Thursday, January 21, 2010

The R-Word

Today Emma came home from school and said that she heard kids in her class calling each other "retards." I knew it was coming but, nonetheless, I am livid, and sad, and overwhelmed. She has been reading "The Great Gilly Hopkins" and in that book the main character calls people "retarded" and we have talked a lot about why the author would choose to have the main character use such ugly and hateful language. But what to do with her classmates? We need to balance speaking up for Joe and maintaining a good learning environment for Emma (so she isn't distressed by hateful speech) and at the same time, not making her feel responsible for always educating the world. I am so tired, I am just so tired.

Maybe I will ask the teacher or the principal to show this ad:


Anonymous said...

Amy, I'm so terribly sorry. *hugs*

Part of me will always be adverse to the idea of "teaching others" about Down syndrome. Kindness, common sense and compassion are traits that seem to be inherent in a personality, not necessarily easily learned to be lived each day.

I still cannot view OTM videos for some odd reason, but I think now is the time to introduce the idea to the principal. I think it's a great step forward.

I feel for Emma because she is entering that time of her life when young people will say and do things for all the wrong reasons, including using the R-word -- out of that social desperation to be accepted. The whole idea is so wrong, too, since if anything in this world, we know how our children with Down syndrome fight hard to be accepted.

I think as time goes on, Emma will be able to decipher what situation or person is worth her time in educating, too. I think she has really terrific parents and you know that counts for a lot these days.

Stay strong. ♥

Ann said...

I have been fighting this battle for years. I have taught my own son not to use that word, but it (along with a whole set of "retarded" gestures) is very common among his friends. I have made myself pretty unpopular by banning it in our house and in my car, along with "faggot." They want to fit in, and what finally stopped Sam (my son) cold was a conversation about kids he knew and cared about who would be hurt by hearing that word used. I'm sorry this happens at all, but my money is on you to figure out a way to make this real and personal for as many kids as possible so that they'll understand the pain caused by carelessly cruel words.

Michelle S. said...

We've already "talked". I do feel the need to educate everyone people. I don't think they knew they were being hurtful, and pointing it out might chage something with them. Maybe not, but it might, then they might tell someone else and so on and so on. I will not stand for any of the words like that, or using gay the way they do. In my house the "s" words are stupid and shut up. I say let the professionals handle it, like I said. Libby will do a good job.

Jennifer said...

I have never thought about how much you have to think through and help Emma with the balance you talk about here of speaking up for Joe and maintaining a good learning environment for, Amy. I know that in her own time she will become a great educator on these types of issues because she has a wonderful model in you.

I think your idea to ask the principal to show this video clip is a really good one. The schools have such an important opportunity to teach ALL of the kids starting in the elementary ages how to respect people with special needs. Especially since (unfortunately) not all the kids are being taught this at home.