Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the story of thanksgiving OR why i will never send my children to public school

let me begin by telling you that i do not really believe in thanksgiving. as a vegetarian i don't eat turkey, so i'm always trying to make a meal out of side dishes. then there's the whole hypocrisy of the white man ruthlessly slaughtering indians and then pretending that we're friends. so this isn't a holiday i care about deeply. but i think it is important to understand our holidays and our culture, even if it is only so that we may dismiss and insult said culture later.

today while we were making thanksgiving wreaths, my lovely assistant decided to go around the room and have the kids say what they were thankful for. most were thankful for their families and friends. one boy was thankful for wwf wrestling. then my assistant suggested they should be thankful for me, and all that i do for them. so then they all thanked me. it was pretty cute.

then i thought why not discuss the story of thanksgiving (bad idea!). it went a little something like this:

(warning: this conversation happened with children in 4th-6th grade, and will terrify you)
me: so who knows the story of thanksgiving?
children: oh, i do! i do! it's when you give thanks and you share and you eat lots of food.
me: yes, that is what we do on thanksgiving. but who knows the story of thanksgiving: why we do those things?
children: (silence)
me: no one knows the story of thanksgiving?
children: it's when we won the war, right?
me: no, there was no war (kind of a lie, since we did later kill lots o' indians). don't you guys learn about this in school? about the pilgrims and the indians?
children: oh yeah, the pilgrims! they wear black and white!
me: yes, but what did the pilgrims do?
children: they won the war!
me: no! there was no war!
children: isn't thanksgiving when we honor martin luther king junior?
me: no! (rolling my eyes) that's martin luther king day! this is about the pilgrims!
children: they wore black and white and we have to be thankful.
me: many people wear black and white. the pilgrims came over in a boat from another country. does anyone know what country they came from?
children: (proudly) the united states of america!
me: no! that's where we are now. that's where they came to. where did they come from?
children: africa!
me: no ... and africa is a continent.
children: asia!
me: no ... again, asia is a continent.
children: india! (this was shouted out by a bengali kid so i feel it is more acceptable)
me: no
one lone child: england?
me: yes! england! thank you lone smart child! okay, so the pilgrims left england because they didn't have religious freedom. they came here to be able to practice their religion freely. they came over on a boat. does anyone know what it was called?
children: a ship!
me: yeah, ship is another word for boat. but their boat had a name. anyone know what it was called?
children: (silence)
me: don't you guys pay attention to the thanksgiving word puzzles i give you every week?
children: silence
me: the ship was called the mayflower
children: oh! the mayflower! oh we know that!
me: okay, so the pilgrims were on the mayflower, crossing the ocean, and back in 1620 this took a long time. they were on the mayflower for months. they eventually ran out of food and by the time they got here many of them were sick or starving and some of them even died.
children: and some of them fell overboard!
me: yeah, i guess probably some of them fell overboard, but i've never read anything about that. so anyway ... finally after a long long journey the pilgrims landed ...
lone obnoxious child: oh! oh! i know what happened!
me: okay, tell us.
lone obnoxious child: that's when john f. kennedy landed!
me: what?! no .... john f. kennedy never landed anywhere. this has nothing to do with john f. kennedy. (shake it off) okay, the pilgrims landed here and they didn't know how to farm here because it's so different from england. so they didn't have any food and they would have died but then they got some help. does anyone know who they got help from?
children: louis and clark!
me: no, but that's a good guess (glad that they were at least back in the right time period).
children: the indians!
me: yes they got help from the indians! and the indians showed them how to farm and how to grow food and eventually they had a huge harvest. what season is harvest time?
children: spring!
me: no
children: summer!
me: no
children: winter
me: no
children: fall
me: yes, fall ... the season we're in. you plant things in the spring and they grow when its warm and then you harvest in the fall. so when they finally had a harvest they hd a big dinner with the indians and they all got along and they were thankful that they were able to keep themselves alive.
children: that's all?
then my lovely assistant looked over to me with sad sad eyes and shrugged, telling the kids "well, that was a short version."
short version indeed! it seemed to go on for hours as far as i'm concerned.
me: without the indians the pilgrims would have died. so they were thankful to be alive and have food. and that's the story of thanksgiving.
other obnoxious child: what's the story of thanksgiving?
me: the story i just told.
other obnoxious child: i wasn't listening. can you tell it again?
me: absolutely not.

and i swear to you ... that is pretty much a verbatim account.


*Bitch Cakes* said...

Horrifying, terrifying and chilling. Yet entertaining and hilarious!

I see jobs with paper hats in their futures. Except the smart, lone child. Perhaps they have a chance!

fifi said...

OMG -- what an hilarious nightmare!

By the way, I read it aloud to the boy & mimicked how I thought the kids & your assistant actually sounded. Your part was easy to act out.

The Dewey Decimal Mistress said...

maybe next time i see you both you and The Boy can act it out for me ... i am interested in hearing your interpretation.

Maureen said...

So Scary!