Recently a substitute teacher in New York got the axe because she allegedly asked fourth-graders for advice on her love life.
She was probably confused and needed pure, unbiased counsel. That’s something a therapist would have charged a hefty fee for and something her parents and friends couldn’t provide. On the other hand, Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer would have had a field day. So, what better source of advice is there than kids who at that tender age have heard it all already and who’ve probably heard even more than their parents?
Unfortunately the school board didn’t see it that way and substitute teacher Cassandre Fiering lost her job. Fiering’s problem was she had too many boyfriends and needed to downsize. One guy had to be pushed overboard, so she asked the youngsters to help her decide, according to a report filed by school investigators.
The kids weighed the evidence and delivered their verdict: Hang on to the older, sensible guy and ditch the younger guy, who wasn’t returning calls. Alas, now that her romance problem has been solved, she’s going to need legal counsel … not to mention tips on job hunting.
But these students gave her valuable guidance, which is more than you can say about your family and friends when it comes to relationships. Everyone has an opinion. Their thinking is usually hysterical, along the lines of “Dump the dirt bag because he’s been nothing but trouble!!!” or “Stay with the louse even if it means you become a door mat or Persian rug.”
Good advice is hard to come by and it can cost a lot because everyone wants to make a buck off your misery. Fewer healthcare plans cover therapy. And don’t get me started on legal advice, medical advice or financial advice. To their credit, these fourth-graders helped out of the goodness of their hearts and the teacher seemed pleased with their suggestions, but then someone snitched and brought the house down.
Now, I’m not advocating that teachers solicit advice from grammar school students when it comes to romance, but these kids usually have a clarity of moral vision that’s untainted by prejudice, misperceptions and self-interest.
Kids offer an honest interpretation and their understanding of right and wrong hasn’t been completely corrupted by television, pop culture, their parents and their peers. They possess a preternatural vision of what’s good and bad until adults start twisting things around and making wrong seem right.
At that age, they’re pure of heart. Remember Robert Fulghum, the fellow who wrote, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? He had some great insights that he learned as a youngster, such as:
• Share everything.
• Play fair.
• Don’t hit people.
• Clean up your own mess.
• Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
• Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
• Take a nap every afternoon.
When my kids were young, I routinely sought their advice on matters big and small because they were better balanced emotionally and intellectually than I was. For example, I asked them for career advice. Should I stay in journalism or go into something more profitable like, say, healthcare even though I faint at the sight of blood? They suggested I buy a McDonald’s franchise so they could have Happy Meals for themselves and their friends. Years later, they wanted me to buy a Popeye’s.
I also asked them about my investment portfolio — stocks, bonds, money market, the usual stuff — and they recommended I invest in the company that made their school computers, called Apple. I ignored them and put my money in the Times Mirror Company of Los Angeles, which went kaput a few years later. Hmmm, I wonder how Apple stock is doing these days? Score one for the kids I guess.
Yes, young people have a lot to contribute and we should give them the opportunity to be heard. Just don’t ask them questions about your love life. If you do, make sure they sign a non-disclosure agreement and don’t send a bill for their services.
Joe Pisani, who grew up in Shelton’s Pine Rock neighborhood, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.