Patterico's Pontifications

11/4/2007

NY Times: Don’t Read these Silly Books

Filed under: Books,Media Bias — DRJ @ 2:06 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Two recent books have become popular with parents who reject PC childrearing and want experiences for their children that are more like their own childhoods. The first book is “The Dangerous Book for Boys” and the most recent is “The Daring Book for Girls.”

The Instapundit and his wife Dr. Helen interviewed the authors of these books in two podcasts: “The Dangerous Book for Boys” podcast link is here and “The Daring Book for Girls” link is here.

One concept behind these books is that kids don’t do many hands-on things anymore. They don’t know how to repair things, they don’t understand how things work, and they don’t experiment with things anymore – let alone experiment and fail. Modern parents (myself included) expect and often get perfection from our kids but we may not be doing them any favors if we don’t let them learn things for themselves. In other words, while it’s true kids may be inept at everyday tasks, the greater issue is that too often we encourage them not to try new things because they might fail.

I guess this must be a conservative philosophy because today’s New York Times has an editorial entitled “Childhood for Dummies” that lambastes these books and, by implication, the concepts behind them [emphasis supplied]:

“Nostalgic parents who made a best seller of a faux- 1920s rough-and-tumble manual, “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” may soon do the same with its just-published companion, “The Daring Book for Girls.”

Here are some excerpts. Try these, girls, if you dare:

Page 57: “Putting Your Hair Up With a Pencil.”

Page 82: “The Daring Girls Guide to Danger.” (“5. Wear high heels.” “7. Try sushi or another exotic food.”)

Page 47: “Throwing the Ball.” (“Start with the ball in your right hand, stretching your arm straight out behind you. Standing with your feet apart, one forward and one slightly back, point your forward foot — or, the foot on the side of your glove hand — in the direction the ball will go …”)

Hmmm. Maybe the “Dangerous” boys’ version is more adventuresome:

Page 98: “Making a Paper Hat.”

Page 180: “Wrapping a Package in Brown Paper and String.”

Guess not.

Having read both books, we can assure you that very, very little in them is remotely dangerous or daring, and that anything on the borderline, like shooting bunnies (“Dangerous,” Page 238) or climbing trees (“Daring,” Page 158), is covered by a very strict NOTE TO PARENTS: “All of these activities should be carried out under adult supervision only.”

We’re not sure if that applies to Page 171 of “Dangerous”: “Skipping Stones.”

These books are so clearly not about daredeviltry.

They are about ineptitude. They seem to perfectly capture a fear, floating in the culture, that a generation of preoccupied parents has been raising a generation of children full of sophisticated knowledge that is useless when the power goes out or the batteries die. That children have superior thumb-joystick coordination and TV-plot-discernment abilities, but cannot tie their shoes. (We have Velcro for that now.)

How strange, yet telling, that parents would see a pair of $24.95 how-to manuals as the keys to a richer childhood. (Page 139: “To make a daisy chain, pick 20 or so daisies.”)

We do hope the trend dies out before the next book:

“Lying on your back in your crib, point your knees outward and draw your heels toward your stomach. Using both hands, grasp your left ankle, if you are right-handed (or right ankle, if left-handed), and slowly draw your toes into your mouth. Chew with caution!”

It is quite possible, of course, that these books are actually the driest form of satire — that their authors have pulled off a publishing coup with a deadpan earnestness worthy of Borat.

But oh, how cruel the joke, if so:

Page 247: “In one sense, hiking is just walking on a footpath that often angles up, but in the wilderness.”

Page 69: “Snowballs.” “To make a snowball, scoop up enough snow to fill your hands …”

There’s very little to say in response to this rant. The editors opt for sarcasm and contempt rather than logic and thoughtful consideration … but that’s something the New York Times seems to do more and more these days.

— DRJ

43 Responses to “NY Times: Don’t Read these Silly Books”

  1. There is no room in the It Takes a Village to Raise a Child manual for freelancing like this.

    Banjo (b5278d)

  2. I looked at it in the store. It’s lame. Way more cool stuff in the Boy Scout Manual. And it lacks all the basics on making fires, using knnies and axes and slingshots and other dangerous, semi-warlike boyish pursuits.

    Doesn’t surprise me to see you hype it, DRJ, as your posts seem to be very “silly mom” type posts. Oh…but you’re several months overdue.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  3. Crap…I read the rest of your review. You and I are on the same side on this one, DRJ.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  4. Just read what you wrote better, DRJ. Take back the above.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  5. Oh…wait. I don’t take it back. The NYT is dead right. And you are being a wimpy little mommie. Cripes. Makes me sick. The schoolmarming of America.

    TCO (3b23ad)

  6. (Page 139: “To make a daisy chain, pick 20 or so daisies.”)

    I’m just not even gonna freakin’ say it…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  7. Again the NYT evidences it arrogance and ignorance. And again they reveal how intensely out of touch with ‘real’ people they are.

    I work at a public school in a semi-urban area. I can unequivocally say that the vast majority of the kids there wouldn’t have a clue about the adventurous things covered in the books referenced. And that would be because their natural curiosity and creativity has been dulled by too much time parked in front of the t.v., too much time doing the foster care shuffle, too much devotion imitating the gangsta behavior, and because of a lack of any parent passing on to the child the sheer thrill of discovery. But I know if a grown-up took the time with the child to go through the fun stuff in the books, the kid might smirk at first in their jadedness but would soon be totally into it. And thats because that is how kids are when they are loved and have attention paid to them – it sparks up all natural curiosity & creativity – but the tv has to be turned off.

    That the NYT belittles and mocks is no surprise, its generally what ignorance does. Its not childhood for dummies these days, its childhood numbed.

    Dana (2081bb)

  8. Anything that can even be remotely called masculine is anathema to Those Who Decide All the News That’s Fit to Print.

    chaos (9c54c6)

  9. Hmmm… so the chapter on making triammonium iodide in your own kitchen was probably a bad idea?

    richard mcenroe (9c25d2)

  10. Get the lads into Scouts. They get to play with fire, knives, axes, saws and stuff, learn cool knots and go camping. If done right they also learn to cook for themselves and clean up afterwards and learn some manners and basic courtesy. Merit badges offer specific learning opportunities. Cheap and tough to beat for the kids and parents too.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  11. Sarcasm an contempt is an appropriate response.

    David Ehrenstein (b743cb)

  12. God, you morons don’t even get the point of the NYT. That the book is not dangerous enough. Sheesh, you need to make pop sounds and pull your heads out of your…

    TCO (3b23ad)

  13. Daleyrocks, that was true before the Scouts started filling their merit badges with politically correct nonsense.

    SPQR (6c18fd)

  14. SPQR – I guess I haven’t noticed or have ignored the PC crap.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  15. SPQR – Riflery is still the number one merit badge at summer camp. The kids shoot 22’s, but they can also use shotguns and black powder rifles. Some of the PC parents pitch a fit, especially when their kid wants to show them how they learned how to throw a hatchet next.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  16. Yeah, its not completely gone yet, we had some scouts go through our hunter education program last month.

    SPQR (6c18fd)

  17. One concept behind these books is that kids don’t do many hands-on things anymore. They don’t know how to repair things, they don’t understand how things work, and they don’t experiment with things anymore – let alone experiment and fail.

    The Times just loves the demographics of the better New York neighborhoods of Manhattan and the boroughs. You can bet even the Dads don’t know how to fix things. They just call the super…that’s all.

    PC14 (f74534)

  18. The NY Times is … not worth the time required to reply.

    tyree (4ac83f)

  19. Scouts…
    It used to be that an Eagle Scout award looked very good on college admission applications. Probably not so much anymore, unless you’re appying to West Point, etc.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  20. bad fingers…
    “appying” should read “applying”.
    Sorry!

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  21. I’m a ranch kid.

    I think I may buy these for my kids, because it’s looking like they won’t be raised on a ranch– or even in the country– and I’d really rather they didn’t turn into town kids. (no offense, town kids, but there really is a difference)

    Foxfier (94990a)

  22. Another Drew – I think how it looks is in the eye of the reader and how the applicant spins it. If the reader understands the commitment required it is a definite plus. If the applicant can demonstrate a lot of leadership positions and qualities and service work along the way it should be a big plus to educated readers – no different than other major extracurricular activities.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  23. My 26 year old son bought the Dangerous Book for Boys…at the end of it he came to the same conclusion I did (and Daley did…)
    “We did this stuff in Scouts.”
    The great thing about Scouting is, that up to a point you can really tailor it to your taste. Hate PC foolishness? You can (With a little work to be sure.) Weed it out of the Troops experience.
    Eagle rank still does hold s certain value outside of the service academies, admittedly not what it may have in the past however.

    paul from fl (47918a)

  24. paul from fl – Depending on the size of the troop, you can tailor activities more easily to the interests of the scouts. I’ve got a bunch who love camping and hiking, all conditions. Others will only camp in tents if it’s above around 50. I only take smaller groups snow or ice camping during the winter, figure out cabin camping alternatives or urban activities for the larger group.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  25. Scouts…
    It used to be that an Eagle Scout award looked very good on college admission applications. Probably not so much anymore, unless you’re appying to West Point, etc.

    Or leading an insurgency against Cubans and Russians in the Rockies.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  26. Wolverines!

    daleyrocks (906622)

  27. Can’t you hear Harry Dean Stanton behind the wire shouting “avenge me!”?

    SPQR (6c18fd)

  28. As one who started tearing things apart when in grade school, I long for those days in our culture. That is why I became a power plant field test engineer. Making systems and the plant work was stressful, hard work but exciting and rewarding. The average age now of such engineers is at or over 60 years of age for the company I worked for prior to retirement. They are finding it harder and harder to find people with the skill set and the inclination to work long and hard hours away from family and friends. Many retirees are going back to work as contract personnel because of it.

    I can survive without power and modern conveniences, while not liking it; I’m not so sure about most Americans. However another thing which inhibits developing the skill set many in my generation succeeded with is that so much today is basically not repairable. Our throw away society has made the designs easy and cheap to build and almost impossible to repair or just too expensive to do so. I hardly work on my vehicles anymore, especially if it relates to the engine or electronic controls. I could master the concepts and test equipment needed, but I don’t think the investment is worth the effort anymore.

    When such abilities and natural curiosity seem to be lost by the vast majority, I do have this wee bit of a fear that the enemy we face, which has a 7th century culture and has shown that it can master our basic weapons systems sufficiently to destroy modern infrastructures, can survive and fight well in such an environment. The West I fear could not handle a major deterioration of our standard of living. The old saying of the 50’s, “I’d rather be Red than dead” could be updated in the near future. What is standing between us and them is that fabulous new Greatest Generation in the military which has rediscovered the good old days while mastering modern technology. There may be hope yet for us.

    amr (d671ab)

  29. I would call that editorial a window into the Gray Lady’s sour, humorless soul. She can’t even recognize the obvious ironic intent of the title. It must be awful to feel so compulsively nasty all the time.

    driver (faae10)

  30. amr,

    As the child of an engineer who could fix anything and often had to, I identify with your comment. Maybe that’s why my family sometimes tried to fix things just for the satisfaction of fixing them, even though we could replace them with far less time and effort.

    Driver,

    I agree. The only time the Times’ coverage is positive is on a Democratic President’s inauguration day, and even that joy seems short-lived.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  31. As the child of an engineer who could fix anything and often had to, I identify with your comment. Maybe that’s why my family sometimes tried to fix things just for the satisfaction of fixing them, even though we could replace them with far less time and effort.

    Ive sworn that my father’s grave-stone epitath will be “No job too big I can’t make it bigger”.

    It seems he’s too smart to have someone else do it, but to stupid to realize he should have someone else do it. I’ve helped rebuild more engines than I care to remember. There’s a reason you pay people to do that sort of stuff…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  32. Scott,

    I identify with your comment, too! I spent many a weekend working on projects with my Dad that I knew could be done in easier ways. It seemed ridiculous at the time but now I’m grateful for those moments and everything I learned.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  33. Here’s one.

    At one point, we built a deck for his girlfriend’s first floor(walkin basement) home.

    It was a masterpeice. Truly, it was a thing of ledgend. And the more soil shifted down the hill because the contractors and site devoloper are Blithering Idiots, so it’s all hanging off the house, cement pads, posts, and all (we can build ’em, by God). We’re taking it down bit by bit to save the material should we decide to try it again when the backyard gets “fixed”, and at one point dad’s hanging by a hand, stretched on one foot, hanging over about a 10′ plus ladder height fall, just to save a board or two.

    “Dad. Seriously old man. Cut there, there and there, and push the damn thing. Screw the materials. It’s not like you aren’t going to charge them for it anyways…”

    But one of many times “the worthless son” has had an idea that has likely saved his life.
    A brilliant mind, wrapped in the body of a stuborn idiot. When I’m away in the service, I give him 2 years, tops.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  34. I bought the Boy book and have it set aside for when my twin grandsons (now five) are a bit older

    AND I told my daughter I expect them to be in Cub Scouts as soon as they reach the right age.

    I still have my Junior Girl Scout handbook from the 1960’s and much of it reads like the Boy book. I loved Scouting and spent several summers at Camp Lakota in Frasier park. I learned how to make jerky and pemmican, lash wood together to make a shelter for food stuffs to be lifted into the trees so bears can’t get it, how to treat snakebite and splint a broken arm or to buddy carry a wounded scout out. I learned how to pitch a tent and use a compass, roll a sleeping bag and pack a backpack, and sing in rounds around the campfire. How to saddle a horse and muck its stall. How to properly display and fold the American flag.

    And that’s in addition to a childhood of minimal material things but loads of imagination … where a refrigerator box was a highly prized object that became a rocketship or a fort. Where when my metal roller stakes no longer fit my dad used them to make me a scooter by attaching them to a board, with an orange crate on the front topped by a broom handle sawn in half as handles. I loved it as much as my bicycle (rode like a maniac with no helmet or kneepads)

    The NYTimes sneers at the books because self-sufficiency like self-responsiblity are passe in a collectivist world. Indeed, such virtues are dangerous to those that demand the right to enforce what they deem is for “our own good” … either by banning tag in schools or mandatory medical checkups.

    Darleen (187edc)

  35. Well said, Darleen.

    DRJ (5c60fb)

  36. I leafed through the dangerous book for boys and it was OK. I figured that it was full of safer stuff coz we live in an age of litigation. Maybe the “Dangerous” part in the title is to take a jab at helicopter parents. I would say that they are a myth but I know a few of them personally.
    There is a better book out there anyway, and maybe this one could serve as a primer to it. It’s called the American Boys Handy Book. It, of course, presumes all kinds of knowledge that maybe boys (and girls) these days somehow don’t have, like the knowledge of how to make a snowball???? (Isn’t that just instinctive? The instinct the kid must overcome it to throw it instead of put it down coz “someone might get hurt”)

    EdWood (c2268a)

  37. Into the world children are going today, they’d better learn how to take care themselves and others. Their lives may depend on it, no matter where you live it is not safe. As a grandmother I can tell you that many of my grandkids’ friends lack “street smarts”…some lack “common sense” but all feel they are invulnerable to everything. A recent death of a friend in a car accident has done more than we ever expected to focus our 17 year old into a much safer driver.

    Sue (aabd51)

  38. The NYTimes sneers at the books because self-sufficiency like self-responsiblity are passe in a collectivist world. Indeed, such virtues are dangerous to those that demand the right to enforce what they deem is for “our own good” … either by banning tag in schools or mandatory medical checkups. – Darleen

    What a grandiose display of self-righteous mental masturbation we have here!

    So liberals can’t be self-sufficient now? What a crock. The hippies were the ones who said to leave everything behind and do it ALL yourself. “Get back to the garden” Remember? (…talk about revisionist history…)

    That NYT article is not remotely political – the point was that the books were too simplistic. That was it. How to make a snowball? If you have to read a book to find out how to do that, you’ve got more than political problems.

    Psyberian (9a155b)

  39. Were there any self-sufficient hippie communes? The only hippies I knew got money from their parents, panhandled, prostituted themselves and sold drugs.

    nk (334528)

  40. I haven’t bought the book nor plan to (my daughter is reading the Twelve Labors of Hercules complete with clubbing lions to death, beheading snakes and batting back thrown rocks) but, from the excerpts I have read, Psyberian does seem to have a point about its remedial nature.

    nk (334528)

  41. Yes, there were NK. Of course, being completely self-reliant was much more difficult to actually do than they had imagined, so not many actually pulled it off. But that’s what was advocated back then at any rate.

    This isn’t the best example since it was so long ago. But I don’t know any liberals who don’t respect do-it-yourself projects. Most of us can’t afford to hire professionals often anyway, so it is more of a necessity.

    Psyberian (9a155b)

  42. I know very few “hippies” who became “self-reliant” in any meaningful sense of the word.

    Techie (c003f1)


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