Monday, November 20, 2006

Parent Propaganda


Reading to my young ones over shabbos, I’ve noticed that there are many books written for frum kids these days. It forced me to think back to my childhood. When I was a kid we had Curious George and Dr. Seuss (both brilliant). No characters with Yarmulkas that I can remember.

A few things bothered me though.

First observation, if one’s entire knowledge of orthodox Judaism were through these books they’d think that at least half of Jewish kids are of healthy Aryan stock. So many of the kids have blonde hair/blue eyes/upturned nose.
C’mon a little realism here.
What’s wrong with the classic Jewish look?

Then I suddenly realized something deeply disturbing.

The world is run by adults.
Everything children read is written by these adults.
All these children books are nothing short of brilliant propaganda. Propaganda on a scale that would make The Soviet (and kazakhstan) Ministry of Altered Reality look like childsplay.
Pull out a book..
now read carefully...
Chaim and Yanky are fighting..Yossi lied..Moishy keeps a messy room...
The Parents..neat, never arguing, always truthful always quietly rebuking these wayward children.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
I’ve never once seen a frazzled mother turn to a child and yell “Not now! Can’t you seeeee I’m on the Phone!!!
Ever see a father with his shirt untucked? Oh no..always perfect...
Adults..perfect
Children..deficient

All joking aside I really think that such propaganda can lead to a crisis of faith when a child grows up and sees that adults are far from perfect.
I remember finding out something about my “perfect” mother that shook me to the core and in a way made it easier for me to be imperfect and not feel so bad about it.

The lesson should be, there’s nothing wrong with a parent admiting doing something wrong or being too harsh and even apologizing. The focus should not be.."be perfect" but "strive to be perfect". Someone who strives and tries to be perfect has nothing to be ashamed of.

Only then will our children emulate us.

Ok..my next project..
Totty takes out the garbage......finally.
By David

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24 Comments:

Blogger tuesdaywishes said...

David, I think you've hit on a great point. I read lots of books to my kids, both Jewish and secular. I find the Jewish ones (usually bought by Bobie, not me) decidedly preachy. I don't think every story needs a 'message'. Some reading is just for fun. Also, the settings always seem to be in a Jewish urban neighborhood or Jewish town of the past. Why is there no fantasy? When I was a kid, we had the Sadie Rose Weilerstein books (K'tantan, the Alef-Bet Story, What the Moon Brought) replete with wildly fantastic images from Midrashim. Where has all this imagination gone? Why are the current frum kids books such pap? (Torontopearl, can you hear me?)

November 20, 2006 9:59 PM  
Blogger torontopearl said...

David, guess I'd better go work on my children's picture book manuscripts just about now! You make some great points, and when I think of these books, I see you're absolutely right...a sterile type of environment and upbringing. Often the writing is even very dry and simplistic, come to think of it too. But if I ever publish with one of these Jewish publishers, I might just have to take back everything I've just said!

Leah, why are you shouting at me? You want me to agree, or just do something about it?

November 20, 2006 11:20 PM  
Blogger Independent Frum Thinker said...

Great point!

November 21, 2006 12:05 AM  
Blogger Bonnie B said...

I wonder if the books of today are the answer to the fairy tales of yesterday-- when all mother's died, fathers remarried horrible women and poor parents sent their kids out into the woods with only scraps of bread and hoped they never returned? Fairy tales are definitely filled with disfunctional-- heck darn right mean-- adults. So I suggest we doa little twist and have the kids of today's books housed with the Evil Queen-- I'd definitely read that one.

November 21, 2006 11:23 AM  
Blogger Lakewood Venter said...

Excellent! I have had these exact thoughts on many occasions as I read these books to my children!

David, perhaps it's time for you (or me) to write some reality based story lines for our dear kids!

November 21, 2006 2:38 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

I think "perfect" is even overrated. We can never be. I tell mine to just strive to be the very best they can be. And that is good enough for me.

November 21, 2006 2:41 PM  
Blogger Open Up! said...

while adults are never perfect and should not be portrayed as thus i still think it sets a good example for what kids should strive for when they become adults...i don't think the unruly kids should be "punished" for their ways i think they should be guided and taught to learn from their mistakes in order to better themselves..and remind them that even as adults we're all working to be better people :)

November 21, 2006 3:36 PM  
Blogger Open Up! said...

thus=such

November 21, 2006 3:37 PM  
Blogger Moiy-rah said...

Comming to you from a kids point of view:

I teach 4-5 year olds in a jewish school. I read them books, and i can guarantee you that they dont think twice about the story line, unless you make them think. Unless you ask them a reading comprehention question, the story will fly right over their heads.

As adults we get 'agitated' by these stories cuz they are so politically correct, but to children, they need to see the world as black and white. Books to them have to be clear. They dont have abstract thinking at a young age and to them parents are supposed to be perfect people who dont do anything aside from stay home and wait for them to return from school.

To small children, 'sometimes', is a hard concept. Its all or nothing.

I was teaching parshas toldos today, and i drew on the board a smiling eisav. The girls in my class were very upset... Eisav should have a mean frown on his face, not a smile.

I tried to expain to them that eisav wasnt upset at anyone, but they have a hard time understanding that a bad person could be happy.

Basically... i ran away with my thoughts, but David comming back to you post...

with regards to books i think the charactors should be perfect. At least let kids think that the world is perfect. Why wake them up to the harsh reality? let them be kids. additionally kids learn by example. At least let the example be an almost perfect one.

Think of the Berenstein bears, by our good friends Stan and Jan. (who came first, stan or jan?) Papa bear is such a yokel. He cant do anyting right and we just laugh at him. Why would kids wanna look up to papa bear?

...and i hope you get my point

.

-moiy

November 21, 2006 7:18 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Tuesday...
Very true as well.
The great master of whimsical tales with messages hidden in them was Dr. Seuss...
What an imagination..

Pearl...
Oh..I didnt realize you write childrens books.
So much fun!

LV...
Thanks
Well I have the title already..

Stacey...
exactly...As best as we can be is the true definition of perfect...

Open...
Well said.
Its not easy...But I think showing that side of adulthood is not a bad thing..

Moiy...
Are you a member of the Vast BAC (Big Adult Conspiracy)?
Yes..I guess for 4-5 year old it would be best to keep that image intact...but when they get a little older they realize that ..Hey...those perfect people are very imperfect and are capable of the same things kids are..

November 21, 2006 9:13 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Moiy....
I always looked up at papa bear...I still do...
He's my role model..

and Stan came first..followed by Jan..and Randall a distant third...by the time he came..the book had already been published..

November 21, 2006 9:16 PM  
Blogger tuesdaywishes said...

TP- I wasn't shouting (though I might if you keep misspelling my name). I know you've done work on kid's books and am hoping you can do some frum ones with a sense of adventure. Good Luck!

November 21, 2006 9:37 PM  
Blogger workingema said...

Hooowwever- children learn by example...
So, no matter how many books you'll read them, they'll still know that a Tatti and Mommy can still scream (maybe it's when the book is closed, so no one can hear them) and that they're not always perfect. They might think that storybook parents are perfect, but I think they'll realize that real-live parents are... well.. not AS perfect.

November 21, 2006 11:14 PM  
Blogger workingema said...

I just read Moiy's post- and I agree... children DO need more of black and white, and as to what you said- david- about when they grow up- by then they should know and realize what books and real life are about..

November 21, 2006 11:16 PM  
Blogger Moiy-rah said...

david

at the berenstein bear family reunion of '94 i actually heard from Graps and Gran(who are still eating chocolate chip cookies with milk) that randall is a distant third cousin.

and when kids pass the age of 4-6 they definitly shouldnt be reading Dina D. anymore. They should be reading higher quality literature...... such as Car and Driver or the back of a ceriel box.

And if you think Dina D gets under your skin--- dont even bother listening to the Mighty Mitzva Kids. Kill youself first. They should use it in GB-Cuba.

-moiy

November 22, 2006 12:37 AM  
Blogger Pragmatician said...

good point, although the books you mention are for very young children, children that expect that.
Besides what lesson would would the book impart if the parents misbehaved. This is only useful when one is a parent and until then the 5 year old will long have forgotten the story.

I recommend the Berenstein Bears collection as indeed even the parents make mistakes and apologize(!!) when necessary.

November 22, 2006 10:50 AM  
Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

As e.o said great point. I personally like the secular books better than a lot of the Jewish ones. Curious George is one of my daughter's favorites. She likes the secular ones better too. Nothing like the Berenstein Bears they teach better moral lessons than some Jewish books. The thing is that even Berenstein Bears was written by adults and seems to be too picture perfect. Just wait to see the new upcoming book by Poochie...

November 22, 2006 12:25 PM  
Blogger kasamba said...

Thank G-d I act in a way that esures that my kids know how imperfect adults are!

November 22, 2006 3:10 PM  
Blogger anonym00kie said...

so..
i realyl want to comment..
but i havent read kids books in yeaaaaaaars
and frankly i dont remember them :)
but..
from what im hearing here.. i would have to agree with moiy-rah.

why shouldnt books have positive inspirational messages? parents arent perfect but parents shold be perfect! and what we take for granted (all those simple lessons and messages found in books) are new to their little brains. its boring and predictable to us, its exciting and new to them.
and it has lots of pictuers and pretty colors!!
i wonder .. what kind of a kid would want to read a book about an alcoholic mom and a verbally abusive dad, living on welfare, bickering and fighting constantly, slaving to put food on the table? :)

and just a a side note.. im SURE this has nothing to do with jewish or secular books..

November 22, 2006 6:10 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

workingema....
Thats exactly it... Thats why they become confused when they see that theyve been fed lies about adults..

Moy...
I still read Dina D... (its my second favorites..after shakespeare)..

Prag...
see...thats the lesson...
Not that we have to be perfect..but rather that we have to be as best asd we can and when we're not we should apologize and try again..

swfm...
ooh cant wait...!

kas...
LOL...

mooks...
Ok... I didnt mean it that literally..
The gust of this post is...is it important for parents to put a facade of perfection..and never to admit faults to children...?
Until what age is that important to do?

November 22, 2006 8:32 PM  
Blogger Lady Delish said...

Tell us your moms secret you are such a tease

November 22, 2006 10:16 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

lady....
oh noooooo that goes with me to the grave...

November 23, 2006 10:19 AM  
Blogger It's All Good Now said...

Great post, as usual. However, I think children take what they read and see how it fits into their existing lives. Just as the quickly realize that they are not as bad as the children they read about, so too do they realize that their parents are not as perfect as the parents in the book. On the other hand, my comment makes me wonder if this is not a very damaging prospect - children thinking of themselves as better and of their parents as worse. HHHHMMMMMM..... perhaps it's time to resort to fictional characters and cartoons???

November 23, 2006 3:29 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

yup I agree....
when I was growing up ..reading was an escape from reality..not a return to an altered reality...

November 24, 2006 9:25 AM  

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