Wednesdays with Words: Inculcating A Passion for Truth

I can’t get away from it.

I read a bunch more pages of Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie and she digs deeper into the idea of Wonder and I thought, “This is wonderful.  I must commonplace these (is that a verb now?) and may use one for Wednesdays with Words.”

Yes, the parenthetical aside was part of my thinking.

Then, on Tuesday, after a nap because I was up very late for the Buckeye game Monday night (Go Bucks!), I thought, “Maybe I’ll pick up a book I haven’t read for a while but have enjoyed”: Alan Jacobs’ intellectual biography of CS Lewis called The Narnian fit the bill.

Of course, I’m in the midst of the section when Lewis was most prolific as a writer and Oxford Don, so I can’t get away from ideas about teaching, its purposes, and education in general.

I was going along cheerfully underlining a lot of passages; Jacobs writes with a beautiful clarity that never ceases to make me think, and, of course, he’s quoting all kinds of passages from CS Lewis seamlessly weaving together Screwtape Letters and The Magician’s Nephew and The Great Divorce and That Hideous Strength and The Last Battle and Mere Christianity and Out of the Silent Planet and The Abolition of Man. It’s impressive.

Anyway, I’m reading along considering and assenting and remembering (I’ve read or listened to all but Screwtape and am somewhat conversant with it, anyway) and seeing how the parts and pieces go together when he hits me with this paragraph:

In Lewis’s view, the chief blame for this state of affairs [the abolition of man] should be laid squarely at the door of his own class and his own profession: the intellectuals, the educators. “Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!” cries Professor Kirke in The Last Battle, but the real question is, “What don’t they teach?” Teachers who should be inculcating in their students a passion for truth teach them instead skepticism or indifference. Though perhaps in many cases they market their message as humility, it is infact a false humility, and Lewis rails against it, because he believes that in the long run this abdication of responsibility–the responsibility to seek knowledge–will lead to the “abolition of man,” our transformation into a species unable ver to hear the music that Creation really does make.  (Jacobs, The Narnian, pg 174)

Wow, there is much that can be unpacked there.  Jacobs follows this with a discussion of Lewis’s point in the first essay of The Abolition of Man and the word “sublime,” whether the fall was “sublime” or the emotion of the viewer was “sublime.”  

A sense of Wonder was borne in the observer. Wonder is active causing awe and thought (work?) and maybe even worship in the observer. We can *revel* in something that is, in itself, sublime.

This inculcation with a passion for truth must beging with Wonder. I Wonder why 2+2=4 and not 5; I Wonder why Mommy chose John 1 for us to memorize. Don’t you Wonder how Madam How uses erosion to cut the gully? I Wonder about wonder. I Wonder why Jesus claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life.

When we Wonder about things we are actually seeking truth – whether something is true or false in its propositions and essentials; whether it really is true or it really is not. Jacobs had earlier argued on page 170 that we are, “… being indoctrinated into a systematic disregard of truth and falsehood” and because of that, “people can find themselves unable to recognize the difference even when it is put before them plainly: they come to possess an invincible ignorance, or nearly so.”  If our schools have actively removed that inculcation of a passion for truth, they’ve removed Wonder. If they’re actively teaching skepticism and indifference, aren’t those the opposites of the amazed awe and joy we associate Wonder with?

So, by trying to avoid writing more about Wonder from Teaching from Rest, I ended up writing about it from The Narnian. When an idea takes hold, it’s hard to let go!



  1. This is great, Dawn! I've not read this one but I'm adding it to my list!

    I think more than our society ceasing to wonder, they forgot the SOURCE of wonder! Darwin certainly was wondering at the creatures he discovered but in his ignorance & rebellion, he let himself be the source of wonder instead of the great Creator.

    You're right- the schools have removed wonder but where they do have it, it's messed up bc it doesn't start or end either the 4 Ws.

    1. I don't think I agree about Darwin. He was curious, yes, and perhaps wondered in the most basic sense (I wonder why such and so), but not the deeper sense of Wonder with awe and astonishment added in.

      Moving through the rest of the Ws is certainly the goal of the homeschool but not the public school and that is one of the big problems.

  2. You may have read this already, but this is what Charlotte Mason said of Darwin (Volume 6, pg 54)

    "We know how Darwin lost himself in science until he could not read poetry, find pleasure in pictures, think upon things divine; he was unable to turn his mind out of the course in which it had run for most of his life."

    Earlier she wrote that: "In matters of the mind again Habit is a good servant but a bad master. Specialisation, the fetish of the end of the last century, is to be deprecated because it is at our peril that we remain too long in any one field of thought."

    Interesting idea.

    1. Oh, this is fascinating. We've only taken specialization to a level Mason wouldn't recognize. I love the idea that wonder feeds upon that vast feast we set before our students. Lovely.

      And, I'm ashamed to say, I've read very little Mason directly. Most everything is via bloggers and quoted portions. I'm working slowly through vol 6 so I'll keep my eyes out. Thanks!

  3. I just wanted to thank you for your post! I really enjoyed reading it. I loved reading your thoughts on Wonder! I have been working on writing what I want for my children. One thing is to be seekers of the truth! I definitely want them to go about because of their wonder and curiosity instead of being skeptical. I think also about what the Bible says about a lack of knowledge or ignorance. It has been described as deadly! My thoughts are going in several different directions but this post will definitely help me to be more precise in writing my mission statement for raising my children. It also encourages me to get back to reading more of Lewis's books so that I can read the one you read. Oh, so many books so little time!

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