Children Are Unfeeling Sociopaths

At Obit Magazine, Joyce Gemperlein ponders a mystery of classic juvenile literature: Why doesn’t plucky girl detective Nancy Drew seem to care that her mother has died and abandoned her to a life of nearly constant tribulation and physical danger? 

I realize now, though I didn’t as a child reader, that Nancy never mourns for her mother or has what we now call “issues” of being abandoned through death. She does not, a la Harry Potter, a modern parentless protagonist, yearn for her mother or imagine that she sees her. 

“Mourning can be sentimental and there’s no place for sentimentality in a child’s life. Children are too young to appreciate the business of sentimentality. That’s why The Giving Tree is an adult book, not a kids’ book. That’s why The Velveteen Rabbit is an adult book, not a kids’ book. I go crazy,” says [University of Tennessee communications prof Jinx Stapleton] Watson, “when I see teachers and librarians and parents pushing those books on kids.”  

She argues that children just don’t get the beautiful sadness that adults see in the rabbit’s plight. 

The children “sit there wondering, ‘What the h---?’” Watson says.

Even children who share tears after the death of the spider hero in Charlotte’s Web don’t mourn her death. “They move on,” says Watson. 

Watson thinks that the way children grasp a parent’s death in literature hasn’t changed over the years. She does, however, believe that our culture has changed and that’s why we read the old Nancy Drew mysteries now and wonder “how come no tears for her old mom?” 

“Why doesn’t Nancy mourn? No time! She’s an action girl. She’s got a life to live,” says Watson.

That Harry Potter’s moping around didn’t prevent those books from selling many copies would seem to put a hole in the professor’s logic. (Though it’s true that a big part of the readership consisted of age-appropriateness-flouting grownups.) It’s also worth noting that Harry can afford self-pity because the practical problems we would usually associate with having absent or useless parents – penury, social isolation, lack of access to school and career opportunities, impaired moral development – are solved almost as soon as the story starts, after which point Harry is rich, popular and consistently fast-tracked to success. 

But it’s true that the publishing titan Edward Stratemeyer (who in one way or another minimized the parental involvement throughout his impressive catalogue of young adult series) understood the audience’s impatience with emotional depth. 

There’s a kind of autism at work in good storytelling that is not so easy to pull off. Movie producers are always talking about relatability and character arcs and establishing rooting interest and so forth, and the reason for that seems pretty obvious: If you lack the ability to invent jokes and insane action and suspense and all the other things that bring people out to the theater, characterological  mumbo jumbo is a good way of keeping the conversation on a topic you can control. What gets people interested in orphans or waifs or wild teenagers is not sentimental attachment. It's wish fulfillment based on wild situations and awesome accoutrements. In the end, the audience roots for whoever has the best hair. 

They showed us a movie of the Velveteen Rabbit when I was in first or second grade, and while I was – just as Watson says – not terribly interested in the love story between the boy and the stuffed animal or the magically transformed rabbit or whatever it was, there was one aspect of the story that was fascinating: the idea that a stuffed toy could be so infected with deadly germs that it had to be incinerated. That stuck with me. 

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  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Children Are Unfeeling Sociopaths

    Duh. Was this ever in question?

    [University of Tennessee communications prof Jinx Stapleton] Watson

    Really? Jinx? No wonder she is concerned about children's ability to lead normal lives with no true parents.

    She does, however, believe that our culture has changed and that's why we read the old Nancy Drew mysteries now and wonder "how come no tears for her old mom?"

    Because if kids are young enough when it happens, they don't know that they're supposed to miss anyone. See also: Adoption.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Case and point: My grandfather died when my father was 5 years old. He has always said he didn't really miss him because he never really knew him.

  • ||

    Children Are Unfeeling Sociopaths

    Duh. Was this ever in question?

    Not to any parent with even minimal comprehension skills who was woken up at 3 am for some bullshit reason.

  • Hell's Librarian||

    In my house, these wake up calls always start with "MOM!!!!!!!!!!!!" And then the adrenaline rush from knowing something horrible is about to happen to your precious, precious child hits, making you feel nauseated and your heart pound. So you go rushing off willy-nilly to see who or what is killing Precious. Only to find she's thirsty and wants a glass of water.

  • ||

    Hey! That water was crucial to my survival, ok! If I didn't get a drink in the next 5 seconds, I swear my mouth was going to dry up and kill me.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Nancy Drew is a classic case of the Electra syndrome. She wants to replace Mom and have Daddy all to hersefl. I've never read the books, but I understand that Nancy throws the most fashionable dinner parties in Melonville, or wherever it is she lives, hosting the parties with Daddy while the devoted housekeeper, whoever she is, handles all the heavy lifting.

    As for the heartlessness of kids, not all kids react alike to the death of a parent/grandparent/sibling at an early age. Some move on almost immediately, while others are never the same.

  • Pro Libertate||

    This is total nonsense. All Nancy wanted was to carry both Frank and Joe's babies. At the same time.

  • ||

    DON'T TALK SHIT ABOUT THE HARDY BOYS

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, they're pure, like Tebow. It's Nancy's cruel lust that's the problem. Fortunately, Tony and Chet are not so pure.

  • fish||

    "Chet"! Now there's a name that screams "3 to 5".

  • Pro Libertate||

    I was a Hardy Boys fan as a wee lad. Read many of their books.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I read them but I don't remember much. Now if you asked me about the Vulture or the Mole Man or any other one-off baddie from Marvel Comics it would a different story.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It was pretty much those and science fiction at that age (5 - 8ish). With some actual younger kids' books tossed in.

  • BakedPenguin||

    "I'm getting a raging clue"

  • ||

    That's the Hardly Boys, dumbass.

  • ||

    BP gets a hardon for the Hardy Boys?

  • ||

    Hardly.

  • BakedPenguin||

    It's leading me here.

  • Killazontherun||

    Nancy Drew is a classic case of the Electra syndrome. She wants to replace Mom and have Daddy all to hersefl.

    You're retarded. Nancy Drew had no psuedo-scientific psychological motivations. She was a character in a story.

  • LarryA||

    And besides, back then she didn't have the benefit of professional counseling and grief management by empathetic therapists, who today flock around anyone who stubs a toe.

  • o3||

    and some even have doctorates in theology

  • nicole||

    there was one aspect of the story that was fascinating: the idea that a stuffed toy could be so infected with deadly germs that it had to be incinerated. That stuck with me.

    This was my exact experience of The Velveteen Rabbit, read (and not enjoyed) as a child.

  • CE||

    Couldn't they have just taken it for a swim in a bucket of bleach?

  • Zeb||

    Or just left it in the sun for a few days.

  • ||

    They didn't have any of your newfangled inventions like the sun back then. They went about during the day by moonlight, and liked it dammit!

  • Untermensch||

    Sounds super familiar to me as well.

  • Untermensch||

    Left me scared to death of scarlet fever…

  • nicole||

    Oh yeah. I was totally freaked out.

  • Hell's Librarian||

    I have to admit I fell for the ending of The Velveteen Rabbit in that I felt sad for his demise, but I also have to admit that part made me laugh.

  • Evil Otto||

    Just be happy they didn't show you Watership Down in first grade, Tim.

    "The fields, they're covered in blood!"

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Now that's a kids film. Never too early to instill a distrust of authority.

  • ||

    Please tell me you read it first. Seeing the film first is like watching Ralph Bakshi's Fellowship of the Ring before reading Tolkien's book.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I read it. But I still wasn't prepared for the film. Kind of like I wasn't ready for John Hurt's demise in Alien when I was 12.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    It's also amazing how scary Young Frankenstein is when you're 5.

  • ||

    Scary hilarious, you mean.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I wasn't quite ready for it. I had nightmares that Peter Boyle was outside my window singing Puttin' on the Ritz.

  • Killazontherun||

    Every time I watch Young Frankenstein a politician dies. Nixon and Daniel Patrick Moynihan died on the same days I chose to re-watch it.

  • SugarFree||

    Plz watch it every day.

  • AlmightyJB||

    You need to have that on daily dude. Plus you get to watch Terri Garr "roll in da hay".

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Sweet mystery of life...

  • Killazontherun||

    You know, it has been awhile. I watch a movie with my pals most Friday nights when the wife is working. We have Pitch Black and a movie up after that, but my choice comes again in two weeks. Friday, two Fridays from now, prepare for the death of a politician.

  • ||

    Yeah, I thought the Simpsons' Halloween episodes were scary, as well as the X-Files (though X-Files is obviously a bit scarier, my 2-yr-older brother wasn't scared at all; I was 6 or 7, he was 8 or 9). The episode with Bart and the zombies had me waking up at night.

  • ||

    I saw both those movies before reading the books.

  • Brett L||

    If you haven't seen Bakshi's American Pop, do yourself the favor.

  • SugarFree||

    Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of NIMH, escapees from a faceless government seek to leave behind dependence on their oppressors and live free.

  • ||

    I fucking love that book. The movie wasn't bad, either. Shit, now I'm having children's book flashback. Roald Dahl, here I come!

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Roald Dahl is a fucking genius.

  • Proprietist||

    I heard "The Twits" is coming out as a movie. That was always my favorite of his...

  • SugarFree||

    My Side of the Mountain was also a favorite of mine. Must have read it a dozen times.

    Of course, you'd never get a children's book about a 12-year-old successfully running away from home published nowadays.

  • ||

    One of my great favorites was Interstellar Pig. What a fucked, cynical book that was. I loved it.

  • T||

    Jesus, but Sleator writes some fucked up shit. House of Stairs is never going to leave me.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I just discovered the Little House on the Prairie series and am reading it to my kindergarteners.
    Unfortunately, I'd been turned off by the maudlin TV version. But the books are very, very good.

  • amelia||

    So awesome.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    I still remember that movie. I think the first time I saw it I was 6 or 7.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    that is one of the few movies I can recall as a child. To date, it brings up emotional experiences I'm not sure I was prepared for.

  • ||

    I read Bridge to Tarabithia in 5th grade. A sad, sad book. Made me cry.

  • SugarFree||

    The death of her mother is a powerful signal to children in that it signifies a freedom of action. No mother to object to her sleuthing, a father who is too busy to oversee her sleuthing (and occasionally provides sleuthing opportunities) and a car for freedom and ease of movement.

    Nancy Drew is self-sufficient, something children like to believe about themselves.

  • wareagle||

    Nancy Drew is self-sufficient, something children like to believe about themselves.

    which is exactly why and her readers must be scrutinized and, if possible, othered in some fashion. Can you imagine if all kids grew up believing they were self-sufficient?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I keep worrying about the self-esteem of the Scooby Doo gang, what with all those adults calling them dirty rotten kids.

  • Hell's Librarian||

    Nah, they were "meddling kids."

  • amelia||

    This is exactly it. When I read books about kids whose parents were dead, I was just grooving on the fact of their autonomy the whole time. Nevertheless, I preferred Trixie Belden, who had two parents who occasionally made appearances in the stories, to Nancy Drew. But Trixie's folks never interfered with her detective work.

  • fish||

    None of this is as disturbing as the fact that there is an "Obit" magazine.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    (Goes to site)

    Strikes me as a way to give the appearance of more intellectual heft to what is basically ramblings about psychology and history. "It's more important because they're dead!"

  • sloopyinca||

    My son shot and killed a bird with his BB Gun last weekend. My daughter was visibly upset about it immediately afterward and then again the next day when I brought it up.

    Question: is she now becoming a woman because it upset her? Or is she the exceptional child that shows emotion?
    Personally, I attribute it to her being female, since females don't deal as well as men do in emotional situations. Or in any situation, now that I think about it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I shot and killed a mockingbird with a BB gun. It was at very long range, and I didn't mean to kill it, but after I did, I could hear Gregory Peck lecturing me.

  • ||

    Mockingbirds are little fuckers, it probably deserved it.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    My father paid me to shoot starlings.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Now that I think of it, that probably qualified as disallowable under the new DOL guidelines for chores.

  • A Serious Man||

    That's like shooting a black man. You really are a libertarian, aren't you?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I didn't even know it was a mockingbird! Until my cousins said, "I don't think you're supposed to shoot those."

  • SugarFree||

    If sociopathy is a lack of boundaries, and children are boundaryless, she wasn't upset that a bird died so much as upset that her brother destroyed a part of her that she valued.

  • ||

    I thought sociopathy was...you.

  • ||

    I hope you forced your son to drink the bird's blood and then cook it.

    You keep what you kill.

  • CE||

    That also explains why the Brady kids never spent any time mourning/missing/visiting their deceased/divorced/runaway biological parents.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Who?

  • Marshall Gill||

    Who?

    Greg, Marcia, Jan, Peter, Cindy and Bobby, who the fuck else? What planet are you from?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Don't be absurd. I'm an American; I know the Bradys. My question was about these biological parents you refer to.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I thought the kids spontaneously grew out of the shag carpet.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Alice and Sam were the biological parents, of course.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I smell a screenplay

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    You know, the missing mother and father that, as best as I can recall, never were talked about.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Who?

  • ||

    iirc, the brady bunch was the first show on teevee to depict the husband and wife occupying the same bed.

    heck, many scenes are of them IN bed.

    but never fornicating. she was too worn out from schtupping greg in the attic to fuck her husband apparently

  • BakedPenguin||

    Ozzie & Harriet were shown in the same bed, since they were actually married IRL.

  • fish||

    It is my understanding that Mike Brady wasn't upset by this state of affairs at all.

  • A Serious Man||

    Heh, have you seen the parody Brady Bunch movies they did in the 90s with Gary Cole and Shelley Long as Mike and Carol?

    It is strongly implied that Carol's first husband was the Professor from Gilligan's Island while Mike was married to Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Plausible.

  • Raymond Luxury Yach-t||

    Still heartbroken because the hunters killed Bambi's mom. I haven't moved on.

  • ||

    That fucking anti-Second-Amendment screed?

  • Something Pithy||

    My brother won't let his daughters watch Bambi, because of that little tidbit there. He is an avid hunter and thinks that the movie will make them not want to be hunters, too.

  • ||

    Of course kids are sociopaths. Just look at the Cultural Revolution. Heinous acts of torture and murder were inflicted by little kids over a period of years, because they thought it was fun and they could get away with it.

  • ||

    The whole point of parenting is to convince kids that being a tyrannical sociopath, while fun at first, gets old when everyone else dogpiles in on that action and do it to you, and people start shunning you.

    Faking empathy is the first step toward adulthood.

  • Zeb||

    Perhaps I was a sensitive child, but I got the sentimentality and emotion of the Velveteen Rabbit when my mom read it to me as a fairly young child. I also cried at Where The Red Fern Grows.

  • ||

    I also cried at Where The Red Fern Grows.

    Everybody cried at that!

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Huh, I guess I'm a sociopath too then. All I remember is boredom.

  • ||

    i've never heard of it. but if you don't cry at the end of old yeller, clearly you are a sociopath

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Never seen Old Yeller. I know the story though and I doubt I'd cry. I just don't think much of dogs.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Monster!

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Bah, who wants a pack of clingy, needy mutts nipping at their heels always begging for attention. I'm a cat person, their constant aloofness suits me just fine.

  • Zeb||

    Red Fern is like Old Yeller (at leaset insofar as it involves a dog dying) but sadder.

  • Restoras||

    So, what happens to the fern? Does it get pulled, sprayed with herbicide, what?

  • Zeb||

    It grows.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    It causes the body of anyone buried near it to rise from the grave and go on a killing spree.

  • Marshall Gill||

    As a child? I watched Where the Red Fern Grows the other day with my kids. All three of us cried at the end.

  • Something Pithy||

    I still cry at Where the Red Fern Grows or pretty much any book or movie or H&R article where the dog dies.

  • BarryD||

    I remember The Velveteen Rabbit. I was a kid when I heard the story, probably first read to me. I remember having strong emotions about the story, probably stronger than an adult since to a kid, a story feels like it really happens.

    Kids aren't adults. That doesn't make them unfeeling sociopaths, or even lacking in empathy.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Empathy is a learned reaction to recognition of pain in others and internalizing it. Until children start trying to look outside themselves, empathy might as well be a foreign language.

  • BarryD||

    And children start trying to look outside themselves when? Age 3, maybe 4?

    That doesn't mean that these things are fully developed, just that children are beginning to learn.

  • Pip||

    Kids as young as three can do that.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    And kids with largely absentee parents probably won't. Anyone with kids knows that just because they can do something doesn't mean they will do something. Kids are going to act purely in their own self-interest until someone else starts reigning them in.

  • BarryD||

    Right. Children raised by wolves will act like wolves, too.

    You kind of missed the point...

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    I missed the point that kids who act like wolves are, in fact, sociopaths?

  • BarryD||

    And you missed it again...

    They act like wolves because they are being taught by wolves, not because children are sociopaths.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Sociopaths are people that don't know how to integrate with society. I think the definition which ties being sociopathic to being psychotic takes it too far. Kids don't know how to behave as part of society at large until they learn/are taught to do so.

    I remember my wife telling me how my daughter, when she was six, embarrassed her in a store one day because she asked, in her nice loud six year old voice, why the other lady in the aisle was brown.

  • ||

    Sociopaths are people that don't know how to integrate with society.

    Sociopaths are people lacking empathy. They are often much too good at "integrating" with society, based on a cold look at the behavior of most political office holders.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    so-ci-o-path noun Psychiatry
    a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

    As I said, I don't agree with the psychopathic personality bit.

  • ||

    If we are talking about children's books, does anyone else remember The Giver? They pushed that book on us so fucking hard and I thought it more or less sucked. But I really, really hated being told what to read so that may have been part of it.

  • SugarFree||

    I was 23 when it was published.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    you're old. how do you feel about that?

  • ||

    42 isn't old -- anymore, for me. At 52, my 36 y.o. GF is hot young stuff.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    AARP started hounding you yet. They've got my parents enthralled in their wicked ways. I swear, they're like Freemasons, except just publically trying to control the world.

  • ||

    she is 8 over formula

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    I thought the formula was 1/2 (your age) + 8?

    With your formula, you would have an 18 yr old bedding an 11 year old. But maybe that's what you think is right...

  • ||

    ugh. my math was off. i used 42, not 52.

    and i have always used +7 not +8. but i round upwards once i divide by 2

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    It's +7 and I think it doesn't start applying until 20 or 21.

  • SugarFree||

    1/2 your age, +7. prote's creepy cutoff is 33. Mine is 28.

  • ||

    prote's creepy cutoff is 33.

    which coincides pretty well with the age at which women will want me to fuck them.

  • adeline||

    My darling Prote:

    You've neglected to mention

    A. I have been mistaken for 13 recently, last Christmas

    B. Look at least 10 years younger than I am

    C. That you are quite sexy and quite a beast.

    This kitten likes to lick your cream.

    So....my creepy cutoff is 24? Fuck that. Young guys can eat crap! !

  • ||

    she is 8 over formula

    If you're gonna use a formula to decide who to fuck, you're doing it wrong.

  • Tommy_Grand||

    36 is old bro

  • ||

    Give it a few years, sonny-boy. you'll change your tune. :)

  • SugarFree||

    LIT, I hate every second of it. I scoffed at Descartian dualism when I was young, but accept it as an unfortunate truth now.

  • ||

    You should be reveling in your relative youth instead of bitching about not being 18 yet.

    You can have a buttload of fun at 42 if you apply yourself. Storp whining.

  • ||

    "18 still". Fucking preview -- how does it work?

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    buttload...constipation setting in?

  • ||

    buttload...constipation setting in?

    No, it's the term used by a lot of 20-somethings and teens, who hardly have a problem with constipation.

  • adeline||

    You really do this for giggles, don't you darling? hahaha.

    I AM.

    there's a buttload of knuckleheads here !! !

  • SugarFree||

    I revel in my youth to the extent that my beat-to-shit body allows me. Mentally, I'm a puerile 15-year-old.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    I don't think the mental sweet spot is in the teens. I think 22 was my greatest year.

  • ||

    The fact that you're older than me makes me happy every single day.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    As does the fact that you're older than me. Even if it is only a year or two.

  • ||

    How do you know?

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    I can do math, I've been hanging out here for a bit, and I've picked up enough pieces here and there to be able to put numbers to some handles. If I got everything right, depending on your actual birthday you are either 39 or 40.

  • ||

    My god, that sounds horrible. Thankfully, I only had S.E. Hinton forced on me, and that was OK.

  • Evil Otto||

    That's what she said.

  • Ex Nihilo||

    But I really, really hated being told what to read so that may have been part of it.

    Nothing ruins a good book like being forced to read it. When the Harry Potter books came out, daughters wouldn't touch it, now they love them.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    No, nothing ruins a good book like being forced to disect and analyze every part of it and then be told that the lesson you thought was being taught is totally incorrect and you fail. THAT RUINS IT.

  • Ex Nihilo||

    ^ THIS ^

  • BarryD||

    I remember as a young kid in school, reading stories and then having to answer questions about them in school.

    I'd read the thing. I usually enjoyed it. Now I wanted to read something else. But these damned adults wanted me to go back through it and answer irrelevant bullshit questions about what belt someone was wearing, etc.

    Being told I was right or wrong didn't matter. Having to dissect the story was the worst.

  • ||

    clearly, you have ADD

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    You say that like it's a bad thing.

  • ||

    i just like south park

  • BarryD||

    Because I knew that I understood the story, and I didn't want to have to explain it to adults?

    It's not like they told me that someday I'd have to write papers about books, and that they were trying to help me learn how. They just seemed like the Gestorypo, interrogating me.

  • ||

    dood. whoooooooooooooooooooosh...

  • ||

    and then be told that the lesson you thought was being taught is totally incorrect and you fail. THAT RUINS IT.

    Nah, only when their interpretation of the book is bullshit and you were right all along.

    If you misread it and actually missed the point, then fine. No weepage.

  • Ex Nihilo||

    Nah, only when their interpretation of the book is bullshit and you were right all along.

    This is what convinced my reading/writing loving eldest to give up on literature and focus on IT as a future profession.

    Who says english teachers have no worth?

  • ||

    I actually hated when they picked a book I liked to study in class because I knew they would ruin it. Sometimes I purposely picked a shit book to do a report on as a little protest. Once I picked an Oprah biography, other times it was the hilariously terrible Booky books.

  • SugarFree||

    Deconstructing text was my favorite thing in school. I could drain the joy and wonderment out of anyone's eyes.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    So that's why you became a librarian. What better way to torture idealistic young souls.

  • SugarFree||

    I became a librarian for the same reason that 90% of librarians do: I failed at something I actually wanted to do. It's a fallback profession for most.

  • Pip||

    So what did you really want to do?

  • SugarFree||

    I wanted to be a dissolute and semi-famous novelist and slowly self-destruct publicly in the company of many beautiful women.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    It's a fallback profession for most.

    mine is ditch digger.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    Nutrasweet, a librarian?

    So we've got an inside man. Once we control the libraries, we'll control the public domain history...and then...the world!

  • ||

    Using words to inflict pain and discomfort is pretty much your superpower, so it's fortunate you discovered it so early.

    On the standardized testing thread people mentioned that those tests really just teach you to spit out what you think the bureaucrats want to hear. Analyzing literature in school is a good example of that. I think the problem is that the base assumption seems to be that you need to beat kids over the head to get them to read. For those of us who came into the system already devoted readers, they didn't really know what to make of us.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    My son takes after me when I was little, he's got too much to do to waste time with that reading crap. On the other hand, it's hard to find my daughter without her nose in a book. Of course their common ground is that they both hate English class.

  • ||

    Analyzing literature in school is a good example of that.

    It symbolizes man's inhumanity to man!

  • amelia||

    I was a devoted reader from an early age and had a spiteful hatred of the very concept of symbolism, which was conceived and nurtured in English classes.

  • Untermensch||

    Usually in school you get told that by somebody with a degree in comp lit who comes up with the stupidest possible interpretation and then wants you to write a five-paragraph essay about why their stupid insight is the most brilliant thing to hit the planet. You certainly can't say that you liked the book because it had a good story: instead you have talk about your inner feelings when reading it. For the clever child, this opens up great avenues to punk the teacher and convince her that you are on the verge of going full-tilt Rambo on the class…

  • Untermensch||

    My sister once had one of the stupid "get in touch with your feelings" assignments from a particularly stupid high-school English teacher. The assignment was to make a mask of your feelings when you read some work of literature. All the other kids made things like pink masks with rainbows and butterflies, so my sister made one that was black with blood streaming out of its eyes and turned it in. When the teacher saw it she screamed and wanted my sister to see the school counselor.

    My sister showed it to another teacher who was actually intelligent and that teacher laughed her head off, especially when she heard how effectively the other, stupid teacher had been punked.

    But my sister would no doubt today be stomped on by a SWAT team of School Guidance Officers for daring to show some agency and autonomy in the face of her teacher’s stupidity.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I had to read some crap short story in which the protagonist crosses an arched bridge over a river. I was told that the river was water, which represented life, and the arched bridge represented a pregnant woman's belly and, thus, crossing the bridge represented the character's rebirth. I asked why the arch didn't represent the most structurally sound way to build a bridge to get across the river that was blocking people's path. The prof never called on me again.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    You clearly lack any sort of imagination.

  • amelia||

    Yep, that'll do it.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    No, the ones I do recall:

    To Kill A Mockingbird
    The Bluest Eye
    The Body
    Dandelion Wine

  • kinnath||

    I was reading Asimov by 6th grade.

  • A Serious Man||

    Oh yes, The Giver, I remember that. They overanalyzed the crap out of it, but upon re-reading it (my younger sister had to read for her English class) I thought it was pretty good. Boy with special talent runs away from controlling community that demands he submit his own happiness and talents for the common good. Almost Objectivist.

  • Ted S.||

    I'm too old to have been assigned The Giver, but I'm with you on hating being told what to read. I did a book report on Ian Fleming's Doctor No in sixth grade.

  • Pip||

    "that Nancy never mourns for her mother" How do we know for certain? Is every moment of her days and nights covered in the book? We could just as easily assert that she had no concerns about dwarf tossing or cheesemaking.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Of course children don't appreciate The Giving Tree. It and The Richest Crocodile both went into the trash after I read them. They are both socialist crap that only an "educated" adult could appreciate.

  • ||

    The point of The Giving Tree is that you should be an anti-Objectivist and let your kids ruin your life and that somehow your kids will turn out all right in the end despite you distilling in them anti-life values.

    Or something.

    Fucking tree should be pissed off at being chopped up by the little brat.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Where's the fucking Lorax when the trees really need him?

  • adeline||

    The Giving Tree

    Is a personified life form.

    Major points are:

    A. The tree in reality cannot literally give permission so it is obliged to concede to all wishes

    B. The boy takes advantage of the tree and is obviously' you love me so I will take all from you' relationship (we've all been there)

    C. The tree has been made 100% altruistic by giving everything it could to the human

    Lessons:
    Whatever the fuck you want it to be. If you're anti-socialism it can be that. If you're seeing it as a parent, its that. If you're into the Christ guy, its that. If you're into conservation, its that.

    That book pissed me off. The irony of a book called the Giving Tree was not lost on me.

  • BarryD||

    I never thought that I got what I was supposed to from "The Giving Tree." My take-home lesson was, "Don't be anybody's bitch!" I really felt badly for the tree, and was rather unhappy that the boy didn't fall off a cliff early in the story, before he cut down the tree like the little shit that he was.

    Nobody told me about "Atlas Shrugged" at that age, or I'd have gone and read that.

  • Zeb||

    Maybe the lesson was just that trees are stupid. Seems valid.

  • ||

    "Children Are Unfeeling Sociopaths"

    a distillation of one of the key differences between conservative and liberal concepts of man in in the state of nature, and well described by sowell in a conflict of visions

    liberals lean towards the idea that children are 'innocent' and all the bad stuff is taught TO them and it's society that corrupts their nature etc.

    conservatives lean towards the idea that it's what they are taught, disciplined for, etc. that turns them from amoral selfish beasts into 'better' humans.

    it's about as fundamental a difference in visions as you can get.

    i lean towards the view of the conservatives, iow taboos, parents, society, mores, etc. are evolved constructs that (on average) improve us, and we would be selfish, churlish beasts without them.

  • Lost_In_Translation||

    dunphy,

    Grand partison-psychiatrist.

    Kill any dogs lately. I hear yorkies especially deserve shooting.

  • ||

    i've never killed one

    i did have my shoulder almost ripped out of the socket by one. dr told me if i was not wearing a thick coat, most likely it would have been completely obliterated.

    never claimed to be a psychiatrist, but sowell knows of what he speaks

  • Hell's Librarian||

    Chihuahuas are the ones that really deserve it, but Yorkies are right up there too.

  • Brett L||

    Yippie little shit eaters really shouldn't be classified in the same category as man's best friend.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, the nobel savage is a favorite leftie meme that is total myth.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I had my kids watch The Exorcist and told them that's what happens when you don't listen.

  • ||

    if you don't listen, you start masturbating with a cross and levitating?

    how is that a disincentive?

  • AlmightyJB||

    That explains a lot:)

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Ha! My daughter watched "The Version You've Never Seen" for the first time this weekend. Her favorite part was the crab/spider walk scene.

  • Brett L||

    I saw that when I was in my 20s. Yuck. Something about that just... ugh. That said, I'm not a horror movie person. A grown man screaming like a 6 year old girl is not a good way to impress the ladies.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    My kids got a kick out of In the Mouth of Madness.

  • ||

    no place for sentimentality in a child’s life.

    Don Draper does not agree.

  • A Serious Man||

    I guess I was a sensitive child since I would react to the deaths of characters. I actually read the The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring before the movie came out and was moved by Gandalf's "death" and even Boromir's.

    I also liked Lemony Snickitt's A Series of Unfortunate Events, lots of black humor and the protagonists learn to take care of themselves do to the incompetence or cruelty of adults.

  • Translucent Chum||

    I was shocked when my then four year old son cried at the end of Iron Giant, and then became giddy when the parts started trying to get back together.

  • Brett L||

    I was much older when I teared up at that scene.

  • AlmightyJB||

    The start of the whining I'm pretty sure can be traced back to grunge. It was all good times and whatever before that.

  • Killazontherun||

    Actually, I was a sentimental little fucker as a kid. On a fourth grade trip to the Asheboro Zoo I went up to the lion's cage, and he watched me as I watched him. I was sad that he was caged, and I recalled seeing just outside the building a nice sturdy branch that fell out beyond the monkey enclosure. I slipped out, grabbed it, and slipped back in, and tried to use the branch to lever the outer bars to free the lion. Adults screamed when they noticed, as is their fashion.

  • A Serious Man||

    My high school AP Literature teacher was an Objectivist. You can imagine how awesome she was and the high quality lessons we would get on everything from Modernism to absurdism to existentialism, which were the genres covered that year. She also taught philosophy. I only now appreciate just how rare that is.

  • Zeb||

    I had an English/philosophy teacher who had us read Rand too. Not sure if he was an Objectivist himself, but it was pretty cool to get something like that in a HS philosophy class.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I was a big fan of (Alfred Hitchcock Presents:) The Three Investigators series. Any others here?

  • amelia||

    I read a few of those and they were really good. They didn't seem to be as available as Trixie Belden books though. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys both bored me.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    The secret headquarters in the junkyard rocked. I still have a strange fondness for junkyards.

  • ||

    Yes, ProL just reminded me of those earlier. Fucking great, and I had totally forgotten about them.

  • Zeb||

    I had forgotten about those as well.

  • amelia||

    The book Escape to Witch Mountain, by Alexander Key, was a huge favorite of mine. Seeing the Disney movie was my first experience of having a great book ruined by Hollywood. Two orphans with superpowers and a murky past! It was a very suspenseful and dark story to me. The kids had olive skin, dark hair, and dark eyes, and Disney cast Kim Richards and Ike Eissenman. Ugh.

  • Just Dropping By||

    I'm glad to see so many other people had the same reaction to The Velveteen Rabbit that I did. I was shown a film adaptation of it when I was six or so and the first time I got sick after the movie I was terrified close to the point of psychosis that my parents were going to take away and burn all my toys.

  • Syd Henderson||

    I'm sure if Nancy was being raised by people like the Dursleys she'd miss her dead mother, too.

  • Killazontherun||

    I didn't read any of the kids books. Started reading my big bro's science fiction collection between the 3rd and 4th grade. By the 5th grade I even started picking up mom's Le Carre spy novels. Had no interest in kid's literature in the least.

  • Killazontherun||

    Oh, and her Reader's Digest Condensed Novels -- recall reading Jaws that way.

  • Tejicano||

    Kid's books - can't remember any of them. I was reading Greek and Roman mythology from about 4th grade. That was interesting stuff. I suppose I was assigned stuff to read in school but it must have all been mentally dumped as soon as the assignment was turned in. Zero recall now. I read more while in the Marines and between semesters in undergrad than I ever did in K-12.

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