Why Not?

What Children are “Supposed” to Like by Jackson
November 12, 2009, 8:02 pm
Filed under: Jackson

On page 98 in The Annotated Alice, the annotator, Martin Gardner, notes that “Children find puns very funny, but most contemporary authorities on what children are supposed to like believe that puns lower the literary quality of juvenile books.” In this, he notes that the real judge of entertainment is those who the material is pitched to.

Why should I care if the entire audience roars at the comedian onstage? I still think he’s making idiotic wisecracks at the current political structure. This is why all reviews of, say, a new movie are different. No two people think the same. Of course, this does not mean that two people can think that the same thing is funny (or saddening, or disgusting, etc.). These large groups of like-minded people are the basis for a founding principle of advertising: demographics. Because of these large groups, advertisers, or behaviorists, can use the “shotgun” approach: pitch to a large crowd that contains your selected demographic(s), and something’s going to happen.

This, however, allows individuals who believe they know what’s best for everyone to be able to back themselves up with a general idea. In other words, demographics allow people to propose a one-size-fits-all policy to cover a certain group, with the reasoning being that since Group A has 50 people out of 75 that approve of X, then Group A approves of X. This, of course, fails to take into account the 33% of people that don’t approve of X. Another negative effect of demographics is that it also allows behaviorists to analyze populations as groups, not individuals. This is demonstrated by the fiasco surrounding the No Child Left Behind policy. Under this policy, all children are required to pass a certain test at a certain grade level. No exceptions. Schools that fail are put under review, parents withdraw their students, and mass panic ensues as the children in question are assured that yes, they are fantastic and unique. They are then shipped off to a special education center where they are force-fed studies until the parents are satisfied that the child is living up to their expectations.

When this concept of demographics is applied to kid’s books, it breaks down and grinds to a halt. No matter how much you want them to, your 7-year-old child will not sit down and crack open Tolstoy. Why? Because they don’t want to, that’s why. It’s not interesting.

Why have Dav Pilkey’s “Captain Underpants” books sold so well? Because little kids enjoy bathroom humor. That’s not going to change, no matter how many parents try to suppress their children’s juvenile antics. Read that sentence again. Parents try to suppress their children’s juvenile antics.

Children are juvenile, until they’re not. They then become mature. That’s a simple dictionary definition. You don’t have a child that is not juvenile. You’ve got to take life in stride, and accept other people’s definitions of “good.”Because of this, it cannot be assumed that all children think alike about puns. Similarly, you also cannot appoint yourself judge of a group that you are not a member of.

2 Comments so far
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I do not think that people should be treated as a group. Everyone is different, and cannot be expected to meet some expectation just because others did it. Although that is bound to result in many dissapointed mothers and fathers, it is true. I personally hate it when an adult tells me “when I was a kid blah blah blah” because I do not care. Just because thats what you do, what you think, what you have done with your life, does not mean I have to follow in your footsteps. I am not anyone else. I am me, not you. You do your thing, and I will do mine. A person should not be judged by their affiliations. Just because we all go to the same school does not mean we all have the same likes and dislikes, we are different despite our similarities.

Comment by Michael P.

One man’s opinion is different from another. Why should anyone try to tell us what we think.The differences between our thought processes is too great. For example, one critics opinion of a movie cannot change the status of how well I like that movie. Listening to what someone else thinks is different from them telling me what I think.

Everyone must be treated individually. That can be broken doen in many ways. It can be seperating each person or separating a group from another group. For example, kids must be saparated from adults. No adult can ever tell a child what he must like or dislike, such as books. If a child thinks puns are funny, then they will never care if it is illiterate.

Comment by Erin M.

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