Yes…Je suis Charlie. Literally, figuratively.

January 13, 2015

Dear Friends,

On our way home tonight Jude and I were talking about free speech and hate speech and the way that satire can work in art and pop culture.  He initiated this conversation.  He was interested in the Beastie Boys and the fact that just because they believed they were making “tongue in cheek” raps, critiquing sexism and machismo, doesn’t mean that their audience knew they were deconstructing language.  People might just think it’s what they are and it could seem like they’re condoning hate. Ok. He didn’t use the word deconstructing at first. I taught it to him.  Jude was very intrigued by the whole idea that intention isn’t always transparent, that people can get hurt by language, and people can also delight in it’s humor. The tension between these truths to an 11 year old are really clear. For 11 year-olds dabble in transgression and in earnestness all the time. Jude is convinced that what you say and what you do are sometimes very different.  Just because you are saying something doesn’t mean you are really believing it, you could be performing a role.  You could be making a point.  Timely or what?

Yes…Je suis Charlie.  Literally, figuratively. In my conversations with my kid, our kids, I want to make sure they know that expression with intention and compassion can be tolerated, celebrated, imitated.  It’s ok to be unapologetically scathing. Just not hateful.  And lord knows, be ready to explain your thinking, without flippancy.

I’m so grateful that our Uppers have recently studied satire.  They understand that concept, they feel empowered and they use it.  What a great gift for preteens and teens to receive from their school.  Satire makes so much sense to these awkward but brilliant creatures, who seriously make it their business to make fun at absolutely everything: a jiggly belly, a dented car door, folk songs, hippies, posers, healthy food, kids with bedtimes, joggers, people who kiss in public, zits, and Dora the Explorer come to mind.


Tonight NPR shared a description of the front page of tomorrow’s Charlie Hebdo as follows:  A cartoon of Mohammed with a tear running down his cheek and the headline All is Forgiven.   Now that’s class.  Let’s teach that.

Je t’embrasse,

Charlie Spencer, Head of School
Contact Charlie: Email
Phone: 413-773-1700
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