Tom Purcell: Socially conscious toys for tots

Ah, the Christmas season is upon us. What better time to make our children more socially and environmentally aware.

I refer to an interesting item in The National Post: More toymakers are producing products designed to make children sensitive to important issues.

Little Billy wants a truck this year? How about a bright green recycling truck made from recycled milk jugs?

Little Susie wants a doll? How about the American Girl doll? The doll and her single mother are homeless and live in the back seat of a car.

Unfortunately for me, my parents were unenlightened in the '60s.

When I was 5, they gave me a set of wood blocks for Christmas. They didn't care about the trees that were felled - or the fossil fuels that were consumed - to produce such an environmentally "damaging" toy.

One Christmas, they got my sisters an Easy-Bake Oven. That thoughtless product encouraged my sisters to become homemakers - rather than pursue important careers in government or academia - at the `same time it employed an energy-gobbling incandescent light bulb to bake the cake.

Worse than the Easy-Bake Oven were the Barbie dolls my sisters got one year. Barbie was unrealistically trim, busty and beautiful and, therefore, bad for their self-esteem - not to mention she was made from nonrecyclable plastic.

And worse than the wood blocks I received as a youngster was the GI Joe action figure I got another year. That toy, of course, taught me to celebrate war and aggressive male behavior.

The worst gift we ever got, though, was the board game my parents bought us in the '70s: Monopoly. It taught us to celebrate property ownership and that it is better to own than to rent. It taught us to celebrate capitalism and that only through cautious risk may one attain wealth. It taught us to be unconcerned for the needy or the precious resources American capitalists so mindlessly consume.

It is because of this heartless game that I registered as a Republican.

I know my parents did the best they could to raise their six children. I know they thought a child's job was to play, invent, roam and discover, not be indoctrinated by adults about matters of the adult world.

I know they were so consumed with teaching us basic morals and values, they had little time for much else. Still, Christmas would have been so much more productive had they been as enlightened as parents are today.

• Tom Purcell is a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.


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