Saturday, May 31, 2008


I hate being an adult.

It's easy for me to pinpoint the exact moment that I grew up. I was driving my car and remembering an incident from the past, an incident that I liked to think about when considering how unfair the world was to lil'ol me. And for the first time I realized that I was responsible for what I got, that I had been a turd, a great big turd, and others reacted in just they way they should have. I almost swerved off the road. The revelation that I was not always perfect, not always the victim in the story, not always innocent of the crimes I commit ... was harrowing.

That's why I wanted everyone else to shut up.

Just shut up about the kid who got voted out of the classroom. The kid who was shunned by 14 of his classmates when put to trial by a teacher trained under supervision of Adolph. Everyone waxed poetic about the behaviour of this teacher - the damage to the self esteem of that kid - the failure of mainstream education. And they should. These are all huge issues. Issues I'd like to write about. But can't.

Because I don't know if I would have been one of the 14 or one of the 2 who voted for him. God knows I experienced bullying at school, shunned for a thousand reasons by my classmates, made to feel isolated and alone. I can IDENTIFY with the kid. That should guarentee that I would have stood with him, by him, for him. But it doesn't and I know it doesn't.

There was a moment in my high school career, a brief moment, when someone was lower on the social ladder than me. There was a moment, a tiny moment, when I had to decide to be kind or be cruel. I knew, achingly, what it was like to be her, to live on the outside of acceptance - but I longed to have a moment on the other side of the fence. I had a decision to make. I made the wrong decision. I hurt her. Socially stoned her. I have never forgotten that moment, she looked at the others with hurt, at me with betrayal. She knew I knew. I knew, I knew. This is one of the most painful memories of my growing years.

And it's a memory that makes me question myself. But none of the commentators seem to have any question about themselves. The 'experts' on television condemn what happened, they with perfect skin and straight teeth, with an air of superiority that's a little frightening. The two women I heard talking about the vote in the line in Wegman's today on the way home, they were horrified - just after purposely avoiding a woman who tried to catch their eye - a woman less pretty, less thin, less ... you know. Even the disabled guy I talked to in Nashville at the conference seemed to suffer no self doubt as he talked about what should be done to the teacher - with no thought about who raised the 14 others.

I hurt for that kid, but I'm afraid, if I'd been there - that the vote wouldn't have been different. That I wouldn't have had the courage to stand with "the other" against a tide of bigotry. I don't know what I would have done if it were me, then. And it shatters me.

Tobesure I know what I would do now, but that's cheating - we all know the right answer now.

But, then ...

The fat, stupid kid that I was would have been surprised at the 'two votes' after years of empty valentines boxes, after years of hearing about birthday parties on the Monday after, after years of being unable to produce even invisible friends. Two votes would have shocked that kid. Two votes. Two whole votes. Two kids with minds of their own. Two kids with the courage to stand against 14 others. Two kids with the fortitude to look the teacher in the eye and vote her wrong. Two kids ... two little kids ... 2.

Truthfully, they surprise me now.

Don't tell me that you would have been one of the two votes, unless, UNLESS, you are willing to turn around and show me wings.

Because now, at 55, I firmly believe in angels.

That would be 2.

2 Angels.


Belinda said...

Wow. Well written and well said. Lots of food for thought for the weekend.

I'm glad there were two and if that is a microcosm of the sad world, at least there is hope.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking long & hard about this situation, and I am pretty certain how I would have voted, too, (and I am not proud of myself) The bravery the 2 little angels showed by voting no (in a public vote) is amazing. I wish to know their story. I wish to know how proud their familes must be. I wish to look into their eyes and tell them how brave and good they are. I wish to hug the little one who was voted out of class and have the opportunity to have him as one of my students. "Love Spoken Here", is what I would want him to know. As a grown-up and retired Kindergarten teacher, I cannot imagine doing what that "teacher" (and it pains me to call her that) did to all the children by holding that vote. She has caused a horrible injustice to him and to her entire class. I am wondering about her behaviours towards others, who didn't meet her criteria, on a daily basis, in and out of the classroom. It doesn't sound like she has been even reprimanded for her hurtful behaviour.
God bless the 2 Bravehearts, and God bless the little boy and his family.

Anonymous said...

I share a diagnosis with this little boy. Though I didn't know it when I was in school...I did have similar "symptoms" to his. I WAS the kid that everyone wanted to vote out. I just never had a teacher with the heartlessness to do it.

I wouldn't have voted HIM out of class.

I wouldn't have voted out the kid with Muscular Dystrophy who oftened tantrumed about how unfair his life was.

I would have voted out the people who made my life so difficult. Those people, I would have gotten rid of in a heartbeat.

That kid is lucky that he has 1 or 2 friends. He's one up on me.

Anonymous said...

I wish the parents of those two children could see what you wrote and I hope they are proud of their children and of themselves.


Treva said...

Dave, my son & I truly enjoyed our time with you and Joe in Nashville this week, and I agree with you...adulthood stinks! We know as adults that there are so many variables in life that affect our decisions. We HOPE we would make the right decisions as adults, BUT sometimes hope is lost in the power of politics. People neglect being a Dudley Do Right for a little power in a speck of time that will mean NOTHING in the long run (or adversely EVERYTHING in the long run). Oh, how I wish I were a child!

rickismom said...

Very thoughtfull. Further commentary on my blog:

Tammy said...

Extremely well written, Dave. I watched the news story about it one morning with tears, then discussed it at work with a girl who's perfectly adorable autistic son, is about to enter kindergarten. She sobbed. Her worst fear was just a "current event".
The part that got me is how the teacher really bullied, and asked this little boys, best and only friend, more than once with an extremely stern voice to change his initial vote to let him stay. That child KNEW the right thing to do, yet an adult bullied him into an opinion he didn't have. MOST 5-6 year old children would change their vote when faced with the scary, bullying by their teacher. I feel that child was victimized as well.
There were two angels in that classroom. Thank You God.

Shan said...

Good one Dave.

FAB said...

In retrospect I'm afraid I would have gone with the fourteen, back when I worried what other's thought about me. Here's the cool thing though, I have three kids, three great kids, and my oldest two have already "voted with the two" repeatedly. I am proud of them, proud that they are better than I used to be, proud that they have learned form the person I am now, not the one I used to be, proud that they teach me to be better. Maybe, those 14 will someday have children who do better, maybe those amazing 2 have taught them and us an incredible lesson. That's how it happens right? evolution takes a while, but we get there.

Heike Fabig said...

I'm pretty sure that as a kid, i would have voted the poor lad out. I was desparate to fit in, and you do whatever it takes.

That is exactly why the teacher's inititation of the vote is sooo wrong. As an adult in a power relationship over all these kids, she should have known what would happen. She wanted that kid out, and got her children to do the dirty work for her.

No one should judge those kids - just teach them. Maybe Dave, there is a workshop for you at that school? But the teacher, well, she needs to be sacked. Has see?

Ettina said...

I'm glad to say I would not only have voted for that boy, but yelled at the teacher and told my parents and got them to fight her. If it were just the other kids, I'm not so sure, but I have a long pattern of fighting with teachers about what I think is right.