While sitting in church on Sunday going through the same motions of every Sunday, my son leans over to ask, "Why do we have to stand up for this prayer?" My response "because we are supposed to". Reading "The Children's Story" by James Clavell, made me think a little more about this question that I had no answer for. A person needs to be able to explain why he does what he does. Children are innocent and unknowing; they are like a blank piece of paper waiting to be filled up with drawings and ideas. This book shows just how easy it is to mold a child. It uses a classroom of children facing a major change in their lives as the setting. The story moves quickly and the characters are only briefly sketched out. The story has a science fiction "feel" to it. The events preceding the story include a war (with an unknown opponent) that we have lost. The main character among the children is Johnny whose father fought in the war and is now being held prisoner. Johnny is afraid for his father and about the changes that are coming to his school because of the defeat. The author is able to assume that we all share common experiences from our youth and our days in grade school, introducing the characters with a minimum of prose. The major theme is critiquing education systems that teach children what to think by repetition and memorization. Clavell uses the story to point out how that makes individuals vulnerable to manipulation. How many education systems look at the students as individuals? Most education systems lump all the students into a nameless, impersonal mass. In the story, the "old" teacher doesn't always remember the students names, has never had children of her own, and her memories of all her classes led to a "legion" of faces of which none stood out. In contrast, the "new" teacher memorizes in advance all the students names and birthdays. That is enough to impress any child. Although the children in the story...
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