The Children's Story:
My mother-in-law recently gave me a book by James Clavell called The Children's Story, which was originally published in 1963. She mentioned that it was really good and said I should read it.
The thin paperback has less than ninety unnumbered pages, and the text takes up only half of that because it's mostly printed on one side of the paper, often with only a single paragraph per page. It took merely ten minutes to read. But when I was finished, I couldn't believe what I had just "witnessed," so I went back and read it all over again!
This is a simple story with a much deeper meaning. It left me with chills up and down my spine, but at least I was able to breathe a sigh of relief since my own children are homeschooled. I wish every parent would read this book before sending their kids off to school. It is a shocking tale of what could happen within twenty-five short minutes in a classroom setting.
The story reads like a cautionary fable of the Cold War. A new power comes to town and methodically challenges and strips away all beliefs of the schoolchildren. The "enemy" is young, pretty, and friendly, and the message sounds reasonable at first, even believable. Little Johnny was the one small voice of distrust, but even he was manipulated in the end.
Though written almost 40 years ago, the book's implications are timeless and can apply to public schools today. It brings to mind the government's separation of church and state, humanism, the liberal agenda, character education, and thought police. It is frightening to think how a child's impressionable young mind can be manipulated so easily. They can be brainwashed without even knowing it.
Because innocent children are so open to influence, parents must be aware of what they are being taught, as well as the motive behind those teachings. Children may be oblivious to almost subliminal assaults on their value system, and if their beliefs are not grounded they will be swayed.
Schools are not the only danger, either. Our children can be molded by any individual or institution that is allowed to manipulate their thoughts-including television, movies, the news media, and publications.
James Clavell, the author of Shogun, was inspired to write this disturbing story after a talk with his young daughter just home from school. He explains, "The Children's Story came into being that day. It was then that I really realized how vulnerable my child's mind was-any mind, for that matter-under controlled circumstances. Normally I write and rewrite and re-rewrite, but this story came quickly-almost by itself. Barely three words were changed."
The Children's Story is ideal for reading aloud. The contrasting tones of the characters can be conveyed vocally, while the reading (with occasional pauses to ask, "Who likes the New Teacher?") can be accomplished in approximately the same amount of time required for the events in the story to unfold. The scenario raises many questions, making it a great discussion topic.
What if a teacher said that the American flag was not important, and that the Pledge of Allegiance was meaningless? What if the teacher suggested to a class that praying to God was a waste of time? What if a child was told that his father had wrong thoughts? What if a whole room of young children were convinced that it was okay, and in fact good, to keep secrets from their parents?
These questions lead to even more thought-provoking points to ponder: If we don't teach our children morals, who will? Do we trust teachers with this job? Whose values do we then use? As parents, do we want our children adopting the values of others? Whose responsibility is the raising and training of children-the parents or the state? How much parental authority are we willing to hand over to someone else in bringing up our children?
This obscure little book is well worth reading, even though it leaves you with more questions than answers. The story should be required reading for all parents of school-age children. It depicts the enormous power of teachers-for good or for bad-and will make you think twice about whom you want to instruct your children.
The book reminds us that we must teach our children carefully, especially in regard to such fundamental concepts as freedom, religion, and patriotism; and we must always be vigilant concerning their education.
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