Thank you Loewe. I’ll never buy kiddie books from you again

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/berlin-first-graders-get-explicit-sex-education-book-a-896447.html

http://www.fark.com/comments/7717543/School-in-Germany-decides-to-give-six-year-olds-explicit-sex-ed-lets-see-if-anyone-notices-wNot-safe-for-work-illustrations

Just look up the pictures!  (Bloody hell)

Similarly, what was “Ghost Girl” by Tory Hayden doing in a school library?

I’d be curious to hear your opinions – should books carry SLVP like films do?  What’s the point in putting age restrictions on films if you then allow publishers to put books on the “general” shelves that ought to come with a warning, and let children and teens walk into the knife?

Loewe is an old, well-established, incredibly successful children’s publishing house in Germany.  If they set such a precedent – whatever?  Should we all follow like sheep down that path?  (Do I detect “herd mentality” again?)

And if Tory Hayden’s publisher doesn’t warn readers on the book cover that the book contains scenes in which babies are raped, and kittens are ripped in two with their bowels spilling out all over over a naked 6-year-old’s stomach, after which the 6-year-old is ritually raped and then “sacrificed” in a satanistic cult meeting –

  • Should that book be accessible to youngsters in a school library?  (My oldest read it at age 11, from the school library)
  • Should it be in the “general fiction” of a standard bookshop?  (I bought it, expecting just a good story – not that depth of graphic violence and perversion)
  • What the hell is going through the publisher’s mind, NOT pre-warning readers?  We know Stephen King writes in the genre of gory horror, so we know what we’re getting.  Instead, “Ghost Girl” is promoted as a “gripping story”.  Yeah it grips you – with horror and revulsion…

Should publishers, bookshops and libraries (and in the case of the above link, schools) just “throw everything out there for whoever wants it” and let whatever may, happen?  Or do they have a responsibility towards young readers, sensitive readers, readers’ preferences in general just like the movie industry is taking responsibility for their SLVP?

I’d love your thoughts on this.

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39 thoughts on “Thank you Loewe. I’ll never buy kiddie books from you again

  1. I’ve got very mixed feelings on the issue. I think that too much prudery and ducking and diving on these issues with the young leads to hangups which complicate later lives. On the other hand, literature like the sacrifice stuff isn’t even suitable for adults, as far as I’m concerned. Just sick.
    Our two both know all about having come from ‘Mommy’s tummy’ and some of the basics of birds and bees. More details – and brief ones – are honestly provided to the extent of their questions. One answers briefly until they are satisfied, and then volunteers no further info until asked. I think that is the healthiest way to go.

    • Thanks Col for a very balanced, well-thought-through response! That’s my stance on the issue too. I mean, we all read “The Mists of Avalon” as teenagers, and it has some quite explicit scenes in which back then shocked me (and fascinated me – to find such scenes in a normal fantasy book) but they didn’t do any damage. However I have a problem with schools teaching 6-year-olds the theory about how to put on a condom. At that age kids should still be playing that they can do magic like Harry Potter, and “cowboys and vampires” or whatever the modern version is, not be preoccupied with the nether regions yet!

      Agreed about the ritual sacrifice rubbish.

    • But specifically, I feel that the choice re that subject, expecially at such an early age, should lie with the parents, not the state, not schools, not publishers without a conscience, not authors. Everyone other than parents, at that point, is transgressing.

    • Even then, it depends on the parents. Some are lax in that department; some (often prompted by religion) will feed downright disinformation. Children thus afflicted deserve to become better informed than their parents.

    • Yes; and again, we need to look at the actual ages of “children”. Is there any point in sex-education before the pre-teen years? What’s a 5-year-old going to do with that information? Telling them that babies come from Mommy’s tummy is natural and should be no problem; even telling them about the birds and bees should be fine, but to go into detail about orgasms and condoms at that age – that is pointless and even destructive.

      The argument (raised by some) that it helps protect children against abuse is nonsense. Nothing can protect a 5-year-old from anything an adult can do to her or him; except the intervention of another adult. The poor kiddie might know exactly what’s happening physiologically but there is nothing in that information that will protect her or him from the crime itself.

  2. The history of prudery regarding sex is interesting. In Northern Europe it dates back no earlier than innovations in building which allowed private rooms. Before then, and for centuries, sex happened more-or-less in front of everyone. I think I mentioned to you in an email the statement by Karlheinz Stockhausen about how new means changes method, new method changes experience, and new experience changes man. Well, as we got used to not being in front of everyone, so, gradually, sex became regarded as actually belonging to the realm of privacy, and this coloured attitudes towards it. Of course there are other factors, in fact a whole complex of contributory cultural factors to our current attitudes (which I have actually seen change over my lifetime). However, having a resource available to youngsters that explains procreation strikes me as being a healthy one. [Paul told me the story of his own sex education, but I’ll let you ask him as it’s not my place to… uh… reproduce it here.]

    As for the other matter, in general I believe institutional censorship to be a ‘bad thing’; but then I believe not telling people exactly what they’re getting is a ‘bad thing’ too. You see what trouble we are heading for, however, once we apply simplistic answers to an emotive issue…

    • Good point. 🙂 trust you to bring the historical aspect into it. Diogenes and his “cynics” were already a segment of society regarded askance. His whole “innovative” philosophy back then rested on “living like a dog”, free without inhibitions. I quote from “The Decline and Fall of the Hellenistic Period” : “It was believed that the Cynics were called this because they had a freedom of expression that was more like that of the animal kingdom than was deemed appropriate in polite society.” Even back then, having sex in full view of everyone and defecating on the street was regarded as not fit for human behaviour, and the “Cynics” were regarded as rather extreme.

      Dogs do it without regard to who is watching. Muslims dress their girls and women in garb fit to protect from a sand storm, in order to “protect” them from other men’s view, and some extreme Muslims regard Western girls who dress, for our purposes, perfectly decently, as “meat on the doorstep” that the “flies” can help themselves to. Somewhere in the middle lies the European culture.

      In many of our South African primary schools many children are sexually active at age nine (and needless to say the count of teenage girls dropping out of high-school due to pregnancy, and the boys due to drug abuse, reflects this). While this is regarded as perfectly normal in some cultures (as one can also see here, quite regularly, next to the road in broad daylight, grown men in suits taking a leak without thinking for a second if this would offend anyone), in the European culture it’s deemed not acceptable, and irresponsible. Then again, on average European women don’t have a child before their second decade whereas on average Africans starts much younger and have more children.

      Cultures are propagated in places such as the home and family, and schools – institutes of learning. Currently, the schools in Germany are actively propagating a culture that is the opposite of what the parents would like to propagate in the home; and TV and other media support this governmental and politically based force over the heads of the parents who’d like to do it differently.

      If we are to respect all other cultures, why are we not allowed to respect and live our own?

    • The Cynics were a philosophical school with a point to make, and they made it by demonstration rather than by learned talk.

      I’m reminded of a time when I wrote a poem about the famous ‘Dog Wedding’. It was actually written as a protest to someone I knew, and concerned some relationship-based experiments. I won’t go into details. The ‘Zeno’ mentioned at the end is the founder of Stoicism, whose philosophy grew out of cynicism because he felt it did not take into consideration the necessity of enduring hardship as part of the human condition. The poem is called ‘Cynogamies’.

      Come one, come all, and hear the call,
      And to the Stoa run –
      Old Crates rutting like a hog,
      Hipparchia shags like a dog,
      Just come and see the fun!

      Come soldiers tall, come maidens small,
      They’re hardly monk and nun.
      Old Crates’ member’s like a log,
      Hipparchia gulps like a frog,
      Beneath the noonday sun!

      Come magistrate, come potentate,
      Attend and supervise.
      Old Crates can’t believe his luck,
      Hipparchia’s a nubile f***,
      Beneath the open skies!

      Come reprobate and masturbate –
      Vicarious surprise!
      Old Crates quacking like a duck,
      Hipparchia can really suck –
      And Zeno hides his eyes!

    • Marie: Brilliant!! 😀 Captures the spirit so well!

      True about Zeno. Actually Diogenes was pretty much a troublemaker anyway, and his philosophy only really gained momentum after meeting Zeno.

  3. Smile …well you, already know my view. But as you are asking …
    If you write childrens’ books or YA and you include overt profanity and sex and gratuitous violence then it is hardly a childrens’ or YA book, is it?

    If you write for an adult audience then you don’t need to put any sort of warning.

    As you rightly say, if you buy a Stephen King novel you are hardly expecting the Famous Five or Secret Seven.
    It is unimaginable that Pratchett would include a graphic sex scene involving Sam
    and Sybil Vimes, or go of like a bottle of pop swearing his head off.

    As for book access – well, nobody ever stopped me from reading whatever I liked as a youngster.
    So I did read whatever I like.

    If you bought a Porsche would be be happy if the salesman said , ”Be careful, this car a very powerful engine – dont drive too fast!”

    • 🙂 Hi Ark. Well, yes, if you’re a teen (and this goes for children who read, too) you’ll read whatever you can get your hands on. So the question is: Should you be able to get your hands on it? That’s exactly the point. What was that Tory Hayden book, parading as standard fiction, doing in the school library?

      You don’t need to warn adults. They will read and write a review. So as a publisher you have a choice: Reject what you feel is not suitable to put into places where young readers can get their hands on it, and simply not publish it; or mark it as adult; or let society take care of it (and of you, you won’t exist long online).

      Thanks for bringing up Terry Pratchett. Yes, he is brilliant. He writes for adults; high-brow, screamingly funny without resorting to anything tasteless or sensationalist. And his books can be read equally by avid young readers, I’ve never yet found anything in there that a parent could want to keep away from a nine-year-old child.

      The porn/neuroscience link is not irrelevant. Research shows that once that centre in the brain is activated in children, they spend significant amounts of their time daydreaming about it, and preoccupied thinking about it, with a resultant drop of interest in everything else. It’s not so much the daydreaming and fantasizing that is harmful but the drop of interest in what ought to be filling their time and building their brain and skills. It’s about dumbing down a generation by derailing their minds at a young age.

    • I have no idea what the book was doing in the school library. What sort of bone-head librarian put it there?
      Was there not a single review of the book before it was ordered?
      Are there no examples of schools that have pulled this book?

      Based on your description, I wouldn’t read it either.
      And if this book was touted as a teen read then based on your description,perhaps the publisher should have known better and simply rejected the manuscript?
      I am happy you agree one does not have to warn adults.
      I have never walked into a bookshop where anyone can buy a book and seen a content warning.
      Have you?
      Stephen King’s novels are accessible to anyone, yes?
      And some of his stuff will curl your toes.

      Re: Terry Pratchett.
      The average nine year old wouldn’t fully appreciate Pratchett’s adult novels so this is probably a moot point.

      The porn link is irrelevant in context. This is a literary post – about placing warnings on books for young children/teens.
      Teen access to porn will almost always be through the internet now.

    • Yes – sadly. If we’re talking books, we’re talking to a very small crowd in the first place.

      Teens will access whatever they like. But parents of young children will stop young children from going where they should not, if they are aware of this. On the contrary, some teens will deliberately seek out such places in the hopes for a thrill. So where teens are concerned, the whole point is that they ought to know what they’re buying. The problem is not with teens – or as we think of teens, kids that are 14, 15, 16. The problem is that “YA” as a genre is pitched at everyone 11 and older. Once again one needs to differentiate between the effects of these things on boys vs girls. It’s not a principle matter of “teens” – that’s a very diverse age group, in fact where I’m concerned it’s not an age “group” at all as it contains both young adults, and definite children.

      The big issue is with the 6 to 9-year-olds – the phase Freud calls the “latent phase”, well before puberty but already readers. Showing 6-year-olds pictures that amount to basic porn and dressing it up as “education”…. well that’s the debate. And, whose responsibility it is to stop that nonsense. By the time the parents realize what’s going on it’s already over.

    • I was a teen – and as far as ematter was concerned I accessed pretty much what I liked, and by that I mean enjoyed – and we are talking books.
      I did not turn out depraved and perverted. Neither my kids.
      It is the parents responsibility to guide their kids.
      .
      Even if some books have labels for Africa if the kid wants to read it he will.

      What porn are you talking about?
      The pictures in the sex ed book?
      You consider that PORN? Surely not?

    • “…If you write childrens’ books or YA and you include overt profanity and sex and gratuitous violence then it is hardly a childrens’ or YA book, is it?…”

      I would cite here Melvin Burgess’s ‘Junk’ and ‘Doing It’, which have very graphic descriptions of heroin addiction and teenage sex. The dialogue in the latter is, unrestrainedly, the kind of obscene banter that young teenagers – particularly sex-obsessed boys – would use. Burgess’s books are specifically written for the teenage/YA market. I should point out that he can and does write in other ways, and his corpus includes books that are not written in that style. He does not court controversy, but he sure gets it; his apologia is that these issues concern young people, so why should he not address them, and why should he not address them in the same register as young people do. In his view, to fail to do so would be dishonest. His books of this nature are brilliantly-observed and well-written, although often not easy to read.

      I don’t say I agree with him, but I acknowledge his stance.

  4. As for the links.
    What’s the matter with the first one?
    The Fark link – didn’t understand that, looked like a sort of message board blog?
    And the porn link is irrelevant to the subject.

    • … and the Fark link: that was just for showing how opinions diverge.

      Parents are the carriers of culture. Not all parents are good parents – I’m not discussing those who abuse their own children or deal drugs and have a family habit going; I’m talking of those who actually try their best to be good parents. They carry a culture, and they instinctively teach their children the cornerposts of that culture. This is why in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the parents have the first and foremost (“prior”) right to decide how and in which way their children’s education takes shape. The children have a right to education; first and foremost decided on by the parents.

      The Human Rights is a document that is several decades old, perhaps it’s time for a revision? Give the state, corporations and television the first and foremost right to children’s education? This is what is being implemented in Germany, and all over the world (except that the laws in Germany even make homeschooling illegal – based on a Hitler law from 1938, that motivated quite openly that the government didn’t want parents to teach their children values different from the current political agenda).

    • basically shows how different people’s opinions diverge on the topic. You’ll find trends in there; generally those who are currently not parents of young schoolgoing kids in that age group, and especially those who’ve just emerged from their teens themselves and don’t have children yet, have a different take on it than parents of that specific age group.

    • Actually the article is about human rights. The rights of parents to decide on what their first-grader children are exposed to. We’re not discussing Honeymead Books here.

      That explicit sex education that’s being forced down 6, 7 and 8-year-old children’s throats in Germany, doesn’t only come in book form, on the contrary it comes as complete courses inclusive of multimedia, theatre shows and so on (why can’t they make Math that exciting). I’m particularly disgusted with Loewe publishers because they used to specialize in beautiful children’s stories and now they’re on the socio-political bandwagon. I’d have thought them a respectable house. But the education system comprises far more than one explicit book. And the demonstrations by parents on that particular drift in education are against the whole government-enforced trend, and its enforcement by force of law – parents who excuse their child from such lectures and demos get fined and some have even gone to jail for it.

      We’re most definitely talking human rights.

    • … but in fairness, in the blog post I asked your opinion on the following: Should publishers, libraries and book shops take upon themselves the responsibility for labelling books with SLV like the movie industry does their films? Or should that be left to luck?

      It is in other words a question about responsibility concerning books.

    • AND BY THE WAY!! Have you spoken to your coffee-maker and pot-stirrer about Monday? I need the man! In the P’kaboo Book Club, at 8pm sharp. In full view of everyone in that room, fully exposed, I’m hoping to interview him on those books he keeps on authoring!

  5. … for instance, I’d like to impose on Tom Robbins (whose books I love) a very slight SLVP of S and L, perhaps of age 12. Beyond which his stuff is really funny and good, and I love his philosophies. But he’s not Terry Pratchett; his style differs in that it is not exactly for kids. I wouldn’t like to see his books in a primary school library, even though they are funny and non-violent.

    • But the average librarian wouldn’t place Tom Robbins books in a primary school library. That’s a decidedly odd example.
      It’s a bit like putting Wilt in a primary school library. What would be the point?
      Yes I can be available at eight on Monday.

    • It may well be Ghost Girl was a true story. It’s written through the eyes of the therapist/teacher, which Hayden claims to have been herself. So? If it were a psychiatric case study, still it should not be available for 11-year-olds. Yes it was in the combined library of a school with a high-school and primary school. It was where primary school children could access it without a problem (and with no advice from the librarian).

  6. I would cite here Melvin Burgess’s ‘Junk’ and ‘Doing It’, which have very graphic descriptions of heroin addiction and teenage sex. The dialogue in the latter is, unrestrainedly, the kind of obscene banter that young teenagers – particularly sex-obsessed boys – would use. Burgess’s books are specifically written for the teenage/YA market. I should point out that he can and does write in other ways, and his corpus includes books that are not written in that style. He does not court controversy, but he sure gets it; his apologia is that these issues concern young people, so why should he not address them, and why should he not address them in the same register as young people do. In his view, to fail to do so would be dishonest. His books of this nature are brilliantly-observed and well-written, although often not easy to read.

    If the culture of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll ( to use a popular line) has always been there, lurking in the background, then SLVP labels will do stuff all to curtail it or encourage a more ‘moral’ & well-balanced child.
    What comes first: Chicken or the egg?
    If such issues as reflected in Burgess’s novels are a problem ( and the drugs definitely are) then fix the problem.
    An SLVP label certainly won’t and unless such books are put under lock and key such a label won’t stop kids reading them either. That is the parents responsibility.
    If a parent is unaware of what their kids are reading / have access to then there is a problem right off the bat.
    .

    • Yes. Part of that problem is that Loewe’s book is prescribed in schools over the heads of the parents, in a country that enforces 100% school attendance due to some ancient law passed by a small man with a mustache.

      (I did mention the problem is political?)

    • This is what democracy is for – vote them out.
      There must have been discussion concerning this particular book. Such things don’t just ”happen”.

      On saying this, the average primary age child would feel no sexual compunction regarding the images, merely curiosity. Any ”naughtiness” that arose would likely be due to the child being told that such things are ”dirty”. Likely from parents or church etc.
      “Why is that man’s willy sticking up, mummy/teacher etc?”

      The real issue is whether parents/adults feel comfortable about discussing or displaying genitalia.

      Based on the mores of society and the ( former) puritanical attitudes towards sex and the backlash and problems caused by HIV/AIDS and child abuse I see no major issues with educating children and creating an awareness of reproduction and bodily function.
      It is sex. Birds do it, bees do it …

      Noone would have a fit about a book showing pictures of potty training so why go spare over an hand drawn illustration of an erection and a contraceptive?

  7. I went back and re-read the article. I missed this for some reason. I am surprised you didn’t include this in the post.

    School administrators have confirmed that the book is still available at the school but noted that it is “not accessible to the children.”

    Case closed I’d say?

    • The book was forced on the children before parents could intervene. Removing it now is like closing the stable after the horse; but understand that (if you follow that whole political movement) early sex education in Germany starts in the KITAs these days, with redefined “gender roles” where little girls get taught to act “manly” and boys to act submissive. At age 2 and 3. Sex ed starts in grade 1 and 2, with a whole program of graphic videos, theatre pieces, discussion of STDs and so forth, and if parents allow their children to bunk these classes or somehow try to protect them (some children have nervous breakdowns and some throw up), the parents are punished with fines and ultimately, jail time. And homeschooling is illegal in Germany. You see it’s not an easy fix.

      What ticked me off was: You’d have to see Loewe’s usual books to understand this. Cripes one doesn’t expect such a hidden barb in such an otherwise cute and innocent brand! It’s right up there with Disney producing a porno movie.

    • ”Forced?”
      The book had to have bee apprived for school use before it even reached the hands of a teacher,
      You know what goes into the publishing of a book – any book – so Loewe would have consulted plenty of people ( experts?) many of whom would likely have been parents as well.
      So it is highly unlikely this was simply ”forced” on kids.
      At least take a moment an allow for a bit of journalist sensationalism here?
      The article only mentioned a single school and didn’t elaborate if others had it in their libraries. I notice some Christian organisation was consulted for their opinion.

      I feel you are conflating sex education with porno – in itself this is disconcerting.and you are beginning to go off on a tangent re: schooling.
      This is about the appropriateness of primary kids having access to ”unsuitable” reading material.

      What is unsuitable about this book?
      Why is discussing sex ed using human genitalia any different than explaining how animals have sex or explaining to a child what two dogs, cats, sheep, or cows are doing when they are mating?

      What are you going to say if a kid asks , Mummy, what are those two cows doing?”
      What will you say?, ” Giving each other a piggy back ride.”
      Or what is that whale doing with such a big penis, mummy?”

      You’d have to see Loewe’s usual books to understand this. Cripes one doesn’t expect such a hidden barb in such an otherwise cute and innocent brand! It’s right up there with Disney producing a porno movie.

      Sex Ed – at any age – is NOT porno and to conflate the two says more about how you feel toward sexual issues than how a child would react.
      If you were in the class maybe you would go scarlet from your hair roots to your toes.
      I doubt a six year old would care a hoot.

      Furthermore, they didn’t just print one copy, I’m sure, so it must be available in other places and possibly other formats.

    • Your comment is off topic. It has nothing to do with how I would do in a sex ed class. FYI I have one child more than you do, and none are adopted. I could probably give that sex ed class, but I would point-blank refuse to give it to children pre-puberty. In case you missed this, kids pre-teen tend to respond to sex ed with revulsion. That’s right: “Ewww, Mommy, you’re making me sick, stop talking about that!” When they are 11, they blush and giggle but they are ready to listen. When they are 15, they seek innuendo everywhere… 15-year-olds would probably get a whole lot more giggles out of your books than you even put in there.

      Sex ed is not porno until it is made so. As I mentioned before, Loewe’s book is part of a whole program with graphic videos, theatre performances etc that gets shoved down kids’ throats in Germany long before they are ready for it. Responses by the kids include throwing up; severe stomach pains, and nervous breakdowns. Quite obviously Loewe’s book alone cannot trigger all that! Also explain why this program is so important to the government that parents get locked in jail for 44 days if they choose to keep their children home from those classes.

      That you mention Christian sites is also off-topic.

      I’m closing the comments, Ark. I can’t focus on this tango any longer, got things to do.

  8. I’m closing the comments in this discussion as some of the threads seem to be going in circles and my brain gets tired of the roundabout. At any rate thank you all for a nice & lively discussion, especially kvennarad for your history contributions. Very interesting.

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