To the Editor: Another letter about 'Farmer in the Dell'
Written by Charles David Maxey   
Wednesday, 10 April 2013 09:17
Ms. Pokorny's April 3rd letter about "Farmer in the Dell" stated, "Historically, a farmer (male) needed a wife to produce children to help on the farm. … Like it or not, that is the hierarchical family structure our society has!" Farm animals' purpose is producing milk, eggs, etc., but women shouldn't be reduced to the means of farmers' "age-old production" of cheap child laborers. Her defense of the song as historical and significant intimated that she believes fallaciously that it's OK simply because it's old and well-known. "Ten Little Injuns" and "Ten Little N----rs" are also significantly oppressive, historical songs, but they'll never again be sung at schools. If she indeed intended to contend this song has substantial historical significance, I'd protest that a kindergarten arts festival isn't fitting for a presentation about farmers valuing children as cheap laborers, who probably received minimal education, out in the dell. Furthermore, she was out of touch with the reality of modern families when she tried to appeal fallaciously to the supposedly current common practice of structuring families hierarchically. Even back when it was widespread, it wasn't OK simply because many people did it.
I agree with her that parents are responsible for being examples of self-worth; however, I disagree with her statement that only parents have this responsibility. Surely she doesn't want schools to disregard students' self-worth, stop praising accomplishments, and discard all smiley-face stickers. I know self-worth isn't determined by one "Farmer in the Dell" performance, but children are affected substantially by repeated notions about hierarchy in the world and their station in it.
I agree with the many website commenters who objected to "Farmer in the Dell" for teaching children to rank each other in popularity. For Toth Elementary's adaptation, a teacher conferred character costume privileges on about 10 kindergarteners, such that the others stood there in their plain clothes while the costumed kindergarteners pranced around the room. Providing equivalent participation to everyone would teach that politeness should moderate self-worth.
In October, Toth Elementary chose wisely to have a 1-hour bullying presentation for parents, and I'm pleased with nearly every aspect of my daughter's education at Toth. However, preserving subjugation of women, invisibility of modern families, and popularity hierarchies tends to create the kind of power imbalance that underpins bullying, thus hindering Toth's stated goal to "eliminate bullying."
Charles David Maxey

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