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Raising Your Kids Right

Raising Your Kids Right: Children's Literature and American Political Conservatism

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 261
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  • Book Info
    Raising Your Kids Right
    Book Description:

    Dr. Seuss's classic character the Lorax has delighted children for decades while passing along a powerful message about environmental responsibility. The book's young readers, and their parents, would likely be surprised by the emergence of a new character, Truax, a kindly logger created by a longtime employee of the wood products industry, who, not surprisingly, has a far different viewpoint to share. Yet the Truax character, and the book of the same name, is just one example of a growing genre of conservative-themed narratives for young readers spawned by the continuing strength of the American political right.Highlighting the works of William Bennett, Lynne Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, and others, Michelle Ann Abate brings together such diverse fields as cultural studies, literary criticism, political science, childhood studies, brand marketing, and the cult of celebrity.Raising Your Kids Rightdispels lingering societal attitudes that narratives for young readers are unworthy of serious political study by examining a variety of texts that offer information, ideology, and even instructions on how to raise kids right, not just figuratively but politically.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4995-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION. “In Adamʹs Fall, We Sinned All”: The Conservative Tradition in U.S. Childrenʹs Literature, Culture, and Politics
    (pp. 1-27)

    In May 2008, the University of Colorado at Boulder made headlines when it announced its intention to hire a professor of Conservative Studies. The news came via the university’s launch of a one-year capital campaign to raise the nine million dollars necessary to endow the position. According to Chancellor G. P. “Bud” Peterson, the hire was designed to promote “intellectual diversity” on campus, and, in so doing, it reflected the longstanding belief advanced by both past figures, like William F. Buckley Jr., and present ones, including David Horowitz, that academia is a hotbed of liberalism (qtd in Wilson “U of...

  5. 1 “Give Me Some of That Old-Time Reading”: William Bennettʹs The Book of Virtues and the Rise of Right-Leaning Literature for Young Readers
    (pp. 28-52)

    Arguably, no single American political figure has been more responsible for bringing the foundational conservative issue of values into the national public debate than William J. Bennett. Joshua Green offers his assessment: “For more than 20 years, as a writer, speaker, government official, and political operative, Bennett has been a commanding general in the culture wars” (par 1). A lifelong Democrat before becoming a political appointee of the Reagan administration, Bennett has been one of the most prominent voices for neoconservatism during the past three decades. Selected as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1981, he used...

  6. 2 “I Speak for the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association”: Truax, the Anti-Green Movement, and the Corporate Production of Childrenʹs Literature
    (pp. 53-78)

    In 1971, Dr. Seuss published the book that biographers Judith and Neil Morgan indicate was not only his self-acknowledged favorite (211), but also his most overtly political:The Lorax. After penning narratives for young readers that addressed serious social issues like racial discrimination inThe Sneetches(1961), tyranny inYertle the Turtle(1958), and civil rights inHorton Hears a Who!(1954), Theodore Seuss Geisel’s later “message” book concerned the topic of environmental destruction. In what has become a well-known plotline,The Lorax tellsthe story of an entrepreneur—the Once-ler—who cuts down Truffula trees to manufacture a bizarre-looking...

  7. 3 Not Just Christianity, But the Christian Right: The Battle over Public Education and the American Sunday School Movement in the Left Behind Series for Kids
    (pp. 79-101)

    In 1998, U.S. evangelical minister Tim LaHaye and prolific Christian writer Jerry B. Jenkins released the first novel in the Left Behind series for kids. CalledThe Vanishings, it was modeled after their tremendously successful Christianthemed narratives for adults. Briefly,The Vanishingsfollows the experiences of four young people who are left behind on earth when the end of the world approaches and those believers who have accepted Jesus ascend into heaven. The event, which is discussed in the first book of Thessalonians in the New Testament and commonly termed Rapture,¹ happens as quickly as it does unexpectedly. As the...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  9. 4 Patriot Acts: Fighting the War on Terror via the Canon Wars in Lynne Cheneyʹs Picture Books
    (pp. 102-125)

    While evangelical figures such as Tim LaHaye and movements such as the Christian Right, discussed in chapter 3, played an important role in the expansion of conservative thought and right-wing politics since the 1970s, another less publicly visible but equally powerful influence was also instrumental: the proliferation of think tanks.

    Public policy research institutes, or “think tanks” as they are more popularly known, are, in the words of James McGann and Erik K. Johnson, “nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations that perform research and provide advice on public policy” (11). Staff members at these organizations seek to bridge the perceived gap between...

  10. 5 Pundit Knows Best: The Self-Help Boom, Brand Marketing, and The OʹReilly Factor for Kids
    (pp. 126-151)

    Few other media personalities have enjoyed more success during the past decade than Bill O’Reilly. His nightly current events and political talk programThe O’Reilly Factor, which first aired in 1996, is the most popular cable news show in the United States, routinely attracting more than two million viewers (Crupi). Likewise, its guest list is a veritable pantheon of well-known journalists, cultural commentators, and prominent politicians. Among the figures who have made repeat appearances onThe O’Reilly Factorsince 2000 are civil rights activist Al Sharpton, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Bob Woodward, and public figures Newt Gingrich, Hillary Clinton, Karl...

  11. 6 “One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State”: Bringing Partisan Politics to Picture Books in Katharine DeBrechtʹs Help! Mom! Series
    (pp. 152-173)

    In 2005, after one of the most divisive presidential elections in U.S. history, a small California-based publishing company called World Ahead released the first title in its new line of children’s books:Help! Mom! There Are Liberals under My Bed!Written by Katharine DeBrecht and illustrated by Jim Hummel, the story follows the adventures of two young boys who decide to open a lemonade stand to earn money for a much-desired swing set. That night, both boys dream that their stand is a tremendous success until a series of well-known and thinly disguised liberals appear to stymie their efforts. First,...

  12. CONCLUSION. “The Gosh-Darnit, Doggone It, You-Betcha Wink Heard ʹRound the World”: The 2008 Presidential Election, the State of the Conservative Movement, and the Future of Rightist Books for Young Readers
    (pp. 174-188)

    After enjoying a reign spanning several decades, the conservative social movement and rightist political clout showed noticeable signs of weakening by late 2008. Perhaps the most obvious indicator of this shift was the dramatic drop in public support for President George W. Bush. By mid-October, only 7 percent of Americans said they were generally satisfied with the way things were going in the country, the lowest such figure ever recorded by the Gallup polling organization (Gallup, “Americans’ Satisfaction at New All-Time Low”). Meanwhile, Bush’s overall job approval rating had dropped to a paltry 25 percent, a statistic that was only...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 189-202)
    (pp. 203-226)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 227-240)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-242)