Monday, June 25, 2018

ALSC Removes Laura Ingalls Wilder's Name From Award

This morning I learned of the Association for Library Service to Children's decision to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder's name from an award for writers and illustrators of children's books.

Here is their response to that decision:
ALA, ALSC respond to Wilder Medal name change

I get it. I really do.

The past is shocking to twenty-first century minds, and if we as a society are determined to wipe out every evidence of racism, prejudices, hatred, intolerance, sexism, and the billions of other defects of intolerable human conflicts throughout history, then we have much work to do. It will be a tireless work because there is no end to the offenses or offenders of the past.

Again, this situation does not involve censorship of actual literature, for now; it is only the removal of a writer's name whose works portray unacceptable attitudes, by today's standards.

SIDEBAR: The culture that has given us TWITTER, a forum where everyone is unaccountably nasty and horrid to one another, is the same culture in which Laura Ingalls Wilder is not worthy to have an award named after her.

I still say it is a form of censorship.

Believe me! I do not have a problem with censorship . . . as long as it is SELF-imposed. We all should have the distinct personal capacity to judge what is valuable and what is crap. What is good literature, and what is a waste of my time? What is beautiful art, and what is insultingly called art? What is delightful music, and what is offensive noise? On and on. 

So when I read that the ALSC claims to be an inclusive organization, then I understood why they made the decision: because Wilder writes about history, and history is never inclusive. 

By the way, I notice that the more we move away from people and events in history, the more angry, offended, intolerant, and destructive we become about the past. (See Christopher Columbus.) In this case, Wilder is being punished for telling her story about her life in 1800 America, even if her own attitudes were reflective of those conditions, which is only natural. Nonetheless, I think this decision says a lot more about "us" than it does about the past.

Fortunately, Wilder's stories are insight into the past. They expose the plight of the Native American people. When 21st century readers read Little House on the Prairie, they get two views: they experience the terror of living isolated in the middle of Indian Territory; and at the same time they experience the misery of hundreds of Native Americans forced from their homes. 

Her stories provide a sample of contributions of pioneer women. Caroline Ingalls was a pillar of endurance, physical strength, wisdom, and courage, as well as a godly mother and wife. She and Charles demonstrated sacrifice, balance, and support in marriage and parenting. Caroline demanded her girls get an education, and encouraged Laura to teach school.

They also give a picture of life, progress, and attitudes, extremely different than our own, including very difficult truths. These are topics of discussion, which help us gain better understanding of other people who came before us. We discover why people thought what they did, and we learn from them.

The important thing to remember is that it is not our story! We must not always force everything through our personal filters of expectations and try to make those attitudes fit into ours. We should taste what others have lived through and use comprehension and empathy to understand why they lived the way they did. It makes us better people, well-rounded, more compassionate, calmer, and tolerant. 

Overall, the ALSC Board overlooked Wilder's contributions to the world of American literature, especially by important female writers, and succumbed to the pathetic pressure from groups pushing today's narrow-minded, selfish, faint-hearted, standards for all of the rest of us.

So they removed Wilder's name. But then what? Should we advocate the removal of her memorials and museums? What about her books? If she is not worthy to hold honor because of her books, then why preserve them?

People who are perpetually offended will never be satisfied. They make it so difficult for themselves, so that they will never be able to keep up with the demands or live up to the standards of cleaning up the injustices of the broken human condition.

What is to be done? I do not know anymore. I only know the ALSC did a petty thing, and they were all so very proud of themselves. A sad day for progress.


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