James and Cliff have both written recently about the ideas found in Plato's Republic and the impressionability of children in regards to the teaching of virtue. I thought I'd chime in a bit with something I ran across yesterday.
Ann Mitsakos writes in the most recent issue of Praxis magazine the topic of teaching children and quotes a homily written by St. John Chrysostom entitled, ""Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring up Their Children." She says:
"Chrysostom says a child's soul is like a city, and parents (or teachers) are to think of themselves as lawmakers for the security of the city. In a time when cities were walled, and the only way in and out of a city was through its gates, Chrysostom explains that the gates of this child's soul are [the senses]....The young should not hear evil or harmful stories from anyone who takes care of them. 'Let them not hear frivolous and old wives' tales: 'This youth kissed that maiden. The king's son and the younger daughter have done this.'
One of the great things about the iconographic tradition in Orthodoxy is that the icons help implant in our souls the possibility of the remembrance of beauty. Even when a child is too young to read or be read to, they can still "learn" the stories of the Bible and Church history by gazing at the icons...I have had more than one cradle Orthodox tell me one of their earliest memories is looking at an icon. The image of humility, strength, love and grace that emanated from it stayed with them the rest of their lives. The same goes with the Scripture imbedded in the liturgy. After being immersed in it, it starts to become a part of you, even at a very early age.
I only wish I had heard more of the Scripture as on organic part of my life growing up. I think it is safe to say that when one fills one's mind with unholy images and experiences in childhood, they become lasting influences later in life. I think Plato was on to something here.