The Children’s Story

College Bound Reading List

THE CHILDREN’S STORY,  by James Clavell

The Children’s Story is an obscure little book written by James Clavell in 1963, but it’s an important one that deserves to be re-discovered by a new generation. Despite its title, The Children’s Story is really for teens and adults. The situation posed in this book raises many questions, making for a great discussion topic in high school or college.

When I first read The Children’s Story, it left me with chills up and down my spine. Yet the story isn’t your typical psychological thriller or horror novel; it’s a shocking tale about the power an authority figure can have over impressionable young children.

The Children’s Story is a thin paperback with less than ninety unnumbered pages, and the text takes up only half of that because it’s mostly printed on one side of the paper, often with only a single paragraph per page. It took just ten minutes to read the whole book. But when I was finished, I couldn’t believe what I had “witnessed” – so I immediately went back and read the story all over again!

This book at first appears to be a cautionary fable of the Cold War in which a new order has taken over. The enemy in this case is young, pretty, friendly, and speaks the children’s language. Her message sounds reasonable at first, even believable. However, her ulterior motive is to methodically challenge and brainwash a classroom of children to turn them against their country, their parents, and even basic freedoms. Little Johnny was the one small voice of distrust, but he was also manipulated in the end.

The Children’s Story depicts the enormous power of teachers, for good or for bad. It’s frightening to think how a child’s mind is susceptible to being manipulated so easily by the authority figures they trust. Schools are supposed to be places of learning, not places of political indoctrination. But with the use of sophisticated propaganda techniques, a classroom of children may be brainwashed in as little as twenty minutes.

Since this story was written almost fifty years ago and the Cold War is long over, you might think The Children’s Story is outdated – but it’s not. The book’s implications are timeless and the theme is even more pertinent than ever. Remember what Melinda Harmon, a federal judge, said back in 1996: “Parents give up their rights when they drop the children off at public school.” They may allow special interests, social activists, and anyone else access to students.

Consider the following scenarios from The Children’s Story: What if a teacher said that the American flag was nothing but an old piece of cloth, and that the Pledge of Allegiance was a meaningless ritual? What if the teacher suggested to a class that praying to God was a waste of time? What if a child was told that his father had wrong thoughts? What if a whole room of young children were convinced that it was okay, and in fact good, to keep secrets from their parents?

These questions lead to even more thought-provoking points to ponder: Whose responsibility is the raising and training of children – the parents or the state? Do we want our children adopting the morals and values of others? How much authority are we willing to hand over to someone else?

The Children’s Story… but not just for children. I do hope you read it!

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