Monday, April 7, 2008

Environmental Visionaries Part One: Dr. Seuss: We Must Take Care of Our Speck! (And Horton Hears a Homeschool Outcry)

By Marcie Barnes

My family went to see Horton Hears a Who recently. I really appreciate the efforts of the G-rated filmmakers to make these films enjoyable for parents as well as children, and this one really took the prize for me. In large part because of (what I saw as) the important underlying meaning: we could all be floating around inside a universe that is actually the equivalent of a piece of dust in someone else's world - everything could cease to exist at a moment's notice. Life is truly fragile.

The new movie is based on Dr. Seuss' classic tale
which was written in 1954. Although there certainly are some departures from the book, Dr. Seuss' general message is still very timely today. More on that later. I did want to address one particular "adaptation" that stood out at me, and as I expected, has caused a bit of a stir in the homeschooling community. Near the beginning of the movie we are introduced to the "villain" - an overbearing kangaroo voiced by Carol Burnett who makes the comment "...that's why my Rudy is pouch-schooled" while observing Horton doing something she didn't agree with. This coupled with the other comments made by the kangaroo throughout the movie about how Horton is "defying authority," "corrupting our children," and "attacking our way of life" - you can see how the pouchschool/homeschool analogy didn't sit well with the homeschool community. Now, I have all kinds of respect for people who choose to educate their own children, mostly because I have very few teaching bones in my body.

That said, there is a stereotype associated with those who choose to homeschool, because of the obvious "snub" at public schools, and most other organized forms of education at large. I've been part of these kinds of debates before (stay at home vs. working moms, etc.) and I tell you, it can get nasty real quick. My take on it is this: we're all mothers and we all do the best we can for our kids. If I had to teach my kid there would be some pretty serious deficiencies - especially in areas such as music and math (which he actually is showing early promise in). Therefore, I am looking forward to creating a balance where we parents step in and fill some of the holes left by the school, and I expect, vice-versa. I plan to write more about this in the future, but for now I invite you to check out Michael Davis' Family Hack
blog, in which he documents his travels with his family around the world, among other things. I like to call his education style "worldschooling" - and I think in this day and age it's increasingly important for kids to not be sheltered when comes to education. (and I can get started on my soapbox about sheltering kids from germs too, but not today :)) We live in a diverse world that is constantly blending and getting smaller. We need to teach our kids to be good worldly members and neighbors so we can work together to keep our species alive as long as possible. That doesn't mean they have to become Muslims, but they certainly should learn about Muslims and why they are just as devout in their faith as you may be in yours, just for one example. At the end of the day, the greatest faith is an educated and tested one.

Which brings me back to the big meaning in Horton Hears a Who: what if we really are floating around on a speck in someone else's world? And what if that someone had the power to dunk our speck in a boiling pot of oil (movie) or made part of beezlenut stew (book)? What if that "authority" decided we weren't taking care of our speck anyway, and decided to make our death quick and painless out of mercy? The main theme I want to pull out in this series is this: on the path we are currently following, the demise of the human race is inevitable. The planet cannot sustain what we are doing to it. I think the planet will survive, I think the cockroaches will survive, but I'm not too sure about the humans. We live in a very delicate world.

Oh yeah, and don't forget too: "A person's a person, no matter how small."

Check out the World Clock
that shows an approximation on the speed at which we are killing the environment (and other things) and read this article I found today about how global warming is directly impacting our health (let alone the health of the planet.)

Next installment: Don Henley and The Last Resort from 1976.

(Photo credit goes to The Davis Family on flickr.)


Michael | Family Hack said...

Hi Marcie,

You are so right about the stereotypes home schoolers face. I harbored many of them myself before I married Hannah (who was home schooled) and learned about it first hand.

As for personal teaching deficiencies, our kids don't just learn from us. In fact, our daughter takes classes in subjects like Chinese, dance and science.

People often assume that kid's who don't attend public school don't attend other classes. I can see why they would think that but it's far from the truth. Classes, camps and tutors are a big part of our educational mix. We like to say "why do they call it homeschooling when we're never home?"

Finally, thanks a ton for the kind words about We really appreciate it.

Michael & Hannah

patrick said...

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who is classic, i forgot how much that guy packed into such simple storylines... they didn't add much to the original story either except for the usual Jim-Carryisms.

as for the homeschooling issue, it seemed to be periphery to the story's main beef, which was with small-minded control structures

Judy said...

I'm not officially homeschooling yet, as my sons are 2 and 4, but I took umbrage to that comment too.

The funny thing is that if the public schools had more teachers like Horton, I'd be MUCH more inclined to send my kids to the public schools!

And I am a future homeschooler who absolutely supports the institution of public education and has no beef whatsoever with paying my taxes to support it. As someone said, society needs the public schools but my individual children do not.

Horton was always my favorite Dr. Seuss character, so I was a little irked that they had to throw that into the movie and reinforce ignorant homeschooling stereotypes.