Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dick and Jane have changed

They've changed the first book I read back as a first grader at James Bowie Elementary School.

They've added some black folk to "Fun with Dick and Jane," who weren't included when I first read the book.

While this must chagrin the white supremacist "movement," it is most definitely a welcome and needed change, for if our children's books do not reflect the society in which we live, are we not subtly deluding them?

There are, however, no Hispanics or Native Americans or Asians or Muslims or gays or physically challenged people in the edition of "Fun With Dick and Jane: A commemorative collection of stories" that I stumbled upon in an old cardboard box.

The book is published by Collins Publishers of San Francisco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, so the politically sensitive editors at that company have much work ahead of them.

The other thing they changed is the name of the dog.

He was "Flip" when I read the book, back in the early '60s in Mrs. Hunt's class.

Now the dog is named "Spot."

What could have led to this editorial decision?

Flip. What underhanded, hidden meaning could this imply? Why was it changed? Does anyone know?

The last story in the collection gave me a start. I intended to quote it verbatim, but I ended up giving the book to a Chinese fellow who wants to learn English. (No, I don't know if he's here legally or not, but he seems safe.)

I'll have to paraphrase the story to explain why I was so startled.

Dick and another fellow were trying to get Jane and another girl (who I think was named "Pam") to come inside the house because they wanted to "show them" something.

The prose went something like this:

"Jane, come look!"

"We want to show you something!"

"Jane, Pam! Come inside the house! We have a surprise! We want to show you something!"

"You will like what we want to show you!"

The boys' imploring went on for what seemed like a very long time.

And it was starting to sound a little creepy.

Tom, are you sure you want to show the girls what I think you want to show them? Aren't you kinda young to be showing that?

Wait. This can't be. Yes, these books should reflect some semblance of reality to our youngsters, but a little too much reality can be negative. They get enough of that on the cable TV news.

Where were Dick and Jane's parents? Were Dick and Jane and their friends latchkey children now? Were their parents on crack? Did their parents not have a block on their satellite TV, leading them to be more curious and adventurous than most of us would think proper?

It all turned out OK, much to my relief.

Nothing untoward happened.

But these days, you never know, you know?


Anonymous said...

By 1970 the dog's name was already changed to Spot.

The advanced social and multicultural topics you mentioned that were missing from the collection are coverd in later editions. One edition is See Dick Run: A young person's guide to using prophylcatics properly.


Banjo Jones said...

1970, huh.
that dates me.

Bill said...

Back in 1947 the dog's name was Spot. So the question isn't why did they change it from Flip to Spot. The question is why did they change it from Spot to Flip and then back to Spot.