Can a book about the Muppets be too traumatic for kindergarteners? A parent who sits on a Wisconsin school board thinks so, and says she plans to have the book removed from the Marshfield School District's curriculum when the issue comes to a vote during a board meeting on Dec. 9. (video below)
At issue is a 1993 book, "For Every Child A Better World," which highlights the conditions of children living in poverty.
“I just have concerns that it’s too graphic, even though these are Muppets characters,” said Mary Carney, reports USA Today. “Unfortunately in this world there is a lot of war and strife and poverty; I understand that. I just don’t know how appropriate that is to be teaching that to 5-year-olds.”
Carney, a relatively new school board member who was elected in April, has objected to other aspects of the district's curriculum, from kindergarten to sixth grade social studies, USA Today notes. The district "downplays American exceptionalism" by placing too much emphasis on world history, Carney has said.
The Marshfield School District serves more than 3,700 students across seven schools.
Carney cited an Amazon reviewer who said he was left "traumatized" by the Muppets book when he was a child. The book, Carney said, is "filled with images of suffering children in bombed out and polluted cities, living in dire poverty, plagued by hunger, dirty water and homelessness, which is depicted as a child, alone, living in a cardboard box."
She also complained that 57 books were listed in the kindergarten curriculum, none of which were available from the local or school libraries. Parents would have to purchase those books, Carney said, just to remain informed about what their children are learning in school.
"Why are we subjecting the youngest children in our community to such negative, dark, depressing imagery? What is the purpose? I believe young children should see the world for what it truly is, beautiful, good and hopeful, and their innocence remain intact for as long as possible," Carney said.
Amber Leifheit, the Marshfield School Board's vice president, said she read the book and isn't bothered by its content.
"Looking at it, I do not have concerns," Leifheit said. "I believe it shows compassion for people other than yourself. I think that’s a good thing."
The school board will vote on Dec. 9 to decide whether the book remains in the kindergarten curriculum.