"In this game, there is a 'victim' or 'It,' which creates a self-esteem issue. The oldest or biggest child usually dominates." — A California school principal explaining why the game "tag" was banned. ABCNews.com, June 24, 2002
EDUCATORS FIGHT TO PROTECT
Marido, Ohio (SatireWire.com) — Arguing that nothing lowers a child's self-esteem like public humiliation, school administrators in this city of 15,000 are enacting new policies meant to keep students from being openly singled out for their deficiences, especially, school officials said, obvious losers like Nick Watson, Chandra Mueller, or the Calucci twins.
"It's horribly unfair, but children like Nick Watson are treated as if they've got a big L on their foreheads," said Marido school board Chairperson Anita Hartnette. "It's our job to adopt policies that safeguard Nick and even boost his self-image, as pointless in the long run as that may seem."
Under one such policy, Marido Junior High School Principal Amanda Watters posts a daily "Do Not Tease" list outside her office. It's a roster of students whom she has identified as suffering from low self-esteem due to their lack of intelligence, charm, physical grace, or affability.
"To get kids to feel good about themselves, first we have to stop them from feeling bad about themselves, which means we must not let others damage their dignity," Watters said. "By putting, for instance, Kelvin Fryberg's name on the No Tease list, we're eliminating the public humiliation he might otherwise have suffered because he acts like such a retard."
"And believe me, classmates will point that out," she added. "Honestly, kids can be so mean."
While older students like Fryberg or Mary "Always with Child" Carlisle are stigmatized for their social ineptitude or poor life decisions, educators say younger children tend to suffer for their physical clumsiness. Responding to that threat, Marido Elementary has eliminated games of "tag," arguing they create "victims" — often the slower children — who are perpetually "it" and can never manage to tag anyone.
Explained district Physical Education Director Marv Gormelski: "In our grade school, about 35 percent of the children between the ages of six and 11 could not catch up to a brick wall, and about 10 percent of them might as well not have legs. I mean, they don't know how to use them."
"It's these kids we really have to be particularly sensitive about," he added.
Marido schoolchildren are also receiving self-esteem booster shots in other ways. Standardized tests, traditionally skewed to expose the dull-witted, have been eliminated. Instead, students are given test answers, but not, educators stressed, the actual tests.
"We didn't want to take the chance that someone might still get it wrong," said Hartnette.
Marido High School, meanwhile, has turned victimization on its head by upending the rules for hierarchical competitions that tend to ostracize all but the best and brightest. Starting in the fall, students who vote for Homecoming Queen must choose the ugliest girl in school, and next spring, every senior will be named class valedictorian.
Some students and teachers have complained that this will render the top-student award meaningless. Hartnette agreed. "The word 'meaning' implies 'definition,' and definitions are labels, which are inherently judgmental," she said. "Therefore, the truly modern school can give no more meaningful award than a meaningless award."
And what of Nick Watson, the fifth-grader with the perpetual L on his forehead? Realizing he was exceptionally prone to peer and teacher derision, administrators ordered his school to take an unusual step to safeguard his self-esteem.
Starting in October, the school will annually hold 'Nick Watson Is Normal Day,' where all students will not be allowed to bathe, speak in full sentences, or answer simple math questions, and must attempt to steal at least one personal item from a fellow student's locker.
"I wish we could say he will never be singled out for being a smart-mouthed little bastard," said Hartnette. "But for at least one day a year, Nick will get to be normal."
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