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The Ishmael Companion
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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 492)...

    Have you ever thought of trying to translate Ishmael's message into a book for children?

    ...and the response:

    This question embodies a fundamental misunderstanding of what must be accomplished here, in this deranged culture of ours. For small children, the main source of mythology is their parents. If parents embrace the Taker mythology, then they will (through millions of subtle verbal gestures) transmit it to their children. But if they DON'T embrace it, then they will NOT transmit it to their children (and so they will not need a book to "undo" it). To look at a parallel: Children who grow up in fundamentalist Christian families don't need special books to "undo" the atheistic humanism to which they are exposed through other media. Or to take another example, the children of Marxists grow up thinking like Marxists—but not because their parents give them children's versions of Das Kapital to read. If parents don't want their children to grow up thinking like Takers, then they must stop thinking like Takers themselves, and this will do the trick.

    Many teachers, musicians, and clergy have told me that the way they teach, write songs, and preach has changed because of what they've read in my books. This doesn't mean that they're constantly "trying to translate Ishmael's message" to their listeners; it means that the way they see the world and humanity's place in the world has changed, and so naturally this changes the way they teach, write songs, and preach. This is the effect I'm working for, because in my lifetime I can't personally teach all the classes, write all the songs, and preach all the sermons . (In fact, I'm not going to teach ANY classes, write ANY songs, or preach ANY sermons.) The same is true when it comes to children's books. No children's writer has as yet told me that the way he or she writes for children has changed because of my books (though that doesn't mean it hasn't happened). If a children's writer were to tell me this, however, I wouldn't expect him or her to "translate Ishmael's message into a book for children." I would expect it to change the way this person writes for children in the same way that it changes the way teachers teach, musicians write songs, and preachers preach.

    In the last fifty years, every science book written for children--about the universe, physics, the dinosaurs, or life on earth--has changed from the way it would have been written a century ago. But this change didn't come about because Einstein started writing books for children or because Darwin started writing books for children.

    Because the next generation of writers are encountering the ideas in Ishmael in the classrooms of today, the books they write for children (and for everybody) in ten years are going to be very different from the ones being written today. Again, this doesn't mean that these new writers will be " trying to translate Ishmael's message." Everything they write will reflect their own changed viewpoint; Ishmael's viewpoint will be underlie what they write in the same way that the Taker viewpoint underlies almost everything that is written today.

    This isn't to say that I'm averse to writing a children's book myself. This is just not my forte, and it isn't very likely that an idea for a children's book will suddenly come to me. If one did, it wouldn't come to me as a way to translate Ishmael's message into a book for children. It would come to me as a book that children would enjoy, but because I see the world and humanity's place in it the way I do, this would be doubtless be reflected in it (just the way that Jean De Brunhoff's Babar books reflect a solidly Taker view of the world and humanity's place in it).


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