by Chris Banescu –
In an article titled “Let us arise and go home” conservative author and English professor Anthony Esolen eloquently expressed what the ultimate aims of a proper education should be. He writes: “An education that does not order the soul towards truth and beauty, that does not instill the intellectual virtue of seeking the truth, and the practical virtue of putting moral truths in action, is no education at all. It is not fit for a human being. It may be fit for a robot, or a beast, or a devil.” His truthful insights explain a great deal about what has gone wrong without education in the West and especially in America in the last several decades.
So how can we reinforce these timeless and essential principles in the education of a child. “How do you build up the soul of a child?”, asks Esolen. It’s quite simple. Everyone has access to great literature. “That is what great literature and the arts are for. They are for everyone. You can judge a school by its syllabi, or the books in the library, or the poems and the songs the students know and love. Every child should go down to Mordor with Frodo and Sam, or sit atop the mizzen with Jim Hawkins, or float down the river with the worthy Mole and Rat, or ride with Paul Revere, or watch while the beggar Odysseus strings his bow on the fatal day for the wicked suitors. Every child should enter the sunny gardens and the shady groves of poetry; to be with a swinger of birches with Frost, a barefoot boy with Whittier, a sailor on the doomed ship with Coleridge.”
Esolen continues. “And when they are a little older, they may confront the titanic moral imagination of Hugo, Dostoyevsky, T. S. Eliot, and Dickens; they may be ready for the poetry of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Wordsworth, and Tennyson. Again, these are for everyone, as beauty and goodness are for everyone. We don’t say, “I’m sorry, but you are only average, so Bach is not for you,” or, “It seems you are quite ordinary, so look at this chintzy portrait of Elvis on velvet, while the others look at Rembrandt.” What kind of phony charity is that?”
I would also add C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton to that list!