Wednesday, April 26, 2006
My tolerance for little boy barnyard and bathroom humor reaches its limits quickly. Now anyone who rushes to mark me as a prude is one who simply doesn’t know me well. There is a difference between crass potty-mouth for the sake of being obnoxious and the refined art of articulation that could still cause my granny to blush. Boors pride themselves in the former; Luther was a master of the latter. I appreciate Luther and quote him (sometimes with discretion for the sake of the audience) while at the same time I discipline my students in the ways of a “wise and eloquent piety” because of their use of the former.
Every year we take the darlings to a local pumpkin patch and petting farm. Last year my crew was too cool for school. They stood back from the “little kids” and observed. They also maintained a running commentary on the animal behavior, announcing what each one was doing. The more bathroom-related, the more delighted they became, barely stifling their snickers and giggles.
“What? Like you don’t do what they do?” I’d ask.
“Well, no. It isn’t that,” they’d lamely say. “It’s just funny to see it. And they’re using the outside as their bathroom.”
Imagine that. Animals actually using the out-of-doors for a bathroom. What was the world coming to?
When we got back to school I was called out of the classroom for a few minutes. As soon as I retuned they all converged on me. “Deaconess! You should see what Isaac drew! It is awesome.” They shoved a full-page cartoon in my face. Isaac is quite an artist even at ten.
It was a running sight-gag with only four words, “Oh, my rear itches.” These obviously provided the source of their hilarity. The students could see from my face and demeanor I was not amused. Jacob immediately told the crew to sit down. I grabbed two books, told them I would return soon, and left the room.
Dead silence met me when I came back. I went straight to the board and began to write:
A R T I C U L A T E
After defining the word, we got down to business. The animals they had seen were performing certain functions. I was not aware of the fact that I had picked up different colored marked with which to write, so it came out on the board like this:
When I finally noticed that I had written in different colors, I said, “Well, lookie see there. The colors are perfectly picked out to suit our purposes.” The poor little dears were grossed out! GOTCHA!
We moved on.
The point was articulation. The cartoon displayed none of that. Bathroom humor appeals to the widest audience because it is the lowest common act of humans and the animal kingdom. So what is so special about that?
Finally I dropped the word they liked to sneak in when they really wanted to be “cute.” It was Friday, and for the first time they would have weekend homework.
“Since you all think writing only four words about an itchy rear is articulation; and because you all think talking about flatulent animals urinating and defecating is the highest form of intelligence, this weekend you all are going to do what you like to do best. You are going to spend it writing about asses.”
They were appalled. The Deaconess had gone nuts. They were certain of it. She had sworn in front of them. One looked as if he was going to call his mother and report me post haste.
“You said ‘ass’ they accused.”
“So I did,” I confessed. “And you say ‘hell’ every single day in chapel.”
“No we don’t. That’s a cuss word.”
“Yes you do. ‘He descended into hell…’ Now, you want to know how ‘ass’ can be used properly?”
Their assignment was to read an Aesop’s Fable and re-write it, the “Ass and the Dog.” They also illustrated it. They thoroughly enjoyed doing it, which was good, because they got several more of Aesop’s “Ass” tales ove the following weeks. Eventually they became so used to the word they no longer giggled when they heard it. Nor did they any longer consider it unusual when finding goose droppings on our long walks. “Where else would a goose do that ‘d’ thing?” they’d say.
God created our mouth to speak and sanctifies the language which comes from it. It is we, through sin, who have made the one a cesspool and the other spewed sewage. A word has its proper use as well as its abuse. We reclaim its proper use when we catechize our children to use their sanctified common sense and articulate rather than either act out or react.
This year’s class is different. It includes the Troublemint Twins, who find giggle-source in the word “bathroom” itself. Say it and Jeremiah will look at Byrne with a wide grin and both will need to work hard to suppress their giggles. Today they couldn’t.
Sean has difficulty reading sometimes. He’ll let his brain over run his eyes. He saw the letters b-a-r and never got to the n before his mind rushed to assume “bathroom.” Rudeness knows no limits when there is giggle opportunity for a Troublemint Twin. They erupted into great fits of glee. Sean was beet red with embarrassment.
What to do? Easy. Jeremiah and Byrne received sentences for mocking their neighbor’s difficulty in reading. That was a given. The next part was to cure them of the bathroom giggles.
Jacob could sense it coming almost before I spoke it out loud. “The extra desks?” he asked.
Jeremiah took the Boys’ room; Byrne the Girls’.
For the sake of privacy, I posted an “Out of Order” sign on the Girls’ door.
Normally it takes Jeremiah a good half-hour to write his seven sentences. He nailed them in ten minutes flat.