Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Find Another Way

After last week's class on ethics topics in newspapers, I was getting back to the curriculum. Or at least I thought I was. Some of the students felt badly about not bringing in a story the week before. One student in particular, Starling, loves to talk. He loves raising his hand and de-railing conversations with wacky questions. On occasion I ask him to please make his questions relevant to the topic at hand. He loves questions that start with "What if..." Most of the time, I take his questions and we run with them because I've found that they lead somewhere that helps the class laugh a little while we explore this very serious topic of Ethics.

Today, Starling came into class with a topic he really wanted to talk about: Chris Brown and Rihanna. Given that the news converge and messaging to teenagers on this topics has been atrocious, I took full-advantage of getting to discuss this topic openly with teenagers. The entire class could lay out every detail of the case. What was startling is that almost everyone, male and female, looked at the case from Chris Brown's POV. No one really considered Rihanna beyond being an object of Chris Brown's actions. They hadn't considered how they'd feel or what they'd do if they were Rihanna. She went back to him, her choice. She loves him. He "took her back." What else could there be to consider?

We had 5 minutes remaining in the class after laying out all of the details and a lot more that could be said. I had only one chance, very brief, to communicate the message that I wanted them to hear, at least once, from an adult. "Did you hear Oprah's comments on the situation?" Blank stares. "She said, "Love doesn't hurt. And if someone hits someone once, they will hit them again." It is never okay to hit anyone unless you are physically protecting yourself. Ever. Violence is not a solution, and it has no place in personal relationships. Ever."

"Even if she was yelling at him in the car about how he was cheating on her?" Starling asked. "Even if he told her she needed to shut up or he'd punch her?"

"Yes, Starling. Even then." I said.

He looked at me, with a mix of suspicion and confusion. And I realized that at least for one student, I got through to him to suggest that there is a different way out of conflict than violence.

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