from The Claremont Institute:
“It is not so much an anthology as a postmodernist manifesto.”
As the editors declare in the preface, “In our choice of texts and in our introductions, we have paid close attention to�perceptions of race, class, and gender, among other topics, in shaping children’s literature and childhood itself.” Practically every text and every author (save for the “emergent”) is subjected to a wicked scolding from the editors for its racism, sexism, and elitism. Forget about ogres, witches, monsters, and evil stepmoms; today’s villains are gender stereotypes, white males, the middle class, and the traditional family. Retrograde literature must therefore be replaced by a new one, one that is, as it were, beyond good and evil: “In our postmodern age, in which absolute judgments of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are no longer easily made, the distinction between heroes and villains is often blurred.”
The editors herald this as a great advance, one they wish to promote by burying the stories under a ton of commentary. To read a children’s story out of context, say the editors, is so pass� (so childish?): “Discourses such as reader-response theory, poststructuralism, semiotics, feminist theory, and postcolonial theory have proven to be valuable in analyzing children’s books.” Thus the editors introduce Fun with Dick and Jane by noting that the “world of Dick and Jane was the idealized image of white, middle-class America.” The introduction to the chapter on “Legends,” which includes The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, warns that “history has generally been written by the victors and the elites, who tend to view those like themselves�white males, for the most part�as heroes.”
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In a strange way, completely unappreciated by the anthology’s editors, we have returned to the pre-Lockean age of children’s literature. Locke wished to scrub stories clean of horrific images and premonitions of death�not because he was a na�f or a utopian, but because he believed it possible to build a more rational, humane world. The Norton editors break with him on this central issue. They do not believe in the possibility of a more rational world, or even, it would seem, in childhood itself. And so they have more in common with the New England Primer than they dare to admit. They, too, are obsessed with death and the apocalypse, only they don’t believe in redemption.
And this text will be used in education classes? Training up new teachers? Certainly it reflects the attitudes of the academy toward children’s literature. This yet another reason why I am pro-homeschooling. The lunatics are now running the asylum. How can we expect these people to reform our schools?
courtesy of The Llama Butchers
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