starving the sensibility of our pupils

By starving the sensibility of our pupils, we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes.

From The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), page 27. This gem from Lewis was quoted in an essay by Jean Bethke Elshtain about The Abolition of Man, of which these passages stood out:

His essay The Abolition of Man, published in 1944 and subtitled Or, Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools, would seem at first glance to have little to do with the grave matters with which I have begun. Not so. Lewis sees pernicious tendencies in, of all places, elementary textbooks.

…For Lewis, when “ordinary human feelings” are set up as “contrary to reason,” we are on dangerous ground indeed, for a botched treatment of “some basic human emotion” is not only bad literature but is moral treachery to boot. “By starving the sensibility of our pupils, we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes.”

“…When Martin Luther King delivered his great speech, he cried, ‘I have a dream,’ not ‘I have a preference.’ How do you explain this? Is there a difference?” The somewhat flustered young man indicated that what King was calling a dream was at base just another preference, and so that was no different in principle from, say, debating marginal alterations in the price of commodities. This way of thinking makes hash of our moral sentiments, of our God-given capacity to reason about what is good, as Lewis asserts.

This, surely, is what he feared in 1944: that something precious and irreparable was being lost.

“The Abolition of Man: C.S. Lewis’s Prescience Concenring Things to Come” by Jean Bethke Elshtain in C. S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty edited by Baggett et al (p. 87 to 90).

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