Silent Lessons

I went to our local SCBWI meeting last night. One of the topics brought up by our facilitator was the changing of the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Agency Award.

We had a lively discussion. It’s a hard topic to discuss.

We all have strong and valid opinions, and many of us grew up loving those books for different reasons. One might identify with the sisters or romanticize the setting – no matter the reason for loving them, they are still problematic.

Several of the group members are teachers. Educators. One of them had a brilliant point about how we often gloss over questions children ask. About how we may be so focused on the lesson we’re trying to impart, that the subtle messages get missed – becoming their own silent lessons. By ignoring them or rushing through them, we are silently telling children that this is an unquestioned truth.

Systemic racism is learned through silent lessons.

The way we fight that is to use our words.

Those of us with privilege need to speak even if our voices shake. We need to point out when the Emperor is wearing no clothes. We need to amplify and center intersectional voices.

We need to ask ourselves what silent lessons we’ve learned.

I’m grateful to the group for a warm and honest parsing of this fraught subject. It was enlightening and gave me much food for thought.


Feel free to share any silent lessons from literature or media you realize you’ve learned.

2 thoughts on “Silent Lessons

  1. SCBWI, had to look it up, heh. The first thing that came to mind was the Society for Creative Anachronism, which, I know, is not it at all!

    I am pretty sure I could never write for children. Too much responsibility. I don’t want to be that careful, I’d rather just entertain with whatever fantasy I find in my mind. Not worry about messages, or who might be changed by it (other than being entertained).

    I suppose that makes me simplistic. I’m old enough that such things don’t bother me, heh. Then again, I’m not exactly a writer yet, perhaps never will be, so I guess it’s all moot.

  2. Along those same lines is acknowledgement of living in a world with a lot of different people and points of view, but not attempting to speak for those other groups. I find it hard to see that line. I want to advocate, but not delegitimize another person’s or group’s agency to do so for themselves. They don’t need a white guy to save them or lift them up. Validation and acceptance.
    And, per our wonderful post meeting discussion, it is not “erasing history” to acknowledge all of the history. It is embracing history to stop fantasizing false, mythic personifications.

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