What’s in Your Wallet? Who’s on Your Mind?

“Imagine for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of six or seven.” Miss Moore, although she may get on Slyvia’s nerves, is genuinely trying to immerse the children in the real world where society is unequal and divided. “The Lesson” by Bambara explicitly contrasts the life of the working poor with the life of those who spend luxuriously on frivolous items.  I think Miss Moore’s approach draws upon direct action theories of teaching by experience.  Remember when your parents used to ask you, “what did you learn at school today,” and you would fumble for a response? Well I believe that Slyvia learned a lesson that is hard to teach in school. We should learn lessons everyday, but on that day in particular, Slyvia was bitterly exposed to an ugly truth.  How do you expose reality without wiping out a child’s innocence? This made me think about the toy stores I used to spend hours in when I was a kid.  How did my doll house compare to that of a poverished family’s wage? I agree with Miss Moore’s direct approach, and believe that although it may be difficult, people need to be exposed to the world around them.  In regard’s to Barbie, I was shocked.  We live in a world of luxury while some people and their children almost freeze to death in their apartments because they cannot afford heat.  I see a direct connection between this and Farmer’s “stupid deaths”. Although Farmer was talking about deaths thousands of miles away, we can relate it to the US with Barbie’s story.  Imagine if her son would have died due to something as preventable as hypothermia? That would be a stupid death.  We might be tempted to think that stupid deaths don’t exist in America, but they actually do. I felt the pit in my stomach grow larger as Barbie explained how she would like at food ads just to keep her hunger down while she chose to feed her kids instead of herself.  Instead of pondering the injustice of the world as Slyvia does, Barbie is forced to walk around in injustice’s shoes and figure out how to be a single mother, work, take care of her children, and ask for help.  Who do we think about when we spend our money? Ourselves or our neighbors? I think Barbie showed a lot of humility when she asked for help and admitted that she couldn’t walk her path alone.  Slyvia, although poor, did not appreciate her lesson as much as Barbie appreciated the listening ear the lady provided that eventually helped her learn to smile for herself.

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2 Responses to What’s in Your Wallet? Who’s on Your Mind?

  1. toastedravioli says:

    limegreenlover makes a very good point. Sylvia may not have learned the lesson to the full extent, because although poor, she was still young and being provided for by her parents. In Barbie’s case, however, she was an adult forced to deal with the poverty firsthand, and she had her children to take care of as well. I wouldn’t even say that she was learning a lesson per se, because it’s not as if she was just going on a field trip, like Sylvia was. She was stuck smack dab in the middle of the poverty. To me, it seems more like she was just experiencing the hard reality. Sylvia probably won’t understand the true meaning of how to deal with poverty until she’s older. That’s when she can look back on her experience with Miss Moore and use it to take a stand. Barbie was able to learn something about herself more than society. She knew how society was, she was living it. What she learned was that it’s okay to ask for help and to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be honest and not feel ashamed. I think she found pride in being able to share her story and admit to the pain. As joycemichelle was saying in her post, we have to eradicate shame, and I think a good way to do this is to help people speak up. The listening ear that limegreenlover mentions is really important on our part. As people who live lives of luxury compared to some of the hardships faced in our country, we can use our position and status to be a listening ear to those in need, and in turn stand up for them.

  2. Limegreenlover post seems to be about poverty and the effects of it but is really about the differences between being an adult and a child (shout out to learning the reading strategy of “seems to be about x but is really about y!!). In both “The Lesson” and the story of Barbie, there is a distinct difference between how children and adult view poverty. Both limegreenlover and toastedravioli claim that Sylvia was too young to fully grasp the reality of being poor. To her and the other children money buys power and happiness. Miss Moore created a lesson that taught them the importance of money in a very simplified and mostly innocent way. Now compare this to the harsh way that Barbie learned her lesson about poverty. Barbie had to live in an un-heated apartment and choose week to week whether she would buy food or clothes for her own children. Both Sylvia and Barbie were being exposed to poverty but in different ways. One explored the meaning of money and the importance of “$35” while, Barbie’s story brings out the painful affects if has on herself and her family. Despite their minds not being fully developed, children can understand pain and sacrifice. I believe that if children become informed at a young age about the devastating situations some are placed in then their generation can become devoted to finding a solution, bringing equality to all.
    Do you think that age should affect how one is exposed to social justice issues, such as poverty? If exposure is what’s needed to achieve solutions for these problems then why “sugar-coat” a reality?

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