1. Away with Memory, or: “That’s Why We Have Calculators and Google.” I didn’t memorize facts in school and I turned out okay. Trust me. I take the time necessary to whip out my smart phone and pull up the calculator app, or open the browser and navigate to Google, so why should my child be able to calculate 14 x 13 in his head when I don’t have to? Why should he—without Google—be able to tell me when the fall of Rome happened? It’s not fair and I don’t need him showing me up. Certainly you don’t want your child showing you up anymore than I do. Forbid memorization. Not only will he not be able to recite facts quicker than you, but he won’t be creative either.
The Greeks were on to something. They identified the Muses, those inspirations for creative poetry and song, as the children of Memory. The Memory allows your child to pull from an assortment of facts and information to creatively link them together into a poem, song, or story. Who wants a child capable of outshining them creatively? Not me, so ban memorization.
2. Grammar Is for Nerds, or: “You’ll Know What I Mean, Anyway.” We all hate those people who correct our grammar; they are annoying. You know who I am talking about. I mean, you know about whom I am speaking. We certainly don’t want to raise a child who is going to be one of them—constantly correcting our grammar. Furthermore, your child might actually start communicating effectively. Using proper grammar and syntax allows communicators to convey their message with less confusion; the next thing you know, they’ll start believing that truth is not only knowable but also communicable. When that happens, civilizations start changing and conforming to the truth they know and communicate. I happen to like our culture as it is, as I’m sure you do.
Not only that, but grammar is one of those “cultural” conventions. We are expected to obey grammar rules, not because they are a law whose violation will have us punished, but because, culturally, we have agreed to abide by them. This is why grammar rules differ from language to language and even within the same language across cultures. British English has different conventions than American English. Culturally, we have agreed upon these conventions. To teach children to abide by these arbitrary conventions is to teach them to do something out of love for their neighbors. Once there was a teacher who taught his students to love God and to love their neighbors, and his students turned the world upside down. Is that what you want of your children? I didn’t think so, so ban grammar lessons.
3. Structure Is Inhibiting, or: “Creativity Doesn’t Need Rules.” Teach your child to be creative for the sake of creativity. Or, if you really want to get down to the root of it, for the sake of self. Get him to be concerned only with sharing his thoughts and his ideas; focus on self. Start teaching him structure and form for his creativity, whether you are studying writing or music or sports, and he’ll gain confidence in sharing ideas. Not only that, but those ideas won’t be so selfish; he’ll start wanting to share ideals toward which—he’ll claim—people and cultures should strive. All that intelligence is going to lead him to aspirations, and aspirations will make him better than us. Ban structure and forms.
4. Discussions Are Disguised Arguments, or: “Teach Him What to Think, Not How to Think.” I’ve heard that in some educational circles there is a revival of Socratic dialogue. This occurs when our children sit around and debate ideas respectfully and honorably. We all know the problem here. First, discussion is just an argument in disguise, an argument that the kid is going to bring home and try to have with me. Clearly, I’m not prepared to have a conversation about “Play-dough” and his cavern, so I don’t need conversation with other kids encouraging my kid to embarrass me. The alternative is that I have to start reading that stuff, and I’m just fine the way I am. Second, when children participate in such conversations, we all know they are secretly learning how to think. If I’d wanted that, I wouldn’t have spent all my time telling my children what to think. Avoid these arguments in disguise.
5. Latin Is Dead, or: “Pig Latin Is at Least Entertaining.” Learning a language like Latin—a dead language—is a deadly language to learn if I want my child to be less intelligent than I am. First, learning Latin will make your child better at English (see rule #2 above), since both his grammar and vocabulary will improve. Second, Latin will give your child access to literature that is dangerous (see rule #6 below). All of these old books, like Virgil’s Aeneid, are so much better when read in the original language—dangerous stuff! Third, Latin will teach your child how to think (see rule #4 above). This isn’t always a clear one, but consider the word for “stuff”: When I think of stuff, I think of it as all of the stuff I want—stuff to collect, stuff to have. When the Romans thought of stuff, they thought of impedimentum, from which we derive the word impediment. Impediments are bad; you only want to have what is necessary because excess stuff slows you down, holds you back. Imagine our children thinking differently like that, much less thinking at all! Latin is dead; let’s leave it that way.
6. Ideals Inspire, or: “Television Is the Way to Go.” I don’t have a lot to fear when my children are watching television. What I mean is this: My child isn’t going to get himself up from the sofa and change the world because of a Nickelodeon show. Television distracts him, pacifies him, keeps him…well…more like a vegetable—and vegetables aren’t dangerous!
Literature, however, is much worse. Books have heroes and representatives of virtues like courage and bravery that scare the Dickens out of me! Do you want a son who’s going to slay dragons, a daughter who will fly around the globe, a child who will wander the seas for ten years facing all manner of creatures and dangers just to get home to his wife and to fend off inhospitable busybodies? Then put your child’s nose in books. As for me, well, I want my child to be near home and safe. I want him to be like everyone else, working his nine-to-five job, unhappy but satisfied because he can complain about it with the rest of us. Oh, and don’t think the really old stuff is safe. By no means! The old stuff, especially if your child can read it in the original language, is worse than anything we moderns have been able to write!
7. God Is a Clockmaker, or: “Don’t Worry, I’ve Got This.” Just hear me now. Keep God out of this. He got this place going and now He’s sitting back to enjoy the show. You start teaching your child that God makes a difference in life and you are in for trouble. If we teach our children that they can handle this world if they just put their minds to it, then we’ll end up with children who fail just like the rest of us—exactly as it should be. If we teach our children that they can do nothing apart from God, and they actually start trusting and depending on God, then you are in for some serious problems. That little fellow will be willing to try and do things people wouldn’t dream of. I heard one time that Christopher Columbus sailed the globe because he wanted to tell the Asians on the other side of it about God! Life is complicated enough, we don’t need smart kids growing up doing things we ourselves weren’t smart enough or brave enough to do!
God causes other problems, too. Children who are taught that God is personal and active, especially if they believe it, start seeing goodness in things I don’t see it in. They start seeing beauty in crazy things, like math and science. They start seeing truth, where I’m not even sure it exists. They start seeing God as not only influential in all the areas they study, but as some sort of integrating concept between the areas of study. Then, when you are trying to have a conversation about history, they start seeing connections with Shakespeare. It’s really annoying! Keep them at home, and keep them away from that God talk.
8. Leading Makes Leaders, or: “To Stay the Boss, You Have to Be the Boss.” There are some crazy people who bring their children together to learn once a week and at these meetings they let their sixteen-, seventeen-, and eighteen–year-old children teach the class! I shouldn’t even have to tell you this, but leading begets leaders! You allow your children to practice leading (and teaching, for that matter) and they learn how to be leaders (and teachers—which means they’ll be correcting your grammar again). Leaders don’t sit at home and do nothing; they don’t just participate in the daily grind. They change societies and make new worlds. And, they are pretty smart. Don’t even let them pretend to lead, if you don’t want them to become leaders—trust me.
9. No Master Teachers, or: “Specialize, Specialize, Specialize!” Those same crazy people who meet once a week and let their children lead classes are the same crazy people who have one teacher teach all the subjects. Don’t underestimate the danger of this model. You are inclined to think this will keep your child dumber—which, of course, is our goal—because the person teaching him can’t possibly be good at every subject. Don’t be naïve; it is the opposite that is true! When six different specialists teach your child six different subjects, he assumes this is the case because it isn’t possible to be good at more than one or two subjects. So, he himself will only strive to accomplish what he is subconsciously convinced is possible—to excel in just one or two subjects. When one master teacher teaches your child all six subjects, he assumes this is because it is possible to master all six subjects—even if the master teacher is slightly deficient compared to the specialist in a given subject. So, he himself will strive to accomplish what he is convinced is possible—excellence in all subjects. What better way exists to make your child smarter than you, but to make him a master of everything? That’s why I say, specialize, specialize, specialize.
10. Integration Improves Vision, or: “You Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated.” Ihave hinted at this in rules #7 and #9, but it deserves its own rule. If you allow your children to see integration between subjects, whether it is because they see God as the integrating factor or because they have a master teacher that integrates—or worse: they see both!—you will raise a child with vision. This is bad. It is bad because I’m not talking about vision, like being 20/20. I’m talking about vision like being able to see things others can’t see. For example, they will see connections between things that others do not see. That doesn’t sound so bad, but it (a) is really annoying to keep having them pointed out to you, and (b) allows children to understand things because of those connections that no one else can understand. Another example is that they will start seeing where people—especially you, mom or dad—are not living consistently across their worldview. They will see you apply one standard to economics, another to politics, another to neighborliness, and another to church. Because they see all of their subjects as being integrated by God, they assume God integrates everything in life, and they demand consistency. It’s dangerous and it’s annoying. You have got to keep everything separated!
This article was written intentionally to be ironic and witty. I hope you understand it that way. Both Anthony Esolen’s Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, and Leigh Bortins’ interview of Anthony Esolen on her internet radio show, “Leigh at Lunch” inspired this article. I hope you enjoy. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me, the author, Matt Bianco, at email@example.com.