In the ancient wood I stood
And saw many a fallen tree
Brought low by storm.
They spoke to me
Of how shadows grow
On an English lawn,
In summertime. And of Kipling’s rhyme.
For he foresaw how empires go.
Do the Chinese and Russians know
What Kipling told not long ago?
(Note: for anyone who has not done so, I recommend reading Kipling’s “Recessional”, in which he warns against the arrogance of imperialism, and foresees the loss of the British Empire).
I have happy memories of my grandfather reading Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five as I sat on his knee. As a child it never crossed my mind that Blyton’s books could be construed as being racist. Today however a number of reprints of the author’s works have been published with certain words and passages having been amended to avoid giving offence. Today’s Daily Mail has an article concerning a school who removed Blyton’s books from it’s shelves, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2519806/Enid-Blyton-Famous-Five-childrens-classics-axed-school-win-race-equality-award.html. If you read the entire article it becomes clear that most of the books which where deemed to be unacceptable have been replaced by versions with the language which some deem offensive, having been removed.
Racism is ugly and it is right and proper that children are taught that all ethnic groups possess equal worth and everyone, irrespective of their origin should be treated with respect. Having said that, would it not be possible for teachers, parents etc to explain the historical context in which Blyton was writing to youngsters, explaining that words and phrases which where once deemed acceptable are now (rightly) not so deemed. Blyton as with Kipling was a product of her time. Even great authors such as Dickens used language which we now view as unacceptable, for example his reference to “the jew” in Oliver Twist. I love Dickens, Kipling and Blyton, however to say this does not imply that I or any other reader shares their views on race or any other issue. We need, as I said above to judge authors in accordance with the historical context in which they wrote. Obviously it is easier for adults to make such judgements but, with sensitive and appropriate explanation it ought to be possible for children to continue to enjoy The Famous Five.