Things I Know 32 of 365: You’d beat me in a fight

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.

– Bruce Lee

I was in fourth grade the first time I got hit by a girl.

We were lining up to go back inside from recess when Monika, a girl who I knew of but didn’t know punched me in the face.

I only point out that she was a girl because I’d been told there were rules about hitting and there were rules about hitting girls and there were rules about hitting back. I’d never been hit before, so the shock of the experience greatly impaired my ability to follow the appropriate line of the retaliatory flowchart.

I didn’t do anything.

This is not to say I ran.

I didn’t do anything.

I stood there and wondered why this person had hit me. We’d had little interaction inside or outside of the classroom, so all I could do was guess she was angry and thought I had something to do with it.

I wasn’t angry. Just surprised. A little sad that she was so angry. I’d never been that angry, and imagined it must have taken a lot to make her do that.

That’s been my M.O. since then.

When Matt, the kid who lived up the street and had parents who I thought were inexplicably mean, road his bike to the end of my sidewalk and yelled at me to come off my porch and fight him, I yelled back, “Why?”

When some intoxicated dudes cornered some friends and I on the Quad one night in college and punched my friend Andy in the face while yelling some pretty hateful words, I had questions.

So, I turned, stared at them and yelled, “That was stupid! Why would you do something like that?” Clearly, not suspecting this might be our reaction, they cursed.

“What kind of answer is that?”

They ran away.

I’ve seen a few fights as a teacher.

Once the parties are separated, my questioning always starts the same, “Why were you fighting?”

“He said such and such.”

“Ok, but why were you fighting?”

“It made me feel this and that.”

“Ok, but why were you fighting?”

I’ll rephrase and redirect my questioning as long as it takes. Infallibly, the students don’t know.

I don’t get fighting. So, I keep asking.

Self defense, yes.

Making a point, sure.

Fighting, though, just feels like something we should be done with.

Newton gave us all the reason we should need with his third law. Fear of equal and opposite reaction kept the Cold War oh so chilly.

Socrates is my Burgess Meredith. The dude knew how to battle without fighting his enemies. When they were throwing punches, Soc was landing blows of logic they never saw coming or knew landed until it was too late and they were in agreement.

If I must be a warrior, let me be a warrior of the Socratic tradition.


4 thoughts on “Things I Know 32 of 365: You’d beat me in a fight

  1. I was a bit of a brawler as a kid. Well, to be honest, as a young adult as well. If someone asked me what I liked about fighting, it would have been impossible to explain without sounding completely wet. The closest I can explain was that there was something inside me that needed to get out, but when it did it was terrible and made me miserable. Fortunately, I had some male role models (an elementary school janitor and a high school football coach) who understood this and helped me channel the agression I felt (despite a happy home and all of that) into sports and, as you point out, intellectualism.I used to keep a picture of myself as a Golden Gloves boxer at age 14 in my classroom just as a reminder of what it meant for me to be a certain kind of boy in a school.And we'll never be done with fighting.

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