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I believe it was Sigmund Freud who said, "Show me a child who refuses to color and I'll show you the next Adolf Hitler," which was a bold claim, considering Hitler was already alive and coloring his heart out in Austria at the time. The point Freud was making is that children are naturally drawn to the act of coloring. It's soothing, like a gentle pat on the back, or codeine. A new box of crayons is to kids as a new box of smokes is to American adults living below the poverty level. Everyone loves to color.
So it makes sense that over the years educators have tried to combine something kids love (coloring) with something they hate (learning). Unfortunately, just because you can create a simplified version of real-life events in an easy-to-color format doesn't mean you should. Some subjects are far too weighty for mulberry pink or macaroni-and-cheese orange. These coloring pages happen to be the worst of the bunch.
Experts have known for years that coloring can be an effective form of therapy for kids. Unless, of course, you're asking them to color the very thing that traumatized them in the first place. For example, a giant intoxicated Easter bunny or a national tragedy.
Imagine you're a New Yorker sitting in a classroom 10 years after the World Trade Center attacks. To commemorate the anniversary, your teacher hands you a sheet that requires you to color the smoke billowing from the towers. Do you choose gray? Maybe a nice black-and-white mix with a little splash of cadet blue to add texture? The important thing is that you keep your strokes in the lines while remembering that under all those windows are thousands of trapped office workers and firefighters running for the exits before the buildings fall. It's tempting to give the publishers of this crime against taste the benefit of the doubt, as if their hearts were in the right place, even if they had the subtlety of a nuclear holocaust. The temptation to assume the best about the publisher is obliterated once you see the rest of the coloring book.
The commemorative 9/11 coloring book was published in August 2011, so the illustrators were sure to include the capture of Osama bin Laden as the perfect bookend to the WTC attacks. Not only are kids given the opportunity to color the gray in bin Laden's beard (maybe the same gray as the smoke from the towers?), they're also allowed to color his human shield -- a WOMAN. If you take the time to use the sharpener on the back of your coloring box, you can really capture the twinkle in her eyes. If you waited a year, you could get the 2012 edition, which included real-life terrorist trading cards. Youths finally have an excuse to ask each other if they'd like to trade a Loughner for an al-Ghamdi!
If you want your kids to read about peace and harmony and all the good emotions and happy blessings that this world has to offer, hand them a transcript from an episode of The Cosby Show. If you want your kids to learn about warmongering, murder, gratuitous scenes of incest, and God-driven bear mauling, point them to the Bible, because it's all in there. Better yet, send them to Sunday school. There's a great chance the teacher will not only pass along the Bible story, but also make sure your kid does a craft to reinforce what he or she learned.
For example, do you remember the 10 plagues of Egypt? This was the series of atrocities God inflicted on the Egyptian people when the pharaoh wouldn't let the Hebrews leave the country, starting with turning the Nile into blood. Here's a craft any Sunday school teacher could use to help kids remember the first plague. The paper plate represents the Nile, the red crayons represent blood, and the enormous Seussian dead birds represent the wildlife killed by Pharoah's stubbornness. You can tell they're extra dead because of the "X"s where their eyes should be. I don't know why they're placed in that unfortunate sexual position, though.
Skipping ahead to the sixth plague, Egyptians were cursed with incurable boils. Not freckles or birthmarks or extra fingers or faulty broilers -- boils. Maybe boils that exploded in pus; the Bible isn't clear what they were filled with. But that's OK, because it's always better for children to use their imaginations anyway. How else will they learn?
Church House Collection
The "google" eyes will really make the picture.
Moving along, the 10th plague cuts to the chase and straight up murders the firstborn gentile children of Egypt. Don't worry, the Angel of Death does the deed while the kids are sleeping. He can tell who to kill by the blood on the door. If there's lamb's blood on the doorpost, the AoD passes over. Get it? Passover? Ha ha. Modern kids won't forget the lesson after coloring in the lamb blood or the gleam on the angel's sword.
It's hard to find coloring sheets depicting what happens when the houses aren't marked ... but not too hard!
I'm of the opinion that Black History Month should be Black History All the Time, and every snide comment about "What about white history month??" should be followed with an eye roll and a gentle reminder to stop being awful. But here's the thing -- if you're going to celebrate the best and the brightest of your culture, let's stick to the best and the brightest. The folks at KnoxNews.com disagree. Why only illustrate coloring pages of heroes, innovators, and geniuses when you can also color the most important black entertainers from April of 1989?
Someone had to draw that picture of Jackee. Then someone else had to make it available for the Internet. Both of those actions took place AT LEAST 10 years after Jackee was a relevant part of pop culture conversation. So what Knox News ended up with was a roster full of A-list important people mixed with H-list celebrities whose moment in the sun ended before the Clinton administration. On the other hand, good luck finding any other Lionel Richie coloring page that's this ... perfect.