Mantras, Mottos, and Slogans: On Parenting in an Era of Powerful Phrases

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The Art of Teaching: A Conference for Teaching Men


November 9-11 • The Heights School, Potomac, MD

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It is not on bread alone that man lives, but also on every word that he receives. And just as one’s diet shapes his bodily growth, so too does one’s verbal digest contribute to his interior development. Of course, not every sort of bodily growth is good; and, likewise, not every slogan that one receives is in itself spiritually salutary.

In this week’s episode, Mr. Kyle Blackmer considers the ways in which phrases, lyrics, mantras, slogans—in a word, the words we hear repeatedly—shape the imagination, at times for good and, at other times, for ill.

In the context of education and parenting, it is particularly important that we attend to the ways in which these oft-repeated lines may subtly influence our children. Even more, it is crucial that we help our children think actively for themselves about what they consume; for without the engagement of one’s own mind, a child remains deprived of that precious fruit, from which a liberal arts education derives its name: freedom.

Surrounding our children with words both wise and witty, not only will their minds be directed to what is true, their hearts will not be far from what is good.

Show Highlights:

  • How phrases, mantras, slogans, commercials, advertising, lyrics influence our thoughts.
  • From thoughts to words, words to action, and action to character
  • Why we should be thoughtful about what we and our children consume
  • From where do these phrases come?
  • Is it all bad? The reason for hope
  • How to help your child be an prudent listener
  • The power of repetition
  • What is the impact of these messages on boys?
  • Maria Montessori and the absorbent mind
  • How the young mind is particularly impressionable and why this matters
  • Striking a balance between lecturing and letting it all in
  • Beyond negation alone: the importance of drowning evil in an abundance of good
  • How to turn slogans to the good
  • We are always learning; the question is what are we learning?
  • Why you should make a family motto

Also on The Forum

Kyle Blackmer

About the guest:

Kyle Blackmer


Kyle has been teaching humanities at The Heights since 2015, working with 7th graders in the subjects of English, Latin, and history. Kyle advises the Ski Club and the Middle School Outdoorsman’s Club, and is also in charge of organizing the school’s famous Clan Games. A Division-1 soccer player, Kyle is the goalkeeper coach for The Heights soccer program and trains keepers in grades 7-12. His other interests include Irish history and music – both of which he pursued during graduate studies in Northern Ireland – and working in his family’s vegetable garden. A native of the Finger Lakes region of New York State, Kyle now lives in Hyattsville, Maryland, with his wife Julie and their children Thomas and Cora.