Monday, October 24, 2011

Writing Again & The King of the Frogs

Not intentionally abandoning you all.  I am happy to announce that I have started writing again.  As in non-blog writing.  I'm hoping to complete a short story with the current idea (as opposed to all the books I've started in the last three years and haven't gotten anywhere with).  I'm very happy to be writing again even if I am also still busy with physical projects (currently moving slowly thanks to a very sore back).  I will let you all know if anything comes from the story (other than my own exercise in getting thoughts on screen - which apparently needs a lot of work, because I'm putting several hours into not so many pages, hmmm).

I'm also privileged to be able to be helping out in my oldest daughter's class once a week for reading time.  This last week I was privileged to get most of an hour with my daughter and her reading group.  All four of the kids are voracious readers and I know that finding appropriate difficulty materials to challenge the kids while keeping the stories thing that the kids can understand has been a real struggle this year.  In fact they've called in councilors from the junior high to assist.  That's why it should be no surprise that so much in the story we read was just not comprehended by them, but maybe this was a good thing.

You see this week we read an African legend of some frogs seeking a king from their god Mmumi, The King of the Frogs as told by Humphrey Harmon (Word Doc version).  I could not find the exact publication that we read.  It was in a compilation reader with questions in boxes periodically spread throughout for the kids to explore.  Go ahead and load that word document.  It will greatly facilitate your understanding of what I have to say.  First off we are talking about 6 year olds here, well and one very newly minted 7 year old, Happy Birthday Miss K!!!  And we have our cute little African Legend, which judging from the wording, I'd say was written in the 1950s, although it sadly, may be more modern.

Why do I think it was written then, well... let's just start with the third paragraph shall we? 

Long ago the frogs did as they pleased and the result was dreadful. Not one of them would listen to what another said and they all shouted at once. Children wouldn’t obey their parents and even wives wouldn’t listen to their husbands, which is, indeed, something hardly to be understood. It was all noisy and untidy beyond bearing and nothing ever got done.
*emphasis mine

Now I don't consider myself a feminist.  When I write, the female characters are the hardest for me.  Although I was once told otherwise, I really don't relate well to fellow members of the female gender and I struggle to understand them.  On the contrary I find most men easy to understand and growing up I spent the majority of my time in their company.  I firmly believe women can do most things that men can (standing and peeing with any sense of aim remains a challenge, although some men struggle with that as well), but I am not one to go out championing for my pink clad gender. (shudder - while my middle child has taught me to tolerate pink it's still cringe worthy.)  However, even I can spot the bash in this paragraph.  "Even wives wouldn't listen to their husbands," okay, not quite so great, but not dreadful.  Then it goes on, "which is, indeed, something hardly to be understood."  Say WHAT?!? Wives should listen to their husbands, sure, but it's a two way street, and it always should have been.  Oh and what about those unruly kids?  We need to make two statements about the wives, but the kids, meh, kids never listen, eh?

Thankfully, I don't think any of the kids really caught it, but it's these little statements that are the most potentially damaging to young minds interpretations of the world.  Stuff like this repeated enough is going to stick in their little heads and shape their idea of what the adult world is like!

Now, I think it's important to say that I feel that women most definitely should be submitting to their husbands, and if they don't have a husband worth submitting to, then they sure didn't choose very wisely.
"You Have Chosen.... Poorly"
However, submitting should not be blind.  Men need to first listen to their wives before asking for that submission.  In the story no one is listening to anyone else and everything is a mess.  That's the point of the story.  Men aren't listening to other men, women aren't listening to other women, and kids are running wild and crazy listening to no one.  The point in the story is that it's a loud chaotic mess, but the author takes his opportunity to influence kids into believing that women are to be submissive above all else and to be otherwise is unthinkable.

Ok, moving on.

The rest of the story ignores the wives and focuses on the wise, wise old frog, the bad young frogs, and the unruly genderless populous.  Here our little guide book (which I am regretful that I can't provide for you) takes over bringing in some gems of the 1960s or 70s - oh it was a very nice juxtaposition.  Tough patriarchal stoicism meet the fight against The Man!

When the bad young frogs challenge the rule to leave the King Gogo alone and discover the truth that he is in fact actually a rock.  Then they share this information with the elders, who are reluctant to believe them.  The book asks the 1st graders, "Do you think the young frogs are really being bad when they disturb Gogo?  Yes, No, Unsure."  Gee, the frogs broke the rules (and as you are going to find out in two pages, this knowledge has bad consequences), but they discovered that the frogs were living a lie.  A lie that made all their lives better, but a lie nonetheless.  Yeah, the group was split on the answer, heck, I'm split on the answer!  They broke the rules, they disturbed Gogo, but they discovered Gogo was a rock, but Mmumi never said it was a frog, they just assumed he was....

Then Because we can't just have one time where we question the man, when we also need to question the god Mmumi (which have I mentioned what a pain that name is to pronounce?  You're supposed to hum the double m).  The book also asks the kids whether Mmumi was wise, lazy, or just making fun of the frogs when he provides a rock for the king of the frogs.  Oh and it questions him again when he provides Mamba the crocodile, which I had to explain to the kids would eat frogs if he caught them.

I think it would have helped if the kids had any understanding of why Mmumi gave the frogs a rock for a king.  The idea of a prop to teach a technique, Dumbo and his feather anyone?  I don't think the kids have that knowledge, I know my daughter didn't.  I did try to get to that when I asked my own question of the kids (a request by the teacher so they could practice their critical thinking and writing skills), "If you were Mmumi, and the frogs asked you for a king, what would you do?"  None of them said rock or crocodile. One kid wanted to just think on it.  My daughter, she gave them a pumpkin.... she didn't know why, but it was an answer and that was good enough for the class and she likes pumpkins.

If I sit here will you mind your manners?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...