“…flopping around at the end of the rope.”

Posted on November 19, 2008Filed Under Seventh Grade Behavior, The Giver | Leave a Comment

They say that the longer you teach at a particular grade level, the more you start to resemble a student at that grade level. In my case, I was already there when I started. Some who know me say that I’m barely out of junior high myself. (My wife pegs me from 13-16, depending…) So it’s easy for me to see how easy it is for my students to drift a bit. And certain things fascinate them, so I should know better than to even open certain doors. But, of course…

Yesterday, we were debriefing after chapter 19, where The Giver makes Jonas watch his “father” release the lighter of the two identical twins. (Aside: I have a set of twins this year – one year I had 3 sets – and they have been great sports about us joking about releasing one of them. In fact, their birthweights are nearly identical to the ones in the book, with the same separation. One of them we now call “Little Guy.”)

They were appalled by what Jonas witnessed. They couldn’t cope.

We talked about China’s one child policy, and how many times only boys were “allowed to be born.” We talked about Hitler. We talked euthanasia and putting your dog to sleep. We talked about how, since 50 babies are born each year, 50 old people would have to be released. We were having a fine conversation.

Then I made the mistake of mentioning that what the little twin got was a “lethal injection” and that was how they put death row inmates to death in most states.

“Don’t they still hang them in some states?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I heard sometimes they don’t die, and they’re flopping around at the end of the rope, and…”

“Thank you, can we get back to our discussion? These people think they are doing the right thing. They want to make sure that they never return to the days when there was hunger and starvation. They think they have to control the population… Yes, ‘Gene’?”

“Does hanging just break your neck, or does it make it so you can’t breathe or what?”

“I believe it would do both. Can we move on?”

“Why’d he stick the needle in the baby’s head?”

“Your veins are close to the surface; you can see many of them. (Lots of flexing and ewwing.) Babies have a layer of baby fat, so their veins aren’t so close to the surface.”

“What happened to the box after the father pushed it through the hole?”

“My guess is there’s an incinerator on the other side.”

Half the class goes “ewww” and the other half asks what an incinerator is. Now everybody has some sharing to do about some relative’s ashes.

“All right, all right, save it for circle time.”

“Yeah! When’s that?”

“We don’t have circle time. Now can we get back to our discussion? Why would people put up with this?”

“Because they don’t know any different.”

“Nice. And… yes Gene?”

“So what if the rope breaks, and you don’t die? Do they just try again?”

“We’re about to find out.”


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