Monday, July 28, 2008

Kiddie Culture

Being the father of a young boy, I can't help but constantly think about and worry about how to raise him to be a good person. Right now, my primary concerns may be getting him to crawl or sleep on his own; but I know that pretty soon we'll be hitting the hard stuff. I recently read Should We Burn Babar by Herbert Kohl. Kohl, an award winning educator, argues that the content of some children's classics may in fact have a negative effect on our children. In the end he decides that it is not necessary to burn Babar, but to engage our children in critical discussions of these stories. Kohl also claims that children are capable of such discussion at a remarkably young age. This seems like a hopeful response to the problem of racism, sexism, and classism in children's books; but what about other sources that they may be exposed to either before they are capable of critical evaluation or that may have a more powerful effect than mere words? I am thinking primarily of television and film. The images that we allow our children to absorb on a daily basis would seem to have a profound effect on the shaping of their young minds. Not all of this is negative. Most programs aimed at children are educational and often attempt to avoid any of the negative content that might be present in literary classics. But what about those programs that do contain such content? Should we avoid exposing our children to this material until they are capable of understanding it? Is the power of the moving image even capable of molding minds in this way? Should we burn Disney?

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