Thursday, May 18, 2006

That reminds me

When I was teaching school in Hayfork, we were required by the state to have a patriotic observance every morning during first period. My moment of patriotism was to have a five minutes of free speech where you could voice any opinion. There followed a year of the most uninteresting desultory moments of free speech as ever put an English teacher to sleep. Either no one had an opinion or the opinion was some piece of local conventional wisdom which everyone already knew and was tired of.

I realize now I could have been more active about modeling free speech, give them something to think about--like sports should be outlawed in high school and give all the reasons, good and bad, and then wait for a response--stir things up a bit. But I wasn't sure how much leeway I had with this idea of mine. I had also not taken into consideration the teenage herd instinct--afraid to stand out or be different.

Finally sometime near the end of the year, one young man stood up and said, "You know, uh, those people who like the same sex people. Well, uh, I, I think that's ok. It's nobody's business."

I nearly fainted. The rest of the class pretended not to have heard. I thanked him and carried on with the day. Somehow the patriotic observance hadn't been a total failure.

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