Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Monday, January 14, 2008

Toys these days

I've never really spent much time obsessing over The Kid's intellectual development. He seems bright enough to get along, and I just can't bring myself to think much about it beyond that. Also, I've spent most of my adult life working in a field that elevates the intellectual over the personal, to the point where you'll have someone who's just a real jackass, but is canonized because they are -- gasp, ohmigod, so smart. I can't stand that. Drives me bananas. And half the time, the person being worshipped for his (and it always seems to be a man) intelligence really isn't all that sharp anyway.

So until now I've been focused on making sure my kid doesn't grow up to be an asshole, not on turning him into a little Einstein. There's something vaguely ridiculous about the parents who are bent on teaching their kids to read, add, subtract, or do this or that intellectual activity at some outrageously early age. Anyone watching such a spectacle can tell the issue isn't the kid's development, but the parent's ego investment in their kid being special. Screw that.

So it doesn't really bother me that The Kid is five years old and doesn't yet know how to read. A couple of months ago he started adding strings of numbers together in his head, so I figure he's doing all right. Plus, I can tell he's just not really interested yet. Why should he be when he has me to read him Shel Silverstein's poem about the eyeball in the gumball machine?

But then I realized that it was the Leap Pad's fault. Ever seen one of those? The model he has plugs into the TV and there's a keyboard attached. There's a program whereby The Kid can punch in a letter and an animal starting with that letter pops up. Nifty, huh? He can also type words and have them repeated back to him. But today Mr. T alerted me to what appears to be a serious defect in the system.

It won't type dirty words.

Apparently the Kid went to type "poop" into his keyboard and the program refused to let him do it. He got as far as P-O-O, and the keyboard refused to allow him to enter the "P." Enter "L" to make "pool" and the keyboard complied. But no poop allowed.

Is this what matters have come to? Our sensibilities so delicate that we must foreclose a perfectly valid means of stimulating a youngster's interest in spelling? Isn't that half the fun of these things? Way to kill the love of learning, people.

Maybe I'll come out with a series of scatological flash cards for the beginning reader set. Dog knows someone needs to. The Leap Pad people won't do it.


KCB said...

Have you read the David Sedaris story about his niece? His brother apparently spent a lot of time trying to trick a learning toy into swearing. No luck.

In all honesty, potty words are how I got Rocketboy interested in learning to read. I made my own version of the Bob-book stories:

Bob wet the bed.
The hen has snot.
The dog went poop.

Give them the tools to follow their dreams, and there's no telling what they can accomplish! ;)

Trailhead said...

I haven't read the Sedaris story but I'll probably go looking for it now.

I think I'm going to follow your snot/poop/pee reading program, since we're moving and he won't be going back to Montessori school for awhile if at all. If it's going to be up to me to facilitate the reading, I intend to go for the easiest hook, and that's it.

Kristy said...

TH, meet Barney. Barney, TH. We realized early on that Barney adjusted the lyrics of even the most vanilla nursery rhymes because saying things like, "Jack fell down and broke his crown," was just too distressing for impressionable children to contemplate. Besides, where the hell were Jack's parents? Doesn't this whole scenario tacitly promote child neglect?

I just can't wait for Barney's generation to grow up and start banning books. Should be fun.

Trailhead said...

Barney has never made an appearance in this household, in part for that exact reason. And also because he makes me want to pull my eyelashes out one by one. So we don't have to worry about Barney shielding the Kid from the harsh realities of life.

Hell, he was singing Folsom Prison Blues in bed the other night, so I'm thinking that horse left the barn some time ago.

Kristy said...

The thing about Barney is he's emblematic of the way producers of children's entertainment think these days. You can ban Barney, but you'll still find the same sort of Barney homoginized crap in whatever you buy for the kid. Unless you're buying Johnny Cash albums. Which it sounds like you are. Personally, I'm all for shooting men just to watch them die, but for me, it's a PMS sort of thing. Your mileage may vary.

Trailhead said...

I get what you're saying. There's a sense that it has become unacceptable for our children to be disturbed or deal with difficult issues. Which is a big frigging problem, because that means that they are never going to learn how to handle those issues and feelings. I'm with you.

Kristy said...

Which is why excellent books like Bridge to Terabithia get banned--because children shouldn't have to face the fact that such a thing as death exists. If we were to set out to raise the most shallow generation of humans imaginable, we couldn't possibly be doing a better job.

Okay, I'll get off the soapbox now.

Trailhead said...

But you're so good on a soapbox, and soapboxes are fun.

My own personal feeling is that this is a multi-generational effort. We didn't get here in a vacuum. I think parents avoid stuff like this as an effort to spare themselves from feeling the pain and dealing with the effort.

Bridge to Terabithia has been banned? Sigh.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Two (long) comments:

My 3yo was learning about family relationships -- you know, asking 'who's your mom?' and 'who's aunt juliane's mom?' and trying to understand that Juliane and I are sisters. And then she asked, 'Who's Uncle Jimmy's mom?" I replied, "Uncle Jimmy's mom is dead." And my wee girlie said, "Oh, did the bad guys shoot her?"

So........ We're a Folsom Prison Blues kind of family, too.

On reading: My son just turned 6 and so far can only read the few words that he has memorized in kindergarten. See, mom, dad, etc. He's just not that interested in learning to read. On the other hand, he loves to count by 10s. So again, I'm with you: They learn when they learn, and all you can do is give them the opportunity. No need to drill 'em. And no need to despair if they're not the first on the block to learn a skill!

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Oh, by the way. We just put our house up for sale.

Let the fun begin!

Trailhead said...

Obviously I've had my nose too far into the otter scene when I'm not packing for my move, and I need to catch up on my blog reading!

Trailhead said...

But alas, my hopes that you'd written about this new development are dashed. :) I know you've got to be staying in Bend!