Hot Topic #4: No More Make-Believe (Not In School, Anyway)

“Even the smallest person can change the course of history.” ~Lady Galadriel, The Lord of the Rings

This quote is so fitting for this post.

When I first saw this picture of Aiden Steward yesterday, and then the headline of the news story, it made no sense to me. How could this sweet little face be in so much trouble with one school?

Image Credit: The New York Daily News

Image Credit: The New York Daily News

I read Aiden’s story in complete disbelief yesterday. Immediately afterward, I felt a range of emotions. First, shock and surprise. Then, sadness. Then, anger.

The New York Daily News first broke the story late last week with the headline, “Texas boy suspended for saying he could make classmate ‘disappear’ with ‘Lord of the Rings’ sorcery”.

Wait a second … REALLY?

I’ve read The New York Daily News’s account three times now, and every time I’m left shaking my head. This child is NINE YEARS OLD, for heaven’s sake.

And, on top of that, he’s been suspended not once.

Not twice.

But THREE times!

According to the article, this latest suspension, last week, was handed down due to a “threat” that Aiden made against a classmate.

I understand that threats, no matter where they’re directed, are taken far more seriously nowadays than when I was growing up, no doubt about it. But over something like this? This is slightly nutty for me.

Aiden’s “threat” to his classmate was that he possessed the One Ring, like Bilbo Baggins, and he could put the ring on his friend’s head and make him invisible.

As a student of mass media, I noticed several things regarding the article. It focuses primarily on Aiden’s father’s point of view. This, in a way, is understandable.

It merely references the friend that was threatened in the writer’s own words; however, there is nothing actually in quotes from this friend or the friend’s parents/family. The only actual quotes in the article are from Aiden’s father. The only other adult mentioned in the article is the elementary school’s principal, and she had no comment for the story, claiming confidentiality.

Aiden’s two other suspensions were briefly mentioned at the very end of the article. His family has been in the Kermit Independent School District for only six months, but Aiden already had two in-school suspensions (ISS) to his name prior to last week’s “threat.”

There was no timeline or dates stated for either ISS, but both of them are equally puzzling and head-scratching. According to the article, the first ISS was because Aiden referred to a classmate as black.

The second ISS was because Aiden brought his favorite book to class, thinking he would impress the teacher, called “The Big Book of Knowledge.”  They were studying the solar system at the time, but the teacher found that the book contained an illustration of a pregnant woman, with a section on pregnancy.

This was explained to the article’s author by Aiden’s father.

I personally want to hear the points of views from Aiden’s teacher, much more from the principal, Aiden’s classmate/friend and his family, and any other school authorities that may be involved.

There are at least two sides to every story. I feel like this is only the tip of the iceberg!

Aside from dissecting the article, the thing that troubled me most was that Aiden was suspended from school, simply because he was using his imagination, being engaged in make-believe.

Since when did make-believe and using one’s imagination start causing trouble?

The Lord of the Rings has been classified as an “epic high fantasy novel.” The six movies are visually stunning, and left this 26-year-old dreaming of elves and dwarves and fearing the ugly Orcs, with a strong desire to visit New Zealand where the movies were filmed.

I think it’s terrible to punish a 9-year-old for mimicking a movie. What is a suspension going to teach him?

If it hasn’t already done so, I think it’s going to teach him that he can’t play with his friends while referencing popular movies. Not at school, anyway. This makes me so sad.

This story made me think back to my childhood. Elementary school, especially.

I spent a good while reminiscing, and it was nice to be nostalgic for a bit. I got lost in the daydreams.

So many fantasy worlds. So many times of make-believe, in the cafeteria, in the hallways, on the playground, riding on the bus. So many laughs.

Back then (This coming June will mark 15 years since I graduated from the fifth grade), there wasn’t anything that was classified as a bonafide “threat” from one student to another. Sure, there were the classic tattles to the teachers of “He/She called me a toad/frog/devil, etc.,” but none of that made it to the principal’s office!

I think Aiden’s father put it best:

“Kids act out movies that they see. When I watched Superman as a kid, I went outside and tried to fly,” Steward said.

“I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence,” the boy’s father later wrote in an email. “If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.”

My message to all: I’m going to keep dreaming. I’m going to keep fantasizing.

I am a writer, after all. Part of my existence, part of my being, involves making up stories. Using my imagination, which is one of the greatest gifts that can be given. Imagination should be fostered and encouraged.

Creativity is wonderful, and it shouldn’t be squashed, especially early on in life.

I won’t stop, for as long as I live.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂



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