June 11th, 2012
Ray Bradbury wasn’t a fan of e-books. As a long time fan of the printed page, he disliked the dumbing down of America. It’s hard to imagine now, but when I was 18, I could read through all of his books without a glitch. Now most American high school kids would struggle with the vocabulary, the ideas and just sitting still that long.
For boys to be able to get through any books, they need Ritalin, Strattera, Concerta, Wellbutrin or Adderall. At my son’s school, 40% of the boys took some kind of ADD/ADHD drug and now it’s closer to 60% at some schools. Maybe in another decade, we’ll just medicate all boys for over-activity, all girls can take the pill and we won’t have any problems at all.
On this three week trip, I have two outfits in my suitcase and the rest of the case is full of books. And Mark packed his books carefully so we could switch part way through. Between us we have Percival Everett, Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, Steve Almond, Pete Fromm and I’m sure he has something by Brian Greene or David Deustch. He wanted me to read Schrödinger’s Rabbits: The Many Worlds of Quantum. I had to put down my foot. (My feet are size 11, one is enough.) My interest in understanding the many worlds theory, string theory and quantum physics is somewhat limited.
But back to Bradbury, my favorite of his stories is “The Veldt,” which, like The Crucible and Lord of the Flies shows what can happen when kids get too much power and don’t have enough understanding of how to use it.
I grew up with a group of kids who were essentially un-loved. When people said, “I love you,” it was often after a severe beating so to me, the very idea seemed like love was just something you say to someone to assuage your own guilt. (Which is why I’m not fond of the guilty businessman returning from trips with silk, satin and tennis bracelets. Lordy, lordy, what have you done, man? Hookers? Drugs? Bungee jumping without me?) I don’t believe that kids naturally run to kindness. Kids can be mean. Kids are curious and as a child, I wanted to do something bad. I wanted to do something adults would disapprove of. I was always on the lookout for opportunities. By contrast, my own kids seem like angels. In spite of Christianity forced down my throat, I had no real sense of love or the ethics of human behavior as they do. The first rule of ethics is to keep your children well, to keep them with you, to take care of them, and hope they treat you well.
“The Veldt,” is a story of parents who want an easy way out. They have an electronic nursery. But it backfires. They are left to the lions. So watch out, keep your kids in check, and hopefully you can teach them to have compassion and integrity.