I write not as an expert to tell you of my thought but to explain a particular concept of Lewis’s and my own application of it to the Old South. Almost everyone knows something about C.S. Lewis as a writer of extremely readable children’s books (about the land of Narnia that can be entered through the back of an old wardrobe) and as a witty and brilliant defender of orthodox Christianity.
Lewis has also been called the Apostle of the Skeptics. Those who have read his little book, The Great Divorce or his Space Trilogy know something of his faith as well as his brilliant imagination, while his Experiment in Criticism suggests Lewis the profound scholar. And the devastating little book The Abolition of Man has a direct bearing on my present topic. It is C.S. Lewis as prophet: a grim warning of where we may be heading and the role of our schools in taking us there.
Lewis was an Oxford don. He first came to Oxford as an undergraduate—his education interrupted by service in the First World War. He had, before he came up to Oxford, read more widely and deeply than most of us do in a lifetime. At Oxford he first read (studied) what is called “Greats,” which is, first, classical literature in Greek and Latin, and then the rigorous study of philosophy from the ancients to the moderns—with a severe examination in each. He then read English literature and was examined in that. A “FIRST” in those examinations at Oxford has been likened to a Phi Beta Kappa key—and Lewis won three FIRSTS. No other word fits this achievement but awesome.
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