This summer I have been reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. This satirical work, in which Screwtape, a devil of high rank, advises Wormwood, a junior tempter, is both a delight and a challenge. It’s a delight because of Lewis’ wit and humor. It’s a challenge because I often have to think twice and backwards to get to the real message of each chapter.
I remembered that a few years ago, A Screwtape Letter for the Unappreciated Mom ended up in my e-mail, and I just loved it. And so, since imitation is the highest form of flattery as well as a great technique for developing one’s writing, I thought I’d try my hand at writing a diabolical letters regarding a homeschool mom.
My dear Bitterwench,
I am writing to you on the commencement of your new assignment. Although my letters to Wormwood have proven to be wildly popular among the Lowerarchy (you have read them, haven’t you?) I feel the need to advise you on your new enterprise.The records from our office show that your patient is about to join that most vile breed of women who take it upon themselves to educate their off-spring at home. This means your new post will be highly demanding and of utmost consequence.
Begin your work even now while the mother is contemplating the means by which she will teach her little vermin. Let her adopt a utilitarian view where the goal of education is simply a college degree or a high paying job. She must be made to believe that the liberal arts are antiquated arts to be sacrificed on the altars of science, technology, and business. A pragmatic, functional education with a dollar bill at the end is the type which produces creatures that are little better than robots. Her half-grown bi-peds must not be allowed to recognize and value truth, beauty, and goodness. Those things nourish the soul and give unnecessary meaning to life. We want these underlings to live for work, not work to live.
Next, do everything in your power to water down their education to a mere accumulation of facts and skills. The off-spring must not be taught to think critically or analytically, especially in the realm of morality.You know our temptations are always most lucrative when our patients are morally muddled while completely ignorant of the fact. We want everything to be gray; no black and white, no right and wrong, no good and evil. We want to go so far as to convince our patients that there is not even love or hate, and ultimately, no God or devil. There must be no universal or objective truth. Rather, find all the ways you can – manipulative peers, worldly books, trashy media, and the din of so-called “music”. And when the mother is too pre-occupied or worn out to be vigilant, use these means to introduce into their diet the poisonous syrup of me-centered subjectivity. It is crucial that you indoctrinate them with our latest mantra: what’s right for me is right for me, and what’s right for you is right for you, UNLESS it offends me.
The infiltration of moral relativism into mass media and public opinion has been one of the great triumphs of this modern age. The political correctness born of this brain-child of ours has produced an abundance of the most tasty morsels: self-righteous bullies and self-righteous cowards. However, the rise of these wretched “home educators”, as they call themselves, is posing a dangerous threat to our work. For they are producing thinkers who see through our brilliant schemes and the lies of the world. And they are producing characters with the courage to stand against the tide of our demoralizing trends and pernicious ideologies. Difficult will be the work of their tempters.
You are beginning to see what is at stake, I presume. But even worse, many of these wretched parents, including your patient, entertain the idiotic idea that they can raise saints. Fools! And yet they are the most treacherous of human breeders. Seeing their pitiful efforts and hearing their whimpering, insipid prayers, the Enemy intervenes – he is disgustingly meddlesome. Then, those nose-picking, drooling little imps grow up to be practically untouchable. In league with the Enemy, they frustrate our plans time and again, attracting others to the Enemy’s side. Even if such souls are few and far between (there are already too many of them for my comfort), they do irreparable damage to our cause. Need I remind you that it only takes one Cure of Ars or one Ignatius of Loyola to undo generations of toil and effort? You must see to it that neither your patient nor her off-spring become one of them.
So do not rest on your past laurels, proud Bitterwench. Heed my letters and advice. Your task at hand is both onerous and grave. You will need all the wiles, trickery, and deception you can conjure up to trap the mother and her offspring. Should you succeed in the proper treatment and destruction of your patient, great shall be your renown in Helldom. But if you should fail, if your patient should persevere in faith to the end, the miserable fate of the unfortunate Wormwood will seem like a walk in the park compared to yours.
Mary Cooney is a homeschooling mother of five and former pianist living in Maryland. She blogs at Mercy for Marthas where this article was first published.