LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

For the Future Educators…

on January 24, 2013 2:17pm

Our class discussion on Tuesday really sparked some provoking thoughts in my head as to my future as an educator. I keep finding myself coming back to the discussion of what is appropriate to teach a child? What is appropriate to let them read? What morals should we allow them to understand and practice? All of these things I am going to be applying to my practice of teaching within this next year. So that’s just it; did Charles Kingsley have the right idea about mixing science, religion and imagination in his novel The Water Babies?

When I think about my future classroom, I think about having a well-rounded environment that provokes creativity, challenges the mind and also helps the children shape their future. Thus, I believe it is appropriate to mix a variety of topics into teaching children. We might think that because they are younger and have less life experience that they should not be exposed to a mixture of elements at one time because they could become confused. But if that is the case, then we are just like the parents that Kingsley was making fun of. Why shouldn’t we introduce religion and science? The theory of evolution does not fit with the teachings of the Bible, but that does not mean that religion lacks science. And the same goes with the realm of magical beings. They might not exist but why would we try and take away the imagination of a child? My tone may be harsh, but really think about these questions. Even if you are not to be an educator, you might have children one day. Would you want to limit their thinking?

The Water Babies is a great narrative to teach children many lessons. Tom started off as the unfortunate chimney sweep who ended up as a mystical water baby with a life much better than the one he had before. To a child, that is magical and mysterious. Kingsley makes learning fun in his novel. I know that when I stand in front of a classroom of eight year olds, they are going to be much more interested in learning about sea life and science through a book like The Water Babies then reading from a dry text book. I believe that by thinking the way that Charles Kingsley did when writing this novel, those of us who are becoming teachers can try to incorporate some of his methods into our own.

So really I am trying to get our class to think further about the discussion that was presented on Tuesday. I feel that the questions we asked were things we do not think about on a regular basis, but maybe we should. Think of yourself as a future teacher and would you be afraid to combine things like science, religion and imagination into your classroom and the minds of your students?



I also found this clip on YouTube that is from the 1978 version of The Water Babies movie! Its cheesy, but still makes what we read in class come to life! Hope you enjoy!




3 responses to “For the Future Educators…

  1. kevinmgriffin says:

    As a future educator of the English language and its literature to elementary school students, I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with some of the points that you presented. I believe that imagination is the fuel that drives creativity amongst young students and that it should never be hindered for the sake of presenting a strictly realistic portrayal of the world. I feel that many of the texts that we will be reading and discussing in LIT4334 are crucial to the development of a young human mind. Oftentimes, people speak of the term “childhood” in an idealized manner that reflects on the days when fairy tales seemed real alongside the possibilities of jumping into the pages of your favorite book and fighting evil using magical spells. In my opinion, any attempt to hinder the imaginative qualities of the growing and impressionable mind of a youth would be a crime against this sense of childhood about which we consistently seem to reflect in a nostalgic manner.

    Imagination cannot solely exist on its own. A sense of reality must be portrayed to children, more specifically students, as to create a vision of the world that acknowledges that dragons and fairies do not exist. I believe that these are two very distinct views that must be presented in a manner allowing the student to differentiate between the two and realize when they are reading a completely fabricated fairy tale versus a textbook. For this reason, I would be opposed to teaching a tale such as The Water-Babies to my students for I feel that such a simple story should not blend so closely reality and fantasy as to allow the possibility of bewilderment in the minds of the readers concerning what is fact and what is fiction. I believe that it is possible to support the creative use of imagination in stories for children while opposing the creation of confusion concerning life, science, and magic.

  2. sconage says:

    As a future educator myself, these are some of the same questions that I find myself asking; and often times I realize that as educators we are somewhat limited to only teaching what the state or school district allows us to teach. Sure, we are allowed to add our own creativity into our class and lessons but really how much are we even allowed to add, we are required to move along at a certain pace and make sure that our students learn certain key things; so how much of our own ideas are we really allowed to ask. Do you believe that Water Babies will be a text that schools allow teachers to teach in the classroom, will it even relate to the students that we will be teaching in this generation? Schools around the United States actually do seem to be taking away the imagination from young children, especially since there is now a movement to reduce the number of non-fiction/fantasy texts in schools to more informative texts.

  3. I think you pose great questions in your post, as well as great answers when it comes to your overall message. I grew up in an environment that was not expanding instead of sheltering. I was trusted to form my own opinions from the stories I read, and I think that in almost all cases children deserve this trust. Likewise, my parents and grandparents were never worried about my exposure to magic or if the line between reality and fantasy would blur in my mind. I can’t express how grateful I am that they did this. And in no way would I ever want to limit my own future child’s thinking or cognitive process by my own fears or doubts. It’s your main thesis that I agree with: a child’s right to explore a range of stories whether it contain magic, or science, or religion, etc.
    However, this does not mean I believe The Water Babies is a good book for children. This is the part of your post that I disagree with. I’m sure that there is an imaginative, child-audience-grabbing book that is not so riddled with dated details and racist jokes. It is certainly easier to educate a child with the aid of a story or props that they find interesting and fun. I do not believe that The Water Babies is the answer to this though. What keeps educators from handing this book down to their students is not, perhaps, fear as you suggest, but instead one or both of the following 1) a knowledge that the material presents characteristics that most everyone agrees are not particularly good ones to teach children (enforcement of racial prejudice, for example), and 2) the novel is in many ways disconnected from the lives of modern children and, as was discussed in class, this makes The Water Babies very hard to relate too. I do believe that some elements of the story are kid-friendly (as shown by the cartoon clip at the end of your post), but there are absolutely smarter, modern and classic, examples of these same morals that are more accessible to children.

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