Monday, January 16, 2006

Out of Bounds

From my latest Los Angeles Daily News piece:

It was a tone of voice I've grown all too accustomed to hearing in the classroom. Insolent and obnoxious, it could only have come from a certain creature: The Child Who Knows No Limits.

I was enjoying some frozen yogurt at a local store in the Westside, far from the schools in South Los Angeles where I teach, when a boy of perhaps 12 years suddenly screamed out, "I said chocolate sprinkles!" The demand was not accompanied with the magic word and was expressed with the same amount of disdain one should reserve for terrorists. If you can judge people by how they treat those who serve them, well, this boy was a certifiable brat.

"Please tell me his father is reprimanding him," I said to my sister, who, unlike me was facing the proceedings. She shook her head. It turned out that the only adult in the picture was the college-age employee who had committed the unforgivable sin of confusing chocolate sprinkles with chocolate chips.

As she told the boy that there was no need to yell, I wondered why his father couldn't do the same. Instead, the father paid for the yogurt and mockingly thanked the woman in his best mentally challenged voice. I wouldn't be surprised if he gave his son a high-five the moment they were out the door.

If only we had been at the Chicago cafe "A Taste of Heaven," this entire incident might have been avoided. The eatery has been in the national news of late because of a sign on its door reminding "children of all ages" to use their indoor voices when they are - get this - inside. The ensuing boycott of the cafe by overly permissive and indulgent parents reminds me of my students stamping the floor in anger during a time-out.

I offer up some suggestions (well, at least one) on how to remedy this problem in the rest of the piece.


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