Flossie & the Fox is a children’s story that I love and probably value even more because it came as a recommendation from my dear friend Carmen. I’ve written about Flossie on this blog several times because of the admiral traits that allow Flossie to complete the task her grandmother assigned her. I find it admiral that this story revises the story of Little Red Riding Hood through the depiction of a little black girl who finds meaning in her grandmother’s words and uses them to create a way of addressing a predator on the loose. This strategy demands that she not concede to the predator’s presumed authority to tell her who she is (afraid girl) and by what name she will be called (easy target). Given all that I love about Flossie, there is something that I also love about the Fox. At one point in the story, in response to Flossie’s refusal to accept that he is actually a fox, he asks, “Whatever are they teaching children these days? A child your age should be simply terrified of me” (I may be slightly paraphrasing the declarative sentence because I don’t have the book before me). As much as I want Flossie to prevail, in this moment, I stand beside Fox in asking this very relevant question: Whatever are they teaching children these days? 

My friends who work as college professors tell the most bizarre stories about how their students, who graduated from high schools with honors and accolades despite serious writing challenges and their lack of intellectual commitment to rigorously engaging subjects that presumably interest them. One of my friends told me that coherence is a concept that her students struggle with the most. In an effort to tackle this problem,  she writes in class with them on a topic they determine on the spot. The entire class contributes ideas, language, and examples to support their topic as it develops towards a claim. After composing this introduction, my friend said that she asks the students what was different about how they compose individually in relationship to what the group offered under her direction. As if singing a verse in rounds, her students said, “well, you actually think about what you write.” She then asked them what could they possibly be doing if in writing, they were not thinking; their response was to giggle. Whatever are they teaching children these days? 

I have another friend who works as a college professor who struggles to understand how students who are granted the opportunity to draft an essay multiple times, only to submit final essays with egregious, flagrant errors. Here are a few real life examples of (un)polished final revisions:

1. Violence in America has continued ever since they hung Emit Till from a tree.

2. This group put a president on allowing anyone to come to their school.

3. These beliefs crept into ignorant, poor blacks who didn’t know any better than to lust after money.

4. Her character showed that she preferred to abet in the betterment of the black race.

5. The 1960 Sanitation Workers Protest was about the health and safety of workers in factories.

Whatever are they teaching children these days?

Young people could learn a lot about the art of reading by viewing examples of animated poetry as a source. Some of my favorite animations provide examples of what reading might look like in someone’s head:

Maybe watching an interpretation of text, of poetry, can offer a model of reading that restores the value of historical accuracy, meaningful word choice, and empathetic renderings of humanity in one’s writing. Maybe. Who knows? Why not give it a try ’cause whatever they teaching children these days ain’t helping ’em learn to honor the dead or to show gratitude for those “ignorant, poor blacks” who sacrificed their lives to make life a little bit better for the sake of a future they could not predict. Whatever they’re teaching children these days sho don’t seem like it could possibly help them carry out their grandmothers’  instructions or to outwit any foxes.