Why is my AWARD –WINNING library useless when it comes to books on the Black Plague? I use the term in to mean a very specific event in Medieval Europe, the common usage of the term, an event that some estimate killed as many as World Wars One and Two combined (not including the Holocaust). Doesn’t that seem like an something that should be covered? Instead my library (which is fairly large and amazing) has three books on the topic in the adult section. Combined they are about 200 pages, all with the amount of information you might find in an Eyewitness book (you know these books right? They are mostly pictures with some lengthy captions that only cover what you probably learned up through middle school). If you have some ideas about where I should look, let me know. Especially if you know of any scholarly books that would include information about Jews and how Jews were treated during this period (Semitic history is my particular interest in history, and this is a time I would like to know more about).
Every morning my class starts with the Pledge of Allegiance. This has been going on since the first day of summer, and yet this morning was different. This morning, my class stood for the Pledge and several of my kids began acting up, speaking in silly voices, playing around, etc. My plan for this, one of the last days of summer vacation, was to say the Pledge, take attendance and let them go. Instead, we began a discussion on what the Pledge means. I got as far as explaining the words “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America” mean (essentially) “I promise to respect my country” when “it” began. “It” is my understanding of my children’s political backgrounds. One of them said, “Why should we respect this government? The government sucks.” Another added, “Our president is terrible.” Then it really began. “People only voted for him because he’s black and they wanted the first black president.” “He’s not black stupid. He’s Hawaiian.”
Whooooa. Hold on kids. Let Miss Tina talk. And so talk I did. I talked about why our government is good. I talked about how we have privileges, and with those privileges come responsibilities. I think they understood that, coming as it did mere weeks after our discussion about heroes (thank you Peter Parker!). I explained that one of the privileges is that we don’t EVER after have to share who we voted for, but that I wanted to share with them. I told them that I voted for President Obama and I could guarantee I didn’t vote for him because of his skin color. That I didn’t know anyone who voted for him for that reason, but that perhaps some people did. However, there are some people who refused to for him because of the color of his skin. That outraged my class. We’ve talked about segregation and people like MLK, so they understood what I was saying. They wanted to know why I voted for him, so I explained that one of those responsibilities is to be an educated voter, and that I agreed with him about more stuff than McCain. They wanted to know what that stuff was. I asked them what they knew, and you guys these were their answers…“He thinks we should kills babies who are six months old.” (Please note I asked for this one to be repeated, assuming I heard it incorrectly.) “He let the people who knocked down the Twin Towers go free.”
So I felt I had three choices. End the discussion, and let my kids (age 6-9) go about with misinformation. Talk about abortion to my small children. Talk about torture and 9/11 with my kids. You guys, I have always felt that if I CAN answer a question I should. I couldn’t just end the discussion and perhaps their curiosity about politics. I talked to my kids about torture. We talked about the war in Iraq (we probably should have been more sure about their participation in 9/11). We talked about what torture is (hurting people, or threatening them, to make them tell us stuff) and why we shouldn’t do it (not nice, doesn’t work, agreed we wouldn’t). We talked about the consequences (other countries might do it to our guys, makes people not like us). I told them that President Obama did NOT want to just let the people who “knocked down the Twin Towers” go free. They asked intelligent questions, they listened to what I had to say, better than they had all summer. I tried to give them facts. I tried to keep my opinions out of it because I don’t want to make them think any specific thing (Inception!), I want them to form their own opinions as they get older. But, I talked about torture to my class!!
This afternoon, I got to mention to every parent what we talked about. There were two main responses. One, was “oh, okay” the other was “Good for you Miss Tina”. So I don’t think I’ll get in trouble. Even my boss didn’t seem too worked up about it when I told her. However, I think I need to find myself a high school to teach at fairly soon, because if I’m going to talk politics, I think I should be doing so with older kids. Six years old is too young for me to have to make the call I made this morning!