Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dick and Jane Meet the TSA

Many years ago, before the advent and popularization of the phonetic method of reading instruction, American children were taught to read using the "whole word" technique.  From the 1920s to the 1970s, elementary schoolteachers used very simple "primers," or basic instructional books, using a limited vocabulary, repetition, and lots of pictures.  The most widely utilized series of such books were the "Dick and Jane" books, written by William S. Gray and Zema Sharp.  Generations of elementary school students learned to read by studying these books, starting with the classic Fun with Dick and Jane, to the point where the children in the books became iconic figures of American childhood.

In the 1970s, American educationalists decided that the "whole word" approach was inadequate and outdated, and phonics became the order of the day.  Nevertheless, Dick and Jane remained embedded in the national psyche, and are still fondly remembered as beloved, if not particularly effective, symbols of childhood.

The popularity of the "Dick and Jane" books is, of course, a remnant of an earlier and more innocent time, before the United States and its educational system degenerated into bureaucracy and eventual savagery.  Dick and Jane are associated with World War II, the widely-reviled decade of the 1950s, and the era before vampire dolls and "ultra-violent" video games became avatars of American childhood.  And, of course, Dick and Jane never lived to see the rise of the American police state, which can be observed in full flower in the continuing antics of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), which has become the bane of travelers in the once-free United States.

When the TSA was first becoming a fixture in American airports, as part of George W. Bush's mythical "war on terror," it was primarily the source of grumbling and cursing by frequent business travelers and other citizens who resented the constant interference and harassment by its genuinely stupid and insensitive employees.  As time went on, and the TSA flourished and bloomed during the Bush and Obama administrations, things got worse.  The TSA never reported the capture of any actual terrorists, but it certainly had its hands full (quite literally) with the invasion of the privacy of innocent travelers - - - including children, pregnant women, and the aged and infirm.  But it was the groping and intimidation of children that caught the public imagination most of all.  No one likes having their kids manhandled or threatened by strangers, but such treatment was now a government-mandated necessity of travel, from Miami to Seattle:


Such incidents are legion, and, in examining the phenomenon, the problem is not finding examples, but choosing just a few representative cases:


It seems that the grandchildren of Dick and Jane are having no fun at all, at least when attempting to use the public airways, train stations, or, now, even select bus stations.  The image of the TSA was not enhanced by a significant number of its employees being arrested and indicted on child pornography charges.* No one is claiming that the TSA is a nest of pedophiles, but its hiring practices seem to leave a lot to be desired.

So, how has the federal government responded?  Why, in the way that police states always respond: by producing propaganda to desensitize and lull the citizenry - - - in this case, children - - - into complacency and obedience.  Here is a recent advertisement, produced for use on the Internet and in public schoolrooms, presenting the thuggish, merciless TSA agents as friendly, happy little animals.  We've come a long way from the days of "fun with Dick and Jane:"


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