Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The power of myth

And no, I have not been reading Joseph Campbell.  Instead I have been pondering the power of the moral imagination, and revisiting one of my favorite books about classical education.

We live in an age of technology and interpersonal disconnect.  We live in a time when our cultural literacy (as Hirsch would call it) is practically nil, and children grow up with dark "realistic" or dystopian literature and have never elevated their eyes to what is noble, so are incapable of articulating  noble dreams. Many live alienated, harsh lives, where early pregnancy takes the place of love, and gangs replace families. I am reminded of the imprisonment of the human soul in minds that are ignorant and uneducated (as Dalrymple would say.) And I sigh at that heart-breaking reality. After reading a recent article about young adult fiction, and watching part of a provocative Fontline show, I have been pondering the importance of good literature and well-formed moral imagination. And here are some wise words from David Hicks on the subject:

A good myth, like a good map, enables the wanderer to survive, perhaps even flourish, in the wilderness.  To this end, classical education, like Hebrew education, carefully preserves the best myths within its tradition and insists that each new generation of students learns these myths, imprisoning them in their hearts....
...[O]ne's chances of survival in a wilderness are greater when one is not alone...Myths provide each member of society with something to dignify and lend coherence to his life, as well as something of quality he can share with the other members of his community.
~David V. Hicks, Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education, pp.29-30

A sense of shared cultural literacy leads to some coherence in the culture, and fuels the moral imagination of a child.  It is a gift we can give our children and our students, Gentle Reader.

No comments: