The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

October 12, 2013

October 12, 1929

Robert Coles (born October 12, 1929) is an American writer, a psychiatrist who has worked at Harvard University in various capacities. This much honored scholar received a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for a set of books titled Children of Crisis, based on his research among the children involved in integrating southern schools. He received a MacArthur Award in 1981.

Our focus now is on his book, The Moral Intelligence of Children, (
1997,); this has been a theme throughout Coles' career. Here we find a discussion of cats, though that is a side issue. The incident we quote involves a mother trying to teach her child not to pester, abuse, the family cat. We are talking about a child between one and two years old. In the words of Robert Cole:

The cat knew how to take care of itself, more or less --[and]  kept a safe distance from the child, who at times unsuccessfully chased it around the house. [The mother tried unsuccessfully to explain to the child not to grab at the cat, and even pinched the child, the way the child had the cat]. When the cat did reappear, (cats have a way of being masters and makers of their own fate)...the little girl ...kept her considerable distance from the cat...

The point was how hard it could be to communicate to children, because the result of a child fearful of the family cat was not the desired outcome. Coles parallels this story with his own family and how he himself has yelled and frightened his child regarding their own dog. No indication the Coles' had a family cat. Interesting that such a brilliant researcher should resort to tired cliches about the feline species.

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