In a previous series of posts I wrote about science inaccuracies in a picture book and questioned with whom lay the responsibility for providing young children with correct information.
While this post builds upon those posts, it also takes a divergent path: the need for children to have a voice; to be empowered to ask questions, to state their needs and report wrongdoings.
On a highly respected educational website Scholastic, with the by-line “Read Every Day. Lead a Better Life.”, in an article about Eric Carle author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, children are told that
“Eric already knows that a caterpillar emerges from a chrysalis, not a cocoon! So don’t bother writing to tell him.”
This seemingly innocuous statement may be easily overlooked but packs a powerful message.
What does it tell children?
The author has been told many times, already knows and isn’t going to do anything about it.
The author is tired of being told he is wrong and doesn’t want to hear it any more.
The author is “right” and not to be questioned. (The book, with its misinformation, is highly acclaimed by millions around the world. However if, in answering a question on a test, children were to write that a butterfly comes out of a cocoon, they would be marked wrong. Explain that to them.)
For me the most insidious part of this message is
He already knows, “so don’t bother writing to tell him”!!!!!!!!
You can’t change it.
You know it’s wrong, but you can’t change it, so don’t bother trying.
Although many societies are now moving to eradicate it, child abuse is still far too common worldwide. Not only must the attitudes of societies change, but children must be empowered, they must be encouraged to speak up and they must be listened to: their voices must be heard.
In a recent child abuse case that occurred at a Queensland primary school, the student protection officer reportedly said that she couldn’t understand why the children who had been sexually abused did not come forward.
The accused had continued in his role as child protection contact for a year after the first complaint was made. The student protection officer found it hard to believe that her colleague was a paedophile;
and still she says she doesn’t understand why the children didn’t come forward!
Click here to read the complete article.
It seems to me the children did come forward if the first (indicates there were more) complaint was made more than a year before anything was done about it.
The children tried to say, but were not believed. The predator was believed and protected while the plight of the innocent victims was ignored. The report states that parents who complained about the abuse of their children were ostracised by the school community and made out to be the “bad guys”.
Is it any wonder that, if not listened to and not believed, and if more is done to protect the offenders than the abused, the children become increasingly reluctant to tell?
After the first children had come forward and not been listened to or believed, may not they have said to others, “There’s no point in saying. They already know. They won’t do anything about it?”
Or what about the parents who were ostracised and made out to be the bad ones?
Doesn’t it make the message very clear – you are powerless. Your voice won’t be heard. Your opinion doesn’t matter.
Carry this message over into countless other situations and you have a population who is afraid to speak up, fearing the disdain of reproach, the embarrassment of being unvalued and the helplessness of one’s message being unheard.
How many times have you felt you must remain silent for fear of ridicule, rejection, or worse?
How many opportunities for creating a positive change have been missed because the task seemed insurmountable or the personal repercussions too unpleasant?
When have you stepped up and made that change happen because you were not afraid to speak up or speak out when faced with an issue you felt strongly about?
What changes can we make to empower children (and adults) everywhere?
By the way, in that article on the Scholastic website, it is reported that Eric Carle believes that “the most important part of developing a book . . .is working with editors to revise it.”
Would it make any difference to the magic of The Very Hungry Caterpillar if, after all these years, Eric Carle rewrote a corrected version with a butterfly emerging triumphantly from a chrysalis?
What would that act tell all the countless children who have written to tell Eric about his mistake, and the many others who wanted to but were told there was no point?
Please share your thoughts.