Did Enid Blyton help create a generation of leaders?


Before I start let me state in no uncertain terms that this is purely my own musings from memory, and contains not a single shred of well researched evidence on my part.

Yesterday I read an article on the mistakes parents are making that prevent their children from becoming leaders.

One of the areas concerned ‘risk’ and ‘play’. Playing is vital for children to learn many skills, physical, mental and also ethical (according to the article). The physical risks and the consequences of these (usually small) failures teach them that it’s ok to take risks, how to evaluate their potential and deal with the consequences of failure.

All quite good stuff from that research I’m sure.

Then, driving along later into my head popped (of all people) Enid Blyton, or to be more accurate, what I remembered of her books reading them 50 years ago.

Those children (Famous 5, Secret 7 I think I remember the names of the gangs) were always playing outside. Not in some nice safe urban garden, but in the ‘wilds’ of the British countryside, I suspect taken from an era even earlier than my own childhood, spent far from Britain, and where outside the urban areas, the possibilities of encountering some really dangerous snakes was a real possibility. 

So they had play, they had co-operation, and as they so often did the work of the police force in deterring crime or solving it, I guess they also had exercised their understanding of ethics in terms of working as that part of civil society who help the authorities to prevent hurt or damage to other people.

Her heroes and heroines were role models, youngsters who could achieve good. So sitting in my car at a traffic light I wondered if the people who did things such as start the Peace Corps or Oxfam had grown up believing they COULD make a difference, just as Blyton’s imaginary children did.

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14 thoughts on “Did Enid Blyton help create a generation of leaders?

  1. You have a really valid point there. The role models provided by more modern books in their estrictive settings are wimpy by comparison. There is also the ‘nanny state’ syndrome.

  2. While on holiday recently we watched a small group of children (3 girls and one boy) aged around 11 or 12 doing something really unusual. They had taken a small motorised dinghy across the river where they tied it to a tree and then climbed up a rocky cliff to a dizzying height. One by one they launched themselves off and into the river and then did it all again, and again and again. I wondered how their school mates would relate to this sort of adventurous behaviour in the real world because most of them only get an adrenelin rush when playing in the virtual world of computer games. Of course the helicopter parents of today (hover, hover, hover) would probably pronounce their parents irresponsible to allow this activity but I am sure that those kids will grow up and add more value to the world around them than their passive, over protected friends.

    In the pre-television days Enid Blyton and Arthur Ransome’s books encouraged us to use our imagination, seek adventure and to be good citizens. What kids see on television today are obnoxious kids cheeking their dumb parents and getting away with it.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with Optie, Sidey. TV in all its facets will, in the future, be held accountable for many deficits in our youth. Those children living in the countryside, without access to all our electronic media, will score much more in imagination, ie story telling, making and playing with toys, acting out different characters, the list is endless… Yet, both with electronic media and without each have positives and negatives and parents should try to hit the happy medium.

  4. Leadership is for the most part considered a individual undertaking, one that is greatly overrated I think. Then again I suppose ‘leader’ and ‘leadership’ can be considered distinctly different. I have more faith an trust when people act as a whole without a dominate. But that said, it does seem there must always be someone at the top, a leader; might explain why on one level relationships and marriages end. When it comes to causes for a greater good, there tends to be the proxy leader who speaks on behalf of others -ah, that democracy thing.

    Treating each other with dignity an respect; that no one part or person is any more important than another person is what matters. And it would seem the glue or component of that glue is self-assuredness -faith in others is just as important as faith in oneself and vise-a-verse-a.

    I grew up, to some degree, in a rough and tumble way. Though it was silently controlled by my mother. She gave us lots of lee way. I know she worried but never showed it. I guess the rope she gave us would either hang us or bring us home.

    Hope this made sense, as it seems I jumped all over the place.

    1. It does. leadership is the ability to make good decisions for the benefit of all, and to lead the way in the endevour. A relationship thrives on taking the lead in some and being the supporter in other areas.

  5. She certainly did quite a bit of reinforcing stereotypical role models too, much like Arthur Ransome, who wrote Swallows and Amazons in 1929! But I feel that in the era these stories relate too (Enid Blyton wrote children’s books from 1930s – 50s), there as a great deal more of ‘let the kids just get on with it’ – making their own entertainment etc.

    There wasn’t much so concern over children being vulnerable, however I don’t think that the risks have really changed that much: maybe what has changed is the media attention given to the risks children are exposed to nowadays and what at one time was considered OK is not considered OK any longer?

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