Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child
by Anthony Esolen
ISI Books, 2015
(224 pages, $27.95, hardcover)
reviewed by David E. PrinceThe modern notion of freedom is so corrupted that it constitutes a form of slavery, argues Anthony Esolen, Professor of English at Providence College and a senior editor of Touchstone. In his new book, Life Under Compulsion, he contends that contemporary culture mistakes expansion of choice for freedom itself, and he reveals the nightmarish implications of this error for child rearing. In Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI, 2013),Esolen showed how contemporary parenting trends stifle the imagination of children, tamp down courage, and produce a shallow generation of automatons desensitized to the sublimity of truth, beauty, and goodness. In Life Under Compulsion, he asserts that contemporary compulsions, rooted in an aimless, wrongly defined notion of freedom, make us less than heroes and even less than human.
Too often, he says, passive parents allow their children to become indoctrinated technocratic utilitarians who merely serve compulsions, from without and within. Our culture understands freedom in exclusively negative terms—"Nobody tells me what to do"—and so fails to understand freedom positively, as freedom for, not from. Esolen explains, "This freedom is not for oneself but for others. Our bonds and responsibilities do not constrict our freedom but rather define our very humanity" (20).
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