Saturday, May 04, 2013

Lessons From The Past

I woke up with this word in my head: detente. It was probably because I had been watching a rehash of "All The President's Men" that included an attempt at reminding us that Richard Nixon wasn't all bad. After all, he gave us detente, or what the web dictionary defines as "the easing of tensions or strained relations (especially between nations)." That parenthetical is the part for which Tricky Dick gets credit. He opened China. He went to Russia and spoke to Brezhnev. While we tend to think of Ronald Reagan as the guy who ended the Cold War, he probably couldn't have done it without the groundwork laid by President Nixon: detente.
Flash forward some forty years and I look out on the playground. I see a herd of fifth graders who have spent the past six years dealing with each other in one fashion or another. Some of them are quite adept at handling themselves. Others take more coaching. At lunch a few days back, two girls who have attempted to share the lightly recognized position of princess of their class gave up any pretense of getting along and commenced to slugging it out. Not very princess-like. The physical confrontation was over in a couple of seconds. Our principal stepped in and brought them to the office where they were allowed to glare at one another from across the room while parents were called and consequences were determined. The aftermath on the yard was not as clear cut. Factions formed. The two and a half punches and slaps that were lobbed became the discussion points for a hundred and fifty kids. "Didjooseethat?"
The temperature is rising as we creep closer to June. I know that all the frayed nerves and perceived slights are starting to weigh on the students and staff of our school. We don't need to be best friends here. We just need to get along for the next six weeks. We need detente. I wonder if I could reconcile sneaking in some American History into our curriculum before the end of the year: Richard Nixon and The World Playground.

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