|"....Over the course of the next year, the Department of Education will introduce into all of its elementary and middle schools “Operation Respect: Don’t Laugh at Me,” an intensive curriculum in character development. The program, which is the brainchild and heart’s desire of Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul & Mary, aims to combat bullying by emphasizing the moral lessons of folk music.
“Don’t Laugh at Me” (or dlam) was born when Yarrow—a veteran of the civil-rights, gender-equality, nucleardisarmament, peace, and Amtrak-subsidization movements—heard a country ballad of that name at the Kerrville Folk Festival, in the summer of 1999. Moved to tears by its swelling harmonies and first-person testaments to the effects of ridicule—“I’m a little boy with glasses, the one they call a geek / A little girl who never smiles ’cause I’ve got braces on my teeth”—he decided to incorporate the tune into Peter, Paul & Mary’s repertoire. At a gig with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the group played the song. “The principals gave a tremendous response to it, and said, ‘We need this in our schools,’ ” Chic Dambach, Operation Respect’s president and C.E.O., said the other day. “And Peter, being the activist and the organizer that he is, said, ‘You won’t just have a song but a whole program.’ ” dlam is now used in at least twelve thousand American schools and camps.
....On to dlam’s outreach video. The tape included accounts of book-slamming, sandwich-spitting, and shin-kicking, as well as footage of a rendition of “Don’t Laugh at Me” that Yarrow had performed at the United Nations. “A ridicule-free world,” a soothing voice intoned. “It’s possible, but only with everyone’s help.” (dlam’s efforts at enrichment may also extend to Peter, Paul & Mary’s back catalogue. Page 22 of the teacher’s guide instructs: “Tell students that this version of the song ‘Don’t Laugh at Me’ is sung by Peter, Paul & Mary. If you have not already done so, tell them a little bit about the group. . . . In the early 1960s, Peter, Paul & Mary were the #1 recording group in the country.” )
Next up was “The Big Betrayal Conflict Script,” a skit about two friends, Terry and Sasha, who get into a fight at a basketball game. The exercise emphasized using “I messages,” as opposed to those that begin with “you” and, therefore, can put their targets on the defensive. (dlam also recommends having students simulate the sound of a rainstorm and discuss a story called “The Maligned Wolf.”)
“Just make sure they’re sticking to the formula,” Hurdle-Price advised. “I often get students who say, ‘I feel that you are stupid.’ ”|