by Kevin Ritter
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
In a recent piece (April 29) I described Edmund Burke’s notion of “Moral Imagination” and how that attribute was shared by many of the great minds of the western tradition. I described Burke’s belief that student’s can best acquire this trait through the study of great literature. I suggested the new Common Core Standards would inhibit the development of this important quality by limiting the study of classical literature in favor of non-fiction “informational texts.”
Today, I would extend that argument to suggest that by intentionally restricting access to the historical notions of eternal Truth and Beauty found in classical literature, schools that adopt the Common Core will leave young people susceptible to the development of the Moral Imagination’s ugly siblings, what Burke called the “Idyllic and Diabolic Imaginations”.
Burke described the Idyllic Imagination as a mental disposition that inclines one to reject recognized dogmas or rules as well as established manners. He saw this form of imagination as destructive rather than constructive, seeking the “liberty from” something rather than the “liberty to” something.
In an American context, this generally means liberty from those duties that are married to each of the rights we enjoy as citizens. Furthermore, because the Idyllic Imagination has no unifying principle, Burke reasoned, it is a destabilizing force in society. It leads to disillusion, boredom, and decadence, qualities in evidence during the recent Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.
Still worse is what Burke calls the Diabolic Imagination which, when cultivated, panders to the “lowest human urges for violence, destruction, cruelty, and sensational disorder.” Unfortunately, it is this attribute that informs much of our entertainment industry and the tech-savvy internet world today.