CS Lewis on frightening children

‘Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things. They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias. His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can’t bear to think of. Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil. If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second. The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to the … atomic bomb. Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker’. – Clive S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (San Diego: Harvest Books, 2002), 31.

One comment

  1. That is an excellent quote, and I happen to agree with Jack. I started reading jack’s works this year and just finished my sixth book of his including a couple biographies. He’s brilliant.
    The bible is a good example of teaching kids the ways of the world. I was raised on the scriptures. The first book I can remember reading was the bible. Before I could even read a full sentence without having to stop and ask how to pronounce a word I was reading the bible with my family, nearly every day. We read of wars, beheadings, famines, pestilence, obliterations of societies, and slavery forgiveness, charity, and righteusness. In elementary school I was reading beyond any other kids ability, I was articulate and never stammered when reading aloud in class. I was called on often to read, and often helped other kids to pronounce words while they read. I was raised on difficult and graphic reading material, and I was an articulate, humble, and mostly good kid. My parents being doctors, had thousands of books lining our homes’ walls. I would scour the shelves and pull down whatever title or book covers color seemed the most appealing. My favorite was National Geographic, especially when they showed photos of third-world peoples wearing no clothing, and photos of wars and famines. Again I was reading, and now seeing photos of death, destruction, and now nudity.
    I was but a little kid. And yet, I believe the circumstances under which I was revealed these truths made the difference in how I reacted to them. I was tutored in the ways of good and evil, right and wrong, poverty and wealth, what it meant to murder and what it meant to give charity and love. If I was not taught these standards and meanings by an adult while I had access to these books and information, I may have seen the nudity as pornographic and the violence and wars as an example of how I should act.
    I agree with the former resolution about frightening children. Thank you for bringing this quote of Lewis’ to our attention, it has got me to further ponder this important matter.
    CS Lewis – “I’ve just come up against a bit of experience. Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn, my God you learn.”


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