Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ways of responding to injustice

On Friday we discussed ways of responding when someone is unfair to you.

To prime the conversation we read The Goose Girl, a Brothers Grimm tale about a princess who was treated unfairly by her lady-in-waiting after being sent to marry a foreign prince.

The lady-in-waiting switched roles with the princess and married the foreign prince; but in the end the real princess was redeemed and the miscreant maid was condemned to exile (we used this somewhat languid but more defensible punishment in the Oak Meadow version of the story; in the original Grimm version she was thrown naked into a cask, stuck with sharp nails, and dragged from street to street till she was dead!)

It was obvious to the children that the princess was not treated fairly by her maid. But when I asked how they would have acted if they had been in her place, they had to think about it, and didn't agree at first.

Should injustice be tolerated? Of course not. Then why didn't the princess tell anyone? The lady-in-waiting had made her promise not to tell any living being, on pain of death. It was only when the foreign king overheard her lament her troubles to the fire that he caught wind of who she really was.

Should the princess have refused to give her word to the delinquent lady-in-waiting, and fought to defend herself? Or should she have pretended to go along with the scam, but broken her promise to the maid as soon as it was safe to do so?

And did she really keep her word in the end?

I plan to return to these questions later, when we do a unit on Gandhi and nonviolent resistance.

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