Monday, January 23, 2012
Retard. Homo. Lard Ass. Spaz. Ask a middle or high school kid and they can usually come up with many more words meant to be weapons aimed at anybody who seems to be a little different...or maybe even someone that isn't different but inspires jealousy.
This week is No Name-Calling Week. Language is really important and labels usually hurt.
It's a good week to examine what we say and who we may be hurting in the process.
An annual week won't solve the problem but what's important is that we focus our attention to what we say during this week as a start because language is one of the key strings in this tangled mess.
If, after this week, more kids and adults think before they casually throw out a hurtful label, then it's worth building upon and a few more kids won't be heartbroken when they're made to feel like an outcast.
It's also a great opportunity to teach kids how to be upstanders (a bystander that does something to help the situation!). Once when I was in a school, I heard one child call out another child on the spot for calling a classmate a "retard." She simply said, "Do you know what that means?" When the boy just stared at her, she simply said, "If you don't know what it means, then don't say it."
I don't know if she had someone in her family that was mentally challenged... or whether her parents taught her to do that... or whether she had been called names and was just sick of it. But she silenced the boy with one simple question and the target of the name calling continued to walk down the hall with a little more ease.
We can all do our bit to help a child walk down a school hall or stand in line in the cafeteria or get on a school bus without worrying how he or she will handle cruel and intentional name calling.
I wish I knew that little girl's name. She was about 10 years old when I watched her step up so skillfully. She must be in high school now, but this blog is dedicated to her...and if she was a little older I think she should be considered for a Cabinet post.