Leprechaun Traps and the Terrible Lessons They Teach

Leprechaun Traps and the Terrible Lessons They Teach March 17, 2015
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Creative Commons Copyright by Kevin Poh

UPDATE: This afternoon, as my children and I continued to discuss whether it was okay to trap another creature, they decided that instead of a trap, they wanted to build a hotel for the leprechaun. And to provide robots with the hotel so the leprechaun wouldn’t be lonely. So maybe it’s a reach how I critique the traps, but I’m happy as hell with what they wound up grabbing onto. Hospitality beats slavery and stealing every time.

Today, thousands — if not millions — of elementary school children learned that it was okay to trap and capture another sentient creature as long as it’s in the pursuit of wealth and treasure.

If you are the parent of a young elementary school student, chances are you spent at least part of the past few evenings throwing together the ever-popular “leprechaun trap” as part your child’s homework for St Patrick’s Day.

It’s supposed to be a bit of fun, I suppose, but there was something terribly disturbing about planning with my five-year-old how he would trap another person (leprechauns appear less like magical fairy creatures and more like humans in popular culture these days) so that we could force that person to use his power to make us rich and grant us our economic wishes.

So, let’s get this lesson straight. We are basically teaching our children that you can do just about anything — even enslave someone — as long as it’s for money and good luck. In other words, St. Patrick’s Day in many elementary school culminates with a veiled celebration of slavery and the wealth it affords slavers.

Apparently all I ever I needed to know about life capitalism I learned in kindergarten.

Of course, there is some accuracy to this innocent homework assignment for St. Patrick’s Day. Legend says Patrick himself was a slave. Of course, that’s likely not true, and some research suggests that Patrick himself might well have been a slave trader. Whatever the case, slavery has long been associated with Patrick.

Still, I really don’t want my kids going around thinking that trapping, enslaving, and stealing is in any way acceptable. While I seriously considered opting out of the assignment on religious grounds, we used the homework assignment as a way to teach why it wasn’t okay to capture people, and why people didn’t really think twice about whether we really should be setting traps for others in order to take their treasures.

I know. Major buzzkill.

But it bears remembering that what I’ve just described is essentially the story of the United States, and how it rose to economic power and wealth in the world on the backs of primarily African slaves. So embedded in our culture is the idea that’s it is morally acceptable to capture and enslave for one’s own gain that, under the guise of simple, naive fun, we give our most impressionable children homework assignments suggesting and reinforcing the idea.

Personally, if we want to offer a lesson on the pursuit of wealth on St. Patrick’s Day, I much prefer my own childhood understanding of chasing down a leprechaun.

See, I always understood that the leprechaun was at the end of the rainbow with a pot of gold, and if you ever got to the end of the rainbow, the leprechaun would give you his gold. I never thought to capture a leprechaun but to chase one. Of course, the life lesson became clear if you ever tried to find the end of the rainbow, as we once did.

Because you can never get to the end of the rainbow to find the pot of gold.

The end of the rainbow is a mirage.

It’s all an illusion, that pursuit of wealth.

It’s all an illusion, that notion that if we work hard enough and chase long enough we can be rich.

It’s all an illusion, this myth of American Dream.

As it turns out, it’s not leprechauns we’re trapping.

It’s ourselves.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Guy Norred

    Good one.

  • DM

    Really??? I am 60+ and have seen St Patricks’s Day celebrated in many various ways over many years but I have never been so brought down by a blog before as this one … Good for you for sharing about the proper way to accumulate wealth and how not to capture a leprechaun to your 5 yr old but really???
    We were told to follow the leprechaun too and get his gold but it was all in fun.
    Maybe I am missing your joke here !!??
    If not I would really not want to listen to all your other exposes’s of the year’s various holidays …. What a downer.

    • UPDATE: This afternoon, as my children and I continued to discuss whether it was okay to trap another creature, they decided that instead of a trap, they wanted to build a hotel for the leprechaun. And to provide robots with the hotel so the leprechaun wouldn’t be lonely.

      • DM

        I am happy for you and for your children. You sound like a great dad. But, to me, by sweating the small stuff, you are creating a life of “what not to do’s” rather than “joy” ….
        This world will always have bad images and attitudes and it’s getting worse. Leprechaun traps would be the least of my worries I guess.
        Maybe I am reading to much into this blog ‘written for adults’. Probably so.
        I will assume that by dealing with your children’s leprechaun traps now you are preparing them for the real traps they will face as teens and adults. But I worry at their sanitized view of the world.

      • Ha! Let’s see its 3/30 and my kids are still joyously building on their leprechaun hotel. By dealing with the traps and constructively teaching them to criticize what their authority figures tell them to do, I hope they learn to be independent, moral, and kind. I don’t think this gives the a sanitized view. I think it helps them to see the unsanitized view and to teach them through small lessons to walk in kindness and love even if no one else is.

  • Marko Blanco

    I’d hate to have been this blogger’s kid. Let the kid have a little fun you freaking dork.

    • Another lesson I try to teach my children is not to call people names.

  • Thumb Billie Mama

    and all along, I thought it was about the futility of chasing rainbows.

  • Paddy

    Sorry for you but I’ve found the end of the rainbow many times I have been richly rewarded for it also. You’ve just given up your search. Now I must clean up the clutter this pesky but fun creature created in my house!

  • Julie

    Maybe it would help to think of the leprechaun as the capitalist. Think about it. Millions of Irish are starving. These little goobers are sitting on untold wealth watching it happen and making people play silly games to gain access to something that would keep them and their families out of the cycle of grinding poverty and starvation.

    I kid but only a little. Those stories were told at completely different times to different people in different economic cultures. The leprechaun did not really represent anything like a human. They were, like fairies, the forces of random nature, neutral or even a little hateful in their interactions with humans. This story and tradition is a whole different kind of metaphor. Perhaps you could discuss this with your child. It’s important for children to understand the depth of difference in cultural expectations and metaphors.

  • Sara

    Thank you for this. I have always had an uneasy feeling about this – historical inaccuracy aside – and you named it. Capturing people – even when we consider them “less than people” like leprechauns – instills in our kids a self-centered and inhumane ideology. I look forward to how you write about elementary Thanksgiving “lessons” this fall… (!!!)

  • Pepper

    I could not agree with you more on this subject. Thank you for your heart for juatice and seeing that your children have more than the force-fed perspective of public education in their lives.