Can We Talk About the Controversy of Little House on the Prairie. - Page 3 - Mothering Forums

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#61 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 07:50 PM
 
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Oops. Never mind -- I should have read before I posted.

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#62 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 07:59 PM
 
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We don't have the luxury of sheltering our kids from racism, so I would prefer to read the books amid discussion.

I don't think we can easily identify how much racism we absorbed as children, from whatever source. If you think that LHOTP is a light, enjoyable read that shouldn't lead to a harder discussion, then maybe you absorbed a little more than you realize. Raising children to be aware of racism and the sources of racism *is* work.
I agree. And fwiw, I read the series over and over between the time that I was age 5 to 10 and I was consistently upset by the racism. (And the whippings and shamings for that matter.) It was a great catalyst for discussion with my family about racism.

I wouldn't prevent my dd from reading the series. It's about a spitfire girl growing up in a different time. And if she didn't see the racism I would point it out to her.
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#63 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:07 PM
 
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My worst issue with the books are the uber-graphic descriptions of slaughtering and cooking meat.

They also describe corporeal punishment in great detail...
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#64 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:07 PM
 
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I don't forsee DD, now 8, being that interested in the stories, but I enjoyed the ones I read as a child. I was disappointed in Ma's attitude toward the Natives actually.

I started discussions about racism, particularly as regards Native Americans, from the time each child started in pre-school, when Thanksgiving rolled around. DD and I even changed the words of a song she was being taught, in K?, to reflect historical reality rather than the myths they're taught in school at those ages.

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#65 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:09 PM
 
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[QUOTE=meowee;7972799]My worst issue with the books are the uber-graphic descriptions of slaughtering and cooking meat./QUOTE]

Oh yeah! I hadn't realized it until I was re-reading them how graphic the slaughter descriptions were ... bladder balloon anyone?

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#66 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:13 PM
 
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I wouldn't buy them, but if they somehow made their way into our home, I would read them and have discussions about the abuse and racism.

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#67 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:13 PM
 
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Children do not have the experience and analytical skill to find learning about the author's perspective a 'learning experience.' Those kinds of attitudes are too prevalent in our society, without enough counterbalance, for that to be the case.

Children will simply accept the racism as factual and internalize it. Not good. We have not come far enough to be able to read this sort of thing to our children and know it will be looked upon with the critical eye it warrants.
I would have been offended to read this as a child. I most certainly had the analytical skill to understand embedded racism and the difference between the author's perspective and the "truth." I'm talking about the age where I was reading books like these, around 9-10 years old.

I intend (we'll see how that goes, lol) to expect critical thinking from my children at all times.

I don't know if I'd "give" these books to my kids, but if someone gave them to us or dd brought them home, I'd definitely read them again so I knew exactly what was in there.

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#68 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:13 PM
 
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thismama, when I was a child I read the books and was deeply bothered by the attitude in the books, even though I loved Laura Ingalls.
I never read any of the stories with racist bits (and, yeah, it *is* racism even if it's "racism of the era"), but I had to stop reading Huck Finn because the language made me uncomfortable when I was quite young.

I think that there is plenty of time in this life and children don't need to experience such things. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil therein" as it were.

As historical pieces, as an adult, they're fine.

But both Ingalls and Twain wrote stories that didn't have rascist bits so there's no reason to go out of our way to promote the rascist stories.
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#69 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:29 PM
 
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I would read these with my child. There is so much of value in them that it saddens me to hear them dismissed as merely racist books. And I won't even start on Huck Finn.

As PPs said, Laura's Ma was the one who had a problem with "Indians," and Laura, as a small child, picked up on her fear. Pa openly disagreed with her.

Just because the books have a racist character doesn't make them racist books.

Also considering that the particular book where the attitude of fear toward Native Americans is most prevalent is the book where the family has moved into Indian Territory apparently illegally, maybe they had reason to be afraid. They were pretty much trespassing. Laura as a child, and to a large extent Ma, as a nineteenth century woman expected to obey her husband's wishes, had little choice but to go along with Pa's desire to be there.

I credit reading these books as child with fostering my lifelong love of reading and of history.
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#70 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:47 PM
 
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Because the books are a well-embedded part of Americana, I don't think I would have a problem if my dc decide to read them. HOWEVER, I would ask them to also read something that represented the NA perspective. "Black Elk Speaks" comes to mind, but I'm thinking that might be too mature for younger readers (I'd have to reread it to refresh my memory). That book in particular does an excellent job of looking at some pivotal events in US and NA history through a NA man's eyes.
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#71 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:52 PM
 
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I think how you are raised (what values your parents preach and practice- friends/community values also) is far more influential than any media you are exposed to. My children won't be racist because they read a book if we discuss the issue.
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#72 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:58 PM
 
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The key there is *discussion*.

The media has a tremendous influence. I've heard people say that their children are too sensitive and too young to be taught about racism, that if they raise their children to be "colorblind", they will be because their exposure will be so controlled--especially if they're homeschooled. But, without that deliberate discussion, you don't prepare your child. That exposure creeps in everywhere. If a parents thinks that discussion isn't necessary, that's a huge indication that it probably is. To me, those parents are the ones who are least likely to recognize racism until it's already seeped under the skin of their family.
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#73 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 08:59 PM
 
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We've read the first two plus Farmer Boy as read alouds, and we've discussed the racism together. My daughter is almost-six, and she was just... not horrified, but thought the attitude towards Native Americans was incredibly stupid and made no sense. She doesn't get why people are racist, and it's really hard for her to wrap her little mind around. Because she's so young, I will admit there were one or two parts I just skipped altogether (like when they come into the house and steal the food) because I couldn't think of a way to explain it to her. But I fully admit I wimped out. And she's young. But I would no sooner avoid the Little House books because I want to avoid racism then I would avoid the biographies we've read of Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr. I think the key is to address it openly, honestly, and together.

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#74 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 09:05 PM
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It took me a minute to even think of what could be controversial about LHOTP.

I read all the books as a kid. The racisim did not stick with me, though after reading the thread I was able to recall bits of it. My memory is that it was Ma who feared and hated the Indians, and Pa was more tolerant. Laura was afraid as any child might be in a new situation with Ma staying stuff all the time...

I didn't grow up with any bad feelings toward Native Americans, and I don't recall my parents ever making a special point to discuss the books with me. We were just raised to think tolerantly toward all peoples.

So yes, I would def. read the books with my kids. Children are intelligent enough to realize historical context if they are old enough to be reading the books.
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#75 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 09:06 PM
 
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Children will simply accept the racism as factual and internalize it. Not good. We have not come far enough to be able to read this sort of thing to our children and know it will be looked upon with the critical eye it warrants.
I don't think you're giving kids enough credit. I read the books over and over and over again from the age of 8 on (still read them every 10 or so years; just finished reading them about a year ago), and I was always critical of the racism in the books. I always like the second book least because I would get so frustrated that the settlers were on NA land where they had no right to be. I encouraged my kids to read the books, but they never really "caught" for any of them.

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Completely OT.....but can someone explain how Mary went blind? It says she had scarlet fever and the fever settled in her eyes. Is blindness a complication of scarlet fever?
She had a stroke secondary to a very high fever. There's a biography of LIW by John E. ****** that I really enjoyed. He tells the whole story of her life, including how much and in what ways her daughter, Rose, was involved in the writing of the books. The true story is quite a bit sadder than the novels.

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#76 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 09:09 PM
 
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No. I don't think it's appropriate. Children do not have the experience and analytical skill to find learning about the author's perspective a 'learning experience.' Those kinds of attitudes are too prevalent in our society, without enough counterbalance, for that to be the case.

Children will simply accept the racism as factual and internalize it. Not good. We have not come far enough to be able to read this sort of thing to our children and know it will be looked upon with the critical eye it warrants.

I think it's one thing if you have done *lots* of learning already about racism and the genocide perpetuated upon Aboriginal peoples. But for too many of us, this is not the context within we would read these stories to our children.
I disagree. I was allowed to read all of those books as a kid and I don't think that Native Americans were a bunch of naked savages who went around scalping white people and burning down their houses.

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#77 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 09:22 PM
 
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I disagree. I was allowed to read all of those books as a kid and I don't think that Native Americans were a bunch of naked savages who went around scalping white people and burning down their houses.
I agree with your disagreement. I read all of the books many times from age 6 to 10 or so. I read them so many times they fell apart.

I don't recall having any special "teaching moments" discussions with my parents about them. I certainly didn't grow up thinking that Native Americans were savages, etc. My dd has only recently started to be interested in the series so I haven't reread the books as an adult yet but my memory is that Laura was scared, etc. but I don't remember anything bad actually happening.... I thought the Native Americans took some food and left peacefully.

I don't remember any slaughter stories so I guess they didn't make much of an impression on me.

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#78 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 09:35 PM
 
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I loved those books, and my dd is just getting into them...she even walks around our house in a Laura Ingalls bonnet and her "calico" dress.
Honestly, if I banned those books, I would have to (in fairness) ban all books that have historical perspective. That's a lot of good literature. And, it's literature that plants seeds for great discussion and teaching. Children are NEVER too young to discuss racism. If we want our children to have open minds and hearts, I don't think that hiding reality is the answer. Give children credit where it is due. They are able to spot unfairness a mile away.
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#79 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 09:44 PM
 
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I plan to read these books with DD, at whatever age I think is most appropriate (meaning that she is old enough to understand historical perspective). I also plan to read The Birchbark House, which I hope will provide some counterpoints.

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#80 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 09:55 PM
 
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Sure my kids could read them. (I think Dd may have read some a few years back, but it wasn't her style and she ditched it.)

Nothing, or at least not much, happens in a vacuum so I'd be around to discuss things, share information, and talk about the place and time the author and events were coming from and taking place in. That's just how do it.

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#81 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 10:04 PM
 
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The LH books are among my still ranking favorites. I actually pull them out and re-read them from time to time - most recently "The Long Winter" about a month ago. I read them as a child and was looking forward to sharing them with my children when they got older.

No one ever talked about the NA race-implications for me, but since reading (on my own) "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" when I was in my pre-teens, I drew my own conclusions - horrified at the treatment of NA in the US. I wasn't a wildly sensitive child, but an intellectually inquisitive one - I hope to encourage that in my own children.

I still love the LH books, will read them with my children, but will likely use them of more of a discussion point then my own parents did.

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#82 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 10:08 PM
 
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I just finished reading the whole series to my son. There is a huge difference between a book in which the narrative voice is racist and one in which racism is expressed by the characters. The narrative voice in the LH books (adult Laura) is not racist imo. She does not refer to Indians as savages or suggest that they are evil or that they deserve to have their land taken from them. In fact, the sadness of the NA leaving their land is referred to explicitly. Other characters (namely Ma and a few different settlers) express fear and hatred of NA. As pp have noted, Pa is respectful toward them.

I completely agree that reading the LH books needs to go hand in hand with a discussion about why some people used to feel that way, why they thought it was ok to settle NA land, etc. etc. That kind of thing has been discussed in many LH threads.
I loved these books and read them all by 7 years old. I dressed like Laura for years--braiding my hair, wearing boots that buttoned up the side, and long skirts.

The quote above is very accurate--if you read the books from start to finish, my perception as a child was that Laura was showing us how her family held very different views on Native Americans. I never concluded that what he Ma said was true or right, only that her mother seemed extremely afraid, and spoke hatefully as a result. That was my impression of Ma's racism when I was a child.

Off topic but I think the most incredible of all the books was The Long Winter.
What that family went through was so vividly recounted I felt physically cold as I read it. It was like reading about human hibernation. Waking, eating, then going back to bed to survive the freezing temperatures by conserving energy.
They must have existed in a state of semi-hypothermia. The following book was almost as chilling. Laura's account of sledding out to a remote ice barren settlement to stay in that back room of a freezing shack and teach school stretched the limits of my imagination. The sheer mind numbing boredom of sitting around that stove for hours every night with the hateful wife and stony husband and screaming baby was the most vividly stultifying boredom I could imagine as a child.

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#83 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 10:12 PM
 
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I can't think of a book I would forbid my child to read, short of pornography.
I can't either. As an avid book reader, I would never sensor what my kids read.
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#84 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 10:17 PM
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Man, when mamas at MDC start promoting book banning (even in their family) -- it is time to move to a bunker and start piling canned goods (organic of course cuz that's how I roll)... because the end of the world is upon us...


I'm surprised. That is what discussion is all about, and opening a dialogue. Sure, there will be no Hustler's moving through here (common sense folks) but that isn't exactly what I would call "Literature"...

... other than that our dd is free to read any book on our shelves and beyond...
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#85 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 10:19 PM
 
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When I read the LH books as a kid, I don't know how much I noticed the racism, but one thing I did notice, and still remember, is in one of the later books (the one where Laura is a teacher, and she's getting married)--her teacher (I think) asks her about women's rights, and Laura says "no, I don't want to vote." This floored my little 7 yr old self when I read it. How could anyone not want to vote? I asked my mom about it, and she explained to me that not only was that a common attitude at the time, but even in modern times, there were grown-ups who didn't want to vote. Growing up in my civic-duty-centered family, I was stunned.

Anyway, there's lot's of "issues" in those books for discussion--racism, sexism (dd's love of older literature has led to many talks about ideas people used to have about what girls could and couldn't do), technological development, voter apathy, survival skills, and all kinds of things. It's a point of view. I don't think it does any good to censor it, at least for an "older" (don't make me define "older") child.

And, really, if you're going to filter out all books with less-than-enlightened views on historical issues, you're going to have slim pickings of books.
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#86 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 10:20 PM
 
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I love the Little House books and definitely read them to my kids. We discuss everything in the book not just the racist issues so the kids have learned a lot from them as have I.

I usually re-read them to myself once or twice a year just for my own enjoyment.

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Off topic but I think the most incredible of all the books was The Long Winter.
What that family went through was so vividly recounted I felt physically cold as I read it. It was like reading about human hibernation. Waking, eating, then going back to bed to survive the freezing temperatures by conserving energy.
They must have existed in a state of semi-hypothermia.
That's why I always like reading that one in the summer...it feels like it's helping me cool off!
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#87 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 10:25 PM
 
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I read the books to my chidlren when they were little and we talked about the language and the attitudes. It didn't take long before my kids autimatically changed the language on their own. We live next to a First Nations community and we have always had friends there and as they grow older I find that having been exposed to and discussed the racism that has been a part of our continent's history makes them much more sensitive to it. Their teachers have commented to me how they have seen my children correct other children on the playground if they use an incorrect or racist name and how they even tell them why those words are hurtful and wrong.

I decided not to leave the books out for my kids to read alone until they were much older, but we happily read and discussed them together.
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#88 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 10:58 PM
 
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I will absolutely let my child read the series, and we will discuss them. Little House is pretty close to what my maternal grandparents' childhoods were like (grandpa b 1902 and grandma b 1910 in Idaho.) They were both half white, half Native American and grew up in frontier conditions seeing the tensions and politics and changes firsthand. Since it's not just a book but a reflection of family history for us, it's less likely to be taken at its word as 100% "the way it really was."
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#89 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 11:00 PM
 
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Heck, my own diary had a racist remark in it from when i was 12 and didn't know any better. I was truly absorbing the racism my Grandfather espoused, and I didn't even know it. But I did begin to realize that he was wrong, and that what he was saying was not nice and not true.

I read all of these books and more. I wish I had had someone in my life to bring this stuff to my attention. I have already vowed to do this for the children around me.
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#90 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 11:03 PM
 
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The stories written by Laura Ingalls Wilder are a wonderful reflection on American History and on living off of the grid for our time! Of course I would let my children read them. It is a piece of time that we can learn from, all of us.

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
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