Wednesday, July 13, 2005


I've been reading Michael O'Brien's A Landscape with Dragons because it was recommended on a homeschool list; it contains a lengthy list of books that the author considers OK for kids to read. We own many of them, and have read some. Generally, they are very wholesome stories, probably nothing written within the last 30 years.

His thesis is that if an author portrays dragons (and snakes) as anything other than malevolent, the author is trying to corrupt children's minds, and turn them into pagans. (It was written pre-Harry Potter, but I'm sure he'd condemn those books as well.) On this basis, some great female writers are right out--Patricia Wrede, LeGuin, L'Engel. (He also critiques Disney movies as blatently anti-Christian; ho hum, how original.)

I can't accept the idea that some symbols are inherently evil.

From a review on a Christian site:

What happens if parents reflexively label a multitude of fantasy books as "bad" or "satanic" and forbid their children to read them? Children aren't stupid, and they aren't going to stay ten forever, either. Sooner or later they're going to notice that their fantasy-reading friends aren't turning into satanists or neopagans. They may even read some of the forbidden books for themselves, and realize that there's really nothing harmful in them. If the parents have made a big moral issue out of the books, they'll be discredited, and not just on literary matters. The children may very well think, "If being a Christian means thinking that innocuous books are secretly evil, maybe being a Christian isn't so smart." And they'll be far less likely to listen to their parents, because they've seen how faulty their parents' judgment can be. The scars from such an upbringing can last a long time and keep people very far from the faith.

What a great understanding. If being a Christian means thinking that innocuous books are secretly evil, maybe being a Christian isn't so smart. Therein lies the root of much adolescent rebellion; how are you going to respond when your kids realize that you lied to them?

I am long past the point of being able to know the content of everything The Girl reads. I suspect, but haven't inspected it to be sure, that some of the fantasy she's inhaled contains s-e-x. Although I occasionally recommend books to her, I have never forbidden her from reading a particular book (and yes, in many cases you CAN judge a book by its [lurid] cover).

At 10, probably a lot of stuff in the young adult section of the library is beyond her. But far better to help and allow our kids to develop and apply their own judgment, than to stunt their exposure through the application of arbitrary rules like, "Dragons must be shown as evil." If she came home with "The Rainbow Party" would I be alarmed, would I intercede? Yes! But while I can believe that it's wrong to let a 10 year old read books about peers having oral sex parties, I won't apply a blanket rule that all dragons must be portrayed as bad.

You could argue that allowing free access to books is in opposition to what I previously wrote about letting kids watch TV. I'm able to make a distinction among various media. (And for the record, I don't believe watching TV is bad; there's just many better things to do with your time and your mind. Besides, we don't forbid the kids from watching. We presented choices to them in such a way that they just aren't as interested in TV as in other activities.)


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