Life Under Compulsion by Anthony Esolen download in pdf, ePub, iPad
Perhaps the best way I can describe Esolen's work is to say that he unplugs all the buzzing machinery of the current age, and you can suddenly hear the quiet hum of crickets again. But I think he's probably too bellicose to really speak to anyone who is outside of his fold. Instead, it seeks to socialize those put under its care. Jesus accused the Pharisees of straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel. And that means not only screening what television shows they watch but keeping them away from the commercials that often do more damage than the show itself.
Reading Life Under Compulsion has convinced me that the loss of provincialism in education has been equally disastrous. Even within our homes, we are isolated. We don't actually listen to music, although we believe we do.
An atheist disciple of Freud and Rousseau, Dewey helped drive education away, not only from family and church, but from the life of the imagination. And yet, I was continually in awe of Esolen's knowledge of history. Esolen is like the Jon Stewart of conservatives.
It almost offended me every once in awhile, and I'm pretty conservative. To the contrary, they train them for a life of drudgery in a working world that encourages licentious living but that squelches true wonder, joy, contemplation, and leisure. Esolen's conclusions are spot-on for the most part and do not deserve to be watered down. It was refreshing at times, bracing at others, and downright irritating on occasion, too. Usually, the answer is no.
Out of Dewey's mania for efficiency, for reducing students to machines, sprang at least two banes of modern education. And, if one is put off by Esolen's strident anti-progressivism or his ardent Roman Catholicism, one is perhaps better suited to read one of those other critics. He's just here to ridicule. Such a moment occurs in chapter eight, when Esolen notes a change that has come over the neighborhood where he grew up. All that mattered for Dewey was data and skills and scientific methods of pedagogy.
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