|The Times (11 March
2003) reported that Dr. Brian Young of Exeter University thinks watching
the Tank Engine programmes is bad for children because there too many
crashes in them. Dr. Young who advises the Independent Television Commission,
"Children under the age of five often get what they see on television mixed up with reality.In response to this Kate Kellaway in The Observer (Sunday, 16 March 2003) noted:
'It is not the first time that Thomas has offended. Parents are like Fat Controllers; they believe they can direct their children's reading and are quick to raise the alarm - or activate the level crossing - whenever a book sends out the wrong signals. In the Seventies, feminist critics took against the sexist nature of the Thomas stories (male engines dragging giggling female carriages behind them). What kind of an amorous model was Thomas setting small boys? There was a horrible moment, too, when it appeared that Thomas might be racist (the word 'nigger' appeared in a story that was then withdrawn).'Another problem with Dr. Young's hypothesis is that he is only looking at the number of crashes in the stories rather than their actual content.
Since my two young sons, Michael and Niles, insist on constantly playing Thomas the Tank Engine videos I can say with some authority that the trains involved in these crashes are always recovered and put back into operation.
Furthermore, the trains often crash because they are naughty , so the programmes show the consequences of literally going off the rails. We should also be aware that the locomotives themselves are subject to more stress than their viewers. This is elaborated in an article 'Occupational Stresses of Sentient Locomotives' in the January 2001 edition of Plokta online.
Thomas can also have other positive qualities as noted by Adelle Jameson Tiltonin in an article entitled National Autism Awareness Month:
'The Autism Society of America is planning radio and television public service announcements to increase public awareness. Additionally, they will be producing a new video about Autism, and have even linked up with that "cheeky little engine" Thomas the Tank, to further the cause of Autism Awareness. I know from personal experience the importance of Thomas and his friends. My son, who was unreachable and isolated in his own world, made his first major breakthrough into "our world" because of Thomas the Tank Engine. The choice of Thomas and his friends holds special meaning to me, and is an outstanding choice for a "SpokesTrain" for Autism.'If as Dr. Young suggests watching Thomas will make children frightened of riding on trains, can we then assume that watching Tinky Winky in the Teletubbies will make them frightened of homosexuals? In February 2006, Lewis Kass wrote to me with a viewpoint that supported Dr. Young:
Dear Sir:I admit that many of stories are about competition and disagreements (the trucks in particular are always very naughty) but you could argue that they reflect the disputes and world view of young children. Any further comments for or against are very welcome.
Deb Morse, in contrast with Kass emailed me with this viewpoint:
Thomas the Tank Engine is not sexist at all. The show is perfect there were enough females and I'm not going to buy this crap that its sexist just because female carrigages are getting dragged around by males. Everyone that says it is is stupid. They don't understand other people's culture you can't have your kids' life sugar coated all the time. So anyone that says it's sexist doesnt know what sexist means.In support of her, Jay Monaghan, wrote to say:
Dear Sir,Cody Cagle also supports Thomas:
I watched Thomas the Tank Engine on television as a young child. My mother and Grandmother would read me the books. They would also buy me the models of Thomas and all his friends. Thomas has been a big part of my life. I know own my own narrow gauge railroad and work as a conductor on another. The people that say the program is “wrong” or “sexist” need to reexamine it. Yes, accidents do occur in the show, but they happen in life too. Children need to know that life has its rough times, but it also has good times as well. The shows portray both, not just the bad things.
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