Where to begin... In Christensen's Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us, she explains the influence that cartoons, movies and children's books have on us at an early age. "The impact of racism begins early." We let our children watch programs without realizing the outcome it could possibly have. The characters portrayed in cartoons, with violence, or even in the typical fairy tale type stories have a heavy influence on the young child. They can perceive it as reality. Christensen describes this influence as a "secret education". Our children are accepting cultures, rolls, and stereotypes without us possibly even realizing it. "Industry produced fiction has become one of the primary shapers of our emotions and our intellect... Although these stories are supposed to merely entertain us, they constantly give us a secret education." As a parent, I look back and realize, ok... yes, I no longer allowed Sponge Bob to be watched in the house when I realized just how stupid it was, and yes, my son watched the typical preschool programs like Sesame Street and Blues Clues. However, did I always make the right choice? After reading Christensen, I think WOW.
Disney movies we have all watched. The typical princess and her prince with the fairy tale ending. Not reality at all . One of Christensen's students questioned how come there's never been a black Cinderella? Do we think of these things while watching Disney movies? Probably not. Obviously my son was never interested in the typical princess movie, and cartoons were starting to fade away for him as well... around the age of three, or four it was Thomas the Tank Engine. He could name all the trains and started to identify the numbers on each one. The show had a story, with usually some type of lesson learned. Were there races? Cultures? No, just trains. All with personalities, so yes, there were conflicts. Always resolved by the end of the story.
So, now I will continue on with another way to reflect about this reading. What did I watch when I was a child? Growing up in the seventies, the programs were far different than what my son had to choose from. I remember one of my favorite shows. A cartoon called "Wait Til Your Father Gets Home." Oh boy. Just in the title it implies something! The mother stayed home with the kids, while being a homemaker. The father was off to work all day. The show had comedic value, but did not I realize then, that in the very title alone, it meant the mother had no authority in the home. That she couldn't make a decision on her own? If the kids did something they shouldn't have she couldn't set the guidelines for punishment? Yes. Welcome to the seventies. I'm sure this cartoon was aired before then, but that's when I watched it. Then, there's Tom and Jerry. I believe my son watched this as well, but newer versions. I recall many episodes with one adult in particular that would make an appearance. She was dressed as a maid, heavy set, black woman's voice with black skin. ALWAYS dressed as a maid. As a child, I most likely never questioned this.
Points to discuss in class.... Do you agree with the idea that children receive a 'secret education" in the media? What did you watch as a child? Do you think it influenced your learning or emotions?