Thursday, November 19, 2009

Exposing Children to Fearful Things



It started innocently enough. A friend and I decided to cope with take advantage of the school's early dismissal what are those teachers doing with a half day, anyway? by taking our girls to the local science museum for educational fun.
The current special exhibit at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) is SCREAM! featuring Goosebumps, the Science of Fear. Most of the exhibit focused on traditional fears - snakes, spiders and creepy stuff. There's a lot of analysis about how your body responds to fear - hair standing on end, flight response, etc.


The most intriguing part for me was a section entitled Fear and Society. Here's how they describe it:
Microwaves, witch-hunts, Elvis Presley, and the year 2000 have all incited moral panics—what sociologists call the collective anxieties about what direction society is going. Fear and Society shows how collective fears are represented and transmitted through media and popular culture.

There was a letter from a concerned parent about the "obscene" lyrics of a rock song on a record his daughter brought home. The letter, pictured at the top of this post, is addressed to Attorney General Robert Kennedy. The song was Louie, Louie. I'd known there was controversy over the largely unintelligible lyrics, but did you know there was an FBI investigation?! After two years (yes, TWO YEARS) they found no evidence of obscenity. That was in the mid 1960s.
In 2005, a school superintendent in Benton Harbor, Michigan refused to let a school marching band play the song in a parade. She later relented. But, still. Fear Stupidity is alive and well in America.

My eye was drawn to the part of the display that addressed McCarthyism and "Red Scares." I've long wanted to teach a class on Red Scares and Blacklisting on the Silver Screen. Catchy, huh? So far, the college hasn't accepted that proposal. But I have hope. Once I'm done teaching the blogging course in the spring, I'm going to pursue that big time. When we got home, after supper, Professor X, Daring Daughter and I watched a classic film that relates to this theme. But that's a post of its own, coming soon.

10 comments:

Lisa said...

What a great exhibit. Fear and stupidity, oh and willful ignorance, are far more dangerous things than monsters and natural disasters.

CashmereLibrarian said...

Wouldn't it be fun to do a sort of "people at Walmart" website where one posts ridiculous letters such as this one and comments on their stupidity? Such as, how can you tell "undecipherable lyrics" are "filthy?" And I remember a catholic mother that wrote into a newspaper back in the day about Madonna's "Like A Virgin" single and asking how she was supposed to answer her daughter when she questioned the definition of "virgin." Oh, Holy Night!

Kathy Amen said...

I live with the hope that perhaps 1 or 2 people who aren't right-thinking folks like you and me would see exhibits like this and actually have their attitudes adjusted. But I fear that such museum efforts, though laudable, are preaching to the choir....

mommapolitico said...

If anyone actually knows the real lyrics to "Louie, Louie," I would be curious to learn what it really says, as I've never met anyone who knows the words and am too lazy to google it...

Great exhibit - hope it travels to our neck of the woods. I was working in record stores back when Tipper Gore got on her record labeling high horse. Good Lord, if teenagers can't rebel a little with their music, I'd worry what else they'd try to find to do so!

Your class idea sounds fascinating! Plenty of recent events re: labeling of people as "Liberals" and how that's the New McCarthyism - could be an interesting offshoot. Would love to see the syllabus when you get the chance to teach it!

Miss Healthypants said...

I would totally LOVE to take a class on Red Scares and Blacklisting on the Silver Screen! I think that's a great idea.

Have you ever seen the movie "The Front"? It's about blacklisting in Hollywood--I loved it. :)

And that's interesting about "Louie, Louie!" :)

mommapolitico said...

Too weird...Maddow to have a story on modern-day McCarthyism tonight...keep ya posted.

lisleman said...

Lions, tigers, and commies - oh my!
Good post and it sounds like an enlightening museum exhibit.
Louie Louie - I actually bought a CD that was all covers of this song. Tina Turner did a good cover of it. Also, I remember someone (not who though) said if you dropped a guitar off a cliff it would play the Louie Louie cords on the way down.

Oh I've discovered that people are NOT rational.

Maureen said...

Someone actually wrote a letter to Robert Kennedy about song lyrics? And there was an FBI investigation? Wow. Just wow.

Emm said...

Oh, that sounds like a really fascinating exhibition!!! I'd love to go to something like that.

Caitlin said...

I would love to take a class on the Red Scare/McCarthyism in film!

I had forgotten about the Louie, Louie investigation - but the FBI had files on everyone in those days. I seem to remember that they had a pretty big file on John Lennon as well as a lot of the reporters of the day.