As I walked off of a middle school campus in Brockton, Massachusetts earlier today after doing a series of huge student assemblies for the incarcerated – I mean, scholars – a moral conundrum struck. There, as school let out and I crossed back to my vehicle, a few kids were tossing a football around. (Or rather, tossing around a football, I should say… as you’ll see why in a moment.)
Happens all the time across America everyday, right? And then, out of nowhere, I heard the scream right next to me: “Look out, you’re gonna get ranned over!”
And sure enough, a boy was preparing to dash into the middle of a car-infested street to chase down an errantly thrown football. That’s when my stumper, my perplexity, the riddle amongst all riddles set in.
“Should I save the boy or correct the grammar?”
No one ever prepared me for such dilemmas when I was working on my Master’s degree, I tell you that.
The child blindly stepped off the curb, keyed in on only one reality: get that football.
And yet, the other boy had just used the word “ranned”? (Seriously?)
Could I remedy both potential calamities at the same time? Impossible, I deduced. Should I lurch for the child with an eye towards the oncoming vehicle, I’d surely lose out on my opportunity to remediate the faulty verb usage of the incorrigible on the curb. Yet, if I addressed the notions of syntax, participles, faithfulness to the queen’s english and diligence to to matters easily referenced by Strunk and White, then a kid could be ka-putt.
What to do? But there was no time to think. Instinct took over.
I extended my arm, grabbed the kid and pulled him close.
“There is absolutely no such word as ranned,” I said. “Never, ever incorporate this vocabulary word into your speech again, okay? Ranned is NOT a word!”
Then I turned and walked serenely away, my back to the loud, yet oddly unfazing screeeeech.
Always, remember, we must do all we can to save ’em one kid at a time.