Friday, April 6, 2012

How the stories we tell children influence the type of treatment children believe they deserve

Excerpt from "The Skerrit" in The Talking Palm

Any moment now the skerrit could take me and place me in the old leaky fishing boat that people said he always used.  He would take me past the school house, past the boathouses covered with coconut branches, past the jetty littered with empty coconut shells, row me to a dilapidated wooden house in the middle of the angry Atlantic Ocean, and abandon me at a spot only the skerrit knew about.  If I could not swim well, I would drown. 
The skerrit’s sea house was one the government built to punish truant children like me, people said… (45) 

A classroom is a place where children should feel safe and protected.   But according to “The Skerrit,” a story in The Talking Palm,, Sheryl waits in her classroom for a man to take her to the ocean and let her drown as punishment for her truancy.

According to the story, eight-year old Sheryl:

- accepts the cruel punishment as appropriate for her truancy.
- believes she deserves the punishment
- expects no one to help or rescue her
- never cries out for help
- does not try to defend herself
- does not tell her parents before or after her encounter with the skerrit

The "skerrit" is a cultural myth that some Dominican adults previously used to frighten children to stay in school in.  According to that myth, the country gave a mysterious man permission to punish truant children by drowning them.  

Do you think the cultural myths we share with our children affect their self worth and influence the type of treatment children think they deserve? The Talking Palm:

How do you feel for little Sheryl in the story? Like Sheryl, have you ever had a “skerrit" moment?  
Esther Jno-Charles

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