“Cyborg Cool” Versus “Crip Pity”

Observing human society is a never-ending fascination, because people are always doing the weirdest stuff. Social memes are maintained because people accept, use, pass along, and perpetuate attitudes and the behavioural responses that go with those attitudes. Sometimes those behaviourally-expressed attitudes are maintained simply by the very powerful force of social inertia – they exist because no one pauses to say they shouldn’t exist.

Sometimes no one pauses because the collective cognitive dissonance isn’t being noticed.

Here’s one that has been entertaining my whimsy / befuddlement / concern for a while now:

Bluetooth Earphone = Cool VS Hearing Aid = Pitiable Old Fogey

If you’re not familiar with the item by name, Read the rest of this entry »

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Who Owns What?

SCENE 1

“You can’t make me!” she replied in a taunting, bratty voice.

Then I calmly replied with what is probably one of the most difficult things for a parent or staff member to ever say, “You’re right. I cannot ‘make’ you do anything.”

Following this factual statement was the next important one that stepped away from the power struggle between myself and this now-very-smug teen, and led us back to the actions-and-consequences. “Because YOU are responsible for your behavior. You need to get your work done – and completing it to an acceptable level – so you can do other things like have computer free time, read a book, or play pool. Or even take a nap, if that’s what you want to do. Now, do you want to do the reading together, or by yourself?”

SCENE 2

“Hah! You can’t make me!” he challenged.

“You’re right. I cannot ‘make’ you do anything. However, I am responsible for your safety, and that is not a safe choice. You need to follow directions for this assignment, or we are going to quit this right now. IF you don’t complete the assignment in a safe manner, THEN you are not going to get free time afterwards.”

(Damn but he didn’t go ahead and try to eat the chile pepper seeds anyway, which painful natural consequences required much rinsing-and-spitting, and consumption of bread to mop up the capsaicin oils that were hurting the inside of his mouth. Of course all this first aid meant that he had the rest of the seed-planting assignment to make up later on, and he had no free time for play. What fools these mortals be!)

SCENE 3

“You’re making me mad!” she snapped.

Wait a minute, didn’t we recently establish that you cannot “make” someone do something? The same also applies to feelings, despite all the social conventions we ascribe to making someone sad or someone else making us happy, or a situation making us frustrated. No one is actually responsible for someone else’s feelings.

In truth, our feelings arise not from the situations and not from what people say or do, but rather from our views and opinions about events. This is why different people can have different responses to the same situations.

This is why the verbal abuse from others rolls right past me now, because I understand that it’s not really about me, it’s about other people acting out their problems.

“I didn’t really mean it,” he protested, “She knows I didn’t really mean it; I was just all stressed out about my mom. She shouldn’t get so mad.”

“You’re still responsible for what you say to others that can be upsetting to them.”

Nor is anyone necessarily responsible for the feelings they have, especially given that they arise from parts of the brain that we do not have conscious control over.

However, everyone is responsible for their own actions. We are responsible for what we do that others can react to in their happiness, sadness, anger or fear. We are also responsible for our own words and actions derived from our own happiness, sadness, anger or fear.

“I can’t help it – I’m pissed!” he ranted, pacing back and forth.

“Okay, you can’t help being angry. Everybody gets angry sometimes. But kicking the lockers and ripping up the bulletin board is NOT an appropriate way of reacting to that upset. You need to come up with a better way of handling such situations, and how you are reacting to them.”

Who Owns It?

“It’s not about YOU,” I explained, although I had that dreaded sinking sensation that although the words flowed by her ears and pinballed through the processing areas of her brain, that although she was hearing and listening and understanding the verbiage, the other staff member was also not really understanding what the hell I meant. Meanwhile, the children around us were bouncing around in various levels of happiness, impulsiveness, mild disobedience, and general obliviousness to rules. As long as no one was getting hurt, the minor details of behaviour didn’t matter; this was yet another day at the city pool, in a long line of such overly-hot summer days at the city pool.

“It’s not about what you’re doing,” I tried in vain to rephrase, although my efforts were getting to be pretty lame by this time in the afternoon, what with the combination of summer heat, the impact of children’s high-decibel noise aggravated by hyperacussis, and the strain of trying to track a dozen children despite mild faceblindness. “I mean, how you handle it does matter, but …” I stared into the distance, as one of our charges was wandering around with her bathing suit bottom halfway up one buttock. I kept track of our children by remembering what bathing suits they were wearing, so I was predisposed to notice such. “But it’s not about you.” I finished, flapping my hands a bit in agitation as those words were still in my verbal buffer, but I was instead needing to formulate some kind of sentence directed to another staff member closer to our wayward girl.

“Oh, he’s just being defiant, and I’m not going to let him,” she replied in the self-assured manner of the barely-twenty-something, and left me to go refill her cup of iced cola. I heaved a big sigh at the idea of “letting” someone be defiant, and went to intercept one of our autistic boys so he wouldn’t toss bits of paper into an air conditioner fan.

There are some children who are just explosive in temperament, for any number of reasons. Handling such children is always tricky, because it’s all to easy to get sucked into the whole situation and end up aggravating the dynamic instead of damping it.

Some children get angry because they are being defiant, and are pushing you into a power struggle. We’re familiar with how this works with toddlers who return instruction with a, “NO!” The best approach for such is to give them choices that are acceptable to you – the toddler feels they now have some measure of immediate control over their life, and yet you are still in ultimate control by being able to select options that are appropriate. Teenagers are sometimes like toddlers-with-hormones, and frequently benefit from similar tactics. In any regard, you shouldn’t respond to the power struggle, but rather respond to the situation and help the child understand the options they have available to them, and how to anticipate the results of their choices. (Sometimes I hate to use the word “consequences” because it has gotten so laden with meaning punishments.)

This particular staff member was predictably playing into the power struggle, and was determined that she was going to “win” by proving something or another to the child. However, this child wasn’t really being defiant in the volitional sense. The defiance wasn’t premeditated or consciously malicious. This was just one of those children who didn’t have sufficiently well-developed mental “brakes” to be self-aware, anticipate things, and stop himself before he reacted to situations. Such children frequently have low frustration levels, which are also a result of this kind of dysfunction.

The issue here was many-fold. For one thing, the staff member was reacting to the effects of the problem (the blow-ups) instead of the cause of the problem (the child’s processing dysfunction, plus the ongoing presence of situations that fed into the blow-ups). For another thing, the staff member believed that she had a lot more ownership of the solution to the problem than she did. She probably also likely believed that the child had a lot more ownership of the cause of the problem than he did. But although the child rarely meant to get so upset or angry, he still had to have some responsibility for what he did, otherwise he would end up reneging on most of his personal responsibility and go from being a child with a problem to being a brat with a problem.

It’s one of those weird little subconscious glitches in our brains that leads us to make fundamental attribution errors – our own lapses are caused by environmental reasons (“I of course couldn’t help but be incoherent as the heat and noise was making me tired”), but other’s lapses are caused by their moral failing (“but she was being foolish”). Staff members, teachers and other people usually assign successes to themselves, and failures to the children.

But in real life, education “takes two to tango” – both the teacher and the student need to work at the process. So does engaging in arguments – the second person has to continue to give the first person enough responses that reinforce all the hollering and carrying-on.

Diffusing these explosive situations is difficult. We have to figure out just when a child is being truly manipulative, and when it’s some kind of cognitive dysfunction, and when it’s a child with some kind of cognitive dysfunction that on that day is just being manipulative – life is messy! Sometimes we can identify what kinds of situations tend to spark these meltdowns, and then during a good time, discuss with the child what ways we could work with them to change things so they would be less problematic. We can also defuse or at least reduce those meltdowns by not giving into the power struggles. We have to remain compassionate, but detached. Be calm, remove extra people from the situation, give plenty of personal space, have open and friendly body language to reduce the feeling of threat, even be silent sometimes to let the argument fizzle out. After the child has calmed down then we can reflect with them in an objective manner about what happened, what needs to be done to rectify the problem by restitution to the others who were involved, and work proactively to reduce such future events.

But as I redirected the boy from flicking bits of paper to flicking pool water, I realised that I would not be able to “make” the other staff member understand something until she was ready to look beyond the necessity for “not letting” him do something. I could not control her need to “win” the argument any more than she could control his need to not quit an activity when it was time to leave.

Auditioning for Parts

I’ve not been posting much lately because I’ve been working on an involved application for a teaching job, and doing my other teaching-type jobs. (My goal is to have one job, not three.)

Anyway, here’s this lovely piece from the news: some girls presented sections of The Vagina Monologues, but the school officials decided that although they could present this play, they weren’t allowed to actually say the word,

vagina.

Yeah, riddle me that one, Batman. It’s a part of the body, like gastrocnemius, only easier to spell. (Your gastrocnemius is your calf muscle.) Anyway, the girls went ahead and said the word, because trying to get through The Vagina Monologues without saying the V-word is well, silly, and is kind of like getting through Inherit the Wind without saying “evolution”. (Uh-oh, maybe I shouldn’t have suggested that!) As a result, the girls got suspended for insubordination.

Personally, I’d say it was worth it.

 

I can’t wait until I get to teach Biology. “Okay everyone, let’s practice these vocabulary words. Repeat after me. Epididymus.”
“EPIDIDIDIDYMUS.”
“E-pi-di-dy-mus.”
“EIPDIDYMUS.”

“Fallopian tube.”
“FALLOPIANTUBE.”

“Ova.”
“OVA.”

“Ovary.”
“OVARY.”

“Scrotum.”
“SCROTUM.” (titters)

“Sperm.”
“SPERM.”

“Testes.”
“TESTES.”

“Vas deferens.”
“VAST DIFFERENCE.”
“Vasss de-fer-ens.”
“VASDEFERENZZ.”

“Vagina.”
… We’ll never get out of there alive.

International ^DISABLED Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is: “Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls”

People with disabilities have a variety of difficulties across their lives, not just from the intrinsic problems associated with the disability, but also the handicaps they face socially. Disabled people are much less likely to finish secondary school, even less likely to go on to further education in university, have more difficulties acquiring jobs compared to their equally qualified non-disabled peers, and therefore generally earn less. Around the world, women in general also are much less likely to finish secondary school, even less likely to go on to further education in university, have more difficulties acquiring jobs compared to their equally qualified non-disabled peers, and therefore generally earn even less.

Not surprisingly disabled women fare worse than disabled men. But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. According to a report by the Independent Living Institute, disabled women:

  • Data referring to the E.U. shows that percentage of employment in men without disability is 76% versus 36% in disabled men. Regarding women, the percentages vary from 55% in non-disabled to 25% in disabled women.
  • Studies done on specific groups (autistic, for example) show that they are more inclined to remain in institutions for longer periods of time than men.
  • There are a lot of barriers that make access to birth control and family planning very difficult, such as physical barriers, communication barriers etc.
  • In hospitals disabled women are used as models for trainee doctors, without previously asking them for their permission. Videos and slides are taken of disabled women to be used as teaching aids without any control over their use.
  • There are permanent debates on the role women are supposed to play, and that assigned to disabled persons. As a result, while women in general are pressured by society to motherhood, disabled women are forced into not having children, and this many times leads to unauthorised sterilisation, or denial of adoption on the basis of the “incapacity of the mother” to take care of them adequately.

In theme with this year’s International Women’s Day, there’s also the issue of violence against women. Again, women who are disabled fare worse off than those who are not. Furthermore, it is even more difficult for women with disabilities to recognise, prevent or stop such problems.

The report goes on to describe the various kinds of violence that happen to women with disabilities. These are described as Active Violence (physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse) and Passive Violence (physical neglect, emotional neglect). These can be manifested in the following ways:

Physical abuse:
Any direct or indirect action that can damage the life, welfare or health of disabled women, provoking pain, unnecessary suffering or health deficiency.
Manifestations:
* Aggressions in different parts of the body
* Unjustified administration of drugs.
* Restrictions of mobility.
Alert Signs:
* To be found in sedative or nervous conditions.
* Motor dysfunction not due to their disability.
* Signs of physical violence: marks in wrists and ankles, fractures, bites, internal damages, burns, etc.
* Detriment in their remains of physical capacity.

Emotional abuse:
Behaviour model that results from damage to the welfare and emotional balance of a disabled woman.
Manifestations:
* Isolation, prohibiting or limiting the access to means of communication (phone, mail..), to information and to keep in contact with other relatives and neighbours.
* Oral cruelty, by means of insults, constant criticism, making fun of their body, punishments in the presence of others.
* Over protection.
* Speaking, deciding or giving opinions in her name.
* Intimidation, and /or emotional blackmail.
Alert Signs:
* Depression.
* Communication and interrelation difficulties.
* Insecurity, and low self-esteem.

Sexual abuse:
Actions that are a sexual aggression towards disabled women, and can produce physical or emotional harm.
Manifestations:
* Rape.
* Sexual vexation or humiliation.
Alert Signs:
* Marks or/and injuries in genitals.
* Fear to relate with certain people.
* Undesired pregnancies.
* Venereal diseases.

Economical abuse:
Actions that pursue the loss of control and rights on properties, money or family shared inheritances. The use of the image of a disabled woman against her will, to gain money for third persons, is also considered economic abuse.
Manifestations:
* The use of disabled girls or women in mendacity.
* Employing disabled women in poorly paid jobs usually linked to clandestine employment.
* Limiting the access to information and management of personal economy.
* The use of money as a sanction.
* The family denies the access to external economic resources (jobs, grants..).
Alert Signs:
* Depending too much on others.
* Little expectations regarding herself and her personal or professional projection.

Physical neglect:
It is understood as such, the denial or privation of the basic aspects to keep the body in good shape, in relation with health, hygiene and image.
Manifestations:
* Negligence in feeding.
* Personal carelessness.
* Neglecting hygienic measures.
* Lack of supervision.
Alert Signs:
* Malnutrition.
* Frequent illnesses not caused by disability.
* Inadequate cloths regarding sex, climate, and the persons’ handicaps.
* Dirty clothes.
* Long periods of time without supervision.
* Physical problems worsen due to lack of treatment.

Emotional neglect:

Those actions that deny or deprive attention, consideration and respect towards disabled women.
Manifestations:
* Ignoring their existence.
* Giving no value to their opinion.
* Feeling ashamed about them.
Alert Signs:
* Lack of interaction.
* No motivation concerning their personal development.
* Scarce or no participation in family or social activities.

The study came up with the following conclusions:

  • Many disabled women see themselves as subjects of maltreatment and abuse, while society ignores the problem.
  • Many disabled women do not see themselves subjects of violence, because they consider these situations habitual in their lives and associated with disability.
  • Disability is a risk factor when suffering abuse and maltreatment situations, which added to the fact of being a woman, increases the risk to higher rates than those of the violence suffered by women in general.
  • Women with sensorial, learning, and communication problems, are more likely to suffer abuse and violence.
  • Not having the traditional female roles assigned contributes to lower self-esteem and increases vulnerability, elements that favour becoming an object of violence.
  • Violence against disabled women shares common characteristics with the female collective, but has specific characteristics as well.
  • Most professionals in charge of counselling and interventions in maltreatment to women ignore that many disabled women are in the same situation. Either because information does not reach them, or because they do not typify as violent acts those they believe associated to disability.
  • Depending on others to cope in daily life increases the risk of being objects of violent actions. This risk is believed lower when personal assistance is given with former professional training and psychological aptitude.
  • Violence against disabled women has more to do with the fact it is considered an extenuating circumstance that these actions are perpetrated against “a faulty being”, than on using a woman’s body as a demonstration of power and control.

The report goes on to describe specific details from several countries. Near the end, the authors describe some of the difficulties that disabled women face when trying to extricate themselves from abusive situations:

It is extremely difficult for any abused woman to leave a situation of abuse. A woman is hit by a husband or a partner an average of 35 times before she calls the police. Battering undermines self-esteem and can make a woman feel she is somehow responsible for her own abuse. For a woman with a disability, this situation is even more difficult. She may be dependent on her abuser for affection, communication and financial, physical and medical support. If she reports the abuse, she may risk poverty and loss of housing and support. She may fear she will not be heard or believed is she speaks out. She may face further violence, institutionalisation, or loss of her children if she seeks help. She may not have access to information about existing support services for victims of violence. Even if she has this information, many sources of support may not be accessible. She may not be able to contact the police or women’s shelters because they do not have communication devices as telecommunication devices for the deaf. She may not be able to physically leave her situation because of a lack of accessible transportation. Her lack of options may leave her feeling so powerless and despairing that suicide seems the only viable choice. And if she seeks help in dealing with suicidal thoughts or attempts, she is unlikely to find counselling which takes account of her own reality. And so she is left isolated and possibly suicidal.

Just as the problems are multifaceted, so are the solutions. The report recommends:

  • Abusive behaviour needs to be acknowledged as a serious social and in some cases criminal problem, rather than being considered a private matter.
  • Protocols need to be developed for institutions to screen potential employees and volunteers.
  • Protocols need to be developed to address the abuse that occurs in institutional settings.
  • Community living alternatives need to be made available for women with disabilities.
  • Courses need to be made accessible and available to women with disabilities (in self-defence, assertiveness training, and sex education).
  • Appropriate suicide consoling which meets the special needs of women with disabilities needs to be made available.
  • Transition houses and other existing support services need to be made accessible, and frontline workers in shelter facilities need to be sensitised to the needs of women with disabilities.
  • Women with disabilities need to be hired to provide this training and to work in these centres and
  • Women in all communities need to work together develop a co-ordinated approach to dealing with the abuse of all women.

Random Thoughts From the Tub

“If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.”
~Albert Camus

Random thoughts from the tub (life, the universe, and everything):

Life ain’t fair.
No generation has ever created the world it grew up in.
Every generation has been bequeathed a screwed-up world.
Complaining about that is just so much spitting into the wind.

It’s not what you get,
but what you do with it, that matters.
Some of our limitations are real and physical.
Some of our limitations are imposed by what others say we “can” or “ought to” be able to do,
and therefore are what we think we “can” or “ought to” be able to do.
Some people are born with riches of financial comfort or talent, and squander them.
Others are born with absolutely shitty circumstances,
but make more out of themselves than anyone could rightly expect them to.
People are amazing.

Life is hard.
We accept that there are those things that we cannot change.
We also take responsibility for our own actions.
We are blessed and cursed with the freedom,
for all that we choose to do in life.
If you refuse to accept responsibility for what you do,
you are lying to yourself.
If you refuse to see your freedom,
you are lying to yourself.
Being stuck and “not making decisions”
is really a kind of decision in itself.
Amazingly, being sad and afraid is not giving up.
In truth, it is a position of potential power,
once you cease the lies to yourself.
Life is glorious.

Living creates hope.
Regrets gnaw away that hope.
Life is too short for regrets, for might-have-been’s.
Examine experience, learn from it, choose new actions.
You are responsible for what you do.
You cannot make others happy,
Cannot make everyone believe you,
Cannot make everyone accept you,
Cannot make everyone like you.
Never could, never will.
Move on in life.

Happiness is something you make.
It does not come from what others do.
No one else is responsible for the way you feel.
Your feelings arise from your opinions and positions on events.
This is why different people can have different reactions to the same events.
If you change those opinions and positions,
You can change the feelings that result from events.
We cannot change the past,
but we can change how we react to it.
History is not destiny.

Love is like happiness.
It comes from inside you.
We love people for who they are,
not for who we want them to be.
We accept them for who they are;
this is the love.
One must have love to give love.
One must accept their self for who they are, to have that love.
People with healthy hearts are attracted to others with healthy hearts.
The love between them gives space within their togetherness,
and room for aloneness without loneliness.
To love one person does not diminish the love for another.
Love is expansive.
Love is a resource that is too little seen,
but is actually in infinite supply.
People are amazing.
Life is glorious.

Recess: Sunday Funnies

Recess means we take a break and play; it’s important to do that once in a while.

Today I have a cartoon from today’s funny pages, “Pearls Before Swine” by Stephen Pastis. This one made it to our refrigerator. Everyone has difficulties understanding voice-mail messages once in a while. Those of us with auditory processing problems or hearing problems have difficulties understanding voice-mail messages all the time. We dread listening to voice-mail messages, and hate having to listen to them repeatedly to try and figure out what someone is telling us.

 

(Description of cartoon: This is a seven-panel cartoon of a pig and a rat standing by a table with a telephone message recording machine. In the first panel, Rat is listening to a recorded message, with pencil poised over a notepad; the recorded message says, “…and so … if you just … uh… meet me … like … uhh … at the uhh…” In the second panel, Pig joins the annoyed-looking Rat and asks him, “What are you up to, Rat?” In the third panel, Rat answers, “Listening to this idiot’s endless message … all I want is for him to say his stupid phone number.” The recorded message continues, “sooooo, anyhoo…” In the fourth panel, Pig responds, “Yeah I hate that … it’s–” and Rat interrupts him, “Wait wait wait .. shut up … I think he’s about to say it …” as the recorded message continues, “so … uh … give … uh me … a … call … uh… the number … is”. In the fifth panel, Pig and Rat are listening to the message, and Rat is bug-eyed in disbelief, as the words of the recorded message are just a solid blur of indistinguishable numbers. By the sixth panel the message has stopped, and Pig is staring at Rat, who is now an angry red color with steam coming out of his ears, and is shaking his fists. In the last panel, Pig turns to leave, commenting, “Why are the slowest message talkers the fastest phone number givers?” Meanwhile, Rat is beating on the answering machine, BAM-BAM-BAM, and yelling, ” ‘Cause people are morons!! morons!! morons!!”)

 

Just So Special

I had a half-hour long drive home. There’s a word stuck in my head, which I end up exorcising in the best way I know how, by repeating it. (Sometimes they call doing that “palilalia”. I call it simply getting stuck on a word.) Special. Special. Special. Special. Special. Special. Special. Special. Special. Special. Special. Special. Ssssspessshullll.

Maybe you know why it’s gotten stuck in my head, because you’ve heard it used in that horribly obnoxious way: “He’s special.”

What a stupid word. Well, a perfectly ordinary word used in stupid ways.

Special: something distinct, individual, unique, peculiar, distinguished, unusual, exceptional, extraordinary, or especially valued.

In its honest, original meaning, the word lends positive weight. And then it got horribly warped and weighted down with social baggage. (Albeit, not quite as badly as words such as “faggot”, which used to refer to a bundle of sticks for kindling.) But just use it in (ahem) special wordings, and you get a variety of negative visceral responses.

A special school for special children. Comes off variably snooty, smarmy, or condescending – what, the rest of the children aren’t special in their own ways? ::bleh::

My child has special needs.
Generates pity: “I’m so sorry to hear that.” May generate distrust or denial: “What’s so ‘special’ about your child? How come they get something extra?” May generate resentment: “Why does Mommy think she’s special and not me?”

Special education. A phrase so heavily loaded with a myriad of issues that it generates sighs in parents, educators, school administrators and educational psychologists everywhere. People fight to get special education, fix special education, or even to get out of special education. “Special” education was created because regular (or “normal”) education isn’t flexible enough to deal with the fact that students are not interchangeable units. At its worst special education meant segregation from one’s school peers, with reduced expectations and educational opportunities.

Oh, how the word special can be seriously weighted down with derision: “Isn’t that just so special?”

During my drive home, I remembered a classic joke, one that ranks highly on sarcasm points: “Remember, you’re special, just like everyone else.” The sarcasm comes from the acknowledgement that the phrase “you’re special” is derived from the total deformation of the meaning of the word. There’s really nothing “special” about having different abilities and different needs than everyone else, because everyone does in some manner or another. The perfectly average person is actually profoundly rare, because everyone is un-average in at least one way. So why is a child “special”, or why are their needs “special”, or why does education have to be “special”?

“Oh how special!”
I hate hearing this. If everything you do is fabulous, then it doesn’t matter what you do, because you’ll get the same hollow praise and the same insincere responses. Hey, I’m not looking to be better than other people per se, but I am looking to be recognized for my particular efforts and my accomplishments.

I’ve heard it used in a variety of situations, and in a number of rôles in my life. After hearing it used by random adults throughout primary school, I began to cringe. I had no idea who most of those adults were – they weren’t my teachers, but were usually other associated staff members and parent volunteers (“room mothers” back when it was assumed that mothers stayed at home and were idle). After-school events (dare I say it? special events) such as ice cream socials or once-a-month films or anything so random as a meeting for the student library volunteers, seemed to attract such adults who then generated these kinds of comments.

The well-intended adults wanted to praise and encourage the children around them, and also wanted to keep them docile and occupied, possibly even entertained. So we as hapless victims ended up with stupid crafts using paper plates, felt or tongue depressors, crafts that no one wanted to do past the age of eight. Little kids would do the crafts because they just liked to mess around with the materials. But generally older kids would only do them to be compliant.

The problem with such special “arts and crafts” was that they were not very functional – we couldn’t learn any new real-world skills, and nothing useful to be made. What is anyone going to do with a “book mark” made from beads glued on a strip of felt? You can’t really use it because the glue won’t hold the beads, and even if you did, the beads were so lumpy they would damage the book. What is the point of a “place mat” made from construction paper and poster paint that will dissolve and then stain anything slightly damp? It really wasn’t a “special treat” to be told to cut out this shape from this color and glue to it this spot, and yet also be “creative” while doing so.

Even after I became an adult, I still hear people issuing bizarre commands and praises to the children and young adults (!) in their care, utterances like “Give me blue” or “Nice hands”. (Please folks, if you want children to learn to speak correctly, then you need to model good grammar.)

I can hardly explain just how much that squeaky, patronising, coo gets me riled up. It’s not just the tone of voice, or the phrasing, or the activities. It’s the adults’ insistence of the children’s slavish obedience to time-filling but personally-unfulfilling special activities. A few times it’s been all I can do not to upturn the tables of worksheets and ugly crayon stubs, and stomp out of there in frustration. I’ve seen this kind of behaviour in gradeschool classes, Sunday School classes, scout troops, after-school enrichment programs, summer camps and other places.

It doesn’t help to explain that no-one wanted to do the arts & crafts last time, and that probably no one will want to do the similar arts & crafts next time. Telling the children that it is a “special” project and that their finished products are also so “special” is not going to generate enthusiasm. If they committee members think the result is cute, they assume the children will think it’s cute and their parents will also think it’s cute. The worst part is that scores of people (usually women) seem to find doing this to the “precious children” to be just so wonderful and happy and helpful! They sit around having little hen-parties about how to come up with more saccharine phrases and more inane, time-wasting cutesy projects.

I do my best to avoid such situations. I’m not “aloof”, I’m horrified.

“Isn’t that special!”

If only.