CrippsNotes: Moore’s Treatise on Rearing Children in Late Empire America


CliffsNotes 1984










CrippsNotes is not intended to be a substitute for the original text, but rather, a handy supplement written on a seventh grade reading level to provide profits for our shareholders, and, in addition, to provide students and home school parents with a “road map” to the “bottom line.”

About the Author

Born 1952 in Summerville, South Carolina, Wesley Moore was educated in South Carolina public schools (48th state ranking). He has been married to Judy Birdsong since 1978. He is the father of two grown sons who are not currently serving time in correctional institutions. For the last 29 years, he has taught at Dorman-Postell School in Charleston, South Carolina.


A Treatise is not so much a how-to book as it is a what-not-to-do book. Based on his own childhood experiences, Moore learned valuable lessons of what not to do as a parent (for example, allowing toddlers to stand on the front seat of moving vehicles). Later, in his tenure at Dorman-Postell School in Charleston, South Carolina, Moore picked up what he calls “a veritable plethora”* of really bad parenting ideas (for example, providing $150-a-gram Columbian cocaine for a daughter’s sweet-sixteen party).

What distinguishes A Treatise from other child-rearing guides is that it places current child rearing practices in a historical context of a declining civilization and offers seemingly interminable** examples of decadent*** child-rearing practices throughout history (for example, the 17th century practice of packing a family picnic and taking the kids out to witness a drawing-and-quartering-and hanging).

Critical reaction to A Treatise is mixed. While some claim the essay is a straightforward old school plea for commonsensical approaches rearing children, others see it as an ironic satire of both how-to books and academic prose. Still others view the treatise as a sleep aid, a way for chronic insomniacs**** to fall asleep by reading it at bedtime.

Moore borrows the structure of A Treatise from the veritable plethora of 12-step programs with which he is so familiar. Each chapter is numbered as a step, Step 1, Step 2, and so on. The steps more or less follow the chronological progression of the growing child. The major theme of A Treatise is that children should not grow up thinking that they’re the center of the universe but rather as clever primates whose DNA is closer to that of chimpanzees than chimpanzees’ DNA is to that of gorillas’.

* lots

** endless

** * messed-up

** * * old people

Step 1

In Step 1, Moore argues that newborns are about as appreciative as “Chia Pets.” The key quote of the first paragraph is “Don’t expect warm fuzzies from genetically programmed self-absorbed eating and shitting machines.”

What follows the personal anecdotes is an interminable catalogue of various late empire civilizations’ attitudes towards newborns.

Here’s an analogy that summarizes the first half a Step 1. See if you can solve it.

Ancient swaddling clothes : : straightjackets
Contemporary swaddling blankets : : _________

A. effective New Age sleep aids      B. Brooks Brothers blazers

C. heterosexual Georgia Tech students    D. straightjackets

Also, according to Moore, the marriage bed is sacrosanct. The First Cardinal Do Not is to never under any circumstances allow your offspring to get in bed with you. Rather, Moore suggests, one parent (the loser of the drawing of straws) should sleep on the floor next to the vomiting and/or nightmare-plagued child.

Let’s try another analogy that sums up the second half of Step 2.

Healthy, loving marriage : : secure child

____________________ : : happy offspring

A. frequent spousal sex       B. nightly fireside readings of Pilgrim’s Progress

C: daily visits to cemeteries    D. an arid sexless union

Reading Quiz

What is the last name of the author?

Discussion Question

What do you think of CrippsNotes new fonts, Rockwell Casual Bold and New Times Roman?

Step 2

Moore urges parents never to argue (or to attack physically) a spouse in front of a child. He cites studies suggesting that an affectionate marriage is the most important factor in providing a child security.

From his own childhood, Moore cites an incident when his father, an artist and sculptor, painted in shoe polish on the family’s dining room wall a recreation of the famous lithograph of Preston Brooks beating the abolitionist Charles Sumner with a cane; however, the elder Moore replaced Brook’s head in profile with his wife’s (i.e. Moore’s mother’s head) and Sumner’s face with his own.

The younger Moore claims that this made him feel insecure, especially when eating tomato-based dishes.


What follows his anecdotes is an interminable catalogue of historical late empire spousal arguing culminating with a long, drawn out analysis of Agrippina and Claudius’s constant sniping at each other and its unfortunate impact on their son Nero.

Reading Quiz

With what did Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner?

Discussion Question

What are shareholders? Do your parents own stock in CrippsNotes? If not, why do you suppose that your parents don’t love you?

Step 3

Moore is emphatic on one point:

Don’t use television as a pacifier or a babysitter, and at all costs, avoid Sesame Street the way you normally do Jehovah’s Witnesses and Amway salespeople. Sure, your son or daughter might learn how to count to ten in Spanish, but the trade off that is that he or she will end up with the attention span of a Mexican jumping bean. Of course, occasions may arise when compromise is necessary. For example, it might be worth having your child watch television for twenty or so minutes if it provides the opportunity for the daily spousal sex that is so necessary in the rearing of a healthy, happy child. In that case, choose movies or shows produced before 1960 that don’t use quick editing but rather present long, static set pieces, movies like Lawrence Oliver’s 1948 Hamlet or television shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents.












Reading Quiz

Which ethnic group is most likely to be insulted by Moore’s indelicate* jumping bean metaphor?

A. The Jews who run Hollywood B. Jehovah’s Witnesses

C. Mexicans D. ostriches and emus

When answering multiple-choice questions, remember to eliminate incorrect choices first. For example, answer D can be eliminated because although ostriches and emus have every right to be offended at Moore’s unjust pillorying** of Big Bird, they are not ethnic groups, so D cannot be the correct answer. Likewise, Jehovah Witnesses theoretically can be of any race or ethnicity; therefore, B should also be eliminated. That leaves A and C. Note that the question stem reads “most likely.” Although Steven Spielberg and the Coen Brothers have every right to be outraged, Jews aren’t directly named, unlike Mexicans. Therefore, it follows that Mexicans are more likely than Jews to be offended, though, of course, chances are that nearly everyone should be offended.

Step 4

Although Moore is very down on television, he’s very up on storytelling and books, so he encourages parents to read often to their children, particularly from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, citing Bruno Bettelheim and his book The Uses of Enchantment as a central text.

Moore then goes on to urge parents to make bedtime an “enjoyable literary ritual” so that going to sleep will be perceived as fun for the child. Although Moore acknowledges that working moms and dads might be tempted to let their little ones stay up past their bedtimes so the family can share some quality time, he emphatically insists that they go to bed no later than eight because 1) Children need lots*** of sleep and 2), Parents need to provide ample time for the frequent spousal sex “that is the cornerstone in the construction of a healthy, happy, and cooperative child.”

Reading Quiz

Which of the following is preferable to Moore, a classic Bugs Bunny cartoon or a minstrel-show-type reading aloud of Joel Chandler Harris?


** dissing

** * a veritable plethora

Discussion Question

After studying carefully the 2 illustrations below, attempt to explain what in the world Bettelheim is thinking when he argues that the story depicted in the second illustration is healthier for children than the story depicted in the first.




Step 5

Moore’s fifth step begins with his Second Cardinal Do Not, and that is “Do not lie to your child.”

Once again, Moore begins with childhood anecdotes about his personal upbringing. It is in Step 5 that he starts to dramatize, rather than tell, the sad story of his childhood:

7 year-old- Moore: Mama, why is Daddy thrashing around the den in fetal position, keening like a banshee?

Mama Moore: He stumped his toe.

7 year-old- Moore: Oh.

Real reason: Clemson lost.

Then he offers examples from his own child rearing when he successfully avoided lying to his sons.

5 year-old Harrison: Dad, where do babies come from?

Moore: What do you mean, “Where do babies come from?”

5 year-old Harrison: I mean, like, where do they come from

Moore: They come from whatever town they were born in. For example, your mom was born in Decatur. She comes from Decatur.

5 year-old Harrison: Oh.

* * *

6 year-old Harrison: Dad, where do babies come from?

Moore: What do you mean, “Where do babies come from?”

6 year-old Harrison: I mean how are they made?

Moore: They come from an age-old alchemic formula, metaphorically speaking, of course. this so-called age-old alchemic formula – well, it’s not so much a formula as it is a physiological phenomenon or act, if you will. Now this formula or process or physiological phenomena or act, whatever you want to call it, goes by many names, but the one that I think is the best is coitus from the Latin –

Hey, Harrison, where are you going? Don’t you want to know where babies com from?

* * *

8 year-old Ned: Dad, Jeff says there’s no such thing as Santa Claus!

Moore: You mean that Jeff doesn’t believe that a deathless Scandinavian Elf who dwells in the most uninhabitable terrestrial spot imaginable can defy Newtonian gravitational laws as he and his reindeer circumnavigate the planet bestowing obscenely extravagant gifts on the superrich while conversely sprinkling highly flammable baubles* to the offspring of the under classes, all in the name of a First Century subversive rabbi who preached communism?

8 year-old Ned: Oh.

To his credit, Moore admits to failure at times himself, succumbing to the convenience of the easy lie.

10 year-old Ned: Hey Dad, why are you kicking that tree?

Moore: I Stepped in some dog doo.

10 year-old Ned: Gross!

Real reason: Gamecocks lost.

*Chinese crap

Step 6

In Step 6, the halfway point of A Treatise, Moore reverses his typical order by starting with the historical before the personal – in this case a comparison and contrast between the curricula of healthy mid-empire cultures (e.g. the trivium and quadrivium of Renaissance Europe) and the curricula of contemporary decadent late-empire America (e.g., college courses such as “Studies in Contemporary Queer Theory: The Gayness of D.C. Comics’ Superheroes Green Lantern and Aquaman.”

All of this provides a lead in to Moore’s advice on Education. He submits that a childhood spent “in sandboxes rather than in front of idiot boxes* makes it less likely that parents will need massive dosages of Ritalin to keep little Olivia or Chamberlain on task.

Also, he suggests that you avoid competition. For example, although T-Ball and soccer might provide youngsters with some socialization skills and a chance to perform as a member of a team, participating in those sports could also cause irreparable harm. For example, parents participating in sports with their children, whether as coaches or spectators, might have less time for spousal sex, what Moore calls “the alpha and omega of rearing a healthy, happy, productive, and academically high-achieving child.”


Reading Quiz

Name a superhero mentioned in Step 6.

Discussion Question

After carefully studying the two illustrations below, explain who is the gayest of the superheroes depicted.

droppedImage_3 droppedImage_4






Steps 7 – 11

Like many other so-called classics like The Faerie Queen and Finnegan’s Wake, which no living human being has ever read in their entirety, A Treatise becomes virtually indecipherable at this point; therefore, chances are that your instructor is relying on CrippsNotes himself and not hacking his way through that jungle of tangled syntax and post hoc; ergo propter hoc fallacies* that impede the path of a reader in
search of meaning.

*Post-hoc, ergo propter hoc is an informal logical fallacy. The Latin phrase means after this, therefore because of this.” In other words, A occurs before B; therefore A is the cause of B. For example, in Step 1 Moore tells us that his maternal aunt slept in bed with her mother and their Chihuahua until the aunt was fourteen and the Chihuahua died of the mange. Of course, under these conditions, spousal sex is nearly impossible. Moore blames this arrangement on his aunt’s subsequent bouts of schizophrenia.

Step 7

Don’t make idle threats:

If little twelve-year-old Olivia is whining about how tough she has it because you won’t let her dress up like Brittany Spears for Halloween, threaten her with having to watch a documentary on Darfur or taking trip to a burn clinic. If she doesn’t heed your warning, make her watch that video and visit the burn clinic.

Step 8

Don’t expect your children to be better scholars than you were.

Step 9

Don’t over-schedule your children like the rest of the parents in your neighborhood. After all, they’re the idiots who elected Bush and then reelected him despite his launching a disastrous war that’s hastening the end of the American Empire and our very way of life.

Step 10

If your child must play a sport, make it an individual sport like tennis or surfing or golf, because flinging a lacrosse ball against a house by yourself is not as much fun for a middle-aged person as playing tennis, surfing, or shooting golf.

Step 11

Don’t let your child amass debt via student loans. Pay for his or her college even if it means he has to slum it at the University of Florida rather than attending Bennington College.

Making Inferences

Sometimes teachers and professors expect you to make inferences. Rather than telling you directly what’s the scoop, they expect you to use critical thinking strategies to “read between the lines” and figure out for yourself what subtle signs that infer the correct answer.

Reread the paragraph under Step 11 and see if you can figure out which student below attends Bennington College and which one attends the University of Florida.

droppedImage_3 droppedImage_2






Step 12

Although 12-Step programs traditionally end with a statement of spiritual awakening, Moore’s ends with merely this:

Don’t take yourself or your children too seriously!

One thought on “CrippsNotes: Moore’s Treatise on Rearing Children in Late Empire America

  1. Pingback: My Open Letter to Teenagers – You Do Hoodoo?

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