By the time a child turns 15 or so he has formed a very strong sense of his ideals. In fact, the foundation of those ideals was laid 15 years earlier.
Some children become so confused over their early ideals (by experience, hypocricy, etc.) that they have become cynical by the teen years. Regrettably, that happens a lot in our age and part of the reason for that is the sentimental, painless lies that our children are fed through Barney, Veggie Tales and other manipulative forms of pre-K child-care.
But the most cynical of people cannot avoid forming ideals. They still have a sense of the kind of person they want to be and of what kind of world they want to live in. They may well lose the courage of those ideals, or they may form ideals that are so washed out all they can dream about is power. But they still have ideals.
And that is why what children read and play matters so much. As Horace Scudder wrote in his 1888 essay, “Literature,”
What that destiny [of the nation] is to be may be read in the ideals which the young are forming; and those ideals… it is the business of the old to guide. They cannot form them; the young must form them for themselves; but whether these ideals shall be large or petty, honorable or mean, will depend upon the sustenance on which they are fed.
On what sustenance are your students and children feeding? Do you attend to their souls as carefully as you attend to their bodies? How are you feeding them the true, the good, and the beautiful?
Perhaps we can share some ideas, because the souls of our young people need us to do so.