Many animal lovers propose that we should take care what stories and songs we teach our children. The reason is that many of those stories and songs are examples of what we should stop doing to animals. So we better sanitize the stories, removing the offending parts or replacing them by more positive alternatives, in order to avoid showing animals as dangerous beings or objects that we can abuse to our own will.
For example, the famous story of the Little Red Riding Hood is a story whose origins can be traced back at least to the 10th century. There are numerous variations of the story, but in possibly all of the versions Little Red goes to visit her grandmother and is deceived by the wolf in the forest. Little Red is delayed and the wolf goes to eat her grandmother. In some variations grandmother and Little Red are saved by a lumberjack or a hunter, in other versions both are eaten by the wolf for good.
As early as 1994, James Finn Garner wrote a book entitled "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories," which satirizes the ongoing trend to seek a kind of pure neutral discourse, free from any kind of judgment towards any group of people. The book was a huge success and it is not even clear whether everybody understood the satire. However, the trend seems to continue unabated to these days.
The question is therefore: should we sanitize children stories and songs, books, toys and other materials, aiming to hide violence, abuse and misbehavior from them? While the answer may be all but obvious, there is probably little good in doing it.
It is popular wisdom that "Those who forget their past are doomed to repeat it." Sanitizing children materials is a way to forget the past. The consequence is that if we do it then we are just increasing chances of having to repeat it.
Children will be children, but it is not uncommon for adults to underestimate kids' ability to comprehend. Parents are easily tempted to try to hide reality from their children, instead of trying to explain that very reality and preparing offspring to live with what mother nature gives them, however rude or even cruel mother nature is. That in my opinion is a grave mistake. We better just accept reality as it is presented to us. So instead of reshaping centuries old stories to make them fit our modern values, we better just tell those stories and sing those songs as they have been, and then take some time to discuss with the children why those stories and songs were created and what is right and wrong with them according to our current values.
For centuries Little Red's story has been used as an example of what kids must not do: they should follow parental advice and not let themselves be deceived by wolves in the forest. That advice is still valid today, even if we want to add that wolves and other animals in general just want to live their lives undisturbed. Maybe we could teach our children that they should leave wolves alone, because wolves just want to protect their territory and feed themselves. But we also want to raise children who are aware of the dangers out there, in the forest and in the city. Even small children love to understand the world out there.
Insert date: 2018-12-10 Last update: 2018-12-10