Friday, April 25, 2014

the guest of honour, rises to reply

THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS | C.S. Lewis

At the conclusion of The Screwtape Letters Lewis adds Screwtape Proposes a Toast upon an invitation from The Saturday Evening Post. Lewis, in his preface, reminds readers to, "remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle." Screwtape's audience for this toast includes university demons, training to win souls for Satan. Think a much darker version of Monster's Inc.. Throughout the toast, Screwtape is highlighting universally vulnerable entrances into a human's mode of thought and action for the next generation of devils.

The excerpts here are highlighted because I enjoyed them so much.

On equality:

"No one must be different from himself in voice, clothes, manners, recreations, choice of food. 'Here is someone who speaks English rather more clearly and euphoniously than I-it must be a vile, upstage, lah-di-dah affectation. Here's a fellow who says he doesn't like hot dogs-thinks himself too good for them no doubt. Here's a man who hasn't turned on the jukebox-he must be one of those highbrows and is doing it to show off. If there were the right sort of chaps they'd be like me. They've no business to be different." (lewis, 199)

On that same principal as it relates to education:

"The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be 'undemocratic.' These differences between the pupils--for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences--must be disguised. This can be done on various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing the things that children used to do in their spare time. Let them, for example, make mud-pies and call it modelling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have--I believe the English already use the phrase--'parity of esteem'. An even more drastic scheme is not impossible. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma--Beelzebub, what a useful word!--by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age-group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coaeval's attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON THE MAT.

In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I'm as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anway the teachers-or should I say, nurses?-will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste time on any real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance amoung men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us." (lewis, 203-204)

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