A few years ago, a local Scout leader asked me to come and talk to a group of kids about what it’s like to work at a newspaper and write the news. Since we were talking about kids that averaged eight years old, I knew I’d have to keep it fairly simple so the message would get through. I decided to do something that involved the kids because I thought it might make my point much clearer.
I enlisted one of the parents to help me just a little by giving me just some simple, basic information about a situation of their choice that I could share with the kids. Someone’s dog had puppies so I decided to go with that. The idea was based on an old game we used to call “Telephone”. There were about 10 boys in the group so I lined them up and pulled the first one up by me. I told them all I was going to secretly tell him a story and then he would tell that story to the next boy in line and so on until each had heard the story from the previously told person. That’s all I said about what we were doing at that point. So I proceeded to share the story with the first kid about Tommy’s dog, a black Lab, that had eight puppies. They were all black except one that had a white nose and tail. There were three girl puppies and five boy puppies. The puppies grew quickly and when they were all six weeks old, they each went to new homes. That was it--the entire story. Fairly simple, fairly short. The story was passed from Scout to Scout until they’d all heard the story. When the final boy had heard the story, I asked each of them if they thought they knew everything from the story. They all nodded--everyone seemed confident they knew it.
Then I asked the boy that was the last in line to hear the story to tell us what he had heard. As he began to speak, I saw the faces of the other boys begin to show some confusion, especially the boy that I had told the story to first. By the time the last boy finished telling us what he had heard, there were puppies alright, but not only were the number of puppies, the sex and the colors all mixed up but we had not just one but two families who now had puppies!
The kids were quite surprised when we compared stories. especially the last three or four that heard the story late in the chain.
I then explained to them that when a reporter writes a story, they have to be sure they are getting the complete and right information. I explained to them how important it was for a reporter to verify what they’ve been told, even though more than one person might say they know. I told them that much like what had happened in our puppy story, people have a way of mixing things up when they retell something. I wanted them to see how confused things can get as a story is passed from one person to another and why it’s important to go directly to the source--in our case, the people that actually had the puppies--to get the information. I also explained to them although this story was only about puppies and though our information wasn’t very accurate at the end, it also didn’t have the impact to cause bad feelings between people or cause a big problem. But, I also told them that’s not always the case and I introduced the term “rumor” to them. I explained to them what can happen when people repeat what they hear and even though they probably don’t have all the correct infromation, they pass what they’ve heard along anyway, adding in things that really aren’t true, much as it happened it our puppy story.
We have a serious situation in our community right now involving our kindergarten students. I will be the first to say I in no way know what happened or even have a complete knowledge of which students were involved. Because these are serious allegations and have the potential to do permanent damage to children if not handled well by all parties, I am hoping people will step back and really check themselves on what they are saying to others and putting on social media regarding the subject. Publicly speculating on what happened, why it happened, or what should or should not be done is extremely irresponsible and can cause even more issues
. Criticism of parents, children, people in our school or our school board members--none of whom have or ever expected to be in this position, is beyond unfair when many of those people are legally unable to speak about it in public. This is a very complex situation and it needs to be worked out between the people who are directly involved.
If you believe your child was affected by this, take whatever steps you feel necessary to get your questions answered and obtain help for your child--it is available. At this point, the primary focus needs to be the kids and what needs to be done to get them through this as easily as can happen. Children take their cues from adults. When we react badly or speak before thinking things through, we’re giving them a poor example of what to do down the line. Children comprehend more than we ever think they do and when things go badly, they have a tendency to believe it’s their fault. We are in the midst of some very teachable moments right now.
I want to write about this further but for now, please be part of the reason our kids get through this in the best way possible. This situation needs some heroes for sure.
If there was ever a time to be good to each other, it’s now.