Monday, August 10, 2015

This Book of Essays Was A Bad Purchase

I regret buying this set of essays by Herbert Kohl called "Should We Burn Babar."  Kohl has, in his introduction, reached the following conclusions:

1. Taking a bunch of books and burying them in a dump because he thought they were offensive was a reasonable, laudable act.

2. That, unless under the wise and careful care of an elder, wise progressive like himself, certain books (like Babar!) just should not be available in libraries because they are Dangerous.

That's possibly the most paternalistic thing I've read, and Kohl is an alleged progressive!

The worst part is that he probably doesn't even REALIZE how patronizing it is. Near the end of his introduction, he goes on about how noble and right it was to bury books about Columbus. Yet, despite deciding "Some books are so offensive to me, I should bury them," he feels, despite a South African teacher discussing how offensive Babar is to him and his students, Kohl's belief in his ability to "properly" teach the book trumps the teacher's dislike of the book.

And I'm only on the introduction! I don't know how I'll make it through this sneering mess of a book. I was ready for an imperialist reading of children's stories, and how the Rich Lady is really a colonial take over of indigenous elephants. I was PREPARED FOR THAT SILLINESS. I was mentally prepared for something like "Power Dynamics and Gender Politics in the Boxcar Children," which is not a real essay, but I bet some one could get a PhD writing it. I was not ready for "Some books are dangerous without Smart People to Talk to You About What They Really Mean."

I plan to see the rest of the book through, but it did not have an auspicious start.

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