04 October 2010

In defense of Captain Underpants

JK! Of course you’re right: even if I were so inclined, I could find absolutely nothing to offer in defense of Captain Underpants and his ilk. I’m as tired as the next guy of the cheery and/or winking and/or resigned expression of “Well, at least they’re reading!”

I’m really sorry that it even had to be said, but since it did, I’m glad that someone took advantage of a public venue to say it: “One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers, and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn’t go very far.”

Thank you, Mr. Spence, and for your good work I may even forgive you another of your comments: “Who knows—a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.” :D

(HT: My kids’ grandparents, who know quite well that the last thing boys need is official sanctioning of bathroom humor.)

19 comments:

Leah said...

Excellent! Thanks for sharing this article. Last year, when I was teaching, I was amazed at how some of my boys payed very close attention to my read-alouds, even when they were "girly" books, like Caddie Woodlawn and Ramona. They never wanted me to stop.

Kristi said...

That was a great article! We have no "gross out" books like Goosebumps or Captain Underpants. But I did waiver a bit with "my weird school" series. However, my boys read every.single.day. I make them, just like I make them play piano. There is no alternative. Hopefully one day they will thank me!! Or tell their therapist about it! ;)
Kristi

Rebekah said...

I liked this too: "Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband—Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?"

Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!

Gauntlets said...

Some of my mancub's favorite books are those that were ruined by Disney: Salton's Bambi, Smith's 101 Dalmations, Kipling's Jungle Book (duh), Traver's Mary Poppins. He even liked The Smith Family Robinson, and is there a more boring book in the English language? Even given that scene where the python crushes and eats the family donkey? ;)

Anyway, yes, we don't do fart jokes around here. Rather, we crush and eat lesser creatures with capital style.

Leah said...

"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but, but, but ... oh yes, sanctioning, feeding, and egging it on will multiply it exponentially." Yay!

I'm not saying we should take ourselves too seriously. C.S. Lewis says in The Four Loves, "There's no living with [the body] till we recognize that one of its functions is to play the part of buffoon."
But there are many more dimensions to "a man" than just the most natural ones, which frankly, don't need encouragement. There are dimensions of "character" that DO need nurturing, training, discipline and encouragement - lots of it!
Just like Kristi, I MAKE my boys practice their piano and READ good books every day because ... "The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful."
I'm the mom. That's my job.

Reb. Mary said...

Leah #2, I like your use of Lewis :)

"Ruined by Disney"--someone should go ahead and use that as a book title :P

Reb. Mary said...

Leah #1: Caddie Woodlawn! What a girl! Hmmm, maybe I'll try that one on my boys sometime. Seems like it's so much harder to find strong male-protagonist books for the elementary set, whether read-alouds or easier-readers.

Kristi, I don't know the weird school series, but I'll admit that Magic School Bus and Magic Tree House make it into our library bags on a semiregular basis...it's not all Great Books around here either :P

Leah said...

Reb Mary - good male protagonist books: the "Little Britches" series.
My kids (and I) love them.

Leah said...

Reb. Mary-

I know! I tried desperately to find something with strong male characters. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is really good. The sequels have some difficult themes (war, mainly). The Shiloh series,There's also something to be said for those classics- Treasure Island, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Red Pony.

Katy said...

My husband grew up reading anything/everything, including some of his sister's books. He says some of the best male characters are in there (can't think of one particular title right now).

I just read "Tending the Heart of Virtue" (I give it a solid B. I was looking for something more in depth, but it was a quick read during a weekend trip). It made me want to read a systematic comparison between each fairy tale or literary story and Disney's spin (I have not read Pinnochio or The Little Mermaid, so the author's comparison is very interesting). Is there such a book? A critique of every single Disney movie based on a previous book/story, comparing the changes in the cartoon with the original. My mom never let us watch TLM because of the blatant disobedience therein, but I was not aware of the other changes Disney made (besides the mermaid not dying).

Sorry my posts are always so long. One more thing: I think Christians do the same thing, with a twist. We say, "as long as my children are reading something moral [sometimes moral is equal to simply "old"]...", we ignore the writing quality (both at the sentence and story levels). Or even the truth quality. Although I have not read every single Lamplighter republication, what I have noticed with many of their reprints of 19th century moral novels is equating morality (sometimes in that narrow 19th c. sense) with Christianity. They pander to our works-righteousness as much as Captain Underpants panders to our sons' body humor.

Reb. Mary said...

Thanks for the recs, y'all!

Katy, I hear ya--For education in taste, style, and the human condition, give me good real literature over the sloppily cobbled "moral/Christian" fluff any day. Sadly, the "Christian fiction" section of a bookstore generally makes me cringe (with some exceptions, she hastens to add).

I think it was C.S. Lewis (perhaps Leah will help us out here) who had that quote I'm about to butcher about not needing more Christian books, but more Christians writing books (& doing other things) well.

Leah said...

"What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent."

C.S. Lewis

Christian Apologetics,
God in the Dock (book)

Reb. Mary said...

I knew Leah would come through for us :)

Leah said...

Anything for you Reb. Mary...
(What does "Reb. Mary" mean anyway, if you don't mind my asking?)

Reb. Mary said...

Simply, an abbr. version of my first two names--wouldn't want to confuse everyone with too many Rebecca/kahs around here :).

Leah said...

Got it. Thank you.

Rebekah said...

Rebecca/kah was the Lutheran version of Jennifer from 1976-1984.

Katy said...

In my mind it's Rebel Mary

Reb. Mary said...

:D There may be those undertones too, some days...