An interesting perspective. March 19, 2013Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: My Several Worlds, Pearl Buck, Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth
Silence Dogood here. I just finished reading Pearl Buck’s memoir, My Several Worlds, that I’d found in the discard pile at my little local library. Pearl Buck is still revered around here, since she made her final home near Doylestown, PA, not more than an hour away. But, though she won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature—one of only two American women who have ever won it, the second being Toni Morrison—I confess I have never read any of her novels, not even the celebrated one, The Good Earth.
That will change now, though, now that I see her very astute eye and observations. I’ll find The Good Earth and read it. But what impressed me the most about her autobiography was not her life in China, which encompassed both the Boxer Rebellion and the Communist takeover, but her reflections on the role of children in society. She says:
“Americans are citizens from the moment they are born, and not when they become twenty-one years of age. By then, if they have not performed the acts of a citizen in a democracy, it is too late. They remain irresponsible and therefore immature. From the first grade on, the child should be taught his duties as a citizen, and given his voice in municipal matters and then in state and nation.”
Certainly this doesn’t reflect on my own education, where I was taught neither the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, nor anything about our political history and responsibilities at all, ever. I had to read them later, on my own, when I developed an interest in Colonial and Federal America.
The thought that a child should have a role in government was considered so absurd that it was literally unthinkable: No one could possibly have thought of it. Certainly, I and my parents and grandparents and their parents never thought of it. And yet it’s an interesting idea, as so many of Pearl Buck’s ideas are interesting, contrasting as she does the ways of pre-Communist China, such an ancient civilization, with America, such a youthful civilization. I wonder what the world might be if it were Pearl Buck’s and not ours.
‘Til next time,