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

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#1 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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And I’m talking more about the books than the TV show….

But anyone that is familiar with the books will recall the pretty blatant disrespectful attitude towards Native Americans (“Indians”) that Laura Ingalls had. Truly, she talked of being fearful, and either said outright or implied about the “savagery” and such of the “Indians.”

So do you think it is appropriate for children to read these books, given this clear lack of respect?

I say yes. Laura wrote from *her* viewpoint, and as flawed as we may find it, that was the common thought toward Native Americans in that time of history. I would use that as a learning and discussion tool w/ my kids, and am hoping that DS will have interest in reading these books someday, so we can talk about this together.
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#2 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:28 PM
 
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And I’m talking more about the books than the TV show….

But anyone that is familiar with the books will recall the pretty blatant disrespectful attitude towards Native Americans (“Indians”) that Laura Ingalls had. Truly, she talked of being fearful, and either said outright or implied about the “savagery” and such of the “Indians.”

So do you think it is appropriate for children to read these books, given this clear lack of respect?

I say yes. Laura wrote from *her* viewpoint, and as flawed as we may find it, that was the common thought toward Native Americans in that time of history. I would use that as a learning and discussion tool w/ my kids, and am hoping that DS will have interest in reading these books someday, so we can talk about this together.

Yes, I don't think we can shield our kids from the somewhat skewed thinking in the past... but we can use our progess (well, kinda) as society as a learning tool.

IMO
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#3 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:29 PM
 
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At the time that she lived, that was truly how she felt. Taken in context the books can teach a child a little bit about history from a child's perspective. I wouldn't call them racist because she wrote her own experiences as a child. JMHO, but I loved the books and the show and hope that my children will enjoy them as well.
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#4 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:30 PM
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I say yes. Laura wrote from *her* viewpoint, and as flawed as we may find it, that was the common thought toward Native Americans in that time of history. I would use that as a learning and discussion tool w/ my kids, and am hoping that DS will have interest in reading these books someday, so we can talk about this together.
I agree.
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#5 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:30 PM
 
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I can't think of a book I would forbid my child to read, short of pornography. Discussing a book is the best part!
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#6 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:34 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.
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#7 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:35 PM
 
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I agree.
Me too. I love those books! I hope ds will too.
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#8 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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.
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.

Don't you think it depends on the age and maturity of the child?
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#9 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:38 PM
 
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I can't think of a book I would forbid my child to read, short of pornography. Discussing a book is the best part!
Honestly I think reading about sex would not be as damaging as reading about unexamined and unacknowledged, and therefore insidious, racism.

I wouldn't want my child reading pornography either, but I would place these kinds of books with overtly racist messages in a similar or more dangerous category.
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#10 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:38 PM
 
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Hmm. Laura is such a sympathetic, appealing character that I think it might be hard for kids to kind of emotionally distance themselves from her persepectives and viewpoints.

I remember really wishing I could BE Laura.

So I think it would depend on how sophisticated my kid's understanding of literature was. Like, not all books are even pretending to tell the truth, every book has an angle, no book can really tell the whole story at once.

I think I'd have to start with some Native American friendly books so they don't begin with that negativity, instead of letting them read LHOTP and then trying to "undo" that damage when me and the kids got around to it.

I get a lot of really inappropriate literature/items about Alaska Native stereotypes from well-meaning family members... "look at the cute Eskimo boy in the igloo!" type of thing... and I can't imagine raising kids here and letting that be the foundation for their knowlege about AK Natives.

I don't want to set them up for that, and they try to paint a more truthful picture later. Especially when there's a lot of negativity already surrounding them in the culture.

To me, the LHOTP thing is really very similar. I can still vividly recall scenes from the series-- Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't suck as an author, and those images are still vivid in my memory fifteen years after my last reading.
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#11 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:39 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 don't know - I remember reading them at about 8 years old and being horrified by the racism I was reading. It led to lots of talks with my mom about it. Perhaps since my mom had already talked to me about how my Gpa was 1/2 native but denied that half of his culture because he didn't want t dela with racism, etc, I "got" it more than other kids would. I don't think I would let my 6 year old read them on his own, but I think I would read them with him and discuss them.
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#12 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:39 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.

Don't you think it depends on the age and maturity of the child?
Perhaps. I think it also depends on what else the child has been taught about racism and Aboriginal peoples. Which, all too often, is not enough to provide appropriate context for the ideas in these books.

Negative messages about Aboriginal peoples, and other peoples of colour, are all around us. Why expose our children to more? Really. Makes no sense to me.
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#13 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:39 PM
 
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I read those books over and over, and it's Ma who blatantly speaks against the Indians, then Pa counters with examples of their helpfulness, and we get to hear what Laura is thinking. They seem to give her a shiver of fear, but she wants to adopt the papoose she sees, and the family all acknowledge that they are alive because of the Indian who spoke French (can't remember his name) talking the tribes down from slaying all the settlers.

There are many things in the books that open up good discussions (the family use shaming and whipping as disciplinary methods, for starters) and I like any book that starts a conversation.

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#14 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:40 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 disagree. I started reading the Little House books at age 5 and I remember even then thinking that Ma was silly to be so mean to and afraid of the Natives. What the parent communicates to the child about racism is way more important than a story book.
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#15 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:42 PM
 
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I'm trying to think about what impact that attitude had on me, as a 6/7 year old kid. That's when I read most of her stuff, and I actually lived in an area where there was a lot of outward antagonism between Native Canadians and everyone else...they took over a park...

I honestly don't think I even noticed it. I've never thought of natives as savages or whatever. I think a kid will know it's a story about a long time ago, and it's not right. I'd go over the language, though, and explain that we don't use the word Indian anymore.
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#16 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:42 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 read all of them as a child and I knew even at that age that the feelings she had towards Native Americans was not a good way to feel but she was a child living in a time period where fear of Native Americans was normal.

It never made me think anything negative about Native Americans, if anything it gave me some history on what they went through.

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#17 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:42 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 (quote by thismama)

Unless, of course, as parents we raise children who would 1.) question that type of thinking and 2.) come to us and say, "Hey, this doesn't seem right" and which point we could have an open and honest discussion.

I hope to raise a child who gleans his knowledge of the world through more than just one book.
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#18 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:43 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 wasn't. And I was really a fairly sophisticated little reader for a six-year-old.
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#19 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:43 PM
 
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I disagree. I started reading the Little House books at age 5 and I remember even then thinking that Ma was silly to be so mean to and afraid of the Natives. What the parent communicates to the child about racism is way more important than a story book.
Yep. But what I'm saying is that the storybook is part of a whole package of cultural messages children get about race, and Aboriginal people in particular. Unless the parents have done some solid, intensive ground work, and then talk about the story with their children in a particular, critical way, focusing on the racism, then I think children can miss it. ITA with what 80 says about children identifying with Laura Ingalls and with the Ingalls family in general.

I guess I just don't trust that parents have necessarily done that work with their children in the way it needs to be done to contextualize the messages in these books. How many of us have done that work? Honestly? I have not yet.
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#20 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:44 PM
 
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I can't think of a book I would forbid my child to read, short of pornography. Discussing a book is the best part!
: I totally agree with this.
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This conversation makes me want to dig my books out again.

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#22 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:46 PM
 
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I say yes. Laura wrote from *her* viewpoint, and as flawed as we may find it, that was the common thought toward Native Americans in that time of history. I would use that as a learning and discussion tool w/ my kids, and am hoping that DS will have interest in reading these books someday, so we can talk about this together.
I agree. I read Little House on the Prairie to my dd when she was 5 or so and it lead to many discussions about Native Americans and pioneers. We're currently reading "Indian Captive" by Lois Lenski that tells the other side of the story. My dd was ready to read and discuss books like these. Other kids may or may not be at this age (dd is 6 now). It's a personal call, I guess.

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#23 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:46 PM
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This conversation makes me want to dig my books out again.
I still read through them from time to time.
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#24 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:46 PM
 
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The thread title intrigued me SO much, as I wondered what controversy there was over these books.

Ahh. Okay! Got it!

So, I read those books as a kid, and thought they were great, really interesting.
Never talked about them with parents or anyone else, and honestly, don't remember her attitude and opinions about Native Americans.

It truly did not affect how I felt/feel about Native Americans.

Now, my dad was pretty racist, and as a little sponge of a child, I absorbed what he said (even if I didn't agree) and have to sometimes stop myself, as an adult, from mirroring some of the things he said. Interestingly, as a child, I was SO against what he said...I guess because it was blatant, so I had something to rail against, and now it is little whispers of thought that are harder to really "see"

(Oy, I'm rambling again!)

But he never had a bad word to say about Native Americans. So I didn't absorb anything from him. Then, as an adult, I took a literature class where we read some Native American fiction and we had a Native American woman in the class to further illustrate things and as I have grown over the years, I have NOTHING but respect and awe for Native Americans (I'm also a bit sad and pissed at how _______ they have been treated over the years).

Long story short: I read these books, had NO discussion about them, and ultimately have only positive feelings towards Native Americans. So, I don't think that books necessarily have as much power as we sometimes think they do, but the attitudes of our PARENTS PEERS and ELDERS really will influence us, even in ways we don't like.

Oh, and I was a VORACIOUS reader. Still am!
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#25 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:49 PM
 
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Yep. But what I'm saying is that the storybook is part of a whole package of cultural messages children get about race, and Aboriginal people in particular. Unless the parents have done some solid, intensive ground work, and then talk about the story with their children in a particular, critical way, focusing on the racism, then I think children can miss it. ITA with what 80 says about children identifying with Laura Ingalls and with the Ingalls family in general.

I guess I just don't trust that parents have necessarily done that work with their children in the way it needs to be done to contextualize the messages in these books. How many of us have done that work? Honestly? I have not yet.
I just...cannot process that so much has to go into simply reading an enjoyable story with my kids. Read, ask questions, discuss.

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#26 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:51 PM
 
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I don't think it's necessarily a good sign of understanding to have only good feelings toward a large, diverse, and politically complex groups as Native Americans. : I can think of at least a few of them that I really don't like.

And I agree with thismama that I'd rather have my kids read my copy of "Delta of Venus" than "LHOTP." At least THAT would be guaranteed to jump-start an interesting and potentially uncomfortablee convo...

whereas the racism in LHOTP is way, way too easily palatable. Like plum jam from Ma's cupboard.
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#27 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:52 PM
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I just...cannot process that so much has to go into simply reading an enjoyable story with my kids. Read, ask questions, discuss.
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#28 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:53 PM
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By the way, I think parents who shield their children from different eras and unfortunate historical perspectives do a great disservice to their children. We don't learn from something we haven't studied.
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#29 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:54 PM
 
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I read those books over and over, and it's Ma who blatantly speaks against the Indians, then Pa counters with examples of their helpfulness, and we get to hear what Laura is thinking. They seem to give her a shiver of fear, but she wants to adopt the papoose she sees, and the family all acknowledge that they are alive because of the Indian who spoke French (can't remember his name) talking the tribes down from slaying all the settlers.

There are many things in the books that open up good discussions (the family use shaming and whipping as disciplinary methods, for starters) and I like any book that starts a conversation.
: The fact that there are at least three different perspectives offered made it clear to me, as a child of 5 or 6, that they were people's individual opinions and not "factual". I would think that any child that is used to the discussion of ideas, as opposed to just being "told the truth", would do the same.

I think that Laura's portrayal of the different viewpoints in her family without a lot of judgement is one of the things that makes the books so good. As a child, I could put myself in Laura's shoes, and definitely shared her bias towards Pa's worldview. As an adult woman with children, I have A LOT more sympathy with Ma (although she is a bigot). Just imagining what it would have been like to live in those settings, with a very limited education about other cultures and a husband who was apt to make you pick up and start all over because of the latest rumor he heard, makes me understand her much better.
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#30 of 221 Old 04-27-2007, 06:54 PM
 
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I just...cannot process that so much has to go into simply reading an enjoyable story with my kids. Read, ask questions, discuss.
If I were a Native mama, I wonder whether it'd even be an option to just casually throw LHOTP at my kids and have a wait-and-see approach about it.

I guess if I wouldn't do that if those were MY kids' racial and cultural backgrounds being maligned, then maybe I oughtn't be so nonchalant myself. yk?
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