Sunday, September 9, 2007

My first Controversy Around Kindergarten

So my kindergartner had his first 'media' day and the class went to the library to pick out their first book. He was all excited when he brought this book home to me to read to him. They get one week to keep the book before having to return in to the school. So Friday night I proceed to read this book to both him and my 2 year old, as I read to them every night. Z was so excited at the prospect of this book cause he knew it was just going to be so funny. So, reading the cover and knowing what the topic was, I set out with an open mind and started reading him the story of this 'Pudge', which I believe is some rendition of a pig with a trunk and horns. As I was reading I was getting more and more uncomfortable at the blatant message that this book was portraying, especially to my 5 year old. Now let me start off my saying that I myself have once been a vegetarian and have relatives and friends who adopt this lifestyle as well. While I don't follow it now, since I love a nice juicy steak as much as the next gal, I am totally in favor for those who do. However, this book's message was way harsh for a elementary schooler to digest.

The gist of the book is Herbert manages to escape from the Pudge Processing Farm. He grew up into a full grown 'pudge' with his friends from the jungle and came back to the farm to release all the animals and threaten the farmer. This farmer then gave up eating fried 'pudge' and started working out, married his trainer and started selling soy hot dogs.
While the message of the book is generally OK (get rid of inhumane slaughter houses) I totally disagree with the way in which it was presented to a child. The author implies that meat eaters are fat slobs and all meat is greasy and gross.
Some of the excerpts are:

Pudges never got a chance to fully grow up. While they were still young, they were trucked off to the meat factory, where they were processed into TV dinners, microwave sausage links and other greasy food products.

Then Herbert greeted Farmer Jake, who was gorging himself on deep-fried Pudge knuckles.When the He saw Herbert (after he grew up) he nearly choked. After making him promise to stop picking on pudges and find something better do to with is life, Herbert let the Farmer Jake down. (the illustration shows the Farmer being held in the air while Herbert tell him to "Say Uncle".

(after Jake stopped eating meat and got thin) Together they started Jake and Heidi's (the personal trainer) Tofu Hot Dogs Company. They hired pudges to turn the giant tofu mill. Their tofu hot dogs were a rip-roaring success because they were healthful and tasted much better than the real thing.

There are other sections of this book that are disturbing but these are the highlights. I was shocked as I read through this book and luckily my 5 year old didn't really understand the message. This is a kid who lives on meat - bacon, pepperoni & ham, cause as a child he had trouble with large tonsils /adenoids and had a hard time eating. He resorted to flavorful meat items since when he couldn't breathe he couldn't taste. He has become a better eater now that his tonsils and adenoids have been removed. However, if he understood the message of this book and decided that cutting out meat was a good idea that would eliminate 1/2 of his diet. But thank goodness I read it real fast and didn't give him time to digest the message.
But besides all that, what is this type of blatant message doing in the public school system? This message wasn't delivered in a manner that I feel is appropriate. This isn't a positive message, regardless of the the topic and I feel that it shouldn't have ever gotten into the hands of my 5 year old. I am not even sure I feel that this book is appropriate for people who live as vegetarians and want to teach their kids about animals and slaughter. In any case, I expected the schools to neutral about most 'lifestyles'. I would never expect my child to bring home a book about Jewish people's lives in contrast to others in a negative manner, or any other religion, gender, race or life choices. I just wonder why this specific topic was acceptable.
We are thinking of calling or sending a note to the Principal and call her attention to this book and explain that we are disappointed it would be in their library for my son to bring home. I think that is the first step here and maybe she will explain to us how this is considered appropriate reading material.
I just felt sad that my excited 5 year old on his first media day came home with such a non-funny book and I believe he was sad and confused when the story was over.


WorksForMom September 9, 2007 at 10:05 PM  

In a word: Wow. Are you kidding? I'm still in awe that this was actually a children's book let alone a public school's book...

Molly Coddled September 14, 2007 at 2:40 PM  

I'm with you, I'd definitely complain. Why does a message like that have to be made available to such young children.

A fellow steak lover

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