Monday, June 2, 2008
I lunched with a friend today who reports that her 8 year old isn't allowed to read fairy tales at school. She adds that he's one of few in his class whose parents permit him to read them at home. Apparently grade school PTAs are rampant with vigilante censors of fantasy written by "un-PC" authors like Brothers Grimm. Approved versions of stories have been sanitized. Riding Hood gives her bread to Wolf, who after all is homeless and hungry. Rumpelstilskin learns to spin wool himself and celebrates being a Little Person.
Of course, we all want to do right by our kids, but by wite-outing darkness from tales that have appealed to generations of children, aren't we underestimating our kids, even undermining their ability to work out their fears. (Yes, Good Parents, every Child, no matter how Coddled, has fears.) When you were read Hansel and Gretel as a kid, you were probably glad when the witch went into the oven. And while the image might have been scary, it was reassuring to learn that children aren't powerless against wicked folks bigger than they are.
Allan Wolk (Toad) points out (in a tweet today) that "it's hard to find classic fairy tales- most preschooler stuff is branded: Dora, Princesses, Thomas, Diego, etc."
But I think we owe our kids fairy tales, and not just the branded, marzipan versions, for the sake of their imagination, their self-esteem...perhaps even the creative capacity of our future workforce.
Who was it who said, "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Oh, yeah. That Giant, Albert Einstein.