Monday, September 27, 2010

Educating the Children, Sixties vs. Eighties Style

Comics With Problems is a hilarious collection of (mostly) old-timey comics dealing with dangerous issues. Like drinking while pregnant. And smoking at all. And taking drugs. And being openly gay in the army, not that there's anything wrong with that, you just get fired.

Dennis the Menace Takes a Swipe at Poison is an especially interesting example, because it has two versions: one from the sixties and one from the eighties. It really shows how educational comics have changed.

Part one: the sixties starts off a bit disturbingly, with Dennis making jokes about what an awful kid he is, and how he's poison to his neighbor. Ehh. So on to the story: Dennis has decided to give the dog some medicine! Luckily his parents get to him before he does! I know kids can be stupid about stuff, but would they really say all this stuff about drugs looking cute, like candy? How convenient when you want to deliver the kids a lesson about how drugs are NOT candy!

This bit is actually pretty outdated: you need to shake the bottle well before using! But don't shake yourself ha ha! Then comes a chaos of various safety issues. From this, we go straight into how you should never eat spoiled food, and then they get a call that Dennis has been eating weird berries outside with Margaret, and then Dennis tries to kill a fly with Ruffy's flea powder and on and on.

This could have been divided into separate stories, which would make more sense. I don't think kids can focus on this many lessons all at once. It's also awfully wordy for children, especially when we get to the parts where it's all instructions with illustrations. Or even worse, all instructions without illustrations. It's asking a lot of young readers. To add insult to injury, all of this reads as pretty dull and forced. But the page to the parents is the worst of all - it's just a list of how many children die each year because of the hazards discussed herein. Ehh. Most parents are probably kinda sensitive to hear about children dying, right? I'm not even a parent and I felt this was ghastly. And I don't even want to think what a child would feel reading this. At least make it a separate pamphlet.

Then the eighties. You can tell right away that this is taking a completely different tack.

Firstly, there's a picture/text puzzle of the kind I used to love as a school kid. Fewer words, more fun, one simple rule.

Then the storyline. Now, I'm not going to give this an A+. It's still a bit forced and "let's teach 'em kids a lesson". But at least they've taken some lessons in how children learn. We have a familiar song with new lyrics, visual clues, and repetition. The song may have worked better in a video, but it's not a bad way to teach kids. 

Nitpick about the final comic page.
Father: "That sounds like Three Blind Mice!"
Mother: "Right - sung by two smart boys!"
How would the mother know what the song is about? Dennis is just coming home from school. Also, the story about how Dennis ate too many vitamins because he thought they were candy - is kind of forced. But miles better than "xxxx children die each year of..."

As an adult reader, I'm already sick of the song, but it might be efficient for a child.
We get a list of safety tips, which is probably best for adults. But it's not super wordy this time, and seems way more focused than the sixties one. Also: no ghastly death statistics! Just a brief countdown of how "many poisonings" happening. Nothing about dying. It doesn't read like scare tactics, and I wouldn't worry about a child reading this page by mistake.

I wonder how this would be done in 2010?

No comments:

Post a Comment