Now that my students know my story, which of course could not be helped by the publishing of my book and news articles, it is quite a different experience teaching the value of non-violence. When I get to certain parts of the story of Gandhi’s life, I can feel the kids are listening in a whole new way. How can someone tell who started it once a physical fight ensues? What questions does society ask when seeing one person hitting another person who is not fighting back? “My goodness, what could the person (being beaten) possibly have done? It must have been something terrible! What? You mean all he wanted was to not be singled out by having to carry a registration card because he is Indian (in South Africa at the time)? Moving to the civil rights movement in America… “You mean the police are beating and chasing them and spraying them with hoses, just because they want to drink out of the same water fountain as whites? Order a hamburger in a restaurant? Use a public restroom? What? That’s all they want and you are beating and jailing them?” By not fighting back, Gandhi taught that the fear in the person being beaten will lessen, and the respect of the beater will grow. And while all this is happening, the reality of what is fair rises.
These are beautiful points to try to get across to kids… and watch them get it. Kids know the very moment something happens that is not fair.