“I Am Going to Punish All of You!”

Few things bring me as much pleasure as the sound of children playing.

Especially on school grounds, where recess has all but been eradicated from many curriculums, a move which I think will produce much damage to the social development of children.  Because that’s where children learn the important business of being human, interacting with one another, determining wrong and right moves and behaviors, and releasing their enormous energy through laughter and play, thereby ensuring when they are once again in the classroom they will be better prepared to learn other valuable lessons.

I am fortunate to live doors away from an elementary school where every morning I can hear the voice of children—not once, but twice, each day—on school ground.  Usually it is just a wonderful chorus streaming its way to my balcony, uninterrupted by other sounds.  And the din of their voices is simply delightful, for it is impossible to understand what they are saying, only possible to know they are expressing themselves.

This morning, however, a loud voice boomed from above.

It was the headmistress on a loudspeaker.  I don’t know why she was there today, but she was.  From what I could hear there was some kind of lesson being played right there on the playground.  But the children would not listen!  Instead they maintained their chorus of laughter at an even pitch (much like any other day) while the headmistress was attempting to capture their attention—unsuccessfully.  “Listen to your Physical Education teacher,” she roared.

But they would not comply with her demand.

Still later, another teacher, took the loudspeaker into his hands, and merely said, “Testing.  Testing.  One, two.  Testing.”

Frustrated, and after some time, the headmistress said, “I am going to punish all of you!”

And I tried to imagine that, but I could not.

Nor could the children—apparently—because they continued to play.

Thoroughly defeated by the children, the adults ceased to speak, for nothing more was heard from them.

Amen.

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