Fairy Tales of Yesteryear
We've all heard our parent's favorite fairy tales, and many of us have used them ourselves to help teach our children lessons about life. These short stories would coach us about kindness, work ethic, helpfulness, respect, any number of valuable human attributes.
As we developed technologically, it wasn't only fairy tales that taught us through entertaining story lines, Hollywood producers engaged in the teaching of moral values and codes. We had westerns and honorable characters like the Rifleman, who though he wasn't very rich, taught lessons in morality, truthfulness and courage each week. Often his son Mark was the beneficiary of the lesson, and it was clear that these were good, honest, proud people who were responsible for themselves. That was how they liked it. When anything bad happened, maybe they got help, maybe they didn't - but they always tried to handle the mess themselves honestly and ethically and in the end, everything always turned out well.
Continuing in the Western television vein, we had Bonanza. Unlike Lucas McCain and son, The Cartwright's were extremely wealthy ranchers who worked hard every day. It was clear that they deserved their riches as a result of their personal sacrifice, morals, integrity and work ethic. They were the good guys in the white hats. They were tough, honest, and clear of objective and character. When a bad guy came around, the good guys always won because their moral code, responsibility and honesty were superior to any lay-about lazy thief. It wasn't often suggested that they must have been dishonest because they accumulated wealth. On the few occasions that they were so insulted, the producers took the opportunity to dispel the misconception that the wealthy must be evil exploiters of the poor. It was clearly corrected, and another lesson learned.
Then there were comedies that taught sound, American moral lessons. Leave it to Beaver always seemed to teach us something worthwhile while making us laugh. Theodore Clever would tell a little lie and get into trouble, and learn that honesty is really the best policy. "Father Knows Best" was an American values program. There was an episode of Andy Griffith on television recently in which an unruly spoiled child needed punishment. Andy suggested to the father that there was a very nice woodshed behind the sheriff's office and maybe he might want to use it with his son to teach him his lesson. The father grinned, and we know what supposed to have happened off camera.
Had Sheriff Taylor suggested that solution today, he would be charged with complicity to assault, child abuse, relieved of duty, and possibly imprisoned. You see today, it is against many laws to punish children corporally, especially with a switch - which of course can now be considered a dangerous weapon when in the hands of a caring parent.
Today this behavior can be defined as “assault with a dangerous weapon”. Parents are now afraid to discipline their kids. And we wonder why we have so many teenagers we can’t control?
Instead we now we have "Survivor", "The Simpsons", and "American Idol". Programs where ridicule, deceit and immorality rule the day.
What happened to the lessons we wanted our children to learn? Why have we seemed to abandon them? Do we just follow Hollywood no matter what they do? - Or do they follow us?