characteristic ENFP tar babies of painting the Big Picture with a conceptual broad brush and of manipulating logical frameworks rather indiscriminately, but his eye for memory, for detail, for human interest and for emotional and dramatic color is outstanding. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5 and I recommend the book to everyone.

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