I don’t know what your school calls it, but at mine we occasionally have a lesson called Citizenship – universally known as ‘How to Treat Other People So ASBO Numbers Decrease, Making the Government Look Good at the Next Election’. For this event called Citizenship Week, my year have been divided up into groups, with a different group doing a different topical issue (my group is doing household waste. Don’t look at me like that, I wanted to do crimes against humanity).
In the computer lesson today, a member of the group doing assisted suicide found a picture on Wikipedia of a woman with a brain tumour on her face. I know, ouch. They called down the row “It’s a woman with a brain tumour on her face!”
This was when our teacher got pissy. Because we are discussing sensitive subjects and they can be hurtful to people and we should treat them with delicacy and she personally was offended by the comment…
Oh, for God’s sake.
We are supposed to be discussing current affairs. Assisted suicide is a topical issue – and if I had a brain tumour on my face, I might consider suicide the solitary way. Yes, some subjects are to be handled with care. Yes, people get offended when you accidentally make light of something dodgy that happened to them.
But life is tough. Deal with it. In the real world, people say mean things and are probably perfectly aware of it. If you have put your foot in it, you apologise, wait for two seconds for the awkward silence to pass and change the subject. If a person is intentionally rude, you can either tell them and make them uncomfortable then walk away as they are losers, or just walk away.
Pushing a topic under the carpet isn’t going to help anyone, is it? The more a matter is discussed openly, the more socially acceptable it becomes. Look at gay people. A few years ago they were talked of everywhere as people with diseases. Now there’s that Eastenders storyline and kids at school coming out for attention.
If problems such as assisted suicide or brain tumours of the face are talked about, they will become common knowledge instead of taboo. Then maybe the issue can get solved.
The point of Citizenship is to learn what it is to be a citizen. If an adult had yelled that comment, they would have been a jerk. Instead she was a teenage girl. If more people talked about painful themes without the fear of being politically incorrect, we might get a bit closer to preventing them.
Happy Burns Night.