By now this lesson should be ingrained in all of us. Give the pet goldfish lots of food? It dies from stuffing itself. Do a homework problem for a struggling student? That student learns to depend on you to do all their homework. And of course, I don’t need to go through the old-fashioned relationship troubles that lead many a great girl to stick around some abusive bully just because “he needs her”.
I could tell you all these familiar stories, and more, but instead I’m going to give everyone here a new enigma to make sense of: Maggie Goes on a Diet. The dieting book, inexplicably written for the 4-8 year old range, is probably a well-intentioned stab at combating childhood obesity, but has earned parents and healthy-eating experts alike nothing but heartache. Encouraging kids to eat nutritious foods and exercise is all well and good, but its pretty awful to convey that message in the form of a threat, as in “eat healthy food or be called a ‘fatty’ by all the kids at school.” Let’s face it: most young kids aren’t going to be smart enough to catch onto the book’s “healthy foods” message in the first place; all they’re going learn is that being skinny and playing school sports makes you popular (and that harsh reality can wait until middle school; no need to be forcing this stuff on 4 year-olds.) Plus, obesity isn’t the only healthy epidemic among American kids these days: anorexia and bulimia are destroying lives every day, and putting this kind of additional stigma on overweight young girls is likely to exasperate those issues.
At the end of the day, I can’t say that I hate the author: Kramer probably meant well. But poorly researched efforts at doing good in the world are probably the most dangerous things in existence: at their most extreme, they’re the stuff of radical terrorist groups, the forced sterilization programs of the 1920s, and Pol Pot’s genocidal agrarian revolution. And really, how much time would it have taken the author to contact a pediatrician or child psychologist or really any kind of expert on this subject? Kramer’s good intentions may earn my sympathy, but his absolute laziness at writing a children’s book won’t be earning my respect.
In the spirit of research and knowledge, here’s some other links about the book and what the experts are saying about it: