on January 4, 2003
With all due respect, Ted Rushton is completely misreading the author's intent. A close reading of ALL of Clavell's work would show that the author loved freedom above all else. He was a happy emigre to our shores, spending the last years of his life in sunny California. A POW during WWII, his Japanese captors (from whom Orwell took the phrase and concept of "thought police") beat him down, but did not break his spirit, or his love of Asia, as his books demonstrate.
NOBLE HOUSE in particular is a masterful display of the conflict between Socialism and Freedom, with Russian/Chinese Communists as the former, and Hong Kong/British capitalists the latter.
As to THE CHILDREN'S STORY, Mr. Rushton's review does to this book what the new teacher does to the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance in Mr. Clavell's story. In the afterword, Mr. Clavell describes how his daughter came home from school and demanded a payment of ten cents after reciting the Pledge for him. He handed the dime over lovingly, but the incident got him thinking that there has to be more to learning the Pledge than the promise of a ten cent piece. He wanted his child to understand what she was pledging her allegiance to, and that is a symbol of freedom! The new teacher convinces all of the children but one that the flag is just a piece of cloth and the Pledge is just a handful of meaningless words. And if you cut the flag up and parse the POA to death then yes, she's right. But the pledge means that you support and intend to uphold the ideals of liberty and freedom that the flag has come to symbolize. Its obvious to me that the new teacher is doing all she can to replace the American values of liberty, freedom, and justice for all with the socialist values of...well, there are no socialist values. Unless unquestioning subservience is a value.
Mr. Rushton may think me a jingoistic rightist dupe for my views, and he's free to do so. You're free to do a lot, in America.
on August 25, 2003
A lot of [people] have referred to this book as being against the backdrop of the Cold War, but the sad thing is that since the end of the Cold War, the warnings of this book have become MORE and not less pertinent, as the hard left have used the ruse that Communism has collapsed to inject their values into all of us, like a bacillus, through the back door.
I see the brainwashing of the children described in this book as being what university students in the so-called humanities go through, in nearly every university in the world.
The media and universities are trying to do to all of us what the teacher did to the children in the book!
And slowly as youth are filtered through the universities they will permeate the rest of society with corrupt neo-Marxist views, including elementary schools.
How many people throughout the world marched in support of Saddam Hussein earlier this year , without a thought about the morality of the positions they where taking?
Yes, the nightmare we read about in 'The Children's Story' is happening across the world.Too many of us have lost the distinction between right and wrong.
Can the voices of freedom fight back?
on August 10, 2002
By Ted Rushton
When a court ruled the two words "under God" were unconstitutional in the US Pledge of Allegiance, it set off a firestorm of righteous conservative indignation through the United States and dismay among many loyal Americans.
This book, written in 1962 by a truly gifted and far-seeing author, should set those latter-day fears to rest.
Like Ann Rand's Anthem, this book is a devastating account of the shallow nature of the conservative reliance on empty rhetoric rather than the true meaning of the values they profess to express. Fiction ? Look at how easily the early Christians used a few words to turn December 25th., the birthday of the eastern God Mithras the bull-slayer -- which has a probably origin in Catal Huyuk some 5,000 years before the birth of Christ -- into the birthday of the Christian Saviour.
Clavell speculates how clever teachers can turn a few words of prayer and faith into acceptance of a new and presumably totally opposite system of values. His story, with chilling realism, will give any intelligent reader pause about the value of rote repetition of even the most noble phrases -- such as the pledge of allegiance or that famed national anthem "Jose, can you see ?" -- compared to importance of learning the meaning of such words.
For anyone who treasures basic American values, this book is a gem. The message is "learn the meaning" of the words anyone chooses to pledge; in this case, the Pledge of Allegiance, but it also applies to such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. In most nations, loyalty is based on centuries of habit, heritage and tradition; in the US, similar to Christianity which is based on the truth as revealed in The Bible, loyalty is based on written documents such as the Constitution.
American society is based on the promise of written words. Think of "I pledge allegiance . . ." or "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. . ." and "the freedom of speech or of the press . . ." or that "government of the people, by the people, for the people . . ." Clavell makes the point, with brief but eloquent realism, that we must understand the meaning of the words we repeat, not merely their rote cadence.
It is a book for everyone interested in the basics of American freedom.
on October 16, 2001
For years, I have carried the words of The Children's Story with me, and shared them with as many people as possible. With its roots in words we have taken for granted for years, Clavell forces us to look at all we, as Americans, hold precious, and how vulnerable we are without truly understanding the meaning of that which we espouse. A simple reiiteration of the Pledge of Allegiance, taught to first graders across the country, goes deeper than teaching just the words. Set in "small town anywhere", the story of children in a classroom taken over after a military invasion, this powerful piece takes us to the core of our beliefs, and makes us aware, more than ever, of the true meaning of "allegiance". From the cutting up of the American flag in the opening pages, we are consistently challenged and reawakened. The book teaches us to expect the unexpected, to appreciate our heritage, and to take nothing for granted. A simple, but moving piece of work that should be taken out of the closet, dusted off, and kept on the shelf to be read again and again!
Ever since my own children were small, I have taken out The Children's Story and reread it together with them each and every Memorial Day. I have bought more copies than I can count, and given them to friends, students, and book clubs. I am proud to say that my son, a Firefighter, immediately following the tragedy of September 11th, donated 100 copies to local schools in hopes that reading and discussing it will help reignite an interest and pride in the words we speak from memory, seldom give much thought to, but will never again take for granted.
on July 5, 2001
A fellow teacher recommended I read this book about 10 years ago, and I did - thankfully. It is provocative and compelling. It hit me like a board between the eyes. Not only are our children so easily molded,so are we - by anyone or any individual or institution that we allow to manipulate us, especially television, movies, the media, this story itself. It reminds me of another obscure little book I found at a library used book sale for a quarter - and it had the same profound effect on me: Ways of Living and Dying by Harry Jonesburg, Les Livres, Inc., 1992. These books are not for the faint of heart! Do yourself a favor and read them both. I am 52 years old and I am just now beginning to understand how much my thought has been manipulated all my life. The Children's Story was instrumental in that awakening. What I learned from that story: Democracy has its price. Clavell has shown me quite clearly how far freedom of expression can take us as a people. He has shown me that "democracy" is a philosophy that by its very nature defies definition.
on June 18, 2001
As frightening as authors like Stephen King or as gripping as a political dramitist like Tom Clancy might be, they have never written anything near as good as this gem.
What would your child do if suddenly his or her teacher told them the American flag was not important? What would a room full of impressionable young children do if taught that it was ok, and in fact good, to spy on their parents?
These questions and more are asked in this short but sweet story. And it raises an even scarier question. If we don't teach our children morals, who will? Do we trust our teachers with this job? Hopefully we do, but if not, what should we then do about it?
I'm not ripping on teachers-- my wife is a teacher, and a good one. But hopefully this book frightens us just a little bit into thinking about how we can take the responsibility to teach our children ourselves and take this burden away from teachers who already have too much to teach and and not enough resources or class space to teach with, as some of them may use it improperly. "Character education" proposed by some to be taught alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic is not the answer. Whose values do we then use to teach? And when do teachers have time to teach it? And do we want our children adopting the values of someone the schoolboard thinks has good morals? This book reminds us that we have a responsibilty and a duty to teach our children the right way to live.
Read this book-- it will change your mind about a lot of things.
on April 4, 2001
James Clavell, author of SHOGUN, was inspired to write THE CHILDREN'S STORY when his five-year-old daughter expected a dime for reciting the "plege illegience." Inquiries revealed to Clavell that few people are taught the meaning of the Pledge; they just learn to parrot it.
In THE CHILDREN'S STORY Clavell dramatizes what can happen when people without true convictions encounter zealots intent on converting them. People whose beliefs are not grounded may be oblivious to almost imperceptible assaults on their value system. THE CHILDREN'S STORY reminds us that "the enemy" may not be hideous or foreign but may be attractive, intelligent, reasonable, gentle, and friendly.
THE CHILDREN'S STORY is ideal for reading aloud. Not only can the contrasting tones of the story be conveyed vocally, the reading and discussion of this story (with occasional pauses to ask, "Who likes the New Teacher?") can be accomplished in approximately the same time required for the events of the story to take place.
on January 5, 2002
"The Children's Story," by James Clavell, is a short book that could be read in one brief sitting. It takes place in an elementary school classroom in the United States after the country has been conquered by some nameless foreign power. The story follows the initial re-education of the children by their new teacher.
This book reads very much like a product of the Cold War era, when many feared the possibility of ultimate Soviet domination. The story is written with a subtly chilling, "Twilight Zone"-like flavor; it reminded me of Ayn Rand's short book "Anthem." Ultimately, Clavell's scenario plays out a little too neatly to be truly believable. But the story is undeniably thought-provoking. And even with the U.S./U.S.S.R. Cold War now a thing of the past, "The Children's Story" is still worth reading.
on January 30, 2001
I approached The Children's Story with a bit of trepidation and cynicism. The friend who reccommended it said it was "powerful" and when a coworker saw it ,she said it had changed her life. Quite a burdon to put on the slim volume I held in my hands. It reads like the cautionary fable of the cold war....a new power comes to town and methodically challenges and strips away all beliefs of the town's children. The messenger is pretty and pleasant, the messege is palatable, even believable. And so all the children get led down the path.....I read this with the voice of Johnny, one of the children ringing in my head...a small quiet voice of distrust, of sensing open manipulation. Which is Clavell's point. A short, well crafted fable with vivid imagery and real emotional flashpoints. I hate being manipulated, so one star off.
on April 30, 1998
It only took me thirty minutes to read this book. But now and then, since my reading of it I get flashbacks of what its message was. It very nicely shows how a mind of a child, and maybe everybody, can be influenced and perhaps changed by a few suggestions of a second party that can seem logical at the time. How Clavell does this is to tell of a thirty minute scene in a classroom that has just recieved a new teacher. This teacher is the second party in this case. Here she offers ideas and statements that the kids rationally put together as being not bad ideas. In the end it is rather disturbing how easy it can be. For Clavell fans expecting another Clavell-like book, this is not. The Childrens Story reads like a poem in a classic Clavell style, and is I bet much like that in its power of symbolism and suggestion. Good book.