“Okay, think of a color, any color,” I said. It was advisory and we were supposed to discuss Rachel’s Challenge, the recent all-school assembly.
A program for which I have no end of conflicting opinions and unresolved questions, such as (i) is there something fundamentally cheap, exploitative, and contradictory in attaching explicit footage of the Columbine massacre to a feel-good message of being nice to people and Pay[ing] It Forward? (ii) is that message worth more, less, or the same amount of my time after the girl who wrote it up in a school essay was murdered? (iii) if a student hasn’t assimilated these basic elements of kindness by high school, can a school assembly scare her straight, so to speak? can the Rachel’s Challenge wristband? can the supplementary posters? does that kind of change last? (iv) what do the passages of the assembly celebrating Rachel herself (eg. Rachel was posthumously awarded a national kindness award, her father has met the last two Presidents, etc.) have to do with anything?. One moment later I called on Jen.
“Jen, what color are you thinking of?”
“Blue.” she said.
“Okay.” I pointed at Mara right next to her. “What color is Mara thinking of?”
I’m not sure this moment did anything for my kids but it helped me understand why high schoolers find it so easy to tear the meat from each other’s bones so often.