Monday, March 9, 2009

An Honest Accounting

I visited a school this morning that played host to three of the players on the Boston Celtics. They were there to promote ReadBoston and Read to Achieve, two very worthy initiatives to promote literacy in the Boston Public Schools. Most of these events - or at least the ones I've seen - feature players coming into classrooms to read books with children. They're quick and fun and a thrill for everyone. This morning's event was different. It featured Paul Pierce, the All-Star forward on the Celtics, playing the lead in the school play: "The Emperor Had No Hair." It was terrific.

It reminded me of an event at another school that I saw in which the special guest was one of the morning DJ's from a popular local hip-hop radio station. Naturally, her visit caused some excitement. The plan was to have her come into a second grade classroom, introduce herself, take a few questions, and then read one of her favorite books before visiting other classrooms.

It all goes very well and according to plan. That is, until the question and answer portion, when to her surprise – and the surprise of the adults in the room – a majority of the questions address “Jam Scams,” a feature on the show during which the DJ’s make prank phone calls to unsuspecting listeners. The children are relentless. “Why do you do that?” they ask. “Why are you so mean to people?” they add. And from the uninitiated, “What is a jam scam?” Caught off guard, our guest punts the question and blames her partner. The Jam Scams are really his thing, she explains, without actually answering anything.

In response, and as a way to segue into the book without offending her guest, the principal suggests that maybe we should invite her partner to the school and tell him to be nicer to people. It would have been a nice idea, I think, but I doubt that it will actually happen. Still, I walked out of the room encouraged by the simple righteousness and polite indignation of children.

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