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King_Pariah's avatar

School literature issue, books that kill dreams?

Asked by King_Pariah (11413 points ) August 26th, 2011

So recently there’s been an issue that’s arisen around where I live regarding books that “kill dreams.” Example: one book for kindergartners tells kids that they can’t and will not become astronauts, that they lack the brains/money/will to do so. So is this a good slap in the face because reality can never hit too soon? Or is it an aspiration killer? Your thoughts please.

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15 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Can you give us links to some books that supposedly have this effect?

What area is it that you live in?

TexasDude's avatar

I can see this from both sides.

Perhaps the best kinds of books should tell kids that it’s okay to have lofty dreams, but it’s best to be prepared for reality as a fallback plan. Not everyone gets to be a unicorn farmer or gumdrop trampoline manufacturer.

Blackberry's avatar

With all situations, it’s good to have tact. Yes, it’s true, but that’s a harsh way to tell kids that. It depends on how you say it.

SpatzieLover's avatar

We read mostly realistic books to our son. We also read fantasy. Alice in Wonderland & The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are two of his favorite books.

For us, a foundation in all types of literature is vital to his education.

It’s important to dream realistically. The literature doesn’t substitute the parent. Nor should it, IMO.

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve always thought it was not only misleading but in some sense cruel to tell kids “You can be anything you want to be.” No, they can’t. There are all kinds of limitations on what we can be. We can all fulfill our own best potential, but that potential does not necessarily include astrophysicist or rock star, sports hero or president of the U.S.

And that damned Little Engine That Could tells us that if we fail, it’s because we didn’t try hard enough. In other words, if we don’t conquer mountains, slay dragons, and make a million bucks by age 30, it’s our own fault and we’re failures.

Having aspirations is good. Even having wild aspirations can be good. But it is also good to keep them somewhere within the realm of the possible. All those feelgood and rah-rah slogans—such as “You never know what you can do until you try”—may be a spur to effort, but they shouldn’t be taken as literal promises.

These days kids also have to be told that they do have to work for their dreams; they shouldn’t expect a brilliant future of accomplishment and reward to be handed to them as a birthright.

I’d like to see one of those books.

King_Pariah's avatar

Okay, I don’t have a link but the title of the Astronaut one I was talking about (i think) is “You can’t be an Astronaut! It’s just not Realistic!” by Joseph Smets.

Jeruba's avatar

Ok, I found this link. I couldn’t find the book on Amazon, though, and other mentions I found through Google seemed to be repeats of this one: blogs and reblogs.

What gave you the idea that this was school literature, @King_Pariah?

The book could be self-published and not really distributed through any regular channels. It could have sold two copies. Is there some reason to think it is having an impact? Is there reason to think there are other such books drawing attention, or just this one?

And, again, if there’s an issue in the area where you live, what area is that?

King_Pariah's avatar

@Jeruba because there’s several copies of it in the school library…

King_Pariah's avatar

There are other books like that, that was just the one that caught my attention or stuck in my mold induced hazed mind.

NorCal… I’m not too trusting as to give what school district though.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I think it’s more complicated than telling them they can do anything vs telling them they can’t do anything. It’s often about stages of development, and what they can understand. In kindergarten, I’m a fan of telling them they can be anything they want, because it gives them a sense of confidence and optimism that’s often necessary to persevere through the hardships of life later on down the road. Telling them they can’t be a train when they grow up can kill imagination and encourage a defeatist attitude. But then when they’re 10(ish), it’s ok to start telling them that, no, they can’t be a train when they grow up, or a tissue, or waffle, that they’re actually kind of confined to human jobs. The older they get, the more you press upon them that they can be the president if they really want to, but they should realize that it will take everything they’ve got, and they can’t both be president and have tons of free time for family and games and just chillin’. Or that they could be president, but since they’ve got dyslexia, it’s also going to be even harder for them than for others, so if they aren’t terribly committed to this idea, maybe they should look into some other jobs. But, it is good to tell kids that they can do anything when they’re really small (though, I also hate with a passion The Little Engine That Could; I think this mindset is hugely detrimental) because otherwise, they don’t take risks. Those kids who are standing up against a sexist dress code and saying boys should be allowed to wear skirts to school, or refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance until gays can get married? Those are kids who were told they could do anything, those are kids whose parents raised them to have special snowflake syndrome. You don’t have people taking risks on new businesses and going back to school and trying to change social attitudes and policy if they don’t already believe that, even in the face of overwhelming odds, they can do this, and when they’re small is exactly when you set those core beliefs for them to fall back on.

Jeruba's avatar

@King_Pariah, no need to give school district, but how about what level—elementary, middle, high school? Not yours, necessarily, but the library it’s in.

And can you look at the book and see who the publisher is? Get complete publication info., if you can, from the reverse of the title page.

Has there actually been a controversy about it? or are you raising this question out of your own interest and concern?

King_Pariah's avatar

Elementary, my little brother’s school, uh, I’ll be able as soon as he checks it out (if he does), I do not have this book on hand, the issue was brought up at a PTA meeting that I was dragged along too, so potential controversy, though it seemed a definite controversy among the PTA, so yeah, bringing it up I guess before the controversy blooms.

lillycoyote's avatar

Like @Jeruba, I can’t find any evidence that the book actually exists. I can only find images of its porported cover and people talking about it on blogs, generally saying the same thing. And honestly, I have trouble believing it’s a real book.

Zaku's avatar

That kind of realism is just cynicism. Better to just line up the parents who believe it’s true and then hurl turds at them.

Jeruba's avatar

I have to point out that having the book in the school library does not make it school literature. I thought you meant that a teacher was using the book as teaching material in the classroom.

I don’t see anything wrong with making different points of view available to kids and helping them learn to think about them in a rational, discriminating way. You’ll never catch me saying that I want to see the banning of books I don’t agree with or promoting a single set of opinions as dogma.

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