27: The Cruelty of Children

27: The Cruelty of Children

Jun 21, 1996
Stories about kids being mean to each other... including a mysterious handbook for bullies, a surprising experiment conducted by a teacher who wants to make kids be nice, and a story of youthful backstabbing told by David Sedaris.
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  • A first-grader explains to host Ira Glass how bullies become bullies. His explanation: They read a book on how to be a bully. According to his reasoning, how else could you explain why kids are mean to each other? It couldn't be that they're just bad. (2 minutes) ChildrenEducationLiterature

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  • David Sedaris reads one of his funniest and most affecting stories from his book Naked before a live audience. As an adolescent boy, David feared he might be a homosexual. He explains how his secret plan was to win the lottery and then hire doctors who would purge him of his homosexual impulses. Sometimes kids in his class at school would taunt the boys they thought were sissies, and when they did, he tried to be the loudest and meanest. He figured if he didn't act that way, they'd all turn on him next. Then he goes away to summer camp and meets a boy named Pete, who seems like an outsider in the same way he is. At first they get close. Then Pete turns on him. Sedaris' latest book is Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. (26 minutes)

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  • Original fiction by Ira Sher about a group of children who find a man trapped in a well but decide not to get him any help. First published in the Chicago Review. (17 minutes)

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  • Author and kindergarten teacher (and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient) Vivian Paley tells the story of an experiment she conducted in her classroom to make children less cruel to each other. She instituted a rule: "You can't say 'You can't play.'" In other words, if two children are playing, and a third child comes over and wants to join them, they can't tell him or her to get lost. They can't reject him or her. This is the cause of unending pain in most classrooms and playgrounds. The experiment was a remarkable and immediate success. (11 minutes)

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