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The Role of Pleasure in Classical School Culture and Community

A silver thread that Lewis explores through his work (alongside the Argument by desire) is the tutor of desire–pleasure. He speaks and embodies frequently the benefit of small human pleasures in the salvation of our souls. In Screwtape the patient famously is rescued from the clutches of the demon by taking a walk and reading a book he genuinely enjoys. Wormwood is severely chastised for this lapse of judgment, which accomplishes much for the enemy (God). The patient recovers himself at the same time that he forgets himself, whenever we truly enjoy something we are self-forgetful which, in Lewis’ mind, is always a good and the ultimate goal—the starting place for humility. Our likes are the raw material through which God speaks to us, according to Screwtape; by recovering ourselves through the experience of pleasure we are protected from false friendships, from pretending to be something we
are not, and thus from pride. We exist, for those moments, comfortably in our own skin and are glad to be alive. Often genuine friendships are formed out of such pleasures. Screwtape summarizes the design this way: “Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamor of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever (XIII).”
The implications for this in our school are tremendous. We aren’t simply stuffing our students with valuable methods and information, we aim to give them primary contact with some of their deepest likings. What creates this in our classroom culture? Come ready to consider this together, bring a thought, event, experience to share from your contact with students. We will discuss topics as wide ranging as room design, tea drinking, instructor pleasure in learning, relationship of the material we teach to life, relationships within the classroom, co-curricular activity, classroom practices, and assignments designed with this in mind.
This is a panel discussion with teachers from a variety of schools who will discuss how this principle has functioned in their lives as teachers and then open up the door for Q and A and participant sharing.