Pornography and Education: Closing Windows of Wonder

May 1, 2018

In older days, a young woman was assigned her first teaching post in a rural Irish schoolhouse. Though a diligent and disciplined person, she had difficulty capturing the attention of her rowdy students.

Then one day, unruly as usual, she happened to say something about Cuchulain.

“Who’s Cuchulain?” one boy asked. The teacher began to tell of that hero and, for the first time, her classroom quieted. The children had never heard of the ancient tales of their land and were spellbound with wonder. After this success, the teacher told myths and legends every day. Her pupils were listening and alive.

But the superintendents had heard of her troubles, and when they stopped by only to hear fairy stories, they dismissed her on the spot. Walking home, the teacher passed an ancient potato farmer in his field.

“Everything all right, miss?” he said.

The teacher told the old man what had happened. He squinted silently as he leaned on his hoe and looked out over the green hills growing gold in the gloaming.

“Well,” the farmer said at length, “all you can do is open windows of wonder.”

He raised his closed hand and, drawing back gnarled fingers, revealed a butterfly in his palm. The butterfly shook out its wings and fluttered into the sunlight.


This mysterious anecdote, told me by the man who taught me to be a teacher, draws the mind to the vital importance of wonder in education—and its devastating loss. As such, it has much to do with the current crisis of education, the current age being so out of touch with the innocence of wonder. Without wonder, education is obstructed, obscured, and nothing contributes so much to the barring of wonder in these days than the cultural plague of pornography.

Pornography, and the rampant accessibility to it, degrades dignity and even divinity itself to a young mind, rendering beauty a dirty thing—nothing to take seriously, nothing to respect, and nothing to wonder over. For this fact alone, pornography and education are antithetical. Education rejoices in truth; pornography revels in falsehood. Education draws people out of themselves; pornography drags them within. Education is about permanent things; pornography is about disposable things. Education delights; pornography dominates.

Pornography is among the deadliest enemies of education nowadays for it distracts and dulls the soul’s faculties to regard, to receive, to retain, and to rejoice in the realities of goodness, truth, and beauty in a mode preliminary to wisdom. As a chimera, pornography is inimical to reality, and therefore to education, creating a barrier to perception by inhibiting wonder which, as Socrates taught, is the beginning of wisdom. Pornography breeds indifference to beauty, robbing people of their ability to be awed or to find pleasure in the beautiful, and hence in the good and the true.

Though pornography is all about the perversion of sex, wonder is obviously not particularly about sex at all. The educational issue at hand is that pornography attacks a specific and powerful window of wonder whose closing can cause the closure of many other windows. If sex is no longer sacred, what thing of beauty is? If intimacy is reduced to objectification and self-gratification, what hope is there for heroism, or sunsets, or a butterfly? If all is grinding noise, how will God come through in the grand silence?

The age of wonder is the target for the multi-billion-dollar porn industry. The sooner the abnormal is normalized and the senses desensitized, the better for its coffers and contrivances. The current average age that a child first encounters pornography is 12 years old. Filterless filth is always a click away, and its devices and baited lures are in the hands and before the eyes of children.

According to some statistics, at this very moment there are nearly 30,000 people looking at pornography on the Internet. They are among the 40 million Americans who access pornography frequently, 200,000 of whom are addicts. To suppose that people, especially young people, even from solid families, are not exposed to pornography in some form or another is, unfortunately, naïve. The presence of pornography is a given, as it is widespread, strategic, and insidious. That is the reality that must be faced before it can be fought—and one of the major battlefields is education.

Spoiled spirits, succumbing to a wonder-less world, are not very susceptible to formation, crippled as they are by eroticism, cynicism, hedonism, relativism, nihilism, and a host of other infernal “isms” that contribute to a defiled innocence with dread purpose, for the innocence proper to certain years of life is a vital factor in education, especially if that education is guided by the classical and Catholic pedagogy of wonder.

As it closes windows of wonder, pornography opens backdoors to child predators, chatroom stalkers, and other cyber threats. Even so, the windows remain closed. Though widely acknowledged as a health and safety concern, and often cited as a contributing factor in marital infidelity and divorce, pornography remains popular and shall be as long as an attentive intellect remains unpopular.

Youth longs for meaning in education, for wide-open windows that let in light and air. Yet the demeaning barriers that pornography promotes and pushes puts them at risk of never finding their way out of the cave of shadows, out of virtual reality, out of fantasy, and into the bright, beautiful world that God made good: a meaningful world filled with truths and mysteries where He can be found and where He can give fulfillment. All we must do is open windows of wonder.


SEAN FITZPATRICK is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and serves as the headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Elmhurst, Pa. He also serves on the Advisory Council for Sophia Institute for Teachers. His writings on education, literature and culture have appeared in Crisis Magazine, The Imaginative Conservative, and Catholic Exchange.

This post first appeared in the Cardinal Newman Society Journal and is reprinted with permission. 

Sean Fitzpatrick


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Reader Interactions


  1. Steve Pokorny says

    I remember once how I was scheduled to be on a show to be interviewed about my testimony and to educate youth on the dangers of pornography. Beforehand, there were kids doing “comedy sports,” a type of improv. They were incredibly creative, thinking very quickly on their feet, as they used different objects differently, as quick as they could in a scene. I thought to myself, “My, aren’t these kids crazy inventive.”

    The more I reflected on it, the more I realized how much porn had sapped my creativity, and that it is innocence that provokes wonder and gives birth to something truly new. With God, all things are possible, and thus there has been continuous healing.

    This theme presented in this article is crucially important, and how we need to help the youth seek means of wondering and to plunge into beauty, because it is from here that genuine culture is created. I’m thankful for this work, and will definitely be incorporating it in my work of Freedom Coaching.

  2. Tex Austin says

    Great article, but 200,000 addicts? This number is laughably low. It understates the reality by several orders of magnitude — every one of us personally knows several porn addicts (i.e. consumers of porn who can’t stop even though they want to). Simple analysis would lead to reckoning the number nationally to be several million.

    As is the idea that there a mere 30,000 people looking at pornography right now — there are many times that number on a single site (Pornhub) as we speak.

    Some rudimentary fact checking would bolster the good points made here. The 200,000 number in particular is an absolute howler.

  3. Andrew A says

    Sometimes a half-truth is worse than a falsehood. This article contains much truth, but has got it all backward. Porn does not close the windows of wonder: the Windows of Wonder are closed first, then porn arrives as a false consolation. Porn is the consolation of the man whose soul is dead. Open the Windows of Wonder in the soul of a man, bring his soul back to life, and he will recoil away from porn in disgust. Leave them closed, and his dead soul will turn back to porn again and again.

    I don’t know why people write foolish articles like these. Looking for shortcuts? It may seem easier to cure a filthy habit than to cure the soul of a filthy man, but it is wiser to take on the difficult task of curing his soul than the impossible one of separating him from his filthy habits.

    • Franklin P. Uroda says

      Perhaps if he’d have used the simile of a door his thoughts would have taken a different turn.


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