Raising Your Kids Right: Children's Literature and American Political Conservatism

Raising Your Kids Right: Children's Literature and American Political Conservatism

Raising Your Kids Right: Children's Literature and American Political Conservatism

Raising Your Kids Right: Children's Literature and American Political Conservatism

Synopsis

Dr. Seuss's classic character the Lorax has delighted children for decades while passing along a powerful message about environmental responsibility. The book's young readers, and their parents, would likely be surprised by the emergence of a new character, Truax, a kindly logger created by a longtime employee of the wood products industry, who, not surprisingly, has a far different viewpoint to share. Yet the Truax character, and the book of the same name, is just one example of a growing genre of conservative-themed narratives for young readers spawned by the continuing strength of the American political right.

Highlighting the works of William Bennett, Lynne Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, and others, Michelle Ann Abate brings together such diverse fields as cultural studies, literary criticism, political science, childhood studies, brand marketing, and the cult of celebrity. Raising Your Kids Right dispels lingering societal attitudes that narratives for young readers are unworthy of serious political study by examining a variety of texts that offer information, ideology, and even instructions on how to raise kids right, not just figuratively but politically.

Excerpt

In May 2008, the University of Colorado at Boulder made headlines when it announced its intention to hire a professor of Conservative Studies. The news came via the university’s launch of a one-year capital campaign to raise the nine million dollars necessary to endow the position. According to Chancellor G. P. “Bud” Peterson, the hire was designed to promote “intellectual diversity” on campus, and, in so doing, it reflected the longstanding belief advanced by both past figures, like William F. Buckley Jr., and present ones, including David Horowitz, that academia is a hotbed of liberalism (qtd in Wilson “U of Colorado,” par 3). As Stephanie Simon wrote in the Wall Street Journal, the University of Colorado at Boulder’s new endowed chair would be the nation’s first “Professor of Conservative Thought and Policy” (par 3).

While the specific academic position envisioned by the University of Colorado may have been unique, the sentiment fueling it was not. Throughout the 1990s and into the first decade of the new millennium, American popular, intellectual, and material culture witnessed a rise not only in the conservative movement but also in rightist politics that was nothing short of meteoric. George H. Nash observed, “Signs abounded that the early twenty-first century was the best of times for American conservatives” (575–576). While these elements emanated from an array of sites and sources, arguably one of the most powerful indicators occurred in the realm of talk radio with the astounding success of Rush Limbaugh. His daily three-hour broadcast debuted in 1988 and quickly became a wildly popular nationally syndicated radio talk program. The Rush Limbaugh Show was broadcast on more than six hundred stations around the nation and reached an average of twenty million listeners per week (Bowman, par 9). By the early 1990s, Limbaugh’s popularity, along with his cultural influence, was difficult to overestimate. In an oft-mentioned anecdote, Ronald Reagan sent the radio host an unsolicited note calling him “the Number One . . .

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