Please abuse your children daily

By Shelley McKinney
web posted January 1, 2001

I was considerably startled to find out the other day that the mother that I have cherished for my thirty-odd years on this planet was my chronic abuser as I grew up.

No, I didn't discover this fact by engaging in repressed memory therapy with a psychologist; rather, I made this discovery while reading a news article on the Internet. You can only imagine how deeply upset I am, especially when I realized that I am continuing the cycle of abuse with my own innocent children.

The news article, titled "Victims of the Year Get the Recognition They Deserve" was from a British e-newsmagazine and deplored the tendency of the politically correct in the United States to create sufferers of supposed social injustice here, there and everywhere.

The article's author, whose name was unmentioned, remarked upon "feminist professor" Peggy Kamuf (Ph.D., Cornell University) of the University of Southern California. Further research indicated that Dr. Kamuf is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at the university and is an active translator of texts, primarily those penned by Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher who is widely known (particularly in leftist academic circles) as the originator of the avant-garde theory of deconstructionism. [1] In 1998, Kamuf was invited to teach at the Centre d'Etudes Feminines at the Universite de Paris and in 1995 she was honored with the Raubenheimer Distinguished Faculty Award at USC.

Through her interest in the deconstructionist literary theory , Dr. Kamuf has forwarded a peculiar thesis. She claims that a parent reading aloud to a child is an act of violence, repressing the child and imprisoning him or her within our patriarchal cultural structure. She goes on to say that children are not aware of the damage this horrible form of abuse causes because the mental agony of cuddling up with Mom in a big comfy chair and listening to her read, say, Treasure Island or The Secret Garden aloud causes them to repress the memory.

One has to wonder about such a theory, but one has to wonder even more about what passes for scholarship these days. What is wrong with this woman and other members of the campus intelligentsia? I personally can't decide if they are living in some alternate, esoteric reality or if they just have unbelievably foul minds. Maybe both, who knows?

I am deeply offended by this nonsense for two reasons: first of all, I think that people who espouse the humanistic values of political correctness are strange and bitter people who are nursing a powerful grudge against the world at large. Plus, I am completely convinced that any academic who has enough time to devote to this sort of sophistry is probably being paid too much and needs to be bumped back down to teaching a couple of freshman level courses. That should help reacquaint some of them with reality.

That leads to the second reason I find Dr. Kamuf's theory of "abuse" so offensive. Crackpot notions like this diminish REAL cases of abuse, where a child is truly physically or emotionally abused by a horrible parent. When we call everything abuse, it all gets watered down and rendered inconsequential. That can be a dangerous thing.

So! What does one do about people like Dr. Kamuf? First of all, feel pity. It is obvious that advanced university degrees and a brilliant intellect and an outstanding academic career are as nothing compared to having even an ounce of plain, everyday common sense. That's really rather sad. I suggest we leave them severely alone to torture one another with their bizarre philosophical theories.

Another thing that can be done is to fight intellectual dishonesty by engaging in the very behavior that has been disdained. To this order, I encourage you to abuse your children or grandchildren daily by reading aloud to them. Introduce them to their ABC's and the phonetical sounds of the letters and open the magnificent door that leads to the world of classic children's literature.

There are so many many good books to read to your children. Picture books -- classics like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Blueberries for Sal, and wonderful storybooks like the Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz series and the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. In our house, we finished reading Dodie Smith's The Hundred and One Dalmatians right before Christmas, and we all agreed that it was a thousand times better than Hollywood's big screen portrayal. I am personally wild about the Harry Potter series -- I think they're the freshest and most enjoyable children's books I've read in years. I think they'd make great bedtime stories for older children.

There are more things you can do. If you have the time, volunteer to read a story to your child or grandchild's class once a week, or volunteer to be a reader in the Children's Department of your public library. If there isn't a volunteer reader program, volunteer to start one. Donate new books to a school or public library. Clean off your bookshelves at home and take the books to Goodwill, where others will be able to purchase them at low cost. (Or cart them to a used bookstore, where you might be given store credit so that you can get more books to put back on your bookshelves at home.)

Does your church or synagogue have a library? If it does, find out what kinds of books they accept and make a donation. From personal experience, I know that both books and money are welcome at small private lending libraries like these. If your place of worship doesn't have its own lending library, why couldn't you start one? My mother and my aunt are starting a library at our church and it is an interesting and entertaining process.

There are also literacy programs in just about every community that you can be involved in, or you could create your own program.

I have a friend who, when her own children were young, developed her own summer book club. My friend went around her neighborhood, passing out fliers at the homes of gradeschool aged children, inviting them to come to her house on Tuesday afternoons for one hour. During that time, she served vanilla wafers and Kool-Aid and read books to them outside on her front lawn. If it rained, they all squeezed together onto her front porch. Small prizes (such as apples or pencils) were awarded to any child who could bring in a favorite book from home and tell the group about it. My friend did this for several summers and it was a simple gesture that the children -- and their parents -- appreciated very much. Granted, this type of thing isn't for everyone -- and I do admit that it would be a lot easier to pull off in the sort of small burg that I live in rather in, say, New York City -- but if it sparks your interest and you think that such a thing might work in your neighborhood, give it a try.

Readers, this is all part of the continuing fight to keep conservatism in the ascendancy, which is a topic I have been hammering at in my last few articles. I intend to keep at it until every conservative in America has gotten up out of the La-Z-Boy. Liberalism will never be defeated by people who are content to loll about in moral slumber. The right needs activists who are willing to work to make their voices heard and there are many different areas where a voice of reason needs to be raised. Children's literacy happens to be one area of activism where conservatives are sorely needed -- you can probably think of a hundred others.

Go. Move. Get involved. And enjoy a wonderful book with a child. Peggy Kamuf, poor soul, doesn't know what she's missing. ESR

[1] This is a link to a Jacques Derrida biography page for anyone who is interested in learning about his theory of deconstructionism. You'll probably find it (and him) eccentric and pretentiously off-putting, but if it weren't for postmodern philosophers like this one, it wouldn't be so readily apparent to all the rest of us how strong our core of no-frills common sense actually is.

Shelley McKinney is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right. Readers can reach her at

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