Back
Book teaches a bad lesson for children

To the Editor:
A young reader, Miss Rudish-Laning, recently wrote in praise of the much debated book, "The Chocolate War." While her arguments were concisely stated, her reasoning reflects the immaturity of the adolescent mind.  She attacks the critics of the book by stating that "she cannot find more than two sexual references, two violent parts, and the profanity in the book is something students are familiar with anyway," so therefore the critics' objections are invalid.  She proceeds to actually "praise Mr. Cormier for writing such an excellent book."
Her comparison of objectionable material in "The Chocolate War" to other sources of profanity, illicit sex and violence children are exposed to through television, radio and movies is both amusing and, more profoundly, sad.
According to Miss Rudish-Laning, the book's merits can only be lauded by comparing it with equal or greater examples of profanity, sex and violence.  When you wish to extol the greatness of something, you compare it to that which is of a higher quality, not a lower standard.
The value of literature and education should not be judged by its inferior companions, but by excellence.  Do we encourage our children to just do one point above failing?  No!  We encourage them to do their best, and to show them what excellence is.  We have in place a grading system to define excellence.  What child brings home a grade barely above passing and the parent says "Wow!  That's fabulous!  You did better than failing!"
Parents have a responsibility to fight for the best education possible for their children.  Recent test scores indicate this is not happening.  Yet, even the educators report the passing rate in hopes that the failure rate of over 50 percent in many cases will be unnoticed.
Mediocrity has become the new excellence in our schools, our parenting and apparently our toleration for illicit sex, profanity and violence.  People willing to compare anything by the basest of standards will get only degradation in the end.
It is my fervent hope that as the young people of this country mature, their parents can instill in them a desire for excellence in all things.  The standard of this excellence must not be based upon the bawdy, profane "real world" we live in, but on the true excellence of God's word.
Furthermore, it is a parent's responsibility and duty to protect their children from harmful influences.  God pro-vided us with parents for this reason.  He doesn't recommend that babies are placed in the woods for the bears to raise, although I'm sure there is someone out there who could tell me why it would be a fabulous idea.
Exposing children to vast quantities of trash on a regular basis does not prepare them for life in the "real world." When someone wallows in the dump long enough, the smell becomes commonplace and its familiarity breeds a complacent attitude of acceptance.  The parents who insist on good moral character and wisdom in the hallmarks of their child's life will always have a struggle against the popularity of the obscene as an art form.
Undoubtedly, the argument will continue over the literary merits of "The Chocolate War." If nothing else, it has revealed not only the true nature of what our schools consider "excellence in education," but has revealed what our young people are learning as well.
JOYCE A. MEYERS
Bridgeton 03/01/03