Saturday, August 9, 2008

Running With Scissors

Everyone knows what not to do if you are holding scissors – run! It seems we all have that valuable piece of information in our database because it was drilled into us as children by every adult who saw us holding a pair of scissors. “Don’t run with those scissors in your hands!” It is right up there with, “You’ll put your eye out!”, as one of the most popular warnings for kids.

Now that I have kids, I have even issued both warnings myself, on occasion. In fact, in writing this I asked my 13 year-old, “What should you not do if you have scissors in your hands?” His immediate reply was, “Run!” Apparently, my wife and I have successfully parented in that area.

It is not that scissors are inherently dangerous. In fact, they are quite useful and harmless if used wisely and, especially for children, with proper supervision. So, why my sudden interest in scissor safety? Well, blame it on one of the subjects of my last entry – Oprah.

Now, I don’t want to just make this a blog about Oprah, but when I saw a release from Publisher’s Weekly that Oprah is going to add a list of recommended books for kids on her website, I thought, “Why not just give the kids scissors and tell them to see how far they can run”. Now, I realize that running with scissors is much more dangerous, physically, than reading books recommended by Oprah; but, what about spiritually?

Before the, “Don’t-you-talk-about-Oprah” crowd gets all up in arms, I’ll readily admit that Oprah has done many good things and helped many people, including children. She is without question a terrific humanitarian. I also acknowledge that her kids’ booklist is, reportedly, going to be compiled by the American Library Association's Quick Lists Consulting Committee, rather than being a list of Oprah’s favorite children’s books. And, I also agree that getting kids to reads books is a very good thing.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is that Oprah’s “spiritual” beliefs are, not only intensely held, but also actively promoted by her; particularly on her website – the same website on which this kids’ list will be found. While reading books can be a very good thing for kids, their being on Oprah’s website is not. In my opinion Oprah.com just isn’t “spiritually” suitable for kids.

For example, as it is currently set up, a visit to the “Kids Reading List” page finds the following links – in the order presented – on the left panel of the page (orah.com/article/oprahsbookclub/kidsreadinglist/pkgkidsreadinglist/20080701_orig_kids_books):

Oprah’s Book Club
A New Earth
Past Selections
Kids Reading List
Starting a Book Club

When one clicks on the “Oprah’s Book Club” link, they are immediately greeted by a promotion for the book “A New Earth” and asked the question, “Are you ready to be awakened?” This is followed by several links to get you into the book.

Similarly, the “A New Earth” link takes you to a video teaching series with Oprah and the author of “A New Earth”, prominent “New Age” author/instructor, Eckhart Tolle. There you are invited to view a message from Eckhart, who is billed as, “the man who will be guiding you toward spiritual awakening”. If you read the book and/or take the video course, you’ll find this so-called “spiritual awakening” is much more in line with the teachings, beliefs, and practices of the Eastern religions than with those of the Judeo-Christian faith.

On numerous occasions, Oprah has blurred the distinctions of these historical beliefs of the Christian faith with those of a new cultural or metaphysical “Christianity” promoted by her, and many others, that espouse each of us are god, or part of a divine being/consciousness (see last week’s blog, "Branded by Oprah"). Parents who are going to direct their children to Oprah’s website should be aware of this, particularly parents raising their children in the Christian, Jewish, or Islamic faiths.

Due to the inherently “spiritual” nature of Oprah’s website, if she wants to publish a booklist for kids, it would be better for her to create a website particularly for that purpose; or, at minimum, strip off the links to other portions of her website on that page. Doing this should not be problematic if she and/or her developers truly do not have a spiritual agenda in this matter.

By taking this step, she will help ensure parents that kids visiting the website are less likely to run with the “spiritual-scissors” offered on Oprah.com. Of course, that’s my view, what’s yours? Ouch; Watch out for those scissors!