[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.”
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.