The Abolition of Man

PSA: I wanted to give a heads up to the few readers who expressed interest in my blogging through Voddie Baucham’s Fault Lines. I’m planning to run the first post on Thursday. So if you’ve been reading along, please honor us with your initial thoughts on chapters 1-3.

As a home educating family, in near constant association with other home educating families, and embracing a classical approach to education, we have many opportunities to discuss educational philosophies and purposes. After one such conversation, I was moved to re-read C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man.

The thrust of, this one of Lewis’ shorter works, is a critique of modern educational techniques. Keep in mind that for C.S. Lewis, “modern” was 1943, and the book was originally three lectures that he delivered that year. If Lewis had a problem with education’s regressive trajectory in 1943, he would mostly be horrified of what has become of education in this, the year 2021.

As we have discarded the transcendent from our pursuit of knowledge, education has become nigh useless for anything outside of the classroom, which belies ts ultimate purpose. Because this s a well known work, I’ll round this out with some of the more profound quotes from the book.

On training the mind in the right direction:

“For every one pupil who needs to be guarded against 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. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.”

On the result of filling children with facts, disregarding the importance of teaching them to love what is True, Good, and Beautiful.

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

On the reality of objective, transcendent, reality:

The Tao, which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they posses.

If you haven’t read it, it’s less than 130 pages, and if you are in any way involved with the education of a child, I consider it a must-read.

2 thoughts on “The Abolition of Man

  1. professorGBFMtm2021 says:

    You just covered the essence of GBFMtm A.K.A.GREATBOOKSFORMEN!There is’nt nothing new,just rearrangements,as I too before I ever knew about GBFMtm, beleaved,as you have well-known over the last 2 months.
    P.S.Great post&by the way you know originaly angela basset was offered the role halle berry had in the x-men films,right?First time I ever saw angela?The jacksons:An american dream from nov, ’92 on abctv,of course with billy dee williams as barry gordy&vanessa williams as suzanne de passe,see how varied my knowledge is!?I once told derek ramsey that we should go on jeopardy&win lots of money,if they had team jeopardy,now that would be amazing,right?I was thinking you wanted me to comment on this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elspeth says:

    Always happy to decipher a comment from you, Professor!

    I did not know that Angela Bassett was first considered for the role of Storm. Interesting.


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