Child Training

Child Training title page

I was searching the web for old books for a non-BoF project, when I came across some books by a 20th century educator named Angelo Patri.

Pinocchio the racist

As you can see from the Wikipedia page, he is the translator of several Pinocchio books. You can get a PDF of Pinocchio in Africa here. Beware, though. The image on the right is a detail of one of the illustrations. The entire book appears to be a product of its time. It’s probably as bad as Tarzan of the Apes.

Patri was a school teacher and principal. Wikipedia says that he attempted “to engage the student with tasks that went beyond book learning…”. That’s pretty progressive for its day. I was curious to see what a progressive educator thought about schools and teaching in those days, so I downloaded the PDF of his book Child Training, which was published in 1922.

The book seems to be aimed at both parents and teachers. It’s important to mention that, because religion is interwoven tightly throughout the entire book. Patri seems to think that religion is an inseparable part of the raising of children. The fact that religion and morality are completely separate, or the possibility that non-Christians might be among his students, never seems to cross his mind. I’m not trying to bash Patri or his book. I’m merely using it to illustrate the prevailing thought of that era.

So let’s take a look at a few excerpts. The last section, for example, consists of short chapters about American history. These appear to be lessons he wants you to teach. Here’s a short excerpt from the chapter about George Washington:

Excerpt about George Washington

All of the other chapters in that section are rabidly patriotic. Some have God interwoven and some do not. His Memorial Day chapter is really just one long sermon, and his Thanksgiving chapter is literally a prayer. Given this context, I thought his chapter on Flag Day was enlightening. First off, he gives us the Pledge of Allegiance:

Pledge of Allegiance

That’s the old old version! This was long before it was adulterated by the God-bots. But what’s doubly revealing about this chapter is that it contains almost no religious references at all (he mentions crosses once, but that is in reference to those who died in World War One). Let’s put this in perspective. This book is written from the unquestioning perspective that religion is an important part of somebody’s moral education. This entire section of the book is especially filthy with God. Yet the chapter about the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance is mostly devoid of religion.

It didn’t even enter his mind that God and the flag should be coupled!

So why are we having such a hard time today separating the two today?

Let’s finish by seeing what he has to say in the section about moral development. Oddly, he has a chapter on the Bible here. It’s obviously misplaced. Let’s see what it says anyway:

Excerpt praising the Bible

“Literature” usually refers to fiction, so at least he has that part correct. I strongly disagree with his second paragraph, but our purpose here is to gain insight into how these people thought about their world. As you can see, he just accepts as fact that this book is some sort of Truth.

Excerpt praising the Bible

Actually, I was horrified when I first heard the story of Joseph. Did Patri really think that story was a great way to teach morals? Maybe this is why fundies are opposed to abortion. They know if they actually raise the kid for a few years, he’ll fetch a fine price on the slave market.

Excerpt praising the Bible

“No sympathy for those left behind enters their minds”?! See what your warped book has done to their morality, Patri? See what you’ve done to their compassion?

What sort of monster can we expect this child to turn into? How can we cope with this amoral child that you’ve created? The only thing we could possibly do is to sell him into slavery.

Oh, that was your plan from the beginning!

16 Responses to “Child Training”

  1. Lindsay Says:

    I thought the Bible was a huge snore when I tried to read it for catechism. I thank my parents to this day they had the good sense to never make me read it.

  2. Mojoey Says:

    Your post brought back some old memories. I’ve read every Tarzan book a dozen times. I had a complete set in hardback from when they were originally published. I did not realize how racist they were until many years later.

  3. Ron Britton Says:

    I did not realize how racist they were until many years later.

    I’ve encountered racism in a lot of fiction from the very early 20th century and before. That suggests just how prevalent it was. I don’t think a lot of those people actually realized how bigoted they were. They just accepted certain premises as factual without stopping to think much about them.

    Now that most people have thought about those premises and rejected them as groundless, it’s time for them to examine their blind acceptance of religion.

  4. 4ndyman Says:

    Which book of all books would you say the children should have as a standard?

    This alone is an interesting subject. Certainly the Bible isn’t the right way to go, but what book could you put in its place? 15 years ago I’d’ve said Atlas Shrugged. I have my own children now, and they’re both avid readers, and I try to steer them toward the better works of literature, but I haven’t really given much thought to how those books shape their ethical beliefs.

  5. Ron Britton Says:

    4ndyman:

    That’s easy: Harry Potter. We want them to be satanists.

    Actually, the single book idea is a false dilemma. I don’t think there is one book that single-handedly can carry that burden. If forced to pick one, I’d say any book except the Bible, for the simple reason that the Bible is the only book that our culture imbues with the superstition that it’s true. If you give them a Bible and tell them that everything in there is true, you’ll end up with a severely damaged child. Give them anything else, and as long as they understand it is fiction, they should be (at most) only slightly damaged. More likely, though, they’ll be a slightly better person, because they’ve been exposed to other ideas. Give them a lot of books, and they’ll probably end up much better for the experience.

  6. 4ndyman Says:

    Of course, you’re right about the false dilemma. Choosing only one book is more intellectual calisthenics than practical exercise.

    There are worse books than the Bible, though. The Book of Mormon, for example. I’d give other examples, but I don’t need an Ayatollah proclaiming a death fatwa on me.

  7. Modusoperandi Says:

    He rushed home and told his wife Betsy about it. “We’ll win surely, Betsy, for it’s George Friggin’ Washington!” Then, after a long pause, Betsy replied “You’re not a very good Quaker, are you?”


    4ndyman “Certainly the Bible isn’t the right way to go, but what book could you put in its place?”
    Stranger in a Strange Land. It’s got biblical parallels, but reflects how things actually work (I still remember crying when that beautiful Martian man died. *sniff*). Lots of Heinlein’s “young adult” novels would work, too (moral trials, but with a healthy sense of optimism and can-do attitude. Also, moxie).

  8. Chuck Says:

    His commentary on the Bible is kind of true. When I was growing up in fundieland, most of the other kids didn’t care why things were happening in the Bible stories. Who cares if God kills every living thing on the Earth? At least he didn’t kill the magical Jew and his family!

    Then, by the time you get old enough to question the deity’s motivations, you’ve already had the infallibility of the fairy tales ingrained into you, so you don’t bother questioning your own religion, only other ones.

  9. Brian Says:

    I’ve always been fascinated by how morality is relative to the times in which one lives. To any rational person today, the crude depictions of black people are beyond the pale, but that’s judging it by today’s accepted standard. Back then, almost everyone, possibly including even a majority of African-Americans, would not have raised an objection to them.

    Today we commonly regard Lincoln as a great man and probably our greatest president, but what is often overlooked is his belief that blacks could never be equal to whites. Does that archaic view lessen the magnitude of what he accomplished, or do we simply attribute it to the times in which he lived and leave it at that? As I said, this is a fascinating question.

    Here’s another example I’ve noticed for some time. Home improvement products are my profession. One particular galling packaging scheme I’ve seen repeatedly involves the use of a young, attractive woman pictured on the label using the product with a big, happy smile. The subtext couldn’t be more obvious: “Look! Even a WOMAN can do this. A BLONDE woman!” Most people don’t even notice this, which reminds me of the illustrations above.

    I often wonder what changes will occur to society’s norms that will leave me behind in my older years. Is there a position I stand firmly by today that seems correct now but will be shunned by the vast majority of a future generation? Will my grandchildren look at me as a grumpy, intolerant old man because of something that doesn’t bother me now? Or am I ahead of my time, simply waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to me? I sincerely hope it is the latter that is true.

  10. OtherRob Says:

    That’s easy: Harry Potter

    I’m currently reading Chamber of Secrets to my 7-year-old son. He’s always disappointed when it’s time to stop and go to bed. 🙂

  11. Parrotlover77 Says:

    There is still a long list of pervasive stereotypes treated as fact by many otherwise perfectly rational humans with regard to African Americans.

    It was less than a year ago when I actually heard on a (liberal, no-less) radio talk show a long discussion about whether black people can — wait for it — float in water! I’m completely serious! There were dozens of callers that you could tell honestly thought they were not racist by holding to that fiction — and I’m sure they otherwise thought black people could accomplish anything.

    It’s just an example of how these thoughts, although much worse in the past, still exist today.

    Brian – You are ahead of your time. I know this because I know I am ahead of my time. And if the young whipper-snappers think we’re old fogies, it’s because they don’t know how hard we had to when we were their age! And we liked it!

  12. Ron Britton Says:

    Parrotlover:

    I actually heard on a (liberal, no-less) radio talk show a long discussion about whether black people can — wait for it — float in water!

    That’s crazy ignorant! Everybody knows that the only thing floating in water proves is that you’re a witch!

  13. Parrotlover77 Says:

    That’s what I was thinking!

    But no, seriously, you had not only white people calling up and swearing that the myth “black people can’t float” is real, you had African Americans calling in too! Granted, everybody claiming the myth was older, so hopefully the younger generation knows that melanin doesn’t weigh that much.

  14. OtherRob Says:

    Wow. I’ve lived in the South most of my life and I’ve never heard the “black people can’t float” myth.

  15. Another Steve Says:

    I am so glad that someone made the Monty Python connection that was so horribly needed in the above posts!

    …One book…hmmm… So much depends on the context. For example: lost in the wilderness -> Boy Scout Handbook (or something of that sort). Last hand full of humans on Earth: How Things Work. Literature? Poetry? A religious book? Only for toilet paper.

    In the “last people on earth” situation, there’s almost nothing you can do to keep subsequent generations from developing their own myths, legends and religions. Even if you give them a bible etched onto tungsten pages so that it can’t be damaged or decomposed, they’ll lose it, or forget how to read the damn thing. In this case, it would even lose its usefulness as toilet paper (ouch!)

  16. Jeff Eyges Says:

    What sort of monster can we expect this child to turn into?

    Precisely the sort of monsters who have been taking over the country these past 25 years.

    Thank you, Ron Reagan.