Standing One’s Ground

December 6, 2021- Two things of note, one personal and the other of wider import: Today marks forty-one years since I met Penny, in Zuni, NM. Former Senator and Presidential candidate Bob Dole died yesterday, at the age of 98. Both people suffered mightily, in the course of their lives. Both people were notable for not giving an inch, to anyone who pushed at their boundaries.

This came to me, all the more clearly, whilst working with seventh graders at a nearby middle school. There was a fair amount of obstinacy, that comes with being twelve. The difference, though, is that the insolent ones were fairly easy to set straight. More discernment was in order, in dealing with those who had a fair point to make, in their disagreements with policies and expectations.

This is the beauty of a day with those for whom adulthood is the light at the end of the tunnel. For all the concern with a dearth of formal civics education, the fact is that those at the tail end of Gen Z and the advance guard of Alphas have begun to do their own civics homework-both with regard to rights and to responsibilities. Group members at a table keep one another in check-not in a “crabs in a bucket” manner, but with the view towards “a tide that lifts all boats”.

There is a process, at the school, for correcting undue insolence, and it works. There is also the caveat that the teacher is the adult in the room, something that is not universally followed by all teachers, everywhere. I follow that caveat, having long ago seen the consequences of behaving otherwise. So, when a student, with a strong sense of both personal power and responsibility, questioned something I was doing, reason prevailed with both of us. No adult is diminished by acknowledging a child who stands their ground, in a judicious manner.

She left the class, at period’s end, on good terms.

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