Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Building a Better (?) World Through School Supplies

In Sam's Club yesterday, I saw a large Crayola multipack that advertised itself as being good for teachers and day care owners. The pack contained numerous small boxes of crayons, in three categories: Classic Crayons (of course), Construction Paper Crayons (sure, why not), and Multicultural Crayons (WHAT?! Did I just read that?) No, I am not making this up. Multicultural Crayons. The box claimed they would be good for "teaching diversity".

That last bit gave me a clue what the "multicultural" boxes might contain--I didn't know before; I thought maybe it was crayons named after different cultures or geographical areas--but one box had had its plastic wrap torn off, so I opened it up to check. The "multicultural" boxes contained what were apparently intended to be various skin tones, although as I remarked to Uncle Pookie at the time, "That [the waxy white crayon] isn't a a flesh tone anywhere in the world, outside of certain films set in a largely mythical Transylvania."

Now, this is pretty silly. Look what it says about the mindset of whoever at Crayola came up with that idea: people with different skin colors are so different from one another that they automatically form a whole different culture. Skin color is really, really important in determining who you are, I guess.

Crayola claims these crayons are good for "teaching diversity", but to them diversity apparently just means having different flesh tones. You don't have to tell children that people come in multiple skin colors. You do have to teach small children how to blow their noses, but unless you're living in a small, racially homogenous, and completely isolated community with no television or photos from the outside world, you don't have to tell children that people come in different skin colors. They notice this on their own. And they don't need a special box of "multicultural" crayons to depict these skin colors in their drawings, either. All of those colors are available in any mid-size or large box of crayons.

And why teach "diversity"--which, remember, just means different skin color, not different languages, traditions, religions, clothing, or cultural taboos--anyway? Children already know different skin colors exist. Do they know how to read? Or recognize shapes or add and subtract?


(Note: None of the above should be interpreted as an attack on Crayola. They didn't invent this kind of silliness, even if some "ideas" or marketing person there has bought into it. As far as I know Crayola still makes a fine crayon.)

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