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Saddles, Novels, and Coleridge

Approximately 200 years ago Coleridge argued,

The common modern novel, in which there is no imagination, but a miserable struggle to excite and gratify mere curiosity, ought, in my judgment, to be wholly forbidden to children. Novel-reading of this sort is especially injurious to the growth of the imagination, the judgment, and the morals, especially to the latter, because it excites mere feelings without at the same time ministering an impulse to action.

This needs to be understood in the larger context of Coleridge’s essay on education. He states at the start of this essay that the aim of education is to exhibit “the ends of a moral being.” Coleridge argued the point that education works from the inside out. The soul must first be rightly formed so that one may rightly govern the other faculties. The novel works in the opposite direction moving first from the senses with little or no attention for the soul.

A saddletree works much the same way. The heart, or core of any saddle is called a tree. Originally, the tree of a saddle was made out of wood, but today saddletrees are often made from fiberglass or plastic. The tree is the fundamental form of every saddle. As it is covered with leather, rawhide, sheep wool, and conchos it takes on a physical appearance that is, or can be, only as good as the tree that is covered. All the integrity and virtue of a saddle rests with the tree. Old leather skirtings can be replaced. But if the tree is cracked, the saddle is worth-less.

The integrity and virtue of the soul forms the man. Education must begin first with soul, and work its way out from there. We must educate from the inside out.

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