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Fairy Tales

by Stephen Lautens


May 9, 2003

What do you do when the truth is stranger than fairly tales?

A distinguished American professor and educational expert has just published a study of how the books used to teach our children have been hijacked by the terminally sensitive and politically goofy. Dr. Diane Ravitch’s new book, The Language Police, looks at how the stuff kids are given to read in school has been stripped of everything by various wacko pressure groups.

Dr. Ravitch found examples of children’s books and programs that were pulled out of schools because they were somehow deemed offensive by the nuts on the left or the nuts on the right – or just those well-meaning, soft-headed people in the middle who worry that children will grow up to be psychopaths because they once ate sugared cereal.

For example, Dr. Ravitch found stories about mountains that were deemed insensitive to people who lived where it was flat, or about dolphins that were considered insensitive to people who didn't live near the ocean. She also found stories that were rejected because some school boards decided to attack all stereotypes. In their wisdom they decided to absolutely never show old people as frail, Irish people as cops or black people as athletes. These things of course never happen in the real world. After all, who can forget that great Irish Olympic runner – Jesse O’Wens?

One school board removed all references to dinosaurs, because they didn't want to suggest that they believed in anything as far fetched as evolution. I guess that field trip to the museum or Drumheller’s Dinosaur Valley is right out, unless you explain to half the class that the bones really belonged to very big dogs, buried by even bigger dogs.

So here's a story I wrote that I hope can be a guide to all those who are afraid of offending anyone -

* * *

There once was a bear. It (for we don't know if it was a he or a she, although either would be equally valid) was neither a little bear nor a big bear. It ate just the right amount of all the proper food groups so that it was appropriately sized for its particular age, although we should point out that there is nothing wrong with differently shaped bodies, and poor body image is the result of a superficial society and a product-driven media.

On second thought, it may not even have been a bear at all, although it was probably a mammal, which is not to say that there is anything wrong with fish, birds or reptiles either. They should each respect and delight in their own uniqueness - even the stinkbug, which should now be referred to as an "insect of a different odour". But for argument’s sake, we'll call it a bear.

The bear had a friend. We're not even going to guess at what the friend was. We've been down that road before and it got us nothing but grief – don't go there. You'll have to use your imagination. Those of you without an imagination, feel free to pull out your video games.

So the bear-like mammal of indeterminate size and its nondescript friend looked for something to do, but not finding anything that was gender and species neutral, respectful of the environment and inoffensive to anyone belonging to a different social or economic class, they could only sit on a log. Then an education consultant came by. So they ate him.

And with a little Ritalin they lived happily ever after.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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