Monday, January 12, 2009

Children of the Left, Unite!

This may be one of the funniest reviews I've read in awhile.

Financial behemoths have been nationalized. The government is promising to spend liberally to combat recession. There are even rumors of universal health care. Socialism is on the march! As we leave capitalism behind, the traditionalists among you may be wondering: Will they come for our children?

Too late. As Julia L. Mickenberg and Philip Nel document in Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature (New York University, $32.95), Marxist principles have been dripping steadily into the minds of American youth for more than a century.

This isn’t altogether surprising. After all, most parents want their children to be far left in their early years — to share toys, to eschew the torture of siblings, to leave a clean environment behind them, to refrain from causing the extinction of the dog, to rise above coveting and hoarding, and to view the blandishments of corporate America through a lens of harsh skepticism.

But fewer parents wish for their children to carry all these virtues into adulthood. It is one thing to convince your child that no individual owns the sandbox and that it is better for all children that it is so. It is another to hope that when he grows up he will donate the family home to a workers’ collective.
I have to confess, it never occurred to me to question the political ideology of the children's books I read with my kids. In all honesty, none has ever really jumped out at me as being particularly nefarious or doctrinal in nature (I find "The Cat in the Hat" to be more irritating than I do ideological).

But thinking further, suddenly all sorts of "hidden" messages may be right there in front of me. Is "Good Night Moon" possibly an ode to Marxism and social control? Is "Green Eggs and Ham" a celebration of Adam Smith? What of "The Giving Tree" (one of, I swear, the most depressing tales ever sold as a children's book)? Adulthood sucks and then you die?

Using our sociological perspective, you begin to see the many possibilities.

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