This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, January 30, 1991

January 30, 1991 - Children's cassettes and videos

Last week, as I was washing my hands in a restaurant bathroom, a stranger nodded at me and said, "How's it going?"

Now there are lots of appropriate responses to polite but basically meaningless greetings. I struck out into totally new territory.

"YOU!" I shouted, which startled the heck out of him, and acutely embarrassed me.

As I say, I'd never seen this guy in my life. What I was TRYING to say, was "Fine. How are you?" in something like a regular tone of voice.

When, sheepishly, I explained this to the man, a look of weary empathy came over his face. Just that morning, he said, he poured himself a cup of coffee, then very carefully put the coffeepot in the refrigerator. Left it there all morning. Couldn't find it.

Hoping wildly that my obvious mental instability might still have some external cause, I asked the man if, by any chance, he had any preschoolers living at home.

He did.

I've given a lot of thought to this lately -- in those rare moments when one thought still manages to follow another in a more or less linear fashion -- and I believe I have unearthed a dire threat to the intellectual fitness of Adult America.

Put simply, the problem is this: children's audiocassettes and videotapes.

Like a lot of people of my generation, I've listened to thousands of hours of classic music. Really good music -- I'm thinking, for example, of anything by James Brown, the Godfather of Soul -- clarifies the mind, focuses the concentration. In those times when I didn't need to be a powerful thinker -- washing dishes, taking out the garbage, etc. -- that music would just well up and remind me of my times, my history, my Self.

Not any more.

Now, when I'm driving (for instance), I mentally hear such lyrics as "I like to oot, oot, oot, ooples and banoonoos ...." or "You know it's no trouble, you know it's a double-u, when you hear wuh, wuh, wuh, wuh!" (Those of you who know what I'm talking about recognize Raffi in the first one, and Bert and Ernie in the second. Those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, RUN! YOU CAN STILL ESCAPE!)

My daughter Maddy, a charming but slightly tone deaf child, listens to these songs with total rapture, every moment she is conscious. Over the past few months, she's amassed an awesome collection of children's audiocassettes. Recently, Suzanne, Maddy's mother, my wife, has taken to checking out roughly 500,000 new tapes each week from the library. Suzanne isn't thinking too well lately either.

More recently, Maddy has taken a liking to my collection of Disney animated films. Now -- between music tapes -- she watches the same films over and over and over and over and over.

On the whole, I think we're still responsible parents. We make sure that we read to her at least an hour every day, and sometimes twice that. But frankly, I don't think my wife and I are quite right anymore.

For instance, today Suzanne and I had a long, earnest talk about Sleeping Beauty. Why on earth did the three fairies take her back to the castle on her birthday? If WE were fairies, we decided, we would have put her in a closet, and sat in the closet with her until the day AFTER her 16th birthday. That way, Maleficent's curse could never have come true, that way ....

We went almost 15 highway miles like that, before coming to our horrified senses.

We bring this stuff home for Maddy, of course, in the belief that it's educational. And for the record, Maddy HAS learned a lot of amazing things lately. SHE'S fine.

So if you want to make your preschoolers very, very happy, and maybe even very, very smart, stop them by the library and sample the best of what's available in the incredibly vast universe of children's audiocassettes and videotapes.

But kiss your brain goodbye.

No comments:

Post a Comment