parents of the reading class: the backlash against your little ‘joke’ has begun

From CNN.com, regarding the best-selling book Go the F*** to Sleep:

“Crass in concept and execution, this is an expletive-filled bedtime story intended solely for the amusement of parents. […]

Imagine if this were written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos,” says Dr. David Arredondo. He is an expert on child development and founder of The Children’s Program, in the San Francisco metropolitan area, which provides consultation and training for those working with troubled youths.

It is hard to imagine this kind of humor being tolerated by any of the marginalized groups Arredondo cited. Consider the lines on page 3:

“The eagles who soar thru the sky are at rest
And the creatures who crawl, run and creep.
I know you are not thirsty. That’s bulls**t.
Stop lying.
Lie the f*** down, my darling, and sleep.”

The irony, says Arredondo, is that the people buying the book are probably good parents.

I wonder how much contemporary satire would pass the test of “Imagine if a paunchy white Southern sheriff was screaming this at an [insert disadvantaged group] person they had just pulled over for speeding. Stop lying. I know you are not thirsty. Is it so funny now?”

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

14 thoughts on “parents of the reading class: the backlash against your little ‘joke’ has begun”

    1. Now I may not use those exact words, but I routinely tell my kids during our nighttime reading ritual, “Can you be quiet while I read this book!? What’s the point of me reading if you’re talking?!” “If you don’t be quiet, I’m not reading!” “Well, ok, no book for you!” If I wasn’t so afraid they’d start saying “fuck” to every person they met, “shut the fuck up” would save a lot of words.

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  1. It appears Arredondo doesn’t know, or has forgotten, just how tired parents are by the time they tuck their kids in to bed. Perhaps a reflection of my poor parenting, stories in my house were seldom infused with the enthusiasm he seems to assume. Melodic exasperation was more the status quo. I don’t think I could have rounded up the energy to read that page above with malice.

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  2. Why am I thinking that David Arredondo has never spent a couple of weeks alone with a three-year-old, much less two or three young children at once? I mean 24/7 here, alone, just you and the kids.

    I’m remembering my son when he was in the 3-6 age range. He’d talk incessantly (I mean INCESSANTLY) and would keep himself awake talking. I’d say to him at bedtime (and other times!): X just STOP TALKING! Don’t say anything. Just stop talking. Please, STOP TALKING.

    I’m also thinking that a sense of humor goes a long way to help parents manage stress. And that the glassy-eyed perfect parents whose perfect children can do no wrong are monsters who unleash monsters on the rest of us.

    But, in Arrendondo’s possible defense, he may feel that too much anti-child talk, especially rough talk like shut the f- up, may feed into abusive patterns. It is sadly also true that some parents do abuse their children both physically and verbally.

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  3. But his critique doesn’t make any sense. For example, what would “Muslims, go the fuck to sleep” even be about? Fine, don’t curse at your kids. Point taken. But analogizing to “other marginalized groups”? Idiocy.

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    1. >But his critique doesn’t make any sense. For example,
      >what would “Muslims, go the fuck to sleep” even be
      >about? Fine, don’t curse at your kids. Point taken. But
      >analogizing to “other marginalized groups”? Idiocy.

      obviously you’re not familiar with prop 16 on next year’s ballot

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      1. Infants are not allowed to vote or marry or enter into contracts. At least the Supreme Court affirmed their right yesterday to go into a store and buy the most violent videogames their tiny dark hearts might want.

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      2. I’m familiar with Prop 16, but I don’t get the relevance. Please break it down for me.

        @jeremy: on my blog (shameless plug), i got into this argument about children being a marginalized group when discussing spanking. the whole thing is madness to me. as a parent of young children, who also observes people, and someone who reads (not terribly deep stuff, just reads), it is absolutely absurd to me that folks believe children should have all the same substantive rights as adults. there are so many rational psychological, social, and commonsense reasons why children should not, in every aspect, be treated like adults that to even get into a conversation where one party says “yes” seems to me to be getting into a conversation with an idiot who has not thought this out to its logical conclusions. So to analogize children having less rights than adults, as a group, to a racial minority having less rights as a racial majority, as a group, is so utterly maddening to me I just want to spit.

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      3. @LaToya: I’ve never heard anyone claim that children should have all the same substantive rights as adults, and can’t imagine that argument being defended except by watering down the “rights” in question to be pretty meaningless. But that claim, to me, is very different from saying that children are a marginalized group, which is a claim that I would defend for some settings.

        One of the important legacies of the U.S. women’s movement was to reframe the way people thought about children. This included raising awareness of the prevalence and consequences of physical and sexual child abuse, as well as far more broadly creating family cultures that were more emotionally open and relatively democratic than those immediately preceding them. In many parts of the world, women’s organizing has also been directed in part at a more equitable distribution of resources between all members of families, crucially, increasing the resources directed to children rather than fathers. I think I would frame all of these as moves toward greater equality.

        I understand your point in context of the idiotic Arredondo quotes that began this thread, but in a more general vein, I’d say that there are social contexts that I would describe as systematically denying young people (qua young people) their full humanity, and that the language of marginalization and oppression can sometimes be good language for describing these contexts.

        Ironically, in some cases, I think a strong case can be made that children are oppressed when institutions don’t recognize their unique status and limitations as children, e.g. when children are tried “as adults” and sentenced to death (legal in the US until 2005) or life without possibility of parole (still legal).

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