I had a couple of conversations last week that have stuck with me. One was with a fellow schools performer, an affable magician and puppeteer, who recalled a child in his audience who got malicious pleasure from pointing out--loudly and repeatedly-- that neither magic tricks nor puppets are real.
The other was with a fan (and teacher) at the Decatur Book Festival, who praised the historical settings of my Snipesville Chronicles books. "Kids need something more than manga," she said passionately.
These stories may seem only tangentially connected. But they both led me to think about the many ways in which commercial media and modern school curricula crush children's imaginative capacities. Too much elementary education seems to me to be content-free, relying on worksheets to somehow teach kids to pass tests in math and reading. When social studies (that horrid phrase!) is taught, it is usually a mish-mash of facts that some pressure group or legislative body has determined that kids should "learn."
And manga? At least Sponge Bob has a keen eye for human foibles. What I have seen of manga has been so drop-dead banal, I reckon kids must be desperate to watch it, much less obsess on it.
History is so rich, so amazing, and so fascinating, but the amazing, rich, and fascinating bits seldom make it into American classrooms or children's programming of any kind. Far too many people think history is facts about presidents or battles, and too rarely do kids learn how life-enriching it can be to learn about the past.