To review Sayers' premise we have three things:
The book as thought or The Idea,
the book as written or the artifact,
and the book as read or the power or consequence.
To illustrate this Power Sayers reminds us that:
"Power of the Word, and it is dangerous. Every word--even every idle word-will be accounted for at the day of judgment, because the word itself has power to bring to judgment"
This thought always disconcerts me.
Sayers also remarks that a 'good' idea is one that bears fruit. Whether ill or not, it has performed its duty.
Sayers now applies this to education in one of my favorite quotes from the book:
"It is the business of education to wait upon Pentecost. Unhappily, there is something about educational syllabuses, and especially about examination papers, which seems to be rather out of harmony with Pentecostal manifestations. The Energy of Ideas does not seem to descend into the receptive mind with quite that rush of cloven fire which we ought to expect. Possibly there is something lacking in our Idea of education; possibly something inhibiting has happened to the Energy. But Pentecost will happen, whether within or without official education."
I would really like to just sit right here all day and think about this. What does it mean? I think the only reason we don't understand what Sayers means here is that we don't want to take responsibility for understanding. If we truly believe such a thing then it will change the way we go about things. I believe that this is a good quote to ponder as the catalogs start rolling in. Because what most of these catalogs are selling is an idea. But the creator of those ideas are not sovereign over the hearts of our children and neither are we for that matter. That means that much of what we try to teach our children never gets from Written Word to Read Word. What we need is a chain reaction which jumps from the creator of the idea to the minds of our children. Just buying a cool program doesn't insure that even if it is considered 'classical.'
I say all that because I have been having a bit of a panic about my own homeschool. I see what other people are doing and I feel great despair and I know some of you even see what I am doing and you feel despair. And yet when I try to do what the great ones are doing it doesn't always work out in my home, often because of those blasted kids I have been given. And it is not just about my pride. Honestly, you don't get almost to the end of raising 8 sons with much of that left, at least not the kind of pride you started with. In spite of all that I really, really want to do a good job with my children and I thought maybe having less children in our school would make us ever so much more so and lo, and behold my children are still mortals. I really am a slow learner. But here is Dorothy Sayers saying that they will be enlivened by something. My job is to provide the opportunity for it to be something true, good and beautiful because once the idea has gone forth there is no bringing it back.
Maybe I should have just gotten a real job. Teaching to the affections is so much harder than teaching grammar although I wouldn't discount that tool either.
I should end here but I want to note that Sayers also mentions that " Herod showed himself much more competent and realistic than Pilate or Caiaphas. He grasped the principle that if you are to destroy the Word, you must do so before it has time to communicate itself. Crucifixion gets there too late."
I think this is where we often miss the boat as parents. Something goes wrong, so we start killing things around us to fix the problem when the problem really started long, long ago with an idea we completely overlooked. The tide has already gone out. Rather than stomping all over everyone in order to fix the unfixable, we need to seek wisdom from God on how to reap a better harvest in the future. Very often God is quick to answer this sort of prayer. Monday night I was having a little panic attack about some absurd ideas I felt that one of my children was living with. I was very aware that my own voice was not being heard. In my panic I started praying and within hours something happened to illustrate to that child the danger of the ideas he held. It was a miracle. No, really. it was a miracle. Ideas have consequences but thankfully so does prayer.