Here we are, back at an old discussion in children's literature: the need --or lack thereof-- of morals in children's books.
Not "and the moral of this story is" morals, but the sense that we are looking at a story through the eyes of someone whose ideas of right and wrong are similar to our own.
Mr. Luper asks,
- In fiction, is it the author's responsibility to set his or her moral compass to adhere to society's moral compass?
- Is it more important for a novel to espouse certain values or is it okay to leave things in a vague moral place to offer leaping-off points for discussion?
- To whose moral compass should we all synchronize our own moral compasses?
- Is the plot of a novel indicative of an author's moral values? Should it be?
Weighing in on the side of Nurturance of Children as the People We'll Eventually Have to Share Society With So Wouldn't You Like Them Not to Be Sociopaths are child development specialists, religious nuts, and various earnest people:
- Up to the age of ten or eleven, children do not have an adult brain and are not capable of thinking as adults do. (Though as discussed before, they're certainly still capable of thinking.)
- Even just after they develop their adult brains, they are highly impressionable, which is why confirmations and bar mitzvahs etc are all held at about that time.
- It is the early inculcation of morals --before preschool-- that has the deepest effect on a child's innate sense of right and wrong.
- Children do not become sociopaths --nor avoid becoming sociopaths-- because of the books they read. A million times more powerful in the shaping of a child's moral outlook is (a) their brain chemistry and (b) the example their parents set for them.
- Children need opportunities to think for themselves. The positive results from these experiences are not only intellectual, widening a child's perception of the world and better equipping them to wrestle with the ambiguities and injustices they will encounter in their lives; but also emotional, developing the self-confidence and self-reliance that will allow them to wrestle without fear.
So I have no problem with a book being essentially moral because the author just writes that way, and I have no problem with parents influencing their children's moral development. But I disagree that every children's book should present a united moral front. The difference between the important influences in a child's life being of one moral outlook and every influence being of one moral outlook is the difference between the halter and the bit.