21 June 2009

Beware:Textbook

"For every one pupil who needs to guarded from a weak excess of sensibility
there are three who need to be awakened
from the slumber of cold vulgarity.
The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles
but to irrigate deserts."


C.S. Lewis, "Abolition of Man"

So I am slogging through this book. It is not a hard read, he is writing as if he is having a conversation with you, but it is antiquated run-on sentences. No sentence stands alone, they are all balanced on the first few. But there are jewels.

How about the tack of textbook writers teaching worldviews and not the topic of their text? Lewis is reviewing a literature textbook and says: "I must content myself with pointing out that it is a philosophical and not a literary position. In filling their book with it they have been unjust to the parent or headmaster who buys it and who has got the work of amateur philosophers where he expected the work of professional grammarians."

He addresses perfectly how dangerous such textbooks can be when he says "The very power of [textbook writers and editors] depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is 'doing' his 'English prep' and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all."

Whew! What power is wielded in the simple texts of childhood! What are your kids learning from? By no means do they need to be diagramming sentences from the Old Testament to learn the worldview you hold dear. But make sure you pin the ideas of philosophers to the dissection board and inspect them with your children to make sure they align with your own, and have an intelligent discussion of the differences if not. What are the reasons you agree or disagree with what may be presented? If you can't enunciate it clearly to your child, figure it out.

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