Things are looking good for the Muppets in Marshfield, WI! On Wednesday, an eight member panel convened and unanimously voted to keep the United Nations picture book For Every Child a Better World, featuring Kermit the Frog, in Marshfield district elementary schools.
Despite parent and school board member Mary Carney’s claims that the illustrations of child poverty and homelessness presented in the book are too graphic and too depressing for young children and that the book should be immediately pulled from the district’s curriculum, the panel determined that the educational value the book outweighed the upset and discomfort of one parent.
Comprised of teachers, district staff, and community members, the panel noted during their meeting that although the subject matter of the book is admittedly difficult, it is important to include books like For Every Child a Better World in developing students’ education. As teacher Judy Nicksic said to the USA Today, “some of images in the book might be jarring, [but] teachers can use that reaction to cultivate learning in a sensitive way.” “Many children would be disturbed, as they should be. But it’s the dialogue that follows it.”
Carney’s idealistic perspective that brought the book under review in the first place is that children shouldn’t be exposed to the realities of the world that the book presents. According to Carney, conversations about real-world issues like poverty and homelessness can traumatize children and rob them of their childhood. “I believe young children should see the world for what it truly is — beautiful, good and hopeful — and their innocence remain intact for as long as possible,” says Carney.
On the other hand, another parent and panel member was impressed by the conversations that he was able to have with his kindergarten-age son after reading him the book.
“I think that a lot of times we want to protect these young kids from the reality of what’s going on in the world around them,” said teacher and panel member Donna Smith. “But the reality is, in our classrooms every year, we have more and more kids who are homeless, and more and more kids who are hungry, and more and more kids who are victims of abuse in their households.”
The feedback from the panel will be included in a future meeting by the school board to be held potentially in January, but for the time being the Muppets are safely on school shelves in Marshfield. We’ll keep you posted as the story develops!
Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!