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Investigate Magazine

Mon 18 Dec 2006 In: Comment

Agnes-Mary Brooke, neoconservative Catholic and children's author, really shouldn't have slummed it so badly. In any case, her Investigrunt diatribe against progressive children's fiction deserves a response. Agnes-Mary Brooke used to be a columnist for the Dominion Post, and educational and social policy analyst on the centre-right. She could be relied upon to deliver the New Right soundbyte before getting tepid and bunking off back to Nelson. Now, that particular province combines semitropical climates with far too many half-baked sock cons. Acerbic Anglicans refer to it as "Little Sydney" due to the hardcore fundamentalists that dominate that otherwise mainline church, Nick Smith is their National MP, and she holds yearly get togethers. Anyway, Brooke sounds a note of warning about the lack of social conservative ideological purity in young adults/adolescent fiction. It's full of substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, unresolved sexuality issues, minimal religiosity and horrid multiculturalism. It even talks about economic inequality and (gasp) provides healthy, well-adjusted role models for lesbian and gay teenagers! Er, wait a minute. If those lesbian and gay teenagers develop self-esteem and don't go down the alcohol, drug, self-mutilation and denial-based teenage pregnancy route, then they'll stay to become educated, professional citizens who don't need social welfare benefits. Can AMB be promoting that dreaded New Right cliche "welfare dependency?" Sorry, but is Mrs Brooke proposing ideologically based censorship, and if so, could she kindly explain why? Granted, she does write excellent stories for younger children, but adolescents live in a complex and changing world, and may need advice and role-modelling about problems that they'll face during this phase of their life. Censor it out of adolescent fiction, and you'll have precisely those social problems. And replace it with what? I do read fundamentalist fiction sometimes, and it's bloody awful. The characters are not only happy-clappy cardboard, they never seem to respond realistically to problems beyond going on godbot autopilot, and tut tut censoriously about the evil secular humanist conspiracy to do unpleasant things to born-again bottom-spanking believers. It is utterly mediocre, and please, let' s not delude ourselves that this drivel is the equivalent of modern classics like Kafka's The Trial, Huxley's Brave New World, and Orwell's 1984, although fundamentalist bookbanners in the United States routinely try to get these sterling examples of literature out of high school libraries. Mind you, I'm sure she isn't. After all, wouldn't that be ideologically based behavioural control and suppression of alternative opinions? Ah, but it's okay if the censors are social conservatives, apparently. Not. Not Evenly Remotely Recommended: Craig Young - 18th December 2006    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Monday, 18th December 2006 - 12:00pm

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