For Debby . . .

Debby wrote a post here, about an older gentleman in her class, who is not quite up to speed. She’s trying to figure out what to do, as the other students in her class are treating this gentleman with contempt.

I commented that the “children” in her class were behaving like children.

I met Rose on the first day of my Political Science 210 class. 210 was global political something or other. Probably economy, with a bit of stability theory and game theory and political philosophy thrown in. The class wasn’t particularly hard, but it required 2 things – a knowledge of current events and about a half-cup of knowledge of basic political theory.

Rose was an early childhood education major. I couldn’t, for the life of me understand why Rose was taking the course. I had to take it as part of my degree, and more than that a whole group of us who were poli sci majors were taking it, so it really wasn’t bad. The prof was good, the class was interesting and there was plenty of group discussion. This was a year-long course and by November, Rose was way out of her league.

We used to play a game called “Bingo”. Some people play the game for points, we just played it for bragging rights. Every time someone said something stupid, you got to call “bingo” under your breath. Us talented poli sci majors never said anything stupid. We were always smart, in-step with modern thought, able to throw out obscure philosophies with just the right blend of insouciance and cynical wit.

Rose, on the other hand got almost nothing right. She confused countries and ethnicities, she got dates and names wrong, and she was never, ever cynical. That cheerful kindergarten teacher bit grated on our nerves, and you really did get the sense that she truly believed if the world leaders would sit down, learn to share and use their words, all the problems would be solved.

We mocked her. I’m sure she must have known, I’m sure she must have heard us, and even if she didn’t actually hear words, she would have been aware of the scornful mutterings when she spoke. Even if she didn’t hear those, you can feel a wrathful gaze, just above your collar line your neck heats up, and the flush spreads around and up across your face.

I haven’t thought about Rose for years, over a decade in fact. I have told the story of us, of my classmates and I, and the games of Bingo. I have, to use a colloquialism, dined out on the story. I tell it at gatherings, and I make her sound so terribly stupid: in my words and my tone she is unpardonably dull. I make my classmates and I sound smart and delightful and witty. I don’t think we would have used the word hip, but we were counter-cultural and no one’s fool. Oddly enough, in my telling of the story, I don’t ever use her name. She is never Rose, she is “the would be kindergarten teacher who decided to play with the poli sci kids”. I mock her ignorance and poke fun at her attempts to learn.

She kept coming to the class. I have no idea how she did on the course work, no idea if she learned anything, no idea if she remembers me.

There are many things in my life that I am not particularly proud of. Moments I look back on now, and I cringe. The depth of my mean-ness astounds and shames me. Pardon me for ever considering ignorance a crime, for ever considering hope and conviction the subject of laughter, I thought I was so very grown up, without completely understanding what it was to act like a child.

“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. . . But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”
Luke 18: 14-17

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9 Responses to For Debby . . .

  1. HereWeGoAJen says:

    I’ve done things like that. The one I was most ashamed of, I actually went back years later and apologized and was forgiven. I try now to think back on that, remember how hard it was to apologize (and now I couldn’t even do it, since I’ve lost track of that person), and not do things like that any longer that I would need to apologize for. Whoa, that was not a very good sentence. Oh well.

  2. WhiteStone says:

    When I hear or see children speaking or acting cruelly I wonder if they, too, will someday look back with regret and shame. I have done that. I’ve looked back with regret AND shame. Many of those times were in my adulthood. I can’t even blame it on being young and stupid. It was just plain out and out sin. God help us all.

  3. a says:

    We were pretty mean to one particular girl in grade school – she was a little slow, and a little fat, and had frizzy hair. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that it was completely inappropriate, especially since (I believe) her mother was dead. I was fortunate enough to meet up with her again in high school, where I apologized for mistreating her in grade school. She shrugged it off, but I hope it gave her a little bit of good feeling.

    That has never stopped me from being mean about people, but I have two standards now: 1) I’m never mean about people whose feelings I wouldn’t want to hurt, and 2) I never say anything that I would be afraid to have get back to the person I’m talking about.

  4. We had one student in nursing school who was a whiz at Just Plain Ignorant questions two minutes before the end of class. We all steeled ourselves for her to raise her hand and I think we treated her with thinly veiled contempt and yes, I cringe at my stupidity and lack of insight. Ah, the ignorance of youth.
    I was a “Debby” once when I took an 18th century literature class, (Nursing major with a bunch of English Lit majors?!? Bar the door!!), I was so out of my league, I hung on, read the 750+ required pages per week of Clarissa and other illustrious works, and eked out a B- of which I am inordinately proud, even more than my A+s in Biology and Anatomy, etc. Plus, I got to be introduced to Samuel Johnson and the epistolary form of writing.

  5. Brown Owl says:

    Oh yes, Rose remembers!
    She probably faced her demons everytime she stepped into that classroom; everytime she psychs herself up – even now – into trying something new. But, I bet she still dares to step out of her comfort zone, she’s done it before and she is stronger and wiser and more tolerant because of it. Maybe she also takes a stands with/for those others like herself who may not be quite up to par with the smart kids.

    We have all done or said things for which we are deeply ashamed, and hopefully, we have grown up and learned to think before we speak.

    What was it Thumper’s mom said? “If you can’t say something nice….” Maybe a little grade school but worth remembering.

  6. Jamie says:

    Every time I poke fun at someone (which, sadly, is quite often), I think there are probably at least two people out there poking fun at me.

  7. debby says:

    Oh, Mrs. Spit! I have this class for three hours tonight. Despite all the advice to the contrary, I have decided to go in early to speak with the teacher privately. I will point out the behavior. I will point out the student constitution that declares that this behavior will not be tolerated. I will be kind. I will trust that if I try to behave in a Godly manner, that it will make a difference. Ignoring it? Not an option for me. Simply not an option. Thank you for your post, my friend.

    Well. I’ve written two papers, read two chapters, and now I have to go study for tomorrow’s psychology test. If you’re praying for somebody, pray for me, okay? At 8:30 tomorrow, I’ll be taking my first full length college test.

  8. debby says:

    Mean people read blogs! It was a quiet class, and there was no discussion. I was feeling lousy, with a cold and chills, so I was not there early. I staggered in just in the nick of time not wanting to be there at all. It was a quiet class, and no one mocked anyone. At one point the teacher asked if there were any blogging experts in the room, and fingers pointed to me. I was shocked to bits, but what a funny thing! My words made an effect.

  9. Kristin says:

    Kudos to you for being able to look back and recognize the error of your ways. We’ve all done stupid or mean things in the past but many of us fail to recognize it.

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