12 September 2011

Post 424: Snuff

Snuff by Terry Pratchett. ISBN: 9780062011848 (eGalley - publishes October 11, 2011).

Oh Young Sam, how adorable you are. You and your fascination with poop. I have to admit, it is pretty interesting, especially when you consider all the different varieties and whatnot. And that Lady Sybil and Sam Vimes encourage your interest, well, aren't you a lucky boy?

Perhaps this is a strange thing to focus on in this novel, but I like to highlight positive parenting practices where I see them. I refrain from saying good, because even good parenting practices practiced too pressingly can go practically perverse. Also, I am not a parent, so using labels like "good" is possibly not my domain. However, I am observant, and like everyone else I have opinions about parenting, or at the very least mentoring.

Many parents would probably be mortified with a child's fascination with feces. Think of all the potential for impolite dinner conversation; you could never again invite people without small children into your home, unless perhaps they also had some sort of interest in intestinal ingredients, present and past. Nothing says fancy dinner like, "Mommy! Look at this poo I found! It's GREEN!"

Yet, having children this excited about any aspect of learning is certainly a good thing and should be treated as such. There is no reason to discourage this interest, which can be explored through various means of science: biology, chemistry, anatomy; even a discussion of practical uses of manure leads to many different fields, the most obvious agricultural. And the disease, oh BOY! What kid doesn't love to hear about all the strange and filthy things that might actually come from poop?

The point is, there is no such thing as useless knowledge, only knowledge that has yet to be used.* You cannot possibly predict circumstances where you might need to know the difference between bear poop and moose poop, but once you find yourself in the situation, it is certainly nice to have it. Therefore, there is no good reason to deny a child information from seemingly impolite, yet harmless, topics just because we are old crotchety adults and are only concerned with poop if we have to clean it up, or have not had one in awhile. By denying a child this one area of interest, we might be detrimentally directing them towards other pursuits they are not actually suited for. This immediately affects their interest in learning, as they are not given free reign over what they choose to learn. This of course takes the excitement out of learning, and turns it instead into a requirement.

Is it really any surprise that young people don't read as much anymore, or take pride in their studies? We have presented it as a task that has to be completed, a level to grind simply to get to the next one. But what use is it to accumulate equipment and skills that will never be used? And why force everyone to train like a cleric when what they really want is to be a bard or a sorcerer?

Obviously, we are not in a society that allows this in the classroom. Test scores are touted as the best measure of success, and so our children are learning to take tests. What fun. But I applaud the fictional parenting of Vimes and Lady Sybil and hope that there are other parents out there who encourage the educational pursuits of their children, regardless of what tack they may take. Who knows, it could even lead to discussions on etiquette and what is and is not an appropriate dinner topic.

My review can be found on Goodreads, however it's brief given that people who like Pratchett like Pratchett and those who don't can sod off.**
LibsNote: Review copy provided by Netgalley.
*I tried to find the source of this phrase, but it appears to be a common usage. Perhaps a librarian with better resources than myself knows the answer?
**Not really, I understand it's not everyone's thing, I just always wanted to use the expression.
Also, you don't have to ask me what I liked about this post. You already know the answer. (Hint: it's the poop.)

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