Most children’s literature is innocuous. There’s no stated social, moral, or political worldview found in Pat the Bunny or Toes, Ears, and Nose!, but there is always an underlying worldview that gets more specific with age. This is why parents and grandparents need to be careful. Books are more than their covers and what other people say about them. For example, And Tango Makes Thre ((Cristina Cardoze, “They’re in love. They’re gay. They’re penguins…. And they’re not alone” (June 6, 2006).)) is an illustrated children’s book about two male penguins that raise a baby penguin. It’s based on a true story of two male penguins in New York City’s Central Park Zoo that “adopt” a fertilized egg and raise the chick as their own.
Sounds like a sweet animal story that any child would and could enjoy, and if there wasn’t an agenda attached to it, it would be just that – a sweet animal story for children and parents alike. But the book’s storyline is being pushed as a homosexual primer to soften up young minds for the more overt propaganda that will come later and enter their local government school.
The logic of the book goes something like this, “If it’s OK for two male penguins to raise a baby penguin, then why is it not OK for two male humans to do the same?” There are a number of unstated assumptions: One, the male penguins are homosexuals. They’re not. Two, when have animals become moral examples for human behavior? What about the mother eagle that lets one of her two baby eaglets starve so she can cannibalize it and feed it to the other eaglet? What’s the moral lesson with this story? It’s obvious that homosexuals pick and choose what animal behavior they deem to be exemplary.
I don’t expect books, even children’s books, to be devoid of a worldview and teach lessons to young minds. In fact, all books are written within the context of a worldview model, whether it’s stated or not or whether the writer even recognizes the worldview assumptions that are presupposed. Even Pat the Bunny assumes a particular worldview. There are all kinds of metaphysical and epistemological themes underlying every facet of the story. There’s something rather than nothing. How did the bunny get here that a book could be written about it? There’s a bunny in a book being read by a parent to a child. How profound is this? There’s something called “bunniness” and “humanness.” There are differences between a bunny and a human. Why? One is an animal, the other is not. Most children today are taught that humans are just more highly evolved animals, just three DNA percentage points above chimpanzee DNA.
There are rabbits, and there are humans to pat them. Have you ever asked a child why there’s no book called Pat the Human written by a rabbit? Where are the rabbit libraries, rabbit hospitals, and rabbit schools? Why haven’t rabbits learned to build better accommodations, better rabbit homes to protect them from predators rather than holes in the ground given the premise that their evolutionary development is supposedly longer than that of humans?
That’s right. All these deep questions are found in Pat the Bunny. You can imagine what it was like for my two sons to grow up with me.
In 1980, when Carl Sagan opened his book Cosmos with the line, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” ((Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Random House, 1980), 3.)) we weren’t surprised. But I wonder how many parents knew that a children’s book, written in 1975, five years before Sagan’s hugely popular book and film series of the same name, said exactly the same thing. This book was a “Children’s Choice Book Club” selection of Scholastic Book Service. The book? Stan and Jan Berenstain’s The Bears’ Nature Guide: A Nature Walk Through Bear Country. Consider these humungous Saganesque naturalistic worldview presuppositions from a children’s book read to millions of young children and later reinforced in the government school classrooms:
Nature is every person, thing, and place here on Earth and out in space.”
“Nature’s the sun, the moon, the stars. It’s faraway planets like Venus and Mars.”
“It’s the mountains, the valleys, the shore, the sea.”
“Nature is you!”
“Nature is me!”
“It’s all that IS
or EVER WILL BE!” ((Stan and Jan Berenstain, The Berenstain Bears in The Bears’s Nature Guide: A Nature Walk Through Bear Country (New York: Random House, 1975), [6–7].))
Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens couldn’t have said it any better. Here’s a statement from Richard Dawkins: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.” ((Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: HarperCollins/BasicBooks, 1995), 133.))
There’s a twist to this story. It seems that secular worldview of Stan and Jan Berenstain did not rub off on their son. Mike Berenstain, the son of the series original writers and illustrators, is the developer of a mini-series with a Christian theme published by evangelical publisher Zondervan.
Berenstain said he and his older brother were raised in a secular household. “My father was a secular Jew; my mother was raised a nominal Christian,” he told The Christian Post. “We weren’t raised religious.” Mike Berenstain, who was very much interested in science as a child, grew dissatisfied with his parents’ secular values. In college, he sought answers in philosophy. Finding that unfulfilling, He later accepted Christ and now writes from a Christian perspective.
The moral worldview found in the Berenstain Bears books was borrowed. Yes, you will find some good moral lessons, but if nature is all that is, or was, or ever will be, there is no accounting for these lessons. Read with caution, discernment, and engagement. Helping your children to think critically at an early age will go a long way to sharp their thinking skills when they will really need them.