Like our reader Van, Esolen places much of the blame on John Dewey, whom he characterizes as a "philistine with a hypertrophied brain." Assouls like him are "senile without ever having been young."
That's some useful insultainment, because it is true of liberal academia in general and of our president in particular, who is simultaneously infantile and sclerotic.
Obviously their whole brains cannot be hypertrophied, but only a part. I wonder which part? We'll return to that question later. But there certainly must be a dominance of left brain over right in order for ideology to be superimposed over experience.
In fact, Dewey was explicitly anti-right brain, as it were, in that he had no use for the child's imagination.
Now, to steal or thwart a child's imagination is a serious crime, because without it, life is hardly worth living. Art, beauty, love, religion, even truth itself all disclose themselves in this transitional space.
We want to deepen and broaden this imaginal space, not foreclose it. Anything of significance is only significant because it faces in two directions, objective and subjective. You might say that we probe an object by extending our subjectivity into it in imaginative ways. See Polanyi for details.
I've mentioned this in passing before, but I believe this is one of the vital functions of religious imagery.
Let us say there is a "spiritual space" where we may have experiences of different kinds. This is something even an atheist will concede, i.e., that spiritual experience exists, even if, in his opinion, it has no object and is wholly subjective.
But a blind worm, say, could affirm the same of the third dimension. Since the worm has no means of probing it, it might as well not exist.
For us, the sense of touch (and taste) is one dimensional, and this is the world Hellen Keller lived in before her awakening to language. It is simultaneously infinite (as is a point) and yet horribly enclosed: "confined in infinite meaninglessness," you might say. Pure Ø.
The sense of smell introduces a two dimensional world, as the smell is separated from its source. Sight opens up the third dimension -- space -- while hearing opens the fourth -- time.
I would say that the spiritual sense -- and all normal humans have it -- opens up the transdimensional space.
But just because you have the space, it doesn't mean it is mapped. Humans, for example, became aware of three dimensional space long before they were able to map the globe, much less the heavens.
Looked at from a certain angle, human evolution involves the more or less accurate mapping of the spiritual dimension.
If you are a Christian, you learn, for example, that the space is trinitarian and relational. It is certainly intelligible, and this intelligibility is characterized by Light. In it we discover the divine beauty, AKA glory. We also discover objective virtues and other archetypal realities.
So, what I mean to say is that John Dewey is all wet when it comes to the imagination. In a particularly diabolical passage, he claims that children
"are occupied only with transitory physical excitations. To symbolize great truths far beyond the child's range of actual experience is an impossibility..."
To which I can only say that my 10 year old is truly wiser than John Dewey, who thinks like a retarded, neglected, or abused child who was never given the space to dream, or even just be. And then he systematically takes it out on generations of innocent children under the guise of "education."
Esolen notes in passing how Charles Darwin claimed -- big surprise -- "that poetry meant nothing to him. He had no ear for it, and he noted its loss with mild regret."
Likewise, "John Dewey had no poetry in his heart," except that in his case he "never noticed the lack." Therefore, like many contemporary atheists, he had a spiritually fatal case of Dunning-Kruger, in that he was completely unable to recognize his own spiritual impoverishment.
"A child is a human being: and human beings are made in the image and likeness of God." This "implies that the child is made for goodness and truth and beauty, and that he will respond to it, despite Dewey's absurd contempt for it..." (Esolen).
To deprive a child of the primordial knowledge in the paragraph immediately above is analogous to performing a spiritual lobotomy: a logotomy, perhaps. True, you'll create a robot or a beast, but robots can be programmed while beasts can be imprisoned.