Darwin’s Rainbow

I sincerely hope that all of you remember Reading Rainbow. It was a great show, and it encouraged young people to get off their video game addicted butts and do something that stimulated the brain. Reading Rainbow was a TV show on PBS that ran from 1983 to 2004, in which Kunta Kinte would introduce us to books.

As a photographer, I pride myself on my mini library of photo books. Whenever I’m at a thrift store, I look around for anything remotely about picture taking. I never know when I’ll pick up a book and learn a new technique, or be inspired by a piece or style.

I purchased one such book about three months ago titled Night Markets by Joshua Horwitz for 99 cents. It’s an interesting photo essay / children’s book about how the demand of food in New York City creates a unique series of happenings between sundown and sunup. The book covers all aspects of the food industry, which includes the transportation, the preparation and the selling.

On the cover of this book is a graphic that says, “Reading Rainbow Book.” This book was published in 1984, and I’m guessing that the criteria for children’s’ books were a bit more flexible than they are now, because by today’s standards there are some pretty inappropriate images.

There are pictures of animals hanging from hooks, ribs being sawed apart and dead fish. By dead fish, I don’t mean fillets. I’m talking fish cut open with a smile still on its face.

If this book would have come out this year, in this current social climate; I have to think that some mother somewhere would have raised hell. “My child doesn’t need to see death in a book!” In this day and age, if something is even vaguely controversial, someone is going to do more than just complain about it because stupid people are surprisingly resourceful. It would be all over the news.

Now, I’m fine with showing this to children. The book is made for children ages 8 to 12 and I think someone of this maturity level can handle this sort of stuff. If you’re old enough to order a dead animal, I think you’re old enough to know the origin of your meal. It’s important to know where things came from and have those kinds of questions answered, as disappointing as it may be.

I’m actually still recovering from the whole stork thing. What can I say? I was fascinated by physics as a kid, and the idea that a bird could balance a baby in flight blew my mind. I always had my doubts though, even before I was told; mostly because I didn’t think storks could tie the knot required to secure a baby in a sheet.

So letting a kid know that their hamburger once had a face or that the fish they are eating was swimming a few days ago is a lot better than having them think it magically appeared in front of them. I don’t know what we are protecting kids from. Personally, I think this is just one instance in an overall decay that is today’s parenting.

My uncle Darwin knew how to parent. He was a firm believer in survival of the fittest. His kids never wore any protective gear when they played sports. They never wore seatbelts or car seats. In fact, he never baby-proofed the house either. He didn’t want his descendants to grow up privileged and spoiled.

None of his children actually lived past the age of eight, but I’m sure they would have been fine human beings.

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