My son and I were hunting for books in the children’s section of the local library recently when I noticed a book entitled Asking About Sex & Growing Up (subtitled, A Question and Answer Book for Kids). When I saw the saw the author’s name, Joanna Cole, I did a double take. Ms. Cole, I realized, is the author of the popular Magic School Bus Series of children’s books. My son had taken a few of the seemingly ubiquitous texts home from his school library, so I was familiar with the brand.
Curious about what Cole had to say to children, I had my son pursue his literary interests independently and began reading. I was struck by the humorless quality of the writing, and several sections contain questionable assertions. However, the book’s most objectionable aspect is the way she pushes pro-abortion propaganda at young readers.
Answering the question, “Does everyone agree that abortion is okay,” Cole summarizes pro-abortion and anti-abortion viewpoints, beginning with the latter. Here’s how she describes the views of Americans who oppose the 1.2 million U.S. abortions performed each year, the vast majority having nothing to do with protecting the life or physical safety of the mother, a figure that also includes a significant number performed on fetuses that have reached the second trimester and beyond: “Many people in this country believe abortion is wrong. Some people are against it for religious reasons. Others feel it goes against nature to end a pregnancy.”
Hold the horses. Why not just tell inquiring minds why people believe abortion is wrong? Citing “religious reasons” doesn’t do the job. Ms. Cole could have easily explained that opponents of abortion contend that it is immoral, cruel, and inhuman to destroy developing human life. She could have said that many people feel abortion is tantamount to killing innocent human life. Deep philosophical or theological thoughts aren’t necessary to explain anti-abortion views. Ultrasound pictures of the fetus at various stages of development, on the other hand, as well as a discussion of exactly what an abortion does to a fetus, would be illuminating. Finally, Ms. Cole’s claim that some people oppose abortion because they “feel it goes against nature” is a non-explanation that allows her to avoid revealing pro-life arguments to her young readers.
The book’s dead-on-arrival presentation of anti-abortion arguments ends with this statement: “There are organizations that are trying to make abortions against the law again, the way it used to be.” Some clarity is needed: The organizations she ominously alludes to don’t oppose abortions necessary to protect the mother’s life. Such procedures had always been legal, including in states that had maintained traditional prohibitions against elective abortions in the years leading up to 1973, when an activist United States Supreme Court divined a constitutional right to an abortion, usurping the political process and opening the abortion floodgates.
Anti-abortion arguments don’t get heard in Joanna Cole’s court, but if pro-abortion arguments are hidden behind equally non-descriptive labels, ones that don’t give a voice to pro-abortion arguments, no harm, no foul. Such a non-description might look something like this: “Many people in this country believe that abortion is not wrong. These people support abortion because of secular reasons, including various political viewpoints and moral values. There are organizations who oppose efforts to limit a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion.”
This is not the tack Ms. Cole chooses, of course. “Other groups”, she writes, “believe that woman have a right to make choices about their lives and their bodies. They do not think that anyone should be able to tell a woman that she must have a baby because she has become pregnant. They feel that this decision is a private one and should be up to the woman and her doctor.”
And the winner is: Joanna Cole and the liberals! She prevails, of course, only by dragging the other side onto the culture war battlefield totally immobilized, vocal chords removed, unable to articulate any anti-abortion arguments, while she launches a brief but full throated attack. But these are trifling details compared to the need to indoctrinate young readers in the mythology that abortion opponents are waging a war against women.
Even Ms. Cole’s description of an abortion as “a medical procedure to end a pregnancy before a baby is born” looks touched up to reduce the chance that impressionable readers might start thinking about the reality of the procedure. It’s even less descriptive than: “induced termination of a pregnancy with destruction of the embryo or fetus” (American Heritage Dict. of the English Language, Fifth Ed.); “the removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy” (Random House Unabridged Dict., Second Ed.); “any deliberate procedure that removes, or induces the expulsion of, a living or dead embryo or fetus” (Webster’s New World College Dict., Fourth Ed.); and so on.
Ms. Cole’s explanation of an abortion does have a quant feel, perhaps it’s like the modern version of a stork delivering a baby to someone’s doorstep (or rather dropping it on the roof). But whereas the latter merely omits the act of intimacy and changes a few details regarding delivery, the former omits any reference to the developing life or the means by which it’s destroyed.
Ms. Cole tells young readers that abortion is a solution to an unwanted pregnancy. Question: “Is abortion an alternative to birth control?” Answer: “Abortion is a procedure that has risks, so people should not think of it as just another method of birth control. It is an alternative when an unwanted pregnancy has occurred and no other way of avoiding having a baby is possible.” Translation: Abortion is an alternative to birth control, to be used as necessary to kill inconvenient life.
Ms. Cole muffles anti-abortion viewpoints and feeds liberal lines about abortion, including telling children that that it is a legitimate solution to an “unwanted pregnancy,” without ever disclosing that the views expressed very much reflect her own.
Since Ms. Cole has no qualms at pushing pro-abortion propaganda at kids, I wondered whether any of the Magic School Bus Books are politicized. I didn’t have to look far to find the answer. “The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge,” published in 2010, pushes standard global warming alarmism at young readers.
The climate has warmed by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the mid-19th century, an “amazingly stable” temperature record, to borrow the words of physics Nobel Lauriate Ivar Giaever, and global temperatures are the same today as the late 1990’s, but Ms. Frizzle, the teacher who pilots the magic school bus still asks students: “aren’t you wondering why the earth is getting warmer and warmer?” The Friz makes questionable claims, like telling students that global warming is causing stronger hurricanes, despite the reality that there is no evidence of increased hurricane activity or strength in recent years.
Even more relevant than the Friz’s hackneyed climate comments are Ms. Cole’s statements about global warming and her motivation for writing the book.
As readers who follow the subject know, the science of global warming has become more, not less, contested in recent years, with a growing number of eminent scientists and researchers challenging the idea that unchecked carbon dioxide emissions will lead to severe warming and planetary catastrophe. And as projections of future warming continue to be downgraded, the need for the radical and economically destructive “solutions” that the warming establishment wishes to impose on all of humanity look increasingly suspect.
But like all good progressives, Ms. Cole has no patience for diversity in opinion. In a March 2010 interview with the children’s book magazine The Horn Book, she was asked how she would respond to the claim that the book doesn’t show both sides of the debate. (To be clear, the book doesn’t give children the slightest hint that there is a robust scientific debate concerning the extent to which CO2 emissions will warm the planet.)
“It would be dishonest to give a ‘side’ that is unscientific,” she proclaims. The debate, says Ms. Cole, is a “false controversy” fueled by “deniers” who “get a lot of press”.
Scholastic Canada’s description of the book includes “a note from Joanna Cole” that offers a snapshot of Ms. Cole’s indoctrinating impulses. “Our young readers will be voters before we know it,” she writes, “and educating them today will influence their actions as they grow older.”