Growing up, I never got into stories with knights and fair maidens. Walking around in princess dresses while imagining I was trapped in a castle by a vicious dragon? Not interested.
But give me a sunbonnet and braid my hair and I was lost in the world of Laura Ingalls. I still remember being in a titter of excitement at age four when my parents took me to the famous Little House on the Prairie pageant in Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
As I grew older, my conception of Laura grew a little less romanticized as I read her books and realized the amazing hardships she and her family went through. I certainly wouldn’t want to spend six months freezing and starving through a horrendous winter, nor do I relish the thought of huddling in a cabin for several days thinking I could be killed at any moment by my screaming, angry neighbors close to going on the warpath. The Ingalls family had a tough life, yet they weathered through the storms and gave America an inspiring story of strength and perseverance.
Unfortunately, good ol’ Laura is the latest victim of our PC culture. As the New York Daily News reports, Ingalls was the first recipient of an author award given by the Association for Library Service to Children. The award was then named in her honor.
After 60 years, however, the award is being renamed as “the Children’s Literature Legacy Award” because of the attitudes conveyed toward minorities in the Little House books:
“‘This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness,’ the Association for Library Service to Children said in a statement after the unanimous vote.
The racial issues in her books have been debated long before February, when the ALSC announced it would be voting on whether to keep Wilder’s name on its award, calling her legacy ‘complex.’ At the forefront of the argument is her handling of black and Native American characters, both in namecalling and characterization.”
In the PC culture in which we live, I can see why Laura’s family story might be problematic. Because of bad experiences, the family – Ma especially – had some understandable fears of Indians, which naturally resulted in prejudices. And while these prejudices weren’t right, they were a fact of life which the pioneers had to wrestle with.
But the pioneers weren’t the only ones who have had to wrestle with prejudices against different people groups. The fact is, every generation in America has had to do the same. And the current generation is no different – except in the way we handle it.
Instead of wading through the ugliness and eventually letting it die in subsequent generations, we choose to erase any indication of a problem. It seems we would rather cover the ugly realities of our past than look them square in the face, admit the wrong, and keep it before us as a lesson to never go there again. This is what we’ve done with numerous monuments, and it’s what we’re now doing with a woman who is basically the mother of American children’s literature.
Is that really the kind of lesson we want to teach our children? To cover the problems of the past and anyone associated with them? To run away from something and leave good behind just because there is a small portion that makes us realize life isn’t as perfect as we want to believe?
If the PC craziness can topple Laura Ingalls Wilder, then it can topple just about anything. Do we really want to live in the bland society this attitude will eventually bring?
[Image Credit: Public Domain]
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.