Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Random Thoughts

Remember Lovable Lyle? I used to love the Lyle books when I was young, and whenever I've recalled Lovable Lyle as an adult, I've had a vague sense that the books taught a nice lesson about prejudice and "not judging a book by its cover." But, in another of the alarmingly numerous signs that I'm turning into a grumpy old coot, the last time I thought about the Lyle books, I began to wonder if the books weren't unthinkingly against prejudice. After all, not all prejudices are hateful and irrational. Come on, would you let your child have a huge talking Crocodile as a playmate? In fact, there are several categories of people that it would be quite reasonable for me to be prejudiced against as playmates for my children.

I suppose it's silly to expect a bit more nuance in a children's book, but by the time children reach high school, I think they're ready for some counter-narratives as an anitdote to the litany of poisonous platitudes they've imbibed since kindergarten. I've delved into the follow your heart phenomenon elsewhere, but I think the ever-popular you can't judge a book by its cover deserves some scrutiny and scorn as well. When I taught at a Catholic all-girls middle school and high school, the administration always had to issue warnings about Halloween costumes that wouldn't be permitted on the day the girls dressed up for Halloween (they had to be warned not to come as pregant nuns, for instance). One of the styles of costume that was verboten was "gangsta" fashion. Several girls complained to me during a homeroom that the anti-"gangsta" directive was needlessly restrictive, that they didn't mean to endorse a particular lifestyle by dressing in such a fashion, that they merely liked the way it looked, and, besides, you can't judge someone by their style of dress. I walked over to the chalkboard and drew a big swastika on the board. "What if," I asked, "I walked into class tomorrow morning wearing this symbol on my shirt because I thought it looked pretty?" That pretty much shut them up, as a well-placed reductio ad absurdum is wont to do with high school kids. They didn't even bother to ask me whether I was suggesting some equivalence between "gangsta" style and Nazi "style," which I wasn't. My point was to get them to stop believing, or pretending to believe, that the manner in which they presented themselves in public mattered only to themselves.

Ooops, it seems I've started the New Year out on a sour, rambling, incoherent note. Forget everything I just said.

Here's my amended New Year's message to one and all: follow your heart.


Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Geez, KM, you caved awfully quickly. And just when I was about to welcome you into the Grumpy Old Coot club.

Just wait till your little princess wants to do something awful and says, "But Mom! I have to follow my heart!"

member, GOC of VA

January 03, 2006 1:41 PM  
Blogger stewdog said...

OK, you started with Children's books so I'll just pick up on that thread. One of my favorite series of Children's books was Good Dog Carl, about a precocious Rottweiller. There were others in the series. The drawings, and sense of humor and wonder made these special. Have either of the princesses been exposed to them?

January 03, 2006 3:18 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Fear not, CIV. My "follow your heart" was ironic, in the best tradition of the grumpy old coot club. Didn't they tell you that when they taught you the secret handshake?

Stewdog, the girls used to love the Good Dog, Carl books!

January 03, 2006 4:18 PM  

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