“The Lorax” and critical literacy

I have just stumbled upon the Rethinking Schools Blog-site and read an article by Bill Bigelow called Rethinking The Lorax[1]Unlike most of the twitter feeds on this topic, his article does not focus solely on the shoddy, cynical and hypocritical marketing partnerships designed to coincide with the release of the film.

He points out that the book itself  is not without its problems:

The book reduces the causes of environmental ruin to individual greed, which does not help children think clearly about the roots of today’s ecological crises. This narrow single-greedy-bad-guy focus does not help readers think about the much scarier prospect of an entire society organized around the quest for profit. And the chief environmental exploiter, the Once-ler, hires all his brothers, uncles, and aunts as workers, which makes it appear that the interests of workers and owners are identical, and that they are all inherently part of the problem. Again, this is not a helpful message for children. Instead of allowing his Swomee-Swans and the Bar-ba-loots to fight for themselves and for their environment, the only opposition comes from the Lorax—who advocates for, but actually disempowers other creatures by sending them off. Finally, in the end, the Once-ler repents, suggesting that there is hope for today’s rapacious Once-lers of the world—if only we can make them see the light.

This reading of the book gave me pause because I did not read all this into the book at all.  This may be because I was reading this book in the early 80s to my quite young children at the height of the ‘Save the Franklin Campaign’ (Tasmania).  For me it was an easy entre into a discussion of this issue and my biggest concern was that I might be brainwashing them.

Reading this article has prompted me to think about going to this movie when it gets here and to ponder how complex understandings of why we are in such a perilous state re the environment can best be introduced to vulnerable and enquiring young minds.

Clearly, whatever ones take on the adequacy of the message underpinning ‘The Lorax’, it makes for a great teaching resource for children at all levels

[1] http://rethinkingschoolsblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/rethinking-the-lorax/


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