Amanda's Epistle

The continuing story of my life in Thailand


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Life with Jam (Part 3)

The three of us with Dad on Christmas morning ('92 or '93?)

The three of us with Dad on Christmas morning (’92 or ’93?)

Holidays are always great fun when you have sisters.  Our most memorable Halloween is still the one where Jam wanted to dress up like Smurfette, complete with blue makeup.  I was Tinker Bell that year and had cardboard wings.  That was also the one year we had to ride the bus to school, as they were building the high school and didn’t want us walking through construction.  Jam and I hated riding the bus.  We were the last stop, so we always had to sit in the far back, where a bunch of older boys would tease us the whole way to school.  They were especially mean when we showed up in our costumes, as Jam had a blue face and I had my jacket on backwards so my wings could stick out the back.

Deb didn’t care for that year of school either.  She came to pick us up from school at one time, and they sent her to the principal’s office for walking through the construction zone.  Deb just rolled her eyes, as she was in high school and said an elementary principal couldn’t do anything to her.

Thanksgiving always involved Mom and Deb cooking in the kitchen while Jam and I watched the Macy’s parade, usually while peeling potatoes.  Deb hated peeling potatoes.  I always preferred baking, so Jam and I would make the pies.  We always had to have an apple pie along with the pumpkin pies, as that was our favorite.  Sometimes Mom wanted mincemeat pie, but she either had to buy it or make it herself.  We both hated mincemeat pie.

In later years, Deb got a job in Topeka, so we got the brilliant idea to have Thanksgiving at her house so she and Mom could use two kitchens.  Jam and I would drive over to Deb’s house in our blue Chevy Lumina the day before so we could make the pies and help with cleaning.  Deb always was pretty bossy and loved making us clean her house.  The first time we did this, we got stuck behind an old truck and made up the following song.

Driving down the road…behind a pickup truck

He’s going really slow…oh what rotten luck

We gotta get to Deb’s…or she will have our heads.

If we don’t make the apple pies…they’ll make mincemeat instead!

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to drive an old blue Chevrolet

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to drive an old blue Chevrolet!

Naturally, Christmas was our favorite time of year.  All three of us loved poking at the gifts under the tree, trying to guess what they were.  We nearly always got gifts in sets of three, so after one of us opened her gift, the other two figured out what we were getting.  This later became sets of two, as Deb outgrew the desire to have stuffed animals or dolls as a gift.  One of the most annoying sets was when Jam and I got hairclips that played music when you pushed them.  Jam’s was black and mine was green and they each played different Christmas songs.  We had a great time driving Deb crazy with those.

Another time, Jam and I spent Christmas Eve playing with a tape recorder.  We loved that thing and had often listened to songs from Sesame Street on it.  We made the following recording, but have since lost the cassette tape it was on.  Not that we could find anything to play it on these days anyway.

It was a dark and stormy night.  The wind is howling and the house is moaning.  For this is the night of Halloweeeeeen!….Wait a minute, I made a mistake.  This is Christmas Eve!

 

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Life with Jam (Part 2)

 

Jam's Senior Picture

Jam’s Senior Picture

Anyone with older sisters will tell you that one of the greatest blessings (or curses) is that you never have to buy new clothes.  This was especially true for me, as I got clothes from both Jam and Deb.  Actually, since Jam is very tall (5’9″), even Deb would get clothes from her from time to time. 

This was a good thing, as Dad was very strict when it came to money.  I actually grew up thinking we were dirt poor until I got to Junior High and figured out Dad was just cheap.  On one occasion, Jam and I were travelling with Dad and he opted for the most el-cheapo motel he could find.  Then at 3 am, someone starts banging on the door looking for someone named “Bubba.”  Dad stormed to the door and yelled at the guy, “I AIN’T BUBBA!”

The good thing about that was Jam and I were able to convince Dad not to stay at the cheapest motels anymore.  We were scared out of our wits.

That wasn’t the only time Dad had to scare someone off.  In high school, one of Jam’s classmates started harassing her in class.  He even started calling her on the phone and making rude comments.  Jam did the wise thing by handing the phone to Dad, who immediately told the boy off in no uncertain terms.  He never bothered her again.

You don’t mess with Dad.

Now there is an upside to growing up with a cheapskate for your dad.  He was actually very money savvy and taught us early on how to manage our finances.  He gave each of us a checkbook in high school with a bank account and an automatic deposit.  The catch was, we could not ask for any other money.  Period.  We had to use our own.

This made me glad that I never had to purchase clothes.  I was able to use my money for other things.  This included paying for school lunches, until we got the bright idea that we could bring lunch from home for free (as Dad still paid for the weekly groceries).

Jam always said that it was school lunches that gave her the habit of eating too quickly.  I read a lot how Europeans and other nationalities think Americans eat too fast.  Jam says it’s all because of the school lunches.  She would spend three-quarters of the lunch period in line getting her lunch and finding a seat.  Once she actually sat down to eat, she would have only three to five minutes left before the bell rang.  This was another reason it was better to bring food from home.

Another thing we paid for was our music lessons.  Dad had tried to get us into sports, but it was all in vain.  Neither of us is very athletic and we simply didn’t enjoy it.  The only game my fourth-grade basketball team won was the one where I wasn’t playing, as I was at a Girl Scout function.  Since Deb had done fairly well playing clarinet in the school band, our parents figured music was a better activity for us.

Jam wanted to play the flute first, but she had just been fitted for braces at the time.  So she opted to learn piano and the flute was passed to me.  I never really had much choice in the matter, although I was given to option of switching to the trumpet at some point.  I decided not to since the trumpet was a “boy” instrument.  I wound up playing the flute on a regular basis for the next fifteen or so years, all because Jam had wanted to play it, but wasn’t able to.  She was fairly content with playing piano though and even inherited our grandmother’s piano, as she was the only grandchild who could play.

I probably would’ve done a lot better with my flute playing if I had actually practiced.  But as it was, there was just too many good shows on after school.  Jam and I were hooked on Ghostwriter in Junior High.  In the first episode, the character Jamal is called “Jammy Jam” by his older sister, which is how I started calling my sister “Jam” as well.  

Watching Ghostwriter also spurred us into making up our own episodes.  We would spend hours lying on Jam’s bed and creating elaborate plots.  We later did this for other shows we liked to watch, mostly reruns of The Monkees and Dukes of Hazzard.  Mom called it “molting,” as it didn’t seem like we were doing much of anything just lying there.  But those hours spent “molting” with Jam was what inspired me to pursue writing.

 

 


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Life with Jam (Part 1)

IMG_1667I recently received news that my dear sister Jamie is now in hospice care.  She just can’t take the chemo treatments anymore.  So I will now sit back and reflect on our life as sisters, as wonderful, typical, and not-so-typical as it was.

Jam was the middle child.  Our older sister Deb was excited when I was born.  After all, she was eight.  But Jam was three and could really care less.  Soon as Mom brought me home, first thing she did was shove the newborn out of the way so SHE could sit in Mom’s lap.

As my son is almost three and I’m expecting our next child, I have to wonder if he’s going to do the same thing.  He’s already sitting in my lap as I’m writing.

When I was small, we lived in a house on Rose Street and Jam and I shared a room with a bunk bed.  I was on the bottom bunk and discovered one of the bars on the bed could be twisted around, making a squeaking noise.  So every night, I would lie down there and twist that bar.  When Jam asked what I was doing, I told her I was playing with a merry-go-round.

For years, she thought I really did have a toy merry-go-round down there.  It took a while for her to discover that it was just a loose bar on the bed.

Being close in age, we also shared bath time.  And we LOVED bath time.  I used it to make up a miracle product called Double-Tab, which could clean absolutely anything.  Jam sat in the tub with me as I went through a whole infomercial on the wonders of Double-Tab.  Most of the time, we never got around to actually getting clean.

Bath time was never as fun when we weren’t allowed to bathe together.  It then got ruined permanently when I came home with head lice, and of course, all three of us got it.  Deb, as the fussy older child, refused to admit she had head lice until it was confirmed by the hair stylist.  All she shampooing and hair combing took all the fun out of bathing.  It also ruined our stuffed animals, as they had to be run through the dryer and none of them were soft and fluffy anymore.

We had a lot of stuffed animals.  We got some in sets of three, one for each of us.  But I used to envy Jam because she always got one when she had to go to the hospital.  I’ll tell you now, Jam REALLY got the short end of the stick when it came to health.  Deb rarely had to go to the hospital for anything.  I’ve never been admitted to a hospital in the US (my first hospital experience was after I moved to Thailand).  But Jam was ALWAYS in there for something, be it tonsils, eye surgery, ear surgery, etc. etc. etc.  And she’s NEVER enjoyed it…although she did get some great toys that way.

One of these was the Coco Penguin, which our school counselor gave to Jam for one of these hospital stays.  He came with a pen so your friends could sign his belly.  He also came with a little song.

Coco, Coco Penguin marching by

Feet spread out and his head held high

Long black coat and a clean white vest

Coco, Coco Penguin, you’re the best!

Another time when Jam was in the hospital, our youth pastor came to see her.  He was a fun guy that rode a motorcycle and wore a leather jacket.  One of the nurses had to raise her eyebrows and asked my mother, “You mean THAT is a PASTOR?”

This pastor was the same one who led us to the Lord, although Dad did the actual baptisms.  Jam was baptized first, which of course, made ME want to get baptized.  After all, the little sister always wants to do what the big sister gets to do, and Jam was now allowed to take communion.  The pastor finally came by and talked over the meaning of baptism before I was finally allowed to be baptized as well.  Like most kids, I knew full well what it meant to be baptized and follow Jesus, but my primary motivation was still to take communion like Jam did (and go to heaven too).


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Ten Reasons It’s Better In Thailand

I’ve lived in Thailand for eight years now. I would never live in the US ever again. Of course, I’m also married to a Thai citizen…and you couldn’t make him live in the US for a million dollars. He’s been there once and couldn’t stand it.

This is not to say I don’t love my home country. I know it’s a great nation and I salute the flag. My father is a veteran, as was my grandfather, and great-grandfather. It is a great place.

But there are a few reasons Thailand is better. Some may seem frivolous, but others may make you think.

1. Full-service gas stations. When you drive up to a gas station, an attendant comes out and asks how much gas you want. Several others clean your windshield and mirrors while you fill up. They take your money or credit card and bring you your change and receipt. You never have to get out of the car.

If you’re on a motorbike (like a majority of the population), you do have to get off just to get to the gas cap, but the attendant will still pump the gas for you. In fact, it upsets them if you try to do it yourself. There’s an unspoken rule among Thai’s that you never EVER do someone else’s job.

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This phenomenon amazed my mother, who discovered the next great thing about Thailand.

2. Everybody works! We have several conductors on each public bus. Gas stations are full of attendants. Walking markets are full of vendors. Even the disabled will play music at night markets for their living.

There is no welfare here. No free ride. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.

3. The family (not the government) is expected to take care of you. This is true for young children, aging parents, and the disabled. My mother-in-law lives with us and does the cooking, cleaning, and provides child care. In exchange, we take care of her in her old age so she doesn’t have to work in the rice fields. Benjamin, our nephew, was abandoned when his mother ran off to marry a guy from Malaysia. We took him in as our own. It is our responsibility to do so.

I am often asked who is taking care of my parents, since I live here. I’m glad I have two sisters, one living at home and another not far from my parents, as I can give a suitable answer. They wouldn’t accept the idea of me leaving my parents to “gasp” fend for themselves.

4. The pharmacy is part of the hospital. I recently talked to my mother, who told me how she had to go to Walmart to fill a prescription because CVS didn’t carry it. My husband was puzzled by this story until I told him, “American hospitals do not have a pharmacy attached. You have to go to a different place to get your medicine.”

He found the idea ridiculous. At every hospital in Thailand, even the poorest and most run-down government hospital, there is a pharmacy counter. After you see the doctor, you wait for the pharmacy to call your name (or your number) and they give you your medicine (although you may have to report to the cashier and pay for it first).

5. There’s no such thing as a “deductible.” When we had my first child, I had to explain to my husband that my insurance company required that I pay a deductible before they would cover my hospital bills. He found this to be as ridiculous as there not being a pharmacy in the hospital.

Thai insurance companies have no deductible requirement. If you go to the hospital, and meet the requirements in your plan, the company will pay your bill. But there is a chance they’ll claim your plan doesn’t cover your hospital stay, so make sure you know what it covers. I don’t have Thai insurance myself as they don’t cover childbirth, as they believe childbirth is always “planned” and does not required insurance coverage. My husband and son have Thai insurance though (as I doubt either one will be giving birth anytime soon).

6. Insurance is not tied to your job. While we’re on the subject of insurance and how it works, I might point out that Thailand has government insurance. But the reason government insurance works is because EMPLOYERS DO NOT PAY FOR IT. Therefore, it has not driven businesses out of the country.

7. Excellent PRIVATE hospitals. Thailand is actually famous for it’s high quality and low cost health care. At least, it’s a lot cheaper than it would be elsewhere.

Special note here. If you are on the government healthcare plan, you can ONLY use a GOVERNMENT hospital. And the government hospitals are run like most other government offices (think the DMV in the US) with long lines, not enough staff, not enough beds, dingy lighting, and dirty floors. The one in Pai doesn’t even provide soap in the bathrooms.

It is the PRIVATE hospitals, i.e. the ones you pay for, that are excellent and high quality. Foreigners and Thais who purchase private insurance are able to use these hospitals. I had one friend who changed from a government hospital to the private one next to it and found it was the exact same doctor. He would serve PAYING patients at the private clinic first and make the others wait in line.

8. No regulations. Thailand is a very laid-back society. You can build on your land without needing a permit. You can open a shop in your yard to sell noodles without a business license. You can burn leaves in your yard without the Homeowners Association sending a nasty letter (although your neighbors are still free to complain about it).

9. You don’t ‘need’ to have a car. My husband was amazed that in my hometown in Kansas, you simply couldn’t get anywhere if you didn’t have a car. A motorbike doesn’t cut it, as we have snow and ice in the winter. But unless you live in a big city, there’s no public transportation. You either have a car, or you’re stuck.

Thai’s mostly use motorbikes. Or else they just walk. And they can walk a pretty long ways to get to the market from the village or from one village to the next. If one person in the village has a truck (like us), it’s not uncommon to take half the village to town on market day.

10. Pre-paid cell phones. Thailand skipped the age of phone lines and went right to cellular. Cell phone towers are a lot easier to put up than phone lines. A basic cell phone is dirt cheap and prepaid, so you don’t get hit with any texting or roaming fees on your bill. When you run out of money, you’re out of money. Refill it at 7-11, as there’s one on every block. They have to keep the service cheap as a cell phone is a MUST HAVE for even the POOREST people in the country.

By the way, the cheap phones often work better and last longer than the fancy expensive ones. Don’t waste your money. Get a cheap and sturdy phone that will actually receive calls and get something else like a tablet if you want to play games or use wifi.

There’s actually a great many other great things about Thailand, but I will leave it at ten for now. Yes, America is great and I miss having hamburgers and chicken fried steak and a house with air conditioning. But Thailand is also a great place to live and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


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Songkran versus Betel Nut

Songkran is a Buddhist holiday celebrated in April, which is the hottest time of the year in Southeast Asia. It has some deeper religious meanings, but like our own holidays in the West, it has pretty much become just a big party and an excuse to get drunk.

And throw water on people.

Yes, the way you celebrate Songkran is to stand by the road with a large trash can full of water and a bucket so you can splash people as they go by on motorcycles or in trucks. Folks in the back of trucks will likely be toting around their own water supply and douse you right back. Or else be armed with water guns.

The buckets are a lot worse to get hit with.

This goes on for three days. That’s right. THREE DAYS! Sometimes longer in small towns, as the kids will stand outside their houses with buckets and hoses and spray people for a week. April and May are their summer break from school, so what else do they have to do?

My first Songkran was rather unforgettable. I was in the back of a truck, going on a trip with some of my English students, who DID NOT TELL ME IT WAS SONGKRAN. I was wondering why everyone was ducking all of a sudden.

This caused a lot of problems later, as my passport got wet and I had trouble renewing my visa the following July.

Another Songkran, I was actually living in Chiang Mai, right next to the moat. Yes, Chiang Mai has a moat, which marks the boundary of the old city. And yes, it has water in it. And yes, they use the moat water to throw on people during Songkran. And yes, this causes a lot of health problems.

I had planned to just stay in my room for three days. I even checked out a stack of books from the library and purchased several more from a used bookstore. But I had no air conditioning, it was the hottest season of the year, and I ran out of drinking water.

So I had to venture out and walk down to the corner to buy drinking water, trying very hard not to cuss out the tourists throwing water on me. Oh yeah, most of the people in Chiang Mai throwing water are not the local Thais, but the tourists. For Thai people, the novelty wore off at around age 10.

Now Songkran is approaching again. I plan on staying indoors, or even going to visit the village for three days. They don’t celebrate Songkran in the Lisu villages, as the Lisu are not Buddhists.

The Lisu, in fact, find Songkran just as annoying as I do, as illustrated by the following story from my husband.

An elderly Lisu woman was returning to her village by bus. She climbed on the bus in Chiang Mai, sat by the window, and calmly chewed her betel nut.

Betel nut is a mild narcotic that is commonly chewed by the older generation of villagers in Thailand. It turns their teeth red, and later black, but they actually think black teeth are “healthy.” Chewing betel nut requires periodic spitting, much like chewing tobacco does.

betel nut 2

Now the windows of the bus were wide open, as the public buses only have fans and no air conditioning. Public buses are also popular targets for the people celebrating Songkran, as the passengers are mostly “unarmed.”

Naturally, someone on the street threw a bucket of water at the bus, dousing the poor Lisu woman, who just wanted to get home.

So the Lisu woman takes a long swig of water, swishes it around in her mouth, which you may remember is full of betel nut, and spews it right back at out the window and all over the people on the street.

By the way, Lisu people are very good at spitting.

Apparently, they are also good at revenge.


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Smog in the jungle

When you think of smog, you probably don’t think of a forest or a jungle. More likely, you think of a large city congested with traffic. I would think of the same thing.

Then I moved to Thailand.

In Thailand, smog = February until Songkran (the water festival in April).

This is what I’m taking about. The following photo was taken in June, the beginning of the rainy season. The mountain in the background can be seen quite clearly.

creative prep (13)

This photo was taken earlier that same year, during the “smog” season. It was taken in generally the same location, a short distance from the building in the first photo. Normally, you would get an even better view of the mountain from here, as the trees aren’t in the way. But you can’t see the mountain at all.

finals week

This is the problem that we face year after year. Ou lovely hillsides disappear in the smog.

Here’s how it goes. The farmers harvest their crops in the winter, starting in November and going to January. After that, it’s time to burn the fields to make room for next year’s crops.

Oh yeah, and you can’t grow next year’s crops until June, when the rains come. So the farmers will also burn the underbrush in the surrounding jungle so they can go hunting. So even those who have not burned their fields, perhaps because they’re still growing something, still have to create a fire-break AROUND their fields to protect their crops from the fires coming out of the jungle.

My husband and his brother had to do this last week. They had a crop of garlic and a patch of bamboo they had to protect. Fire from the jungle was headed their way, so they had to drop everything and go out to protect the field.

We failed to do this when we planted avocado trees. We lost over half of them to the burning. We paid good money for those trees.

Of course, we can’t pin it ALL on the farmers. Even those in other occupations contribute to the problem by burning their trash.

Yes, people burn their trash here. If the environmentalists REALLY wanted to make a difference, they’d come here and organize trash pickup. Most places have trash pickup, but a lot of people just don’t bother to put their trash in the designated bins (which look a lot like a witch’s cauldron, sitting on the corner). Even if they do, the dogs get into it and litter is everywhere. There has never been an anti-litter campaign here.

But the smog is considerably bad this time of year. We had to move out of the village primarily so we could use an eletric air filter. My mother-in-law has terrible asthma and the smog nearly killed her last year.

She’s not the only one. A lot of folks wind up in the hospital with respiratory illnesses. Including a lot of kids. And the problem is worse, yes WORSE, if you live in the country. We’re right next to the fields that are getting burned. Of course, being the city isn’t that much better.

Other consequences? Thailand’s main industry is tourism. But no one in their right mind would visit this time of year. Flights wind up getting grounded because the pilot can’t see anything.

So the big question is, what can we do about it? The Thai government has been going around and around the issue for years. They try blaming it on Burma and Laos, but I know better.

I know the farmers. I’m even married to one.

The root of the problem? It’s not the farmers…although it’s close.

A couple years ago, a company set out to purchase the corn chaff from the farmers in Chiang Rai. They then processed it into fertilizer and sold it back to the farmers.

There was considerably less smog in that area that year.

I’m not sure what happened to that program. Trust me, if somebody would buy the corn stalks from the farmers, they would gladly sell it instead of burning it. I suppose the program didn’t have enough support or something.

But now that I’ve been married to a farmer for four years, I think I’ve spotted the underlying problem behind the smog. At least one of them.

The real problem is WATER.

We have a corn field. We can ONLY grow corn in our corn field during the rainy season as it has no WATER. So do all our neighbors.

The fields without water get burned.

There are however, a few fields that DO have water. They are the ones located next to or below a local spring. These fields are used year-round for crops like beans and garlic.

The fields that have water DO NOT GET BURNED!

You always know a field has water because it is green in March. You know the fields without water, as they are black in March.

Think about it. If your field has a steady supply of water, you plant another crop after you harvest. You are also more inclined to grow a crop that does not require burning, such as beans or peanuts or garlic. Farmers are forced to grow corn because it’s one of the only crops that will grow within the confines of the rainy season. Farmers with water in their fields can grow something else.

By the way, if your field has water, you are working year-round. This means you do not have time to go out hunting, which means you do go out to burn the underbrush in the jungle for this purpose. At least, you’re less likley to. You do, however, still need to burn around your field if one of your neighbors decides to do this.

Perhaps it’s not that simple, but maybe it is. All we need to do is get water to the fields that don’t have it. If all the fields have water, more than likely the amount of burning would go down.

Now it’s more of a physics problem: How do you get water to go UPHILL?

A little explanation here. Northern Thailand is populated by mountain farmers. The fields are on the sides of the mountains, usually ABOVE the nearest water source. Hence why they can only grow crops during the rainy season, from June to October. This severely limits what they can grow and most of the people in our area grow corn.

Most of our neighbors get very little money for their corn. My brother-in-law barely broke event this year with his corn.

My husband is currently working on a water pump he saw on YouTube. It uses a vacuum of air to pump water uphill without using any outside power source. If he gets it to work (and I pray that he does), we may be on to something. My brother-in-law would be able to pump water to his corn field and (gasp) GROW SOMETHING OTHER THAN CORN! We could also water our remaining avocado trees, which are in this same corn field.

A businessman has also been visiting our area from Singapore. He has specific crops that we can grow for him and his company will buy them back from us, with a set minimum price. A great deal. Catch is, the crops his company wants REQUIRE WATER!

So really, the solution to the smog problem in Thailand? Get water to the fields! Forget passing out free surgical masks (which is what the government does now). Why not help the farmers get water to their fields? A field that is WET is far less likely to catch on fire.


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What is a “tattle-tale” and why is it supposed to be discouraged?

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“Teacher! She is eating chips in class!”
“No eating in class. Put those back outside.”

The offender takes her bag of chips out of the classroom and then returns. The other students snicker a bit, but then class resumes as normal.

And I am totally confused.

My Chinese students will “tattle” on each other all the time, mostly on those breaking the “no food or drink in the classroom” rule. And yet all of them are good sports about it and it doesn’t bother them at all if a “squealer” spills the beans.

I scratch my head. After all, when I was in school, we were told that it was wrong to be a “tattle-tale.” You’re not supposed to purposely try to get your classmates in trouble. I accepted this and would say nothing, even if I saw a classmate breaking the rules.

Now I’m a teacher and I’m beginning to question this practice. It doesn’t seem to be indoctrinated here in Asia. Kids seem to think that they are EXPECTED to point out rule-breakers. They must be the eyes and ears for the teacher. After all, there’s only one teacher and two dozen kids.

So why do Americans discourage tattling?

What I was told was that it’s wrong to “purposely get your classmate into trouble.” This seems to be an attitude check. A kid purposely squeals on another kid because he doesn’t like him and this is not a good attitude for a student to have.

But when a kid tattles on another kid, how do you know he’s doing it out of spite? In my class, they seem to be doing it more out of a sense of fairness, rather than just to get others in trouble. “I can’t eat chips in class and you shouldn’t either.” And even the kid who was tattled on seems to accept this. “I broke the rules and I should face the consequences. It’s not your fault if I’m the one not following the rules.”

Even if it is done out of spite, does this mean the teacher has to ignore the transgression and punish the tattler instead? This doesn’t make sense to me. If a student is breaking the rules, regardless of how the teacher finds out about it, the student needs to be held responsible for his actions, be it detention, a lecture, or whatever consequence is in place for said rule.

I do not believe in letting ANY of my students get away with breaking the rules. It undermines the authority of the teacher and teaches them that rules don’t mean anything. Big rules or small rules, they should be treated the same, as you can’t expect kids to follow the big rules if they think they don’t have to follow the small ones at all.

If a teacher puts too much stress on “don’t be a tattle-tale,” what will happen if a student witnesses a bully taking a smaller child’s lunch money? Is he going to report it? Or is he going to keep his mouth shut for fear of being labeled a “squealer?” If a fight breaks out on the playground, are the kids surrounding the fight going to stand there and watch? Or is one of them going to report it to the principal?

On the other hand, I do see where tattling can get a little bit annoying. But this just means specific rules should be in place. One student reported to me that a classmate was doodling. I have no rule against doodling. I do have a rule against being out of your chair without permission. I told the “tattler” he needed to go and sit down, as he had no reason to be out of his seat.

When my four-year-old neice comes to visit us, I had to put some limits on Ben, my eight-year-old. He doesn’t like his cousin and is constantly running in to “tattle” on her and try to get me to punish her. But in this case, as it’s my kid, I know what he’s up to. Again, I lay out specific rules. If his cousin breaks one of those rules, feel free to tell me. But those rules do not include her staying away from your stuff and not eating any of the food in the house. If you don’t like her playing with your toys, PUT YOUR TOYS AWAY SO SHE CAN’T GET INTO THEM!

If you follow the rules, you won’t get tattled on. Simple as that.

Does the “don’t be a tattle-tale” idea apply in adulthood? Are not convicted criminals given lighter sentences if they help the police locate the ringleaders, the mafia bosses, and the crooked dealers? If you witness a drive-by and take note of the liscense plate, is it not your duty to report what you saw to the police, even though it’s “none of your business?”

It seems to me we ENCOURAGE people to “tattle” on lawbreakers when we’re adults.

Back on the flip-side, consider Nazi Germany, where an “informant” is one of the enemy. Why is this? Because the governing authority was, in fact, the enemy. What the government was doing was flat-out wrong. They were hunting down Jews who had NOT broken any rules or laws. They were simply Jewish. Last I checked, a Jew cannot change the fact that he was born that way. Now those hiding the Jews WERE breaking the rules, but they were doing so because they deemed the rules to be unjust and the ruling authority to be wrong.

Perhaps that’s an extreme example. But the point is, most of the time, the authority over the situation is not the enemy. Be it the government, the police, the parent, or the teacher, the person in authority needs to know when transgressions are taking place and who is doing them. If someone takes it upon himself to alert the authorities when a criminal has been sighted, a child is being bullied, a sex-offender is on the prowl in a family neighborhood, I see no reason to discourage him.

Perhaps being a “tattle-tale” should be a GOOD thing.

What do you think?