Should Children's Books Be Liberated From Eco-Messaging?

Here’s a line that ought to get your attention: “Contemporary children are so drenched with eco-propaganda that it’s almost a waste of resources.” You probably won’t be surprised to learn that these are the words of the woman who reviews children’s books for the Wall Street Journal. I stumbled upon Megan Cox Gurdon’s essay Scary Green Monsters in PERC Reports, a magazine put out by the Property and Environment Research Center, which boasts of being “the nation’s oldest and largest institute dedicated to improving environmental quality through markets and property rights.” Mostly, the essay is a takedown of anti-corporate children’s books such as Carl Hiaasen’s award-winning Hoot. You can almost imagine Cox Gurdon sneering as she offers up a summary: Hoot is “a book for middle-schoolers about three children who foil a corporation’s attempt to build a pancake restaurant over a burrow of endangered miniature owls.” It’s a grouchy essay, but Cox Gurdon is acting in the interest of something scared, even if that something sacred is not a burrow of endangered miniature owls:

As any parent can tell you, children like routine. They’re not put off by predictability in stories. They’re accustomed to princesses being pretty, dragons being fearsome, and, it seems, alas, their fictional businessmen being corpulent and amoral. So it’s probably pointless to object to the eco-endlessness on the grounds of artistic feebleness.

Yet there is something culturally impoverishing about insisting that children join in the adult preoccupation with reducing, reusing, and recycling. Can they not have a precious decade or so to soar in imaginative literature before we drag them down to earth?

Source: PERC Reports (article not available online)

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