Picture books about Babar, the elephant king, are being pulled from the shelves. The stories have been judged dangerous for the tender minds of preschoolers.
Just what is Babar’s crime? In the words of a prominent educator, Babar is a poor role model for children because he “extols the virtues of a European middle-class lifestyle.”
In short, Babar is not politically correct.
We’ve heard about the attack on so-called Eurocentric curricula in colleges. Now it’s trickling down to the younger grades.
It’s PC for the Playdough set.
The New Republic magazine reports that the hottest things at teachers conventions today are guidelines for making pre-school and elementary classrooms politically correct. A guide entitled “Anti-Bias Curriculum,” a publication of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, is a favorite.
One of the groups defended in “Anti-Bias Curriculum” is witches. Too long, the book says, witches have suffered from disparaging prejudice. Teachers are advised to explain to young children that witches are not evil hags but good women who use herbal remedies to help people.
Story-time is a great forum to instill politically correct attitudes. One guide encourages teachers to think of new twists for the old classics. For example, it suggests reading “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” pretending there is no Papa in the story. I guess it’s no longer considered nice to acknowledge that some children still have two parents in the home.
There are PC educators who denounce Mother’s Day as a regressive symbol of a sexist organization of labor. I wonder what that makes Father’s Day.
Then there are schools that celebrate an international Thanksgiving, where each child brings food and flags from his country of origin. In one Brooklyn classroom, a little boy was reduced to tears of confusion because his ancestry was English, Scottish, Irish, German, and Jewish. The teacher finally relented and allowed him to bring an American flag.
Playtime is harder to regulate, but today’s PC teachers are up to the challenge. In the dress-up corner, teachers are urged to stock more briefcases than purses to encourage careerism in little girls. They’re urged to get rid of dump trucks and earthmovers because these reflect the American desire to “conquer nature.” Environmentalism is part of PC, too.
If you have children or grandchildren in school, I suggest you find out what they’re learning. These stories may sound silly, but they reflect an underlying worldview that is anything but silly. Multiculturalism would be fine if it meant teaching children about the culture, history, and geography of other lands. My own ancestry is Swedish and English, and I’m proud of it.
But most of these programs have a more serious agenda. They’re out to change our values. They send a subtle message that Western culture is bad and should not be held up as a standard.
In fact, the message is that nothing should be held up as a standard. There is no standard of right or wrong: no transcendent, absolute truth. New York’s state board of education issued a report on multicultural education that actually talks about “multiple truths”_as though each racial and ethnic group has its own truth.
So the issue is not just over whether kids should read Babar. It’s over whether we acknowledge a single, universal truth that transcends all our differences.