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Would You Teach Your Kids "The Secret?"

I was recently made aware of a newly released book, The Dreamz Friendz and The Magic Well, being billed as “the first ever Law of Attraction book published specifically for children.”  It was inspired by Oprah’s “Living the Law of Attraction” show and is written by Michael King.

The book purports to teach children positive thinking, imagination, sharing and appreciation.  No problems there.  But it also teaches children that “thoughts (both conscious and unconscious) can affect things outside the head, not just through motivation, but by other means.”  What other means?  Telepathy?

King says, “Essentially, I wanted to create a book that would teach children what adults have been reading about for years and tailor it specifically for small children.”  Right.  It’s The Secret for kidz.  Like Who Moved My Cheese? for Kids before it, The Dreamz Friendz and The Magic Well attempts to teach children concepts they can’t comprehend and have no need for anyway.  Do kids really need to learn the Law of Attraction to get what they want?  I’m pretty sure harnessing the power of the subconscious mind is unnecessary when whining,”Pleeeeeeaaaaasssssseeeeeee?” for the 300th time is just as or more effective.

Beyond being unnecessary, is teaching children the Law of Attraction appropriate?  Unless you want your son to think the reason he lost the baseball game is because his subconscious mind was working against him, no.  More importantly, should any of us be sanctioning the use of LOLspell in a book title?  Srsly.

I rue the day my daughter was given a copy of Who Moved My Cheese? for Kids, a book I refuse to read her.  It’s an allegory involving mice and cheese (obviously) about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting over when unexpected things happen in life.  That idea in-and-of-itself isn’t particularly harmful or difficult for even little kids to understand.  Reducing life to a hunt for “magical cheese” hidden in a big maze, however, seems a bit new-agey and dumb to even me, and I have a tattoo of a butterfly on my arm that says “Love.”

But the book doesn’t just teach kids how to move on after a disappointment, it examines the various reactions different personality types have when tragedy strikes.  There’s Sniff and Scurry, who deal with change by quickly packing up in search of the next bit of magical cheese, and Hem and Haw, who you can imagine provide the story’s cautionary tale.  Hem and Haw read books and study maps in an effort to find their happiness (more cheese), and when they find it, they take it for granted.  While I can certainly relate to the immense pleasure cheese provides, I find the author’s portrayal of Hem and Haw as ignorant intellectuals a bit of an affront to the thinking person.  Sure, Sniff and Scurry’s get-up-and-go attitude is admirable, but making hasty decisions without any real information is the type of attitude that got us into two wars, no?  (I wonder if the book’s author, Spencer Johnson, is a Republican.)

Peter Birkenhead wrote an excellent essay for Salon back in 2007 chastising Oprah for broadening The Secret‘s reach.  In it, he calls out the anti-intellectualism attached to Law of Attraction theory, quoting the author as saying, “When I discovered ‘The Secret’ I made a decision that I would not watch the news or read newspapers anymore, because it did not make me feel good.”  Birkenhead thinks that LOA (as its devotees call it) blames the victim for blocking money from himself or causing her own illness.  Indeed, the Law of Attraction, as its used in The Secret and The Dreamz Friendz states that “positive thoughts attract positive events and negative thoughts attract negative events.”  Meaning, if your 6-year-old has Leukemia, it’s because he doesn’t really want to be well.

That anyone would be willing to teach that concept to children is frightening to me.  It’s not that I don’t think doing well in life requires a certain amount of positive thinking in addition to hard work, but the notion that having bad things happen to you is your own fault is detrimental, especially to children.  Sure, an adult should be able to acknowledge the responsibility he bears for getting himself into a bad situation, but children have no control over their circumstances.  That is, unless The Secret begins in the womb.

Two weeks ago, my fellow SD blogger Sierra and I were having lunch, and I made a joke about The Secret.  She told me she’d never heard of it, so when I explained to her what the basic principles were, she said, “Oh, where I’m from, we call that witchcraft.”  Which is possibly why, according to Amazon, customers who bought The Dreamz Friendz and The Magic Well also bought the book Dark Fairies in paperback.  That’s a bedtime story any child is sure to love.

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