Monday, March 16, 2009

Gandhi didn't go to high school

"But that doesn't work here," they say. "That's a nice idea but that's not reality, Mr. Littell."
I argue with them but my students are adamant on this point; Gandhi and all that nonviolence stuff, all that, "Eye for an eye making the whole world blind" wouldn't last five minutes in the cafeteria.

"It's March."

That's what one principal told me after I had described the morning's events.

"It's March."

"I just wanted to give you a heads up," I said. "That's all."

It was a nice enough conversation but the topic, kids fighting, bothered me.
Two girls had almost come to blows during my class the period before. I was totally taken by surprise when it happened. All I had done is suggest that one of the girls compare notes on the beginning activity with another girl.

"I ain't gonna work with that bitch," said one and the other came back with, "Who are you calling 'bitch,' bitch?" And then it was all about friends saying this and that behind this one's back or about another one and her friends and who was pregnant and...

"Shut up! Right now," I bellowed having observed that neither one after I had asked for the third time if they would "please, stop."

They stopped. I guess bellowing works. The rest of the class wore expressions that ranged from rapt interest to shock. Perhaps if I had juggled or passed gas it would have had a similar effect but no matter, I siezed the opportunity and lunged into a talk about the culture of our school.
That was when one boy, a nice boy who worked quietly at the back of the room, said that all the stuff about not fighting, was, in his words, "bullshit" and had nothing to do with the reality of his school.

"But each reality is different," I pleaded. "You are the reality." Trying to make the point that at some other school, it's different and kids don't fight because it's social suicide.

"Mr. Littell, there ain't no school like that," said another girl.

I instisted that there was but I don't think she or anyone else in that room believed me.

"Kids at your school didn't fight?" she asked, shaking her head as if to say, "There's another one of those teacher lies."

Fighting came up again, today. Some of my students were upset about the outcome of a fight in the girls' locker room earlier in which one girl seriously hurt another. But, instead of expressing sympathy for the girl who fared worse, they were angered by the administration's response.

"That girl had it coming," said one. "She been bullying that other girl all year callin' her fat and shit and gettin' all her freinds to do it to."

Apparently, she had turned the other cheek and taken this abuse. She had gone to the administration to complain and, even after her mother had called to complain, the taunting continued but worse.

"She just snapped," said one girl. "You know?"

So much for Gandhi.

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