And those characters [in a fairy tale] dwell in a moral world, whose laws are as clear as the law of gravity. That too is a great advantage of the folk tale. It is not a failure of imagination to see the sky blue. It is a failure rather to be weary of its being blue- and not to notice how blue it is. And appreciation of the subtler colors of the sky will come later. In the folk tale, good is good and evil is evil, and the former will triumph and later will fail. This is not the result of the imaginative quest. It is rather its principle and foundation. It is what will enable the child later on to understand Macbeth, or Don Quixote, or David Copperfield.
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G.K. Chesterton once wrote that the trouble with people who do not believe in God is not that they then believe in nothing. It is that they will believe in anything. And the biggest anything around for people to believe in, in our day, is the State. We might put it this way. We should substitute for the wonder of the imagination the irritable flush of political partisanship. We should accept the maxim that all human endeavor is ultimately about power. Therefore education is about power. So is art.
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The past is dangerous, not least because it cannot go away. It is simply there, never to change, and in its constancy it reflects the eternity of God. It presents to the young mind a vast field of fascination, of war and peace, loyalty and treason, invention and folly, bitter twists of fate and sweet poetic justice. When that past is the past of one's people or country or church, then the danger is terrible indeed, because then the past makes claims upon our honor and allegiance. Then it knocks at the door, saying softly, "I am still here." And then our plans for social control-for inducing the kind of amnesia that has people always hankering after what is supposed to be new, without asking inconvenient questions about where the desirable thing has come from and where it will take us-must fail. For a man with a past may be free; but a man without a past, never.
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The worst feature of the Common Core is its anti-humanistic, utilitarian approach to education. It mistakes what a child is and what a human being is for. That is why it has no use for poetry, and why it boils the study of literature down to the scrambling up of some marketable "skill" [... ] you don't read good books to learn about what literary artists do... you learn about literary art so that you can read more good books and learn more from them. It is as if Thomas Gradgrind had gotten hold of the humanities and turned them into factory robotics.
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If we loved children, we would have a few. If we had them, we would want them as children, and would love the wonder with which they behold the world, and would hope some of it might open our eyes a little. We would love their games, and would want to play them once in a while, stirring in ourselves those memories of play that no one regrets, and that are almost the only things an old man can look back on with complete satisfaction. We would want children tagging along after us, or if not, then only because we would understand that they had better things to do.
You democratize heroism. Everybody is a hero, and simply for doing (and often not well at that) the ordinary tasks of living as a half-decent person. Does your mother fix you breakfast? She is a hero. Does your father visit you every weekend without fail? A hero. Does your teacher mark your papers faithfully when you make a mistake? Unexampled heroism, that. If everyone is a hero, then no one is a hero; and genuine heroes will go unnoticed in all the mindless self-congratulation.
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It's rather the possibility of friendship, unencumbered by feelings of attraction or shyness; the possibility of working on the same wavelength, as it were, with someone who understands you because he's a boy as you are, or a girl as you are. Committee work stifles the imagination, because people have to work down to the common denominator of what would be minimally acceptable to everyone. But friendship exalts the imagination. Indeed it is one of the things that the ancients said friendship was for. Plato suggests in Symposium that one of the highest forms of friendship is one whose love issues forth in beautiful and virtuous deeds, for thus "the partnership between [the friends] will be far closer and the bond of affection far stronger than between ordinary parents, because the children that they share surpass human children by being immortal as well as more beautiful.
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