I read Weekly Reader practically every week from the point at which I was able to read through the 5th grade. Everyone at my school did. It was on the pages of the Weekly Reader that I first learned about "CFCs," the melting polar ice caps, global warmism, whales, the rainforest, recycled paper and so on and so forth.
An email with a forwarded article from my brother reminded me of this grade school propagandizing:
This must be how you felt when I'd come home from Ms. [witchy teacher's name redacted]'s class in 2nd grade convinced we needed to save the whales and rainforest. Fortunately I had your skepticism to steer me clear of her environmental sanctimony.'HELPING Dad become a better man: priceless."
That's the closing line of a new MasterCard commercial. You know those commercials; they've been out for nearly a decade. A typical one goes something like this: "Bric-a-brac: 17 dollars. White elephant: 28 dollars. Getting your wife to remove the restraining order: priceless."
Only this one has a little boy tailing his father--a man who looks like a perpetually adolescent extra from the old sitcom Friends--through a home-improvement store pointing out ways the carbon-profligate old man can reduce his footprint. The boy replaces the usual narrator as well.
"Energy-saving bulb: four dollars," quoth the child. "Reusable bag: two dollars. Helping Dad become a better man: priceless."
There are two kinds of folks in this world: those who find this sort of thing creepy, and pod people. Okay, maybe that's a bit too strong. But how anyone could fail to find this commercial one of the more disturbing convergences of corporate power, advertising, and progressive groupthink is beyond me.
If you can't see why, maybe it will help to look a few spaces ahead of where we are. In Britain, an electric utility launched a website for kids that teaches them how to become "climate cops." Their duty is to keep a "watchful eye" and monitor the "energy crimes" of their family and neighbors, with the ultimate goal of building a "climate-crime case file." Beware that Johnson kid with the clipboard going through your recyclables.
If you still can't see why this kiddie Gestapo stuff is offensive, change the issue from environmentalism to eating habits (you know that's coming, by the way), or religion, or just about any subject where you don't think a six-year-old should be scolding you for weakness of character or informing on you to the authorities.
Now, it's not that I think kids shouldn't be encouraged to be civic-minded. And while I find today's climate obsessions to be suffused with religious hysteria, I don't see anything terrible in encouraging kids, or anyone else, to conserve resources. But that's not the issue here. Nor is environmentalism per se.
It's the kids.
There is something evil about recruiting children to lobby their parents on political causes. Okay, it's not always evil; sometimes it can be funny, like the time in 1965 when Soupy Sales told the children watching his TV show to sneak into their parents' bedrooms and take the "green pieces of paper" from their wallets and send them to him.
Sales apologized for cracking a joke that a few kids took seriously. But no apologies are forthcoming from MasterCard for broadcasting something in earnest that in a healthy society would be seen as a joke. The idea of enlisting children to the Cause is as fashionable today as it was under Robespierre. To crack the bunker walls of the family and seduce the children has always been a top priority of totalitarians, hard and soft. Progressives love to elevate the sagacity of children--Hillary Clinton says some of the best theologians she's ever met have been five-year-olds--because doing so gives children all the more authority when they parrot the talking points of the latest progressive fad.
James Lileks asks about the MasterCard ad: "If the kid didn't learn these steps to righteousness at home, where did he get them?" Precisely. It's not as if normal, uncoached six-year-olds talk about making their fathers "better men."
If the man in the ad were a better father, he would have scolded his kid for the disrespect and demanded to know who was teaching him such crap.
Because you "can't legislate morality" or teach it in public schools, we were taught the morality of the secularists. And it was and remains, environmentalism (along with, of course, relativism and its derivatives, multiculturalism, &c.)
If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.