I haven't watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in years, and while I knew it was an intended satire on the belief in Santa Claus, I hadn't really appreciated what a total religious analogy it is. You have Linus being mocked and harassed for his (admittedly groundless) beliefs. At the same time, it's implicit that the people mocking him uncritically believe on Santa Claus, mainly because it's the irrational thing that everybody else believes in. Hmmm...
So it came up in conversation yesterday that, deep down, I still don't understand the idea of appropriate reading levels for kids any more than I did when I was a kid. Maybe it's a good thing that I'm raising cats. A valid point was made about the frustration level some kids feel when reading something that's beyond them on a technical level, that turns some kids off...But that seems more like a function of the standardized education lumping all the individual levels together.
I mean, the kid's in a class, being made to read something that s/he can't understand. Or if they understand the words, they can't really "get it." I can see how that could be a problem, but that's already a symptom of an unhealthy attitude to the whole thing. (Frankly, I think the whole educational system is unhealthy, but that's a whole book, so, sorry to skim over the surface of an abyss of controversy).
What I mean is a kid who's at the "correct" level in school, who's got the basic concepts, and wants to go to the library and get more ten more books. To read for themselves. The idea that they'd be prevented, because the books might be too advanced for them, is crazy to me.
I didn't get such a ludicrous vocabulary by learning ten words a week in English class. I flung myself into things that were too advanced, because I wanted to. Nobody was there to make any kind of big deal out of it if I found something really too advanced; I just deemed it "boring" and read something else. In the beginning, I pestered my big sisters for the meanings of words I didn't know (big sisters are a definite advantage in precocious learning, so I got lucky there). Then I graduated to looking them up. And eventually I learned to mainly pick up the meanings by context. (Still the best method).
But enough about me. Ha ha, just kidding! This is all just my background in the mechanics, if you will, of reading. Because as we were chatting, an intelligent person of my acquaintance put in the viewpoint that kids shouldn't read beyond their emotional or mental level. That if they don't have the experience to understand something, and are exposed to some ideas before they're ready, it could have some adverse effect.
I actually thought for a minute, maybe I'm wrong. (OMG, mark your calendars). It was almost an existential moment. Maybe my whole existence is based on something that was actually damaging to me, and I just don't recognize it, because of the damage that was done.
Or is this a concept that's been peddled to make even intelligent, liberal, well-educated parents think that knowledge and reading and thinking for themselves can hurt their children? I was reassured to think that as a kid, that's the view I would have taken, when I was all about how much I wanted to read and know. And it was clear that this made even some of the teachers nervous.
Maybe I'd have been better socialized if my reading had been curtailed. On the other hand, I always managed to find and read what I wanted to, as if it were porn or something. Like, "the Man can't tell me what to read!" Which again, is maybe why I'm still such a voracious reader today. My reading in general, and many of my selections in particular, either freaked people out, or pissed them off.
So kids! Nothing makes your teachers madder than being smart! Nothing upsets your parents like thinking for yourself! (I know, there are cool teachers and cool parents. I know plenty of them personally. But there's a lot of the alternative out there too).