Bruce Pascoe has recently written a short children’s book and was illustrated by Charmaine Ledden-Lewis. The story involves a young calf that is taken away from its cow family. The calf escapes being driven away by the farmer and ends up being taken in by horses. Although the calf recognises some similarities with itself and and the horses, it knows that the horses are not its family. The calf seeks out its true family and is eventually reunited.
The book is targeted for an audience of 8 and under. The emphasis is focussed on the illustrations as much as what is written. The imagary expresses the emotions of the calf. Its fear when approached by the farmer. Its fear when put in the truck. Its sadness when it loses its mother. And the joy when reunited.
This story implicitly acts as a thought experiment. The thought experiment is in the form of an argument from analogy. The analogy is the experience of children of the Stolen Generations.
The Stolen Generations are a series of events from the early 1900s to the late 1960s where Indigenous Australian children were forcibly removed from their families by the State. The purpose of these policies were to target fair skinned Indigenous children (which were called at the time ‘half-castes’) and attempt to breed out what remained of their aboriginality.
The goal of the book is to produce a sense of empathy with the calf. However, at this stage a young child may be unaware of the events of the Stolen Generations. So, the thought experiment comes to fruition when children become aware of the Stolen Generations. This form of thought experiment is sometimes called an ‘intuition pump’. The intuition being ‘pumped’ is empathy. This approach is useful regarding educating children on the Stolen Generations. Children can be taught the facts about what occured, but what can missed is the appreciation of what it would be like to be a victim of the Stolen Generations.
There is another emotion I noticed whilst reading the book with my son, which was the fear experienced by the calf. The farmer taking the calf away represents the government officals that would take Indigenous children away. The farmer was someone feared by the calf. The analogy with Indigenous Australians is that under such policies, government officials and the police who would enforce their policies were people to be feared. To witness a police car arriving would often cause Indigenous parents to hide their children out of fear that they would be taken. Whilst educating children on the Stolen Generations, empathising with this historical relationship between Indigenous Australians and law enforcement.
The calf’s relationship with the horses represents the families that would adopt Indigenous children that were stolen. The book helps demonstrate that even though the calf may be treated well and taken care of by the horses, it still knows that they’re not its family. Similar to Indigenous children raised by an adoptive family, the too know that they are not their family.
The book introduces this concept in a very accessible way. It is not too confronting, and allows parents to introduce the history of the Stolen Generations at a time they feel appropriate. And it includes an empathetic understanding of the Stolen Generations.
There is an opportunity, I believe, to use a similar method for older audiences. Perhaps even some adults. Bernard Williams once used a thought experiment involving aliens to discuss Colonisation. See here: https://philosophycriticalthinking.com/2020/02/15/thought-experiment-bernard-williams-aliens/
If anyone wishes to buy Found, it is available in the link below.