My wonderful colleague, who teaches 8th grade science next door, got a parakeet for her classroom this year. It is small, cute and yellow and sings songs softly. Students were very excited when she introduced him and they have treated him with care for months. Students especially love the privilege of having the bird cage rest on their table while they work.
On Thursday afternoon, my colleague was at a PD and a substitute covered her class. Sometime during that class, a student sprayed the bird in the face with white-board cleaning fluid–which is basically alcohol. The bird’s eye became red and inflamed, the area around it was swollen, and it’s body language indicated it was quite sick.
Students were upset and anxious about the situation. Many thought that the bird would die. But no one owned up to the deed. The majority of the class seemed unsure which of 3 or 4 boys who were goofing around near the bird had done it.
The deans and principal investigated and narrowed it down to two boys. Neither of the boys is an extremely malicious or violent student. It seemed to have been a matter of extremely poor judgment, a negative response to perceived lack of boundaries, and lack of self-restraint.
One of the boys, while being questioned, said, “It’s not that big of a deal. We can just buy her another bird; they only cost 8 dollars.”
This response caught my attention. Mind you, this is a student who lacks impulse control, but who is very bright and who shows care for others. Though a bit of an enigma, (his writing is, without fail, no matter what I try, the longest, most interesting, run-on sentence you’ve ever read) he is one of my favorite students. How could he so totally miss the point here?
On the one hand, this was a thirteen-year-old child’s attempt to right a wrong situation. On the other had, I also wonder if his sentiment is symptomatic of today’s out-of-control consumer culture and the disconnect of the urban environment from the natural world.
Broken bird? Buy another one.
As it turns out, the bird is recovering… but I’m a little concerned for our children. Are they getting the message that anything in the world can be bought? That problems–crimes, even–are easily fixed with money? And that the price of something dictates its worth?