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Socially conscious Toys for Tots - Tom Purcell

Ah, the Christmas season is upon us. What better time to make our children more socially and environmentally aware.

I refer to an interesting item in The National Post: More toymakers are producing products designed to make children sensitive to important issues.

Little Billy wants a truck this year? How about a bright green recycling truck made from recycled milk jugs?

Little Susie wants a doll? How about the American Girl doll? The doll and her single mother are homeless and live in the back seat of a car.

Unfortunately for me, my parents were unenlightened in the '60s and early '70s.

When I was 5, they gave me a set of wood blocks for Christmas. They didn't care about the trees that were felled -- or the fossil fuels that were consumed -- to produce such an environmentally "damaging" toy.

One Christmas, they got my sisters an Easy-Bake Oven. That thoughtless product encouraged my sisters to become homemakers -- rather than pursue important careers in government or academia -- at the same time it employed an energy-gobbling incandescent light bulb to bake the cake.

I trust this menace of a product will cease production when Congress' ban on the incandescent bulb goes into full effect in 2014.

Worse than the Easy-Bake Oven were the Barbie dolls my sisters got one year. Barbie was unrealistically trim, busty and beautiful and, therefore, bad for their self-esteem -- not to mention she was made from non-recyclable plastic.

And worse than the wood blocks I received as a youngster was the GI Joe action figure I got another year. That toy, of course, taught me to celebrate war and aggressive male behavior.

Whereas testosterone-induced risk taking has been bred out of many American men, I still suffer from its effects -- in no small part because of the lessons Joe instilled in me.

As my sisters and I grew older, our parents gave us other wrong-headed gifts for Christmas.

One year, I received a Hot Wheels set. Hot Wheels are miniature die-cast cars -- replicas of popular muscle cars -- that whipped around a plastic track at lightning speed.

I credit that awful product with my lifelong passion for cars that go fast at the expense of the environment.

The worst gift we ever got, though, was the board game my parents bought us in the '70s: Monopoly.

It taught us to celebrate property ownership, and that it is better to own than to rent.

It taught us to celebrate capitalism and that only through cautious risk may one attain wealth.

It taught us to be unconcerned for the needy or the precious resources American capitalists so mindlessly consume.

It is because of this heartless game that I registered as a Republican.

I know my parents did the best they could to raise their six children.

I know they thought a child's job was to play, invent, roam and discover, not be indoctrinated by adults about matters of the adult world.

I know they were so consumed with teaching us basic morals and values, they had little time for much else.

Still, Christmas would have been so much more productive had they been as enlightened as parents are today.

As I said, the Christmas season is upon us. What better time to make our children more socially and environmentally aware.

Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.