Tuesday, 1 April 2008

An excerpt from The Children's Story

The name James Clavell takes me back, 20 years or so. He's the guy who wrote sagas like Tai-Pan, Shōgun and Noble House. I never read those but I did watch the miniseries/movies (Dunhill Double, anyone?). I still remember Bryan Brown Richard Chamberlain in Tai-Pan Shōgun in a scene where he got captured by the Japanese and was thrown in huge hole and then they poured "air siang ikan" over him and his comrades. I thought if I were him at that time I'd die there and then from excessive puking.

(Was it Bryan Brown in Tai-Pai with the Chinese, or Richard Chamberlain in Shōgun with the Japanese?, I can't remember exactly who was it that got poured with fish-entrails-water. Anyone, help, please?)

Clavell did write something besides lengthy sagas, one in particular is The Children's Story. The excerpt below is taken from The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America, a book detailing the rise and design of the modern US education system. It's mostly findings and evidences, but a part seems to call out to me is this one. Maybe because it's Clavell. I'm not sure.

Anyway, please read on and ponder. I'll leave you to your own conclusion.

It was a simple incident in the life of James Clavell—a talk with his young daughter just home from school—that inspired this chilling tale of what could happen in twenty-five quietly devastating minutes. He [Clavell] writes: “the children’s story came into being that day. It was then that I really realized how vulnerable my child’s mind was—any mind for that matter—under controlled circumstances.” Some excerpts from the last pages of this remarkable book follow:

“Sit down, Johnny, and we’ll start learning good things and not worry about grown-up bad thoughts. Oh yes,” she said when she sat down at her seat again, brimming with happiness. “I have a lovely surprise for you. You’re all going to stay overnight with us. We have a lovely room and beds and lots of food, and we’ll all tell stories and have such a lovely time.”

“Oh, good,” the children said.“Can I stay up till eight o’clock?” Mary asked breathlessly.

“Well, as it’s our first new day, we’ll all stay up to eight-thirty. But only if you promise to go right to sleep afterward.”

The children all promised. They were very happy. Jenny said, “But first we got to say our prayers. Before we go to sleep.”

The New Teacher smiled at her. “Of course. Perhaps we should say a prayer now. In some schools that’s a custom, too.” She thought a moment, and the faces watched her. Then she said, “Let’s pray. But let’s pray for something very good. What should we pray for?”

“Bless Momma and Daddy,” Danny said immediately.

“That’s a good idea, Danny. I have one. Let’s pray for candy. That’s a good idea, isn’t it?”

They all nodded happily.

So, following their New Teacher, they all closed their eyes and steepled their hands together, and they prayed with her for candy.

The New Teacher opened her eyes and looked around disappointedly. “But where’s our candy? God is all-seeing and is everywhere, and if we pray, He answers our prayers. Isn’t that true?”

“I prayed for a puppy of my own lots of times, but I never got one,” Danny said.

“Maybe we didn’t pray hard enough. Perhaps we should kneel down like it’s done in church.”

So the New Teacher knelt and all the children knelt and they prayed very, very hard. But there was still no candy.

Because the New Teacher was disappointed, the children were very disappointed.

Then she said, “Perhaps we’re using the wrong name.” She thought a moment and then said,“Instead of saying ‘God,’ let’s say ‘Our Leader.’ Let’s pray to Our Leader for candy. Let’s pray very hard and don’t open your eyes till I say.”

So the children shut their eyes tightly and prayed very hard, and as they prayed, the New Teacher took out some candy from her pocket and quietly put a piece on each child’s desk. She did not notice Johnny—alone of all the children—watching her through his half-closed eyes.

She went softly back to her desk and the prayer ended, and the children opened their
eyes and they stared at the candy and they were overjoyed.

“I’m going to pray to Our Leader every time,” Mary said excitedly.

“Me, too,” Hilda said. “Could we eat Our Leader’s candy now, teacher?”

“Oh, let’s, please, please, please.”

“So Our Leader answered your prayers, didn’t he?”

“I saw you put the candy on our desks!” Johnny burst out. “I saw you…. I didn’t close my eyes, and I saw you. You had ‘em in your pocket. We didn’t get them with praying. You put them there.”

All the children, appalled, stared at him and then at their New Teacher. She stood at the front of the class and looked back at Johnny and then at all of them.

“Yes, Johnny, you’re quite right. You’re a very, very wise boy. Children, I put candy on your desks. So you know that it doesn’t matter whom you ask, whom you shut your eyes and ‘pray’ to—to God or anyone, even Our Leader—no one will give you anything. Only another human being.” She looked at Danny. “God didn’t give you the puppy you wanted. But if you work hard, I will. Only I or someone like me can give you things. Praying to God or anything or anyone for something is a waste of time.” [all emphases in original]


ieka said...

aku pernah dgr part of the story, except part that boy's half closed eyes and onwards.. sbb tu aku rasa kite kena ajar kanak2 utk pandai bertanya soalan2 logik.. heheh kenapa aku cakap cenggitu? sbb aku selalu tanya soalan tu kat mak aku dulu masa kecik2 sampai mak abah aku pening.. even though last time i think i did hate the way my mom taught me, now i think i need to re-learn back how we were raised up, perhaps to use it in my future generation or even for my book?.. :P

rol said...

Aku bukanlah pakar pendidikan kanak-kanak. Tapi mak aku didik dengan memberi sebab dan penerangan. Kalau kena hukum, sebab apa. Kalau tak bagi buat sesuatu, sebabnya begini-begini.

Kanak-kanak patut diajar bertanya sebab kita tak mahu mereka menjadi mangsa indoktrinasi yakni menerima buta tuli tanpa menimbang/menyoal. Mak ayah memang akan pening kepala (mak ayah aku pening kepala dengan aku sampai ke hari ni) menjawab soalan anak-anak tapi insya-Allah mereka akan besar menjadi manusia yang mampu berfikir sendiri, dan bukannya kambing-kambing (sembelihan?).

Allah dan RasulNya yang lebih mengetahui.

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