KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Courage to Say What He Thinks

My eighth-grader, Neil, was given one of those school assignments this weekend that is typical for Veterans Day: write a short essay about what the day means to him.

This was hard for Neil, who is a shy, private guy. After years of catching flak from other kids and from adults because of his less-than-perfect social skills caused by his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), he tends to want to keep his sometimes nonconformist opinions to himself. And writing doesn't come easy to him; he's a science geek.

He kept telling his father and me that he couldn't think of anything to say. But his tearing up and his seeming anger told me that he could. After I did some gentle prodding, he confessed that he thought that he might get in trouble at school for what he wanted to write. I told him that he should write what he truly felt, because truth is a valuable quality. I also told him that he isn't required to echo his teachers' beliefs, his father's beliefs, my beliefs, or anyone else's beliefs.

With lots of struggling, he wrote:

What Veterans Day means to to me it that it's stupid, and who cares about all the people who died? I hate it. It's only good for the draft. War sucks. We're wasting all our tax money on all the wars. It puts people into poverty. Because of the wars, the damn gas prices go up. It's just about money, money, money. War doesn't resolve any problems. It's just stupid!

I doubt that he doesn't care about all of the deaths caused by wars; he doesn't want to have to think about death. I'm so proud of that boy for swallowing his fear and being true to himself. He thinks a lot more about the big issues than he often lets on in conversation.


Unrepentant said...

Good for him, and good for you for encouraging him to express himself honestly. He may run into some flak but that will be educational, too.


Unrepentant said...

here you are.


Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Thanks for the link, Unrepentant. I was planning to post it later. ;-) The newspaper photographer came by this evening to get a photo, so the paper will likely update the story with a photo later.

Anonymous said...

Regarding your boy: good for him. And, good for you. It is a Good Thing to encourage our kids to develop and maintain their views, no matter how disparate. Kids like him (and I have one like that, in just that way) are exquisitely sensitive to others' perceptions, in spite of what we're told about them missing all the cues. Pfffft.

It is easy for me as a mother to encourage her to develop and maintain opinions when they are different than mine. It's when she says something I am sure she doesn't mean except in the passion of the moment that I have to work at keeping quiet.

I applaud you. I attended a John Edwards function here last May (my daughter made me go), and when a young kid piped up with adamance about the Iraq debacle, Edwards said, "You've been raised right!"

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Betsy, we should be neighbors. You and I and our kids would enjoy the heck out of one another.

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