Children’s literature once taught children to avoid danger and be good boys and girls; now it primes young people to accept a Progressive political agenda.
The other night I went to an event at our local independent bookstore. I, along with about thirty other women and a few men, listened to presentations about both children’s and adult’s books as potential holiday gifts.
None of the books were my cup of tea because they were all “quality literature.” Or put another way, they were all the kind of books that would end up in Oprah’s Book Club. My rule of thumb is that I will never read an Oprah-recommended book. Her taste in books and mine are so diametrically opposed that it’s a given that, if she likes it, I’ll hate it.
Oprah likes books that are artsy, meaningful, politically correct, and written in high-brow language. I like thrillers, murder mysteries, romances, and non-fiction. We do not intersect.
Because of my low-brow tastes, had I not gone to this bookstore event, I would have been unaware of the didactic material being pushed as children’s literature for the Progressive, upper-middle-class household.
When I think of didactic children’s literature, I think of fairy tales and books published between 1750 and 1850 or so. Fairy tales may not seem obviously didactic, but they are — or at least some are. Don’t talk to strangers says Little Red Riding Hood. Don’t sleep with “a prick” when you’re still young says Sleeping Beauty. Be a hard worker of good cheer says Cinderella. Don’t accept food from strangers says Snow White. Throughout the world, fairy tales urge girls to be meek and chaste while urging boys to be brave and adventurous. Those aren’t politically correct messages, but history is what it is.
In addition to the didactic fairy-tales, there were others, hundreds of others, that were directed at peasants who gathered around fires on dark nights. They had no purpose but to entertain. They were cruel, rude, licentious, amusing, and frightening. But still, there was always that subset that reinforced society’s messages about sexual roles and safety. Even though the stories weren’t directed specifically at children, the messages were.
Beginning in the late 1700s, publishers began to promote books that were, in fact, directed specifically at children. Many of the writers were religious and, of these religious writers, many subscribed to a fire and brimstone Evangelical Christianity. This was openly didactic children’s literature. In poems and prose, children were warned away from dangerous activities lest horrible things happened (fire, drowning, maiming, poverty, starvation, mad dogs, insane asylums, hangings, you name it), and they were encouraged in good behavior (sitting quietly, obeying their parents, studying their Bible, etc.). These were books of the “teach and preach” variety.
Today, when we look at these books, with their overt threats of punishment and their heavy-handed encouragement for socially- and religiously-acceptable behavior for boys and girls, we tend to laugh . . . and then congratulate ourselves on writing much more subtle, sophisticated, and enjoyable books for children. None of that heavy-handed Christian stuff for our little darlings. Our books teach them to enjoy the world around them, to play well with others, and to love politically correct causes, to admire minorities, and to fear whites. [Read more…]