Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Boy Who Cried...

Uh, this post has nothing to do with Team Jakeward.
Instead, it's a monthly meme: 

the Character Assassination Carousel.
The brainchild of the the ever-clever Ninja Mom
 bloggers are invited to challenge notions regarding
 children's lit. AKA kids' lit can be freaky.
 Last month Beta Dad took a stab.
In June see what Alicia does with this meme.
Veritable touchstones of moral development, who would possibly criticize Aesop's Fables?

Uh. I would.

Okay. I'll back down a bit. I can't criticize all of them. Just one. Arguably the most famous one: The Boy who Cried Wolf

For discussion sake one could re-read the story or perhaps allow me to summarize it in two words: kids lie.

*blanching* WHAT?! Kids lie? Well of course they do. But surely not my kids. Other kids lie, but not my kids! Why would my kids lie? We have a good relationship. We talk all the time. We are so close. *blinks*

Famous last words. Anyway, more on that later.

First, let's examine this fable in a series of questions and answers:

Q: What in hell possessed a village to put one kid in charge of all of the sheep, their very livelihood? What? Gary Busey wasn't available?
A: Yeah, yeah. I know. I'm not supposed to interpret a fable literally but come on. This was mistake #1.

Q: After he's proven unreliable, irresponsible and a narcissist, why give him a THIRD CHANCE?
A: Basically a rhetorical question therefore, last time I checked, no answer required.

Q: Does it scare anyone else that nobody checked on the kid the third time? Sure, he was a liar, but who abandons a kid screaming WOLF?! And who's going to explain it to the authorities that they were just "teaching him a lesson" when the forensics department finds his left elbow?
A: This is creepy. It's like a page torn from the Lizzie Borden Handbook for Parents.

Q: Does this story really teach that "no one believes a liar, even when he is telling the truth?"
A: Doubtful. Here's what I think it teaches kids instead: never tell the same lie twice. (I suspect the boy who cried wolf grew up to become Jack in Lord of the Flies.)

Q: And finally, who cares?
A: I do. Why? Three reasons:

1. I detest when kids claim to be bored and they want adults to do something about it. I believe this is why the expression "go fly a kite" exists. Kids do not lack imagination. Foster curiosity and creativity. Help them develop their own ways to cope with so-called boredom which, in most cases, it just an excuse to be lazy.

2. We must be realistic about our little brats angels. They lie. Think about it. Did you? Look around: our immediate environment is based on lies. Ever watch a TV commercial? Isn't the story about Washington being "unable to tell a lie" a complete fabrication? And who teaches them to lie? We do. Tooth fairy anyone? Don't we expect them to lie when Grandma asks them if they like school?

3. Sadly, this story teaches that lying is powerful. Which it is. But it's so destructive too. I know this because I WAS The Little Prick Who Cried Wolf (alternate title). I gorged on that power as a kid. I lied so much people asked my mother when her baby was due: the uh, nonexistent baby I told everyone at school she was expecting. (Just imagine that P-T interview.) Lying is disrespect. Theft. It exploits people. It's passive-aggressive. Manipulative. It puts everything in doubt. It's insidious. We harm others and ourselves when we lie. Eric Hoffer said, "We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves." The Boy Who Cried Wolf misses the real teachable moment: honesty is the real power. Why not demonstrate the consequences and rewards of telling the truth instead? Truth inspires people. Real honesty heals. That's the lesson kids need to hear. Again and again.


Cheeseboy said...

As a teacher, I have become very good at telling when a kid is crying wolf, which is almost every time. I can also tell when Gary Busath is lying too, because of this skill I have.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Was George Washington the only honest kid alive? Or was he a lying little bastard too? Your call.

SherilinR said...

i think this is the longest thing i've ever read by you. i liked it when you said they found the left elbow.
it seems like most fables & fairy tales suck for so many reasons. scary much?

Chelle said...

Whes my kids complain to me that they are bored, I saddle them with a chore.

The problem has solved itself.

Nicole said...

Nailed it! My favortie line: "Here's what I think it teaches kids instead: never tell the same lie twice." Because it's true and it's the ugly kind of true.

Thanks for playing along. Would you be kind enough to mention that Alicia from Naps Happen is up next month? Thanks, eh? (http://napshappen.wordpress.com/)

karensomethingorother said...

this character assassination carousel thingy sounds very interesting. I'm going to have to look into this!

Vinny C said...

Brilliant interpretation! I'm so tempted to try my hand at this now.

Alistair said...

Ah - but isn't the power of honesty revealed in 'The Emperor's New Clothes'?

I own George Washinton's original axe. The guy who had it before me had it in his family for many years. I had to replace the handle and the head eventually but it still works a treat. Honest!

Elly Lou said...

This is why I should just go ahead and let my kid watch a NCIS marathon instead of read, right?

Angela@BeggingTheAnswer said...

Hmmm... I like how the story ends with the boy crying because the wolf scattered the flock, rather than the villagers finding, as you put it, the boy's left elbow. Seems like a poor lesson about lying and about wolf safety.

Antares Cryptos said...

Thought-provoking post.

I'm overgeneralizing, but we live in a society that rewards lies with success and punishes honesty.

wendy said...

Very good my friend.
Reminded me of my brother in law who is always "interpreting" fairy tales and fables.

Like, how about Goldilocks. Now WHO just walks into someones house without being invited, eating their food and and snooping around
Obviously, Manners were NOT taught in her family.

and that's not a lie.

dbs said...

@Cheeseboy You are a skilled man.
@DSWS Both. Aren't we all at times?
@SherilinR Grim(m).
@Chelle Yes. That is a good strategy.
@Nicole Thanks for inviting me to share my drivel.
@karen Check it out. I would love to see what you do with kids' lit.
@VinnyC Do it Vinny.
@Alistair I am surprise what a good liar you are! ;)
@EllyLou No. Read to that child every. single. day. And for the first six months you can swear why you do it. (I know you'd like that.)
@Angela Smart comment. I think you should try this meme.
@AC Sadly true. #charliesheen
@Wendy Exactly. That is NOT a lie.

Anonymous said...

You forgot the best part of being a liar. The vivid imagination.
Martin Amis didn't get where he is by telling the truth.

Also? I went to 12 years of catholic school. The nuns told us if we didn't confess the lies we told they would remain on our soul festering and eating us alive from the inside.
You try to hide that smell of rotting spirits for too long and it gives you away.

Kev D. said...

"If the wolf really IS there this time, he'll learn to never lie again."
"Well, yeah, because he'll be dead."
"Lesson learned."
"Shouldn't we g-"
"Lesson learned."

Dr. Cynicism said...

Honestly, I always felt like the village set him up for failure. And I totally understand that kids lie, Judge Judy said so.

The Defiant Marshmallow said...

Right on. I love the Q&A format. Great way to do this! Also love the line that says it teaches a kid never to tell the same lie twice. As one of three sons, and the father of four, I concur that kids lie. We help them along that path too often. mea culpa!

Great job on this!

Alittlesprite said...

WHen our son says he is bored we hand him the toilet brush and say "Go SCRUB!"

I know he tells lies occasionally, but having aspergers, he very rarely does. It's one of the parent-friendly quirks of Aspie kids.

Nicole said...

Thanks for adding Alicia!

Felt like adding that I have one child who is only interest in bald-faced lies. There's no "help! wolf!" subterfuge.

ME: "Did you flush the toilet?"

HER: "Yes."

ME: "I didn't hear it and I'm standing right outside. Go flush."

HER: "Okay . . . *whiney, foot-dragging trudge back to the potty*

Every time.

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