Sand in the Gears

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The pedagogy of the fart

September 27th, 2010 Posted in The Art of Parenting, The Artful Life

Thomas Spence, president of Spence Publishing, has a must-read piece in last week’s Wall Street Journal, titled “How to Raise Boys Who Read.” He takes aim at the latest fad, which is to get the video-game and television-besotted little cretins to read by dealing out books about farts and boogers, as if reading is itself the end, and any crudity that entices a four-foot tall barbarian to do it is simply pedagogy for the 21st century. Case in point, this fall’s top-ten humor book for children, SweetFarts. Here’s Spence:

“One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn’t go very far.”

Spence, father of six boys, goes on to observe that the much-lamented reading gap between boys and girls disappears when one’s sample is home-schoolers. I suspect this has less to do with the poor pedagogical practices of government schools (though it’s far easier to accommodate the physicality of a handful of boys in one’s home learning environment than it is to accommodate 15-20 of them in a classroom), than with the reality that parents who home-school are less likely to give their children a steady diet of attention-atrophying electronic media.

Which in turn suggests the delicious possibility that rather than wringing our hands over how quickly we can get every child “wired” for the new internet era, we ought to ask how quickly we can unplug their computers until such time as they’re able to compose a cogent essay on Shakespeare, elucidate the roots of the Great Schism, and explain at least three proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem.