recess radio program

4/29/04
The Euro -- in Books
    by Malini Roy

To counter the problems of increasing xenophobia and environmental pollution in Europe, the European Union has designed a very innovative set of books for children. Written as simple, entertaining narratives with brightly colored illustrated, these texts are meant to sensitize children to contemporary issues, and are published in all the official languages of the European Union.

One of these stories, "Let Me Tell You a Secret", begins with a child named Tom having to face some harsh realities whose existence he had never suspected. Caught up in the web of unbridled consumerism, his parents are tired of their old cupboard and dispose of it in the city rubbish dump. Quite by accident, they throw away Tom as well. Here in the dump Tom makes friends with a fox, Lila, who introduces him to the problems of environmental pollution. Rather like the fox in St. Exupery's The Little Prince, Lila's function is to acquaint Tom with some basic truths; the wisdom that the fox passes along to Tom is particularly contemporary -- it's about the depletion of the ozone layer as well as the Greenhouse Effect.

"What? Me? A Racist? "is a tongue-in-cheek analysis of social discrimination, in its many forms. Here the concern is with how it is directed towards ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, overweight and elderly people. This pamphlet is presented as a humorous comic strip for teachers to use in school. In one of the tableaux, called "Fine Feathers Make Fine Birds," a group of upper-class children viciously make fun of an underprivileged child. When asked by their teacher for an explanation, the only answer they have is : "he's er different." Other vignettes in the book are also striking. There is a satire on the tourist Mr. Nimby who gets rhapsodic over traditional music and the 'charm' of 'winding streets' in the Middle East, but cannot bear immigrant populations and their music in his home country.

Through books like these, the EU is trying to create a more diverse, tolerant and humane society. It will be interesting to follow the evolution of this form of education in years to come. The best part of this effort is that these books address issues that are globally relevant, and can form an alternative teaching aid for children of any country.

Today's program featured the following:

Copyright 2004 Malini Roy

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