By Peter Allemano
NCFM Honorary Member
This Fall, I began my seventh academic year of volunteering for the Power Lunch literacy program, which is operated by the “Everybody Wins! Foundation.” Under the sponsorship of my employer, one day every week I visit a nearby elementary school and read one-on-one with my designated “buddy” during his lunch break. This year, I’ve got a new student — a first grader — and, barring unforeseen changes in the years ahead, I will be continuing as his mentor for the rest of his elementary school career.
Coincidentally, my student’s mother was on the premises when I arrived for our first session, and I met her too — a pleasant young woman from Central America who talked about having books at home . . . and is evidently very supportive of her son’s education and overall well-being. He had been born prematurely, she told me during a moment when he was out of earshot, and had to undergo much special training early in life. But he has apparently “caught up” very well — because he impressed me as a normal, energetic, engaged-with-his-environment little boy. Indeed, he is proving to be — by far — the most attentive of the three boys for whom I have provided ongoing mentoring to date. Whether or not this fact is significant, I do not know: of the three, he is the only one living in an intact family.
In any event, my first impression of my student and his family is that its members represent the “best” of what immigrants can be: hopeful, hard-working, and intent upon assimilating and contributing constructively to society.
It’s too bad that there are manipulative influences within the society — into which the family hopes to assimilate — that are out to destroy them.
The “Everybody Wins! Foundation” maintains a cart of books in each school that participates in the Power Lunch Program. Many fine options are available, both in the realms of fiction and nonfiction, but I keenly dislike some of what is made available — preachy pseudoliterature that’s short on artistic merit and long on groupthink indoctrination (read: P.C. propaganda).
Alas, midst the happy excitement of our first session together, I momentarily forgot to be cautious about our selection of books, and I watched my student enthusiastically pull three off the Power Lunch cart, at random, for us to read together. Two were by Dr. Seuss, and one was by Kimberly Morris, see: TinkerBell and the Great Fairy Rescue.
We read Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue first. I was shocked. I never thought I’d ever encounter worse misandry in any book from the Power Lunch cart than what I’ve encountered in the Berenstain Bears series. But this one is worse.
A band of fairies lives in a 100% female utopian commune, and one of them — TinkerBell (See: 8 minute trailer from movie – no longer available due to a copyright claime by Disney) — is captured by a little girl. Inadvertently captured, it turns out once the rescue is completed; the little girl is not malevolent after all. The female fairies and the little girl (the narrative goes out of its way to note: someone who “believes” in fairies) are all happy together.
There is one male character in the book: a cat. He is malevolent for no apparent reason and — angry over having gotten wet in a rainstorm — tries to attack the fairies. They subdue him with catnip.
My student enjoyed the story: to be sure, the book is beautifully illustrated, the adventures are hair-raising, and — on its surface — the book is innocent. But it is not. I felt very unhappy reading the book aloud to my student because I was deeply disturbed by it.
There was a lesson being drummed into the boy’s unconscious: all females are wonderful, but you are not . . . and if your presence is to be tolerated, you need to be drugged. There is also a sexual lesson for the boy because all the fairies are gorgeous and alluring; frankly, in the illustrations, they look like hookers or pole dancers. The message to my student’s unconscious: When you’re old enough to begin to have “special” feelings about that type of female, you’re really, really going to have to drug yourself into submission.
What a departure from the original Peter Pan story — in which there are two primary characters, Peter and Wendy (male and female), each with personality “pluses” and “minuses.” The sexes are also balanced in the supporting characters. Wendy’s mischievous little brothers, Peter’s group of “Lost Boys,” and Captain Hook and his crew are all male — with a variety of admirable and loathsome characteristics sprinkled among them — and their collective match in plot progression and personal power is Tinker Bell.
J. M. Barrie, it seems, had a wide range of feelings about males and females . . . and, above all, loved children.
Kimberly Morris, from all I can tell, simply hates males. Alas, she’s but a small cog in a whole production unit at Disney, producing numerous books and other products for children about a re-imagined “TinkerBell” and similarly feminist characters.
Thankfully, Dr. Seuss’s Yurtle the Turtle which I read to my student next, though also didactic was not sexist.
Like any young boy, my student is prone to fidgeting. But I don’t mind it. With all the boys for whom I’ve been a mentor, I’ve discovered, fidgeting serves a constructive purpose: it dissipates energy and enables the boy to concentrate on the book at hand.
Once or twice during the course of the hour I spend with my current student, however, I sense that the energy is rising to a level where fidgeting will no longer serve its purpose. But before the energy can interrupt our reading, I interrupt the reading myself — for a 30 second exercise break. We stand facing each other, and I instruct my student to follow my movements as I stretch my arms this way and that — and he grins broadly at the enjoyment he experiences in being able to ape a middle-aged man. The mini-break works like a charm every time.
I find it deeply regrettable that ostensibly savvy, professional educators don’t care very much about who little boys are and prefer to modify boys’ behavior with drugs.
During subsequent Power Lunch sessions so far, my student and I have been able to steer clear of P.C. nonsense — and our selections have included more from Dr. Seuss, a bit of L. Frank Baum, and Pitschi, by the noted Swiss author/illustrator, Hans Fischer.
Pitschi recounts the humorous — and sometimes scary — adventures of a kitten who somehow doesn’t seem to fit in with the other kittens. So Pitschi experiments with trying to turn himself into different animals . . . only to conclude that, ultimately, he is best off as a kitten. The book’s simple message is one that any child would do well to contemplate: be true to yourself.
My student was enchanted by Pitschi, and — it was fun to notice — the illustration depicting Pitschi’s frightful night locked up in a chicken coop bothered him as much as it had bothered me at his age. Indeed, this was my own copy of Pitschi that I had brought in for us to read together, and my student was thrilled that I had owned it since I too had been a little boy.
“How come I didn’t know you when you were my age?” he innocently asked me.
I felt touched by his question, for it seemed to imply that he felt we might have been good friends.
My answer was a simple statement of the truth: “You hadn’t been born yet!”
I cannot completely protect my student from the anti-male and other P.C. programming he’s receiving right and left, but I consider it my moral obligation — if I’m going to volunteer in the Power Lunch program at all — at least to try to reduce it.
Gratefully (and a little wistfully),
NCFM Honorary Member