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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 07:38

@nordmann wrote:


Which makes one wonder about the real effect of PC intervention these days. Could it be that the sanitisation of Noddy & Co actually leads to an ignorance on the child's part, and a dangerous one at that? Shielded from instances of bigotry in their formative years are they left unequipped to deal with it in later life? Does the vigorous application of political correctness enforce a value system which is actually devalued as a direct consequence, being now simply derivative and not grounded in concrete examples to which the child must react and through reaction discover their own values?

Are we the fortunate ones to have avoided such puritanism?
Interesting points. Racism, bigotry, sexism - and all the other evils - all stem from the lust for domination - the triumph of the will. The power struggles start early. Children discover pretty quickly that life isn't a fairy tale and that the Wild Wood is full of nastiness, cruelty and malice. Most of us realised that in the sandpit or the Wendy House. To pretend otherwise is a confusing lie: how to deal with human nature is what the poor little blighters have to learn - somehow. PC humbug doesn't offer any satisfactory solutions - a vicious weasel by any other name is still a vicious weasel. These unpleasant creatures - and the stoats and ferrets - may well be unfortunate members of the starving rural proletariat, but they do exist all right and they are very scary. You get posh weasels too (not in Wind in the Willows though). Was it Ratty who noted that weasels may be "all right in a way...but...well, you can't really trust them." Sad, but true. And Toad may have been lovable, but he was a stupid, irresponsible idiot - another harsh lesson.

But perhaps you can take exposure to the unpleasant realities of life a bit too far. Tudor educationalists didn't mince their words when it came to warnings about the wages of sin. The following isn't children's literature, but is taken from Robert Whittington's Latin grammar (1520) which very young pupils would have studied. Whittington here kills two birds with one stone, cleverly offering examples of the genitive construction combined with a vivid reminder of the fate in store for naughty boys who fancied themselves as "terrors":

Upon London Bridge I saw three or four men's heads stand upon poles.

Upon Ludgate, the fore-quarter of a man is set upon a pole.

Upon the other side hangeth the haunch of a man with the leg.

It is a strange sight to see the hair of heads fall or mould away, and the gristle of the nose consumed away.

The fingers of their hands withered and clung unto the bare bones.


Nearly as bad as reading about the Land of Smacks which was one of the nastier revolving lands at the top of the Faraway Tree.



EDIT: Wiki notes the following PC updates to characters in Blyton's Enchanted Wood:

1n modern reprints, the names of some of the characters have been changed. Jo has been changed to Joe, the more common spelling for males, and Bessie is now Beth, the former name having fallen out of usage as a nickname for Elizabeth. Fanny and Dick, whose names now carry unfortunate connotations, have been renamed Frannie and Rick. The character of Dame Slap has become Dame Snap, and no longer practises corporal punishment but instead reprimands her students by shouting at them.

EDIT 2: Dame Slap ran a school for naughty pixies. Snap just doesn't sound the same somehow - I bet the pixie delinquents run rings round her now.


Last edited by Temperance on Sat 16 Nov 2013, 09:09; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 08:50

I've been reading this morning about how 16th/17th century educationalists - and fathers like Sir William Wentworth, Sir Walter Raleigh and Henry Percy, ninth Earl of Northumberland - were ruthlessly pessimistic about human nature and considered it vital that children learn as soon as possible the hard lesson that life, on the whole, is simply a bad business. Northumberland assured his 9-year-old son that most men were evil and "love their own cases and themselves best." William Martyn in his Youths Instruction (1612) put the case more metaphorically, but just as gloomily. He warned his young readers: "For as a barge-man turning his face one way, roweth another, so a dissembling friend hath honey in his mouth, but poison in his heart."

Gloom and honey immediately reminded me of Eeyore's tail and in particular this wonderful exchange he has with Pooh. Eeyore, like Raleigh, Wentworth, Percy, Martyn and the rest, viewed life as a vast cosmic conspiracy where "hell's black intelligencers" are constantly out to trap and deceive - and steal our tails. Was Eeyore right?

I'm still trying to work that one out after fifty years.



THE Old Grey Donkey, Eeyore, stood by himself in a thistly corner of the forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" - and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about. So when Winnie-the-Pooh came stumping along, Eeyore was very glad to be able to stop thinking for a little, in order to say "How do you do?" in a gloomy manner to him.

"And how are you?" said Winnie-the-Pooh.

Eeyore shook his head from side to side.

"Not very how," he said. "I don't seem to have felt at all how for a long time."

"Dear, dear," said Pooh, "I'm sorry about that. Let's have a look at you." So Eeyore stood there, gazing sadly at the ground, and Winnie-the-Pooh walked all round him once.

"Why, what's happened to your tail?" he said in surprise.

"What has happened to it?" said Eeyore.

"It isn't there!"

"Are you sure?"

"Well, either a tail is there or it isn't there You can't make a mistake about it. And yours isn't there!"

"Then what is?"

"Nothing."





"Let's have a look," said Eeyore, and he turned slowly round to the place where his tail had been a little while ago, and then, finding that he couldn't catch it up, he turned round the other way, until he came back to where he was at first, and then he put his head down and looked between his front legs, and at last he said, with a long, sad sigh, "I believe you're right"

"Of course I'm right," said Pooh

"That accounts for a Good Deal," said Eeyore gloomily. "It explains Everything. No Wonder."

"You must have left it somewhere," said Winnie-the-Pooh.

"Somebody must have taken it," said Eeyore.

"How Like Them," he added, after a long silence. Pooh felt that he ought to say something helpful about it, but didn't quite know what.

So he decided to do something helpful instead.

"Eeyore," he said solemnly, "I, Winnie-the-Pooh, will find your tail for you."

"Thank you, Pooh," answered Eeyore. "You're a real friend," said he. "Not like Some," he said.

So Winnie-the-Pooh went off to find Eeyore's tail.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 09:03

@nordmann wrote:
I think one thing that has come across from people's experiences as expressed in this thread is that children are way more discerning than they often get credit for. We all seemed to tread our way through the minefield of racism, sexism and other bigotries laid by the authors of our reading material with rather intelligent aplomb and dexterity, none of us corrupted or compromised en route to our obviously well-balanced and unbigoted adulthoods.
As you say Nordmann, the experiences of this board's contributors tend to suggest that as children we have all mostly successfully ridden the waves of bigotry, racism and sexism without picking up too much flotsam along the way. So I am inclined to agree that children are remarkably astute in seeing the world 'as it is' rather than how the author, or any other imparter of cultural 'values,' would like them to see it. I suspect this is largely because children give equal weight to all sources of information. A book which subtly expounds racism can be weighed against the child's own experiences of other races: happily playing with other children at school, people in the street, on TV etc ....

But if they are repeatedly exposed to the same cultural messages without any balance then I expect even the most open-minded, questioning child would rapidly assimilate the same imparted prejudices. And of course to a child not all sources of information carry the same authority. The cultural values of the child's parents surely have much more influence than the values espoused by a storybook. How else does one explain that throughout the world more than 99% of children will grow up to have exactly the same religion as their parents, even where their parents' religion is in a minority in their own area. Or that in the 1930/40s a generation of German children grew up accepting at face value the truth and correctness of Nazi ideology.

Perhaps we should not be congratulating ourselves on how impervious we were as children to the wiles of racist, sexist, bigoted authors .... but rather we should be acknowledging the success of our parents and teachers in how well they imparted their own tolerant 'liberal' values. Of course we all have had different experiences in childhood, but I suspect everyone that contributes here is likely to have been raised in an environment that valued education, to be literate and generally well read, and to have higher than average intelligence. I doubt you get many Vicky Pollards contributing to history message boards.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 09:42

@Meles meles wrote:


Perhaps we should not be congratulating ourselves on how impervious we were as children to the wiles of racist, sexist, bigoted authors .... but rather we should be acknowledging the success of our parents and teachers in how well they imparted their own tolerant 'liberal' values.

Mmm. Not so sure about that. My father thought Enoch Powell was the bee's knees and he was - in his youth - a supporter of Oswald Mosley. I had an interesting childhood. But yes, I was encouraged to read from an early age: no one could have stopped me, because it was my escape. Ironically, I think - or hope, rather - that I learned from my early reading - even of Enid Blyton - not to be a bigot, but then you never know about yourself, do you? Self-congratulations are usually unwise, in my experience.

Did anyone else read Pollyanna? I always thought she should have cracked her father over the head with that crutch.



EDIT: Off-topic - apologies - but I've just looked up the word "bigot". I thought this info was interesting:

The origin of the word bigot and bigoterie (bigotry) in English dates back to at least 1598, via Middle French, and started with the sense of "religious hypocrite". This meaning still survives in Italian, in the cognate word bigotto The exact origin of the word is unknown, but it may have come from the German bei and Gott, or the English by God.

William Camden wrote that the Normans were first called bigots, when their Duke Rollo, who when receiving Gisla, daughter of King Charles, in marriage, and with her the investiture of the dukedom, refused to kiss the king's foot in token of subjection – unless the king would hold it out for that specific purpose. When being urged to do it by those present, Rollo answered hastily "No, by God", whereupon the King, turning about, called him bigot, which then passed from him to his people. This is quite probably fictional, as Gisla is unknown in Frankish sources. It is true, however, that the French used the term bigot to abuse the Normans.


The twelfth-century Norman author Wace claimed that bigot was an insult which the French used against the Normans, but it is unclear whether or not this is how it entered the English language.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 10:05

Hmmm maybe you are right, Temp.

I never read 'Pollyanna' but my father - another great admirer of Enoch Powell by the way, oops - often used to refer to her when, as was his wont, always trying to find something good about everything. Frankly there were times when I could have cracked the nauseating Pollyanna herself over the head with those damned crutches!


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 10:34

Yes, it is a wonder no one actually killed Pollyanna.

I believe Eleanor H. Porter eventually wrote a Pollyanna Grows Up. I never read it. I wonder if P. got married in this particular book? Her husband must have had a hard time of it.

“I was growlin' one day 'cause I was so bent up and crooked; an'what do ye s'pose the little thing said? ... She said I could be glad, anyhow, that I didn't have ter stoop so far ter do my weedin' - 'cause I was already bent part way over.”
― Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna

Alas, Pollyanna taught us the delights of cynicism.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 10:45

@Temperance wrote:
Quote :

Did anyone else read Pollyanna? I always thought she should have cracked her father over the head with that crutch.



Yes, Temperance, as a lad I was encouraged to read Pollyanna as well as other kinds of litterature, and I don't think I remember anything from Pollyanna but the attitude of always trying to see the bright side of life in all things, even when I can't always 'be glad'.

I have long regretted that our version of Classics Illustrated is no longer around - imho they gave value for money and encouraged those so minded to continue reading.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 10:48

@Temperance wrote:

Alas, Pollyanna taught us the delights of cynicism.
Just like when I've fallen I always look around to see if there's something else that needs to be done when down anyway or just to pick something up.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 13:32

Was it the Great Illustrated Classics you enjoyed, Nielsen, or the Classics Illustrated series? The latter were in a comic format, I believe, and included stories from history too - such as Waterloo and Caesar's Conquests?





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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 13:53

'twas the Classics Illustrated, Temperance, not the Great ones - but still good enough for me!

Btw somewhere above? I read the expression 'goody two shoes' - from what/where does that come, and what does it mean, please?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 14:25

A 'goody two shoes' is an excessively virtuous person - one who is not only always 'good', but is almost annoyingly so! The term comes from a children's story, 'The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes' , by John Newbery, first published in London in 1765.

From Wiki:
"Goody Two-Shoes is a variation of the Cindarella story. The fable tells of Goody Two-Shoes, the nickname of a poor orphan girl named Margery Meanwell, who goes through life with only one shoe. When a rich gentleman gives her a complete pair, she is so happy that she tells everyone she has "two shoes". Later, Margery becomes a teacher and marries a rich widower. This earning of wealth serves as proof that her virtuousness has been rewarded,...."
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 14:42

Ouch, someone that makes one want to go out of the way to p*ss against their picture in other words ...
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 14:44

Here you are, Nielsen, good old Wiki tells all:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_History_of_Little_Goody_Two-Shoes

The dreaded Goody Two Shoes - how do I explain? They are individuals rather like Pollyanna, females who go around being little sunbeams, blessing their enemies and generally pretending to be nice. You get them everywhere. According to Wiki, the original Goody T-S was a teacher who ended up marrying a rich widower and living happily ever after, like you do. Generally regarded as pains in the backside by all. Urban Dictionary, surprisingly, has five definitions of the term which is still apparently quite popular.

Note, however, that there may have been an earlier Goody T-S - 17th century -  who was also something of a pain. She appears, however, to have simply been a bit of a moaner.

Although The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes is credited with popularizing the term "goody two-shoes", the actual origin of the phrase is unknown. For example, it appears a century earlier in Charles Cotton's Voyage to Ireland in Burlesque (1670):


Mistress mayoress complained that the pottage was cold;
'And all long of your fiddle-faddle,' quoth she.
'Why, then, Goody Two-shoes, what if it be?
Hold you, if you can, your tittle-tattle,' quoth he.


Here is a picture of Goody outside her charming cottage. it is a woodcut from the 1768 edition of the book.



Anyway, enough of my tittle-tattle - I'm off to Sainsbury's.

EDIT: Crossed posts - you beat me to it, MM while I was looking for an image of dear little Goody for Nielsen. I'm still sending my post.

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 16:09

Is the 'goody' bit the same form as 'goody' meaning good wife or more succinctly Mrs, I wonder?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 16:12

MM & Temperance, thanks for the explanations, things are getting a bit clearer as the windows grow darker.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 17:03

@ferval wrote:
Is the 'goody' bit the same form as 'goody' meaning good wife or more succinctly Mrs, I wonder?
I'd never considered that but I suspect you are right, ferval, although I guess it's still a sort of play on words as she was always 'good' in the normal sense of the word and seeing that she starts out as Miss Meanwell. Poor girl she was almost doomed to be a paragon of virtue whether she wanted it or not.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sat 16 Nov 2013, 20:09

It seems I missed out in one way in childhood - I never read "Pollyanna".  I saw the film starring Hayley Mills but I've quite forgotten it now, though I do recall after she was bed-bound Pollyanna said the "glad game" was a stupid game, though I think she regained her equilibrium later.  When I was about 17 "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" was serialised on the radio and I was not too keen on that - probably too old. Dear little girl goes to live with two maiden aunts. Rebecca was another person I found a little too sweetie-sweet though I think she did put her foot in it sometimes.

How far back can we go in relation to our "children's literature"?  Thinking of books I was forced to read at school "The Rover" and "Nostromo" both by Joseph Conrad gave me a lifelong desire to avoid all books by that writer - though from the background reading we did, he actually lived an interesting life, but (to me at least) his books are not interesting.  Having said that I believe "Heart of Darkness" by Conrad was the inspiration for the film "Apocalypse Now" which received much acclaim.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 17 Nov 2013, 11:13

@LadyinRetirement wrote:

How far back can we go in relation to our "children's literature"?  
Can't see any reason for limits there, LiR. The fact that you recall any book, even ones for which you did not much care at the time, still indicates they made an impression on your young mind.

As a child who approached our small local library as a vulture approaches a carcass I digested much offal in pursuit of more nutritious substance and indeed many of these books which I did not like (though rather significantly still read to completion) have resided like ticking time bombs of perception in my own mind, some still primed to detonate when I least expect it in the future, I am sure.

One such book was "The Diary of Anne Frank", a book from which I learnt absolutely nothing at the time, or so I thought as a ten- or eleven-year-old. I had no empathy with her plight, no appreciation of the extraordinary duress under which she recorded her impressions of life, and indeed found her observations and the language she used to write them trite and banal if truth be told.

Adolescence caused a first reappraisal. Anne's diary records her own rather unique entry into adolescence and mixed into the factual record in her diary are many questions such as arise to an adolescent mind, some overt, some subliminal and many where the vocabulary of childhood fails to prove adequate to the task of addressing the complex, ethereal and often very distressing dilemmas which confront the adolescent, regardless of how much other distress life throws in one's direction (and life was throwing a lot in Anne's direction at the time). The book was re-read by me and found a permanent home on the bookshelf.

Which was good. It meant that it was accessible to read when later I found myself responsible for the safety and nurturing of children of my own. From Anne's words I actually found consolation of sorts during those many instances in which I felt guilty or unsure about where I was possibly failing as a parent. In that context Anne's is a beautifully optimistic declaration of the endurance of the human spirit despite seemingly impossible odds on its survival, and all the more optimistic for it having been written by a girl little older than a child in horrendous circumstances. My opinion of childhood and youth was - and still is - hugely informed by that realisation.

Of course what initially facilitated this cycle of reappraisal was having read the book when so young myself - having planted Anne Frank's testimony in my own mind then in later life parallels could be drawn, hints detected that insight into my own little dilemmas could be gleaned at times from its pages. This of course is not true for the vast majority of those books I read and considered banal at the time - many were just that. However the ten-year-old me was never to know that, and the much later version of me still can never be sure.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 17 Nov 2013, 20:52

Ticking time bombs of perception indeed.

Is it for me to mention the elephant in the room - that great, hulking beast which Priscilla acknowledged briefly when she remembered her repeated reading of the Good Samaritan? Most 50+ posters will have been exposed as children to My Big Book of Bible Stories or the like - for better or for worse. Moses and Joseph and Jacob and Noah and David and Goliath. Oh - and Samson and Delilah. The list is very long. Those stories and their characters may well have been complete fiction - like the great Greek myths - but Lord, what superb fiction they were. And the yarns from the New Testament are, if anything, even better. I'm glad I read them as a child. They haunt me still.

Kids today are missing out on something, I think. A lecturer in English from the University of Exeter recently told me how the average 18-year-old hasn't a clue about most Biblical references. Makes the study of literature very difficult.  How do you discuss, for example, Owen's The Parable of the Old Man and the Young with students who haven't a clue who "Abram" was or might have been - and who care less? And Milton must be a complete mystery.

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in the thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 17 Nov 2013, 21:30

The elephant deserves a mention of course, if only as a supreme example of how diverse and even contradictory the lessons are that can be gleaned from one literary source, especially an anthology. It was also a literary source which, more than any other book, was subject to some very highly subjective interpretation on the part of those who saw themselves appointed to instruct you how to interpret it yourself. For this reason - that it was a book which was taught rather than just read - I am to this day quite confused regarding what I learnt from its "study", or at least those things learnt that are genuinely my own interpretation and not just something I was told to think.

I do not find the parables in the New Testament, for example, as mind-blowingly succinct and pithy as my instructors were convinced I should. As moralistic fables they are ok, though suffer from the disadvantage for the reader of being so intensely sign-posted as such in advance. The same morals, expressed in parable form elsewhere, are all the more effectively delivered through virtue of their unexpected presence, I have often found.

What I ultimately learnt from the Bible was really that English was a much more poetic and lyrical language four hundred years ago, and that it is a crying shame that it is in decline in that respect as expression of the sublime itself has proven to be the real victim. Expression is as much therefore something to nurture and protect as it is a simple noun denoting verbalisation of thought. I learnt also that no amount of repetition will cover up a logical flaw in the prosecution of a philosophy or its lack of integrity. Repetition does not equate with consistency. These have proven both to have been very valuable lessons in life.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Sun 17 Nov 2013, 22:31

I thought of mentioning the Bible, but decided perhaps it wasn't actually children's literature.  But I seemed to take more influence from it than any of the other writings.  (No, I have remembered Anne of Green Gables now, and I was influenced by her feisty moral views on matters and thought I should live up to them.)  But I wonder if I was actually influenced by Jesus' teachings in the Bible or whether they just fitted me.  I liked the phrase about 'considering the lilies of the field; they toil not neither do they spin, and God has still coloured them in all their glory', and was not averse to quoting it when work was mentioned.  And I have always wondered what right-wing people find to support their beliefs in the Bible - how do they cope with instructions to give away the coat on their back?  Not that I have any intention of doing so either. But I do see it as something admirable and desirable.

Like Temp I wonder how kids now manage to read any literature with the slightest understanding when it has any Biblical references.  People like TS Eliot and John Donne are hard enough even when you do know many of them.  I know I am missing lots but I think people without a religious background won't even know that.

Mind you I was a bit dismayed when my grandson, just turned 3, who attends a church-based playgroup once a week, was asked by his father (non-religious) what he knew about God.  "God knows all about me," the little one said.  His parents laughed but I was a bit concerned.  Still, he won't be long at the playgroup.  It is mostly just an ordinary playgroup with the kids racing round on their vehicles, making collage things, playing with dress-ups or train-sets or Duplo, but he comes home with colouring-in bits that thank God for his family, or his ears, or whatever theme there is that day.  And the reading at the end is rather God-oriented.   [His comment on the day his penis was showing at the breakfast table was too cute not to mention though, even if it is irrelevant to the discussion:  "I just wanted to say hello to it."  His father did not help with his Freudian joke, "Mummy is just jealous."  Huh.]
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 08:45

I wouldn't bemoan too much the child's inability to understand biblical reference. The adult's, yes, but less so the child.

As a child this problem presents itself repeatedly no matter what one reads. Allusive speech represents a constant challenge to interpretation for those whose age alone militates against their chances of understanding the reference. However with children this problem is handled quite differently than with most adults. Whereas the adult mind seems content to ignore the non-understood allusion or, if deemed necessary at the time, use it as a prompt to research and understand it, the child seems capable of "storing" it for future reference, and indeed storing many such terms over long periods of time with no conscious intention to resolve them at a later date. However when, at a later date, the item alluded to becomes known to them, then the child will often retrospectively comprehend that which had been stored, and even enough of the context in which it was stored to comprehend the actual instance of speech in which the problem was first presented.

A child reading Milton, or Shakespeare for that matter, will therefore these days be heavily challenged when such authors employ biblical references, the bible's content not being generally as accessible to the child nowadays as in times past. Exactly the same challenge presents itself with respect to historical or then contemporary references which are now accessible only through a knowledge of history beyond that which their education at that stage provides by default.

However it is as true today as it ever was that the most important thing is still that the child be introduced to such challenges anyway. There is still enough of the bible floating around within the culture that incidental exposure to its content, and even as expressed in the King James edition, will possibly occur.

Adults, or more particularly children who reach adulthood without opportunity for this retrospective comprehension to have occurred, are indeed unfortunate with respect to missing out on some beautiful examples of the richness of their tongue and the quite complexly sublime sentiments it can be used to express. However it must be acknowledged that the appreciation of these sentiments was never guaranteed for all individuals, even when the allusive references were more readily available, if not necessarily comprehensible, and that the important thing now - as indeed then - is to ensure that the source materials retain a visibility within the culture. The bible may have been culturally deprecated but it is not the only literary source to which this has happened, just as other sources before it and to which the King James version's language itself alluded became themselves deprecated. This is an unstoppable facet of all culture - the responsibility we have is to ensure that the deprecated element is not lost altogether.



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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 08:54

@nordmann wrote:


What I ultimately learnt from the Bible was really that English was a much more poetic and lyrical language four hundred years ago, and that it is a crying shame that it is in decline in that respect as expression of the sublime itself has proven to be the real victim. Expression is as much therefore something to nurture and protect as it is a simple noun denoting verbalisation of thought.
I agree with that bit.

Even Richard Dawkins acknowledges his debt to the King James Bible:

Even thinkers not sympathetic to the Bible's message still praise its language. Famous skeptic H. L. Mencken found in the King James "a mine of lordly and incomparable poetry, at once the most stirring and the most touching ever heard of." Another remarkable testimonial to the influence of the KJV comes from New Atheist thinker Richard Dawkins, who normally has nothing good to say about any aspect of religion. On the King James, however, he becomes lyrical, so much so that he prays, apologetically, "Forgive me, spirit of science!" But as he asks, how on earth can anyone who cares about language be so ignorant and insensitive as not to appreciate the magnificent tones of the KJV? He continues, again freely quoting King James-isms, "If my words fall on stony ground -- if you pass me by as a voice crying in the wilderness -- be sure your sin will find you out. Between us there is a great gulf fixed and you are a thorn in my flesh. We have come to the parting of the ways. I fear it is a sign of the times." And those are the words of a declared mortal enemy of the Bible!

Generations of English-speaking children were exposed to the magnificent cadences of the King James Bible - and of the Book of Common Prayer - day in day out at school assembly, and week in week out at Church. That sublime language hooked us young and something definitely stuck - for life. The Church of England did indeed throw out its most powerful weapons when it got rid of those two great works of literature a generation or so ago.

Last week our eager new Curate complained that he did not like having to read (just once a month now for the old fogeys' service) from all that "old English". He likes for example the new version of the Nicene Creed which is now written in a sort of  doggerel verse, rather like an a catchy advertising jingle. I cannot bring myself to recite any of it, I'm afraid. Something's been lost in translation and I hate it. English kids aren't going to be stirred or moved - or fooled? - by this new stuff, if indeed they ever get to hear it. Alas, all this does make one question oneself and one's faith: have I been, since childhood, actually more interested in the medium than the message? Possibly. But then the sublime's still out or in there somewhere: as you note, it's how we express it that needs an awful lot of care, thought - and genius.


EDIT: Crossed posts - have sent this without reading new message.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 09:47

Your eager new curate reminds me of a young Catholic priest to whom I spoke about this very subject once. Like your curate he too eulogised the "modern" language into which the bible has been translated. I disagreed, my point being not just that the English language was in danger of losing some of its most beautiful euphemisms but that their poor replacements were in danger of actually changing the sense of the book's content to an extent that it would be destined to lose, rather than gain, relevance for its audience. While this didn't bother me particularly I could not understand why he was not worried about it.

His stance was that great care had been taken to preserve the sense by "better scholars" than he was, and therefore he was obliged to keep faith with their translation. All well and good for people whose stock reply to any challenge to think is to resort to "faith" as an adequate justification for their not thinking, and a faith in "scholars" at that. However to his credit he was still curious to know if I could produce examples. Not being familiar with the new bibles I couldn't, but asked him to check the one he was carrying to see what had happened to St Paul's "through a glass darkly". This I suspected would never have survived the process intact.

True enough within what was left of Corinthians we found "looking as if in a poor mirror". I asked him did he not see anything fundamentally wrong with this, to which he replied no and asked me the same. I explained that the KJV people had hit a problem with the word "speculum", and that even "speculum" was a bit of a cop-out in translating "εσοπτρου" *. Rabbinical language refers in many cases to regarding god through this device - a normal man it is claimed sees god as if through nine of them whereas Moses, for example, needed only one. The Greek word can therefore be interpreted as a kind of cognitive lens through which we examine the inexplicable, the lucky ones requiring only the most basic assembly of such lens to see the true image. In Latin this became "speculum", a lens. However the KJV translators knew that they possessed no good English term for the concept and not wanting to imply that one had to look at god through a telescope kept the noun vague and made the adverb do all the work (the use of "darkly" was sublime in itself). It was only much later - in the 1800s - that a guy called Strong indexed the bible and reduced this term to "mirror", by which he was at least still referring to an essential component of a telescope without using the actual term "telescope" and destroying the meaning.

Then along come the "new" translators who cannot see beyond Strong's mirror and stick it straight into the actual text of Paul's letter. Now suddenly we don't have people regarding god at all, instead we have people who think they are regarding god but are just seeing something poorly created in their own image - something which as an atheist I am completely in accordance with but which, even as an atheist, find a surprising interpretation to suggest in what is meant to be the religion's user manual.

If, I asked, we could find such a silly and (for the religious) potentially catastrophic mistranslation from just one example plucked almost arbitrarily out of the air, how many others might there be lurking within the covers of his manual? I know I definitely gave him food for thought (he left the priesthood shortly afterwards, though I take no credit for that). Maybe you should gently hint to your curate that perhaps in reserving the KJV for his "old fogies" and the "modern" bible for everyone else he is now in fact teaching two distinct religions whether he knows it or not?

* about "esoptron"; biblical glossaries and dictionaries invariably translate this Greek word as "mirror" (some helpfully adding that the ancients used polished metal rather than glass as mirrors). However this appears purely to be in order to make the word accord with Strong's "mirror". To be fair to Strong he was completely correct to use mirror, in the sense that a mirror when employed in any use except pure reflection becomes an "inflector", which incidentally is indeed the exact English translation of the word as it is used in Greek today too. An inflector is anything inducing inflection. In speech we use this to imply subtle alteration, in telescopy we use it with exactly the same intention, to imply alteration to an image with a view to its enhancement, either through magnification or focus. This difference - between reflection and inflection - when applied to the contemplation and realisation of god is huge in theological terms. That this does not seem to matter to modern Christians astounds me.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 10:55

I wish I could read Greek.

My yearning for the Church of England of my childhood began at a Christmas service a few years back. I sat dumb with misery as I heard the sublime "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" rendered as " You are going to fall pregnant, Mary, and it will be a very special baby."

The Curate is a great fan of something called "The Message", a modern version of the Bible, a copy of which he has taken to flourishing at me defiantly whenever he gets the chance. It is supposed to be  a faithful idiomatic translation of the Greek and Hebrew texts.

Here is Psalm 23 Lines 1-4:

King James Version

1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.


1. GOD, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
2. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
3. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
4. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure.


If they read The Message version at my funeral there'll be trouble. Death Valley indeed. That's near Las Vegas, isn't it?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 11:29

When I went through Death Valley god would have had a job keeping up with me. Even in an air-conditioned car it's no bloody joke.

Next time your curate brandishes his "Message" at you, you should ask him for his theological interpretation of mirror-gazing that is now accredited to Paul. Bring the Collins pocket English-Greek/Greek-English dictionary with you and point out his heresy. You mightn't quite be in Death Valley but at least you'll know that this is probably the nearest you'll ever come to having god (well, that god) on your side. You might even go so far as to remind him that the same bloke is recorded as having said "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods (His Capitals)". Though of course according to the "Message" this is probably now rendered as "I, your heavenly buddy, am not totally comfortable with you having a thing for Buddha and the like (but it's ok if you still at least chip in when the church roof restoration collection comes round)."


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 11:32

Oh Temps, I too have suffered at the dumbing down of  majestic language to street level. And what will the young take from it? Yeah, dude, I got God's crooked shepherd on ma side, high five!

As for restoring lost faith with a getting a breather, it defies belief. Has anyone mucked about with the Latin mass etc, likewise - I doubt it.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 11:47

The language in the Catholic Irish/Gaelic mass was dumbed down at the same time as the English one, I recall, however nothing like the extent to which the bible has been. Catholic mass includes scripture reading but not nearly as much as the Anglican service. Less preaching and more formulaic stuff, so there was less to dumb down.

My recollection of the switch from Latin to English mass was the astonished surprise and not a few sniggers at people's first attendance since the switch when, just at the end, they realised that the "Ite, missa est" and response "Deo gratias" they had been parroting all their lives was now "The mass is over, go forth in peace" with a resounding "Thanks be to god!" as the new answer.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 12:14

@nordmann wrote:


Though of course according to the "Message" this is probably now rendered as "I, your heavenly buddy, am not totally comfortable with you having a thing for Buddha and the like (but it's ok if you still at least chip in when the church roof restoration collection comes round)."

To be honest I think they only just about tolerate me at our Church because they know I have actually left a legacy for the upkeep of the building in my will - and because I do read nicely (from the KJV of course). I have found your comments on "through a glass darkly" very interesting. I shall bring it up at our Pre-Advent course on Wednesday night. I like to see the Curate wriggle. He'll have his copy of the Message with him - wonder how Corinthians is translated there? I really can't imagine St. Paul coming over like a gangsta rapper person, but it seems anything is possible these days.

Oh dear, my Christianity is showing through again, isn't it? Time to return to Pollyanna and little Goody Two-Shoes.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 12:20

Oh God, I've found the bit. I wish I hadn't. It's not gangsta rap; it's worse.

12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 12:24

Christ!

A mate of mine used to sing that as his karaoke party-piece. Sounded just like Jimmy Cliff too.

But actually it's good to see they've side-stepped the theological dilemma about the glass/polished bronze by using just the general term "fog". That at least is a valid and honest euphemism. Sorry to hear about the squint though - these days surgeons can work wonders.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 13:00

Speaking of squinting (the text on these could be tiny indeed) another huge source of information for our inquiring little minds, I recall, was the medium of sweet-cigarette cards. Unlike chewing gum cards which tended never to veer much from football and popular films sweet-cigarette cards could veer off into highly unlikely areas of expertise. I remember one series devoted to gardening tips (which marketing genius came up with that one for pre-pubescents, I wonder?) but in the early 1960s space, the final frontier, was very much in vogue.

This series, which I still recall, was so much on the ball that it reported developments almost as they occurred and the manufacturers promised that the series would end only when man reached the moon. Needless to say it floundered years before the Apollo Programme did, but while it lasted it was hugely popular amongst us earthlings marooned in a dingy village near Dublin.

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 13:08

Tea manufacturers could be lumped into the same category, though collecting these took way too much time - which is probably what drew them to more esoteric subject matter. The trees of Britain were a Typhoo Tea series originally from the 1930s which made periodic revivals about once a decade afterwards. I bet there still wasn't anyone who got the whole set!



And when will we ever see this one being repeated - "The Homes of Famous Men"  also from Typhoo?



A link to a better view of the "famous Men" cards with a brief description of each ...

Typhoo Tea - The Homes of Famous Men
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 15:57

Sorry to go back to the Bible stuff, but I've been squinting at my Tyndale 1526 version of 1 Corinthians 13:12. He uses "glass", but with the preposition "in", not "through". I'm a bit puzzled by "even in a darke speakynge".

12 Now we se in a glasse even in a darke speakynge: but then shall we se face to face. Now I knowe vnparfectly: but then shall I knowe even as I am knowen.

A few years ago, I heard Richard Eyre speaking about his superb production of King Lear at the National. A version was later made for the BBC, and in the TV version's opening sequence Eyre had Gloucester's weak, unworldly, but loving son, Edgar, witnessing one of the "late eclipses of the sun and moon" which the play mentions. He watches a total eclipse of the sun through a piece of darkened glass, and we observe with Edgar as the light of the sun is slowly but surely blotted out - entirely appropriate given the themes of the play. Eyre said that he had Paul's words from Corinthians in mind for this opening: I thought it an inspired piece of direction.

Apologies - this is nothing to do with children's literature, and nordmann has tried to move the thread on with the Typhoo Tea cards, but I find this fascinating. Will shut up about it now.


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Mon 18 Nov 2013, 19:37

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.

That part reads quite nicely to me, and in keeping with the KJV to a degree, but the rest of it is appalling.  When I hear this modern language in a church I assume it's because it is one of those enthusiastic sects (Baptist in my town), but you are all making it sound as if this is the usual form of "biblical" language now.  Surely the Presbyterians in my town don't use this sort of nonsense.  Perhaps they do.  But at any religious funerals I go to (held in the hall not a church), I haven't noticed oddities like this. 

I mentioned somewhere else learning things from stamp albums and stamps.  The ones I liked came with information on the country - capital city, population, and a few other factual bits.  I feel I learnt from these (certainly knowledge of Magyar for Hungary comes from that) though they may just have backed up my father's little quizzes, which were mostly on battle dates and capital cities -  Western European cities in the main.  But it is stretching matters to call stamp albums literature.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 08:59

Deleted - off-topic.


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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 09:35

Not everything we learnt from Typhoo cards was particularly useful - though this series has amazingly regained some topicality just at the minute ...







You needed to send them a £1 Postal Order to get the info though.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 09:46

The Brooke Bond cards were so successful they led directly to the founding of Osprey Publishing.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 09:51

You know I can almost recite the details on the back of every one of this series, Trike! I'm sure my brother would leave out the "almost" bit there too ...

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 13:08

There were also the Observer's books;

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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 13:21

Now you're talking!

A page from my brother's bible:



(The Observers Book of Aircraft)
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 13:24

Brilliant!!!!!!!!
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 13:38

I will never mention religion here again - after one final quotation from Beatrix Potter:


“All outward forms of religion are almost useless, and are the causes of endless strife. . . . Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.”
― Beatrix Potter, Merry Christmas, Peter Rabbit!


I've still got my Beatrix Potter books - I loved them, as do most children today. They have definitely stood the test of time: their appeal is enduring. I was given Peter Rabbit in French (Pierre Lapin) and in Latin (Fabula de Petro Cuniculo). The Latin version I particularly enjoyed - I especially liked the bit where Peter's mother warns Flopsa, Mopsa, Cauda Linea and Petrus to remember the awful fate that befell their father at the hands of Mrs. McGregor:

"Nunc, mei cari," dixit vetus mater cunicula die quodam prima luce, "vobis licet in agros ire aut secundum semitam, sed nolite ire in hortum Domini McGregor. Pater tuus calamitatem ibi habuit; in crustum a Domina Mcgregor positus est."

I can't remember much of Vergil's Aeneid (Books IV and IX), or of the Gallic Boring Wars, but I do remember Petrus.
 



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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 13:56

I've still got this one;



it was 3/6d.(that's three shillings and sixpence. or seventeen and a half pence, for the youngsters on here)
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 19:36

Temp, I am reading one of Gervase Phinn's memoirs, and early in his career as a school inspector he gets a North Yorkshire child to read Peter Rabbit.  When the seven-year-old faltered as Mr McGregor was chasing Peter, Phinn  encouraged him by saying how awful it would be for poor Peter Rabbit to be caught.  The child says, "Rabbits! Rabbits! They're a blasted nuisance, that's what my dad says! Have you seen what rabbits do to a rape crop? ...Huh! We shoot em!...Millions of pounds' worth of damage when it's a mild winter.  No amount of fencing will stop 'em." 

And indeed I was amazed at how casually British people accept rabbits all over the place, and don't seem to care how damaging they are to plants and food crops. 

(As an aside, how much poetic licence do memoir writers allow themselves remembering the speeches of others - or themselves?  I can't remember verbatim what someone said to me two minutes ago, let along a long rant from twenty years earlier. And surely they don't write it all down in a diary at the time.)

I didn't read Beatrix Potter as a child, but my children enjoyed them.  Though they were never their top favourites, I think.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 20:14

Actually, Caro, a lot of our local agricultural/horticultural farmers (they are, because of their scale, sort of intermediate between the two) supported the hunting ban - they grow crops rather than raising stock, so anything that preys on rabbits is A Good Thing in their eyes.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Tue 19 Nov 2013, 20:53

Oh dear, my childhood reading of The Magic Faraway Tree, My Big Book of Bible Stories and The Tale of Peter Rabbit (even if it was in Latin) would appear to have been a seriously inadequate preparation for the trials and tribulations of life in the real world.

I'm not sure how I've managed to survive this far to be honest. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 20 Nov 2013, 12:38

I like to think I had a blessed schooling 9-11yrs; contempories of that time agree with me. Our teacher the head, had Foxes book of Martyrs on the nature table, a cupboard filled with professor brainstorm, Ruskin and William books. Being the 'top class' we did not have to g out on wet days but allowed to spawl about the guarded open coal fire in our classroom and delve into a box of Children's Nwspaper to finish crosswords and puzzles. History was so interesting that I used much of what I learned then for my 'O' and 'A level answer papers. Several of our number went on to big things in History - one the run the County Records Office and others with Doctorates to teach in Grammar and Public Schools. We were just ordinary kids but privy to  so rich a time that we were aware of it. I learned to sing musical parts for descants and a rich wealth of unforgettable songs, many country dances - and complicated Maypole dances - and a bit of ballroom too. We were all two years ahead in maths when we all made it to the grammar school....there is something I ought add here. Our teacher was known to 'favour' little boys. My father had been in his scout troupe had told me... nothing more, just love of them. We all  knew and though he hugged the boys - who put up with it, there was no more - or complaint either. So when I left I decided to teach that age range to give back - and to be honest continue the delight. So I did, despite much higher qualifications for other stuff, I never regretted a day. Praise be to God for those who enriched our childhood.  Sorry to bore but I have just been reminded of all this by the death of a school mate of those times who said the same just recently.
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 20 Nov 2013, 19:45

Did not intend to kill the thread - so what did gems  anyone get from cereal packet backs?
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Wed 20 Nov 2013, 22:37

I got a submarine that you put in a pop bottle, when you screwed the top down, she dived, when you opened it up, she surfaced.

Also got a telescope. Absolutely carp, that was. Used to enjoy the cut-out-and-assemble models, and I had a fine collection of gollies from marmalade, and loads of PG Tips cards - used to use them for our art homework (one head of my first school was a well regarded amateur artist, the old new Art Gallery in town was named after her).
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PostSubject: Re: The things we learnt from children's literature ...   Thu 21 Nov 2013, 09:18

@Priscilla wrote:
Did not intend to kill the thread - so what did gems  anyone get from cereal packet backs?
You did not kill the thread, Priscilla: I rather think I did.

I really can't remember learning anything from cereal packets until quite late in life. I now read the nutritional information avidly, and am still shocked when I consider the vast quantities of salt added by Kellogs to their All-Bran and to their Cornflakes. Amounts are often give in grams of sodium, which is a deceitful practice: you have to double that figure to get the actual salt content. Apparently Kellogs add differing amounts of salt to their products according to where their target consumers live. 5 grams daily is considered a healthy amount of salt for an adult - still a bit high if you are prone to raised blood pressure.  Are Kellogs using their salty cereals as a WMD in the Middle East?

Kellogg’s All Bran, for instance, contains 2.15g of salt per 100g in Canada, but only 0.65g of salt per 100g just over the border in the United States, less than a third of the Canadian level. All Bran for sale in the UK contains 1.13g of salt per 100g. Looking at the salt content for Kellogg’s Cornflakes, the survey found that the Middle East is served the highest salt product at 2.8g of salt per 100g. The lowest salt Kellogg’s Cornflakes surveyed were in Spain, with 1.75g salt per 100g, a gram less than the Middle East’s level of 2.8g salt per 100g. The UK gets Kellogg’s cornflakes with 1.8g of salt per 100g.

I still have my Golly Cricketer badge. I enjoyed collecting gollies from jam and marmelade pots - surely a quite hamless thing to do? Most kids loved the Robertson gollies. Were these little black figures that we were all so fond of really teaching us to be intolerant racist pigs? Were they indeed an imperialist plot to corrupt the nation's children - a subtle form of indoctrination, reinforced by our readings of Noddy in Toytown?

EDIT: Put "where" instead of "were" - the old brain really is going.
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