Monday, March 9, 2015

Microstory 9: Sticks and Stones

Young Samuel Doolin sat in his class, hardly paying attention to what the teacher was saying. He was brighter than the other students, and should have been placed at least two grades higher. But he didn't care enough about school to let anyone know that. One phrase the teacher said, however, caught his ear. "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me."

Samuel cleared his throat, prepared himself, and raised his hand. Once called on, he said, "you're a stupid f***ing c***."

In the principal's office, Samuel was calm and collected. The principal, of course, asked him where he learned those words, and why he felt that it was necessary to say them. "Well, I speak English, don't I?" Samuel asked. "And they were necessary to illustrate a point."

"Which is?" the principal asked, curious.

Samuel began the apology. "There are three things wrong with the sticks and stones rhyme. First, it's just a lie. Words are powerful. And they can hurt deeply. Walk into a room of black people and say the "n" word, and just wait for the reaction. Secondly, the rhyme gives bullies free rein to say whatever they want, without repercussions. Obviously, that can't be true either as I am sitting right here. Thirdly, the rhyme places the responsibility on the victim to change their behavior. The bully was just saying whatever they wanted, as they are free to do. Should the victim is simply grit their teeth and ask for more?

Samuel continued, "you may either punish me for my actions, and reform your policies, or you can let me go and stick to your outdated and ridiculous values. But I will not stand for hypocrisy. Either I can say what I want because words can't possibly hurt others, or I can't, and the rhyme should be abolished from the curriculum."

The principal sat for a long while after the speech. "Okay. That makes sense. I won't punish you, because you brought up some good points. But we will change."

"No," Samuel insisted."You absolutely must punish me. That's part of the reformation. I did this in order to elicit change, not to get a rise out of you and my teacher. If I expect you to not be hypocritical, I cannot rightly be so myself." He was given detention for a week. And things began to change. Slowly.

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