The second section of Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, one of the books I am currently reading, delves into how historical events and people are misportrayed especially in children’s books and movies. So far I have read essays on Rosa Parks, Columbus, Helen Keller, Thanksgiving, Mulan, Pocohontas, and My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl.
Much of what I am reading is not new to me having been introduced to it through diversity trainings, previous reading, and working with teachers who critically analyze culture and media for the many messages they present to children.
A passage in the article on Thanksgiving, written by Michael Dorris, struck me:
As parents, our lot is often to watch and worry and cheer and commiserate, curbing throughout our impulse to intervene. The world of children interacting with children is in large part off-limits.
Passivity ends, however, with relation to those adult-manufactured and therefore wholly gratuitous problems with which our children are often confronted. We naturally rise against the greed of panderers of debilitating junk foods; we reject dangerous toys, however cleverly advertised; and we make strict laws to protect against reckless motorists. We dutifully strap our children into seatbelts, keep toxic substances out of reach, and keep a wary eye for the dangerous stranger.
With so many blatant dangers to counter, perhaps it is unavoidable that some of the more subtle and insidious perils to child welfare are often permitted to pass. …
Attitudes pertinent to “racial” or “sex-role” identity are among the most potentially hazardous [deficiencies of our own attitudes and training], for these can easily be internalized–particularly by the “minority” child. Such internalized attitudes profoundly affect self-concept, behavior, aspiration, and confidence. (pp. 101-2)
This article and the others concretely lay out how each example of popular culture and media has just this effect on children. If these ideas resonate, I highly recommend this book. As with most publications of Rethinking Schools, it is an outstanding collection of writing from thought-provoking authors.