On the Lives and Education of Children
Edited By Paul L. Thomas, Paul R. Carr, Julie A. Gorlewski and Brad J. Porfilio
Introduction: “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
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“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
P. L. THOMAS, PAUL R. CARR, JULIE GORLEWSKI, AND BRAD J. PORFILIO, EDITORS
Eliot Rosewater in Kurt Vonnegut’s (1965) God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater implores: “‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind”’ (p. 129). In Sandra Cisneros’s (2004) short story “Eleven,” Rachel sits in class on her eleventh birthday, a day when she is confronted by her teacher about a found red sweater that the teacher is certain belongs to Rachel: “‘Of course it’s yours,’ Mrs. Price says. ‘I remember you wearing it once.’ Because she’s older and the teacher, she’s right and I’m not” (p. 42). While these are fictional representations, children’s lives are realized in a state of powerlessness, silenced by the hierarchy of authority. The sweater in Cisneros’s story is, in fact, not Rachel’s, but as the narration reveals, truth is secondary to hierarchy, subjugated by codified authority.
Throughout the world, children tend to experience not only silencing but also a level of harshness not tolerated among adults. The twenty-first century remains a callous place for children in their lives and their schools, notably in the U.S. where childhood poverty is over 22% and the new majority of public schools serve children in poverty (Southern Education Foundation, 2013). But more than the conditions of children’s lives and schools in the twenty-first century is worth addressing. As Barbara Kingsolver...
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