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Thread: kids, old literature, & political correctness

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    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    kids, old literature, & political correctness

    So...the title might be a little misleading (also am on the fone, so excuse the lack of proper grammar, punctuation & spelling)...but i read alot of older books with the kids--little house on the prairie, dr doolittle, etc... and dang, i never realized how un-pc they were! I'm pretty sure i would have remembered the more obvious parts (like mark twain's writings) but, i'm wondering if the versions i read as a kid were cleaned up a bit?

    Anyhoo....in this situation, if it doesnt change the story line or tone, do you clean it up a bit or gloss over it? Or, do you read it as is and use it as a teachable moment? Because, while i prefer the latter, sometimes (like bedtime) its just an awkward time...and sometimes, i'm not sure if they are equipped to understand the context or why something would be written in a certain way when that is clealy not "right" and think it distracts and detracts from the larger story (but, sometimes they are).

    What are some ways to approach this? And at what ages?

    ...just looking for different opinions
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
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    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
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    Grey Warden Rowanwood's Avatar
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    Re: kids, old literature, & political correctness

    I honestly thing I'd just read a different story until they are old enough to get it...and that would depend on the kid.

    You're welcome for the total lack of help.

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    Silver Member Tylluan Penry's Avatar
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    Re: kids, old literature, & political correctness

    Anything I found un-PC when my children were young, I just stopped the story and we talked about how perhaps things would be different nowadays.
    Of course, it took aaaages to finish a story, but still....
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    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: kids, old literature, & political correctness

    If I have the original story then that is what I would read without changing anything. I personally think it wrong to correct things to make them politically correct today when those ethics, morality, and word usage didn't apply to the time frame the things were written. We encourage critical thinking but then remove the items through pc police which I think removes the notion of critical thinking regardless of age.

    Sad part is its not just stories that are changed. I've seen historical speeches changed because modern society doesn't like what is omitted or implied. Yet the speech then becomes not the historical speech that changed a period of time. One recently I saw was Patrick Henry's speech about "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their (Party) country!" that was changed to make it all good people. When I retired there was another Chief who retired and our Executive Officer changed his plaque as the speech he wanted read didn't meet her ethics so she changed a historical speech to make it politically correct. I know it pissed him off because the speech meant a lot to him and for her to change it because she didn't like it was wrong. She didn't like it because it was a Kennedy speech that referred to men only and she though that wrong for the then current military.

    - - - Updated - - -

    As an added though would you stop a classic movie or play your watching because it has politically incorrect things? Consider Shakespeare for instance, there is a lot that is politically incorrect today. The Wizard of Oz has a lot of non-pc stuff today but would you change the classic or forbid your children from watching or hearing it?

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    Copper Member Rick's Avatar
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    Re: kids, old literature, & political correctness

    My favorite story books as a very small child? Little Black Sambo, and Brer Rabbit (from Uncle Remus). Even though "black" was in the title, in the story Sambo and his family were from India; I didn't care. A small child outwitted ferocious tigers, and the tigers looked hilarious wearing Sambo's clothes, and it served them right being turned into tiger butter cuz they were so mean. Brer Rabbit was a rascal and a rapscallion, and I loved him. He was brilliant. Again, no thoughts one might associate with racism went through my innocent little head. Because children have innocent hearts and minds, and don't understand such notions as racism until they are taught to understand. Children (who are treated kindly, anyway) are innately kind to everyone. Before beginning, remind them that things in the 'old days' weren't the same as today. Then read the story. Encourage them to ask about anything they don't understand (hopefully, that's something they are secure in, anyway). If a story feels iffy, skip it for later, maybe. But for my two cents, don't over think it. Kids are smart, they know a story is just a story.
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  6. #6
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: kids, old literature, & political correctness

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    As an added though would you stop a classic movie or play your watching because it has politically incorrect things? Consider Shakespeare for instance, there is a lot that is politically incorrect today. The Wizard of Oz has a lot of non-pc stuff today but would you change the classic or forbid your children from watching or hearing it?
    Maybe I explained this poorly (I was @ gymnastics lessons on my phone)...

    I'd never forbid my kids from reading anything (or from watching a movie based on a book, or from watching most movies on an age appropriate basis)...actually, I'm pretty sure I'm be way more lenient with what my kids can read than what they can watch (which is how I was raised). But, I'm also assuming that by the time they can read and plow through certain material on their own, they can handle it--I read Faulkner, and The Color Purple, and The Confessions of Nat Turner in middle school because I had a mother that required me to read at least one book off the ALA's banned book list every week during the summer (I've been reading at about 125 (papberback-sized) pages an hour since I was a kid). Honestly, with the exception two of his comedies and some of his poetry, I hate Shakespeare...but I also figure that by the time they can read Shakespeare, they'd be able to understand the historical context...or Les Miserables, or Hemingway, etc.

    But...my kids are pre-k and first grade, and we are reading stuff that is a couple years ahead of their reading skills--within their grasp, but not necessarily within their full comprehension. I fully believe in not lying to my kids--Chickadee knows where babies come from and how they get there and even (very vaguely) that there are ways to prevent them from getting there, and even what a period is, etc. Its not that this isn't too sensitive of a topic...its more that...well...topics like this either mean we take our 20 minutes of bedtime reading and turn it into an hour (or longer) discussion (which has happened more than once already).

    I'm one of those people that love books. Love them. Adore them. I've only a few times met a book I didn't finish (and I can remember every single book, it is that rare), and only twice started a series I didn't see to the end. I have tattered, old, dog-eared, falling apart (should really be tossed) books, in boxes, like long lost museum stock, only because I find the idea of throwing a book away to be as bad a burning one. I have books that I felt compelled to buy (at the thrift store or church bazaar), simply because I thought they were awful and didn't want someone else to pick them up (this one, specifically), but then couldn't get myself to get rid of it, because that's book abuse (its not the book's fault that the author is flawed!) (the hubby went behind my back to get rid of it, lol). Seriously...my book addiction is that bad.

    So, when I say that I've considered *skipping* part of a book, or changing it, its not something I'm considering at whim...its just that I don't think its necessarily conducive for a 5 and 6 year old to be having complex history discussions when they are supposed to be catching their zzzzzzzzzzzzzz's. And, I'm not sure that, developmentally, its necessary for them. Like...I just want them to like the story that counts, I don't want to turn every night into history lesson time (we have a story book specifically for that purpose already!). I'm just sort of at the point where reading the story and skipping the racially or whatever charged commentary (because only rarely is it contributory to the story), so that they can enjoy the story without it becoming a lecture sounds like a good idea (for which I feel vaguely guilty for doing a disservice to history)...and then letting them rediscover that on their own when they are able to read it themselves, and discussing it then.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

  7. #7
    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: kids, old literature, & political correctness

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    Maybe I explained this poorly (I was @ gymnastics lessons on my phone)...
    Probably more on my end with all the pain pills I've been sucking down today and prior this week. That coupled to the fact I have a horrible problem of reading into things vice just reading things. Sorry part of the signals analyst training and practice I did through most of my Naval Career.

    I'd never forbid my kids from reading anything. But, I'm also assuming that by the time they can read and plow through certain material on their own, they can handle it--I read Faulkner, and The Color Purple, and The Confessions of Nat Turner in middle school because I had a mother that required me to read at least one book off the ALA's banned book list every week during the summer (I've been reading at about 125 (papberback-sized) pages an hour since I was a kid). Honestly, with the exception two of his comedies and some of his poetry, I hate Shakespeare...and I also figure that by the time they can read Shakespeare, they'd be able to understand the historical context...or Les Miserables, or Hemingway, etc.
    I can appreciate that. I was always encouraged to read anything that I got my hands on. Granted some of it i'd rather have dental work done than try to get through it ever again. I agree about Shakespeare as well, some of his stuff I find interesting and a good read, other parts, well lets just say except for a college class I haven't touched it again.

    But...my kids are pre-k and first grade, and we are reading stuff that is a couple years ahead of their reading skills--within their grasp, but not necessarily within their full comprehension. I fully believe in not lying to my kids--Chickadee knows where babies come from and how they get there and even (very vaguely) that there are ways to prevent them from getting there, and even what a period is, etc. Its not that this isn't too sensitive of a topic...its more that...well...topics like this either mean we take our 20 minutes of bedtime reading and turn it into an hour (or longer) discussion (which has happened more than once already).
    Not sure which books your speaking of here so its sort of guessing against what I'd read to my grandchildren. Yet take the story of the Little Mermaid, my gdaughter loves the Disney story but it was a bit uncertain about telling her the story version where she turns to sea foam at the end. So it's one we haven't read but it's also one she hasn't really expressed an interest in. Yet she loves the SONG OF THE SOUTH movie Disney put out and understands, well I think she understands, the historical usage or certain words and why we don't use them today.

    I'm one of those people that love books. Love them. Adore them. I've only a few times met a book I didn't finish (and I can remember every single book, it is that rare), and only twice started a series I didn't see to the end. I have tattered, old, dog-eared, falling apart (should really be tossed) books, in boxes, like long lost museum stock, only because I find the idea of throwing a book away to be as bad a burning one. I have books that I felt compelled to buy (at the thrift store or church bazaar), simply because I thought they were awful and didn't want someone else to pick them up (this one, specifically), but then couldn't get myself to get rid of it, because that's book abuse (its not the book's fault that the author is flawed!) (the hubby went behind my back to get rid of it, lol). Seriously...my book addiction is that bad.
    I can relate to the love of books, It's a sad situation I think when you consider how many will not make it to being published today because books almost seem to be a thing of the past and no one wants to read from a book.

    So, when I say that I've considered *skipping* part of a book, or changing it, its not something I'm considering at whim...its just that I don't think its necessarily conducive for a 5 and 6 year old to be having complex history discussions when they are supposed to be catching their zzzzzzzzzzzzzz's. And, I'm not sure that, developmentally, its necessary for them. Like...I just want them to like the story that counts, I don't want to turn every night into history lesson time (we have a story book specifically for that purpose already!). I'm just sort of at the point where reading the story and skipping the racially or whatever charged commentary (because only rarely is it contributory to the story), so that they can enjoy the story without it becoming a lecture sounds like a good idea (for which I feel vaguely guilty for doing a disservice to history)...and then letting them rediscover that on their own when they are able to read it themselves, and discussing it then.
    I used to think maybe you could skip parts or change it but then I though about the author who actually wrote the work. Most carefully choose the words they select because of any number of reasons and what it conveyed to their audience. Granted some things have not withstood the passage of time and seem wrong by today's standards. Yet if we respect the purpose of the book and the story that is being told I think we have to keep the old words. It's like Edgar Rice Burroughs used many despariging words for blacks in his works yet to try and remove them really does a dis-service to his story and his times. Yet I also ponder as a writer do I want the works I do today to be torn apart and changed because the ethics and morality of society will change in the future? My words, the current and energy of my writing will reflect the energy of my times, whether it be good or bad which is what those earlier writers have passed to us.

    I think many times we hang upon words or situations in a story that our children never notice for they cling to the greater story being told to them. So certain words, concepts, etc will be passed right over unless we do something to make them take notice of it. It's usually the stress of my own voice that makes them trigger on a phrase or though not the words themselves. Granted somethings simply do not belong in books aimed at certain age groups and we probably do need to be proactive in ensuring they do not find their way into them. But in the end I suppose most of it will revolve about what type of books and stories are being read to the children.

    Sorry if this makes no sense, it seems right in my head but not sure it is coming out right on the cyber page.

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    Cannibal Rights Activist Ophidia's Avatar
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    Re: kids, old literature, & political correctness

    For bedtimes, I think I'd stick to more modern stuff. Or books you know are relatively safe, like a chapter of The Princess Bride or The Never-Ending Story. Maybe even make up stories, or build them from fairy tales & folklore. Leave the heavier, more provocative lit for earlier in the day.

    I'm not a great example - my mother stuck Stephen King in my hands when I was 7.
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    Re: kids, old literature, & political correctness

    I tend to agree with Perz... if it's the conversations and extending out bed time that you're worried about, I'd keep those books for some reading earlier in the day, or perhaps start earlier.

    As for whether it's appropriate or not... I'm the kid who was reading Flowers in the Attic on my own, at about eight. I was reading books to my mum at four, rather than the other way around. And like Perzephone, Stephen King was a favourite author in primary school. If I can grasp and cope with incest at eight, I'm fairly certain a well read six year old can figure out some slavery and racism comments. Kids understand and grasp a lot more than we give them credit for. I don't think that sanitizing things does them any favors.

    (I'm also the person who will answer my three year old nephew's questions with honest and full answers. He usually gets it. And if he doesn't, he stops the 'why' and changes the subject.)

    But I agree there's a time and place for those discussions. If bedtime is a worry, chose another book and read those at another time.

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    Silver Member Tylluan Penry's Avatar
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    Re: kids, old literature, & political correctness

    I think Roald Dahl hit the nail on the head when he said that children cope with far more than we realise... and he never had a problem with happy or unhappy endings.

    Regarding films... I might not stop the film in the middle to explain something, but my family were always in the habit of discussing them afterwards. And not just for Non PC content, but even for things like casting, dialogue and editing.

    I love books and films. And I prefer reading the real version to a child and not some bowdlerised one. Sometimes my versions are worse than the original... as anyone who has ever seen me reading Room on the Broom (complete with hidden, finger puppet dragon) can testify...
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