Over there -> on the side of my blog, there is a game of Hangman. It's a game I recall playing in school when I was in the second grade, so that would make me about 6 or so. I know my son has played it with me for hours, and it's a good tool for learning spelling, reading, and getting children interested in words.
Have you ever really considered what this game is saying? I mean, there are words, and spaces, and a cute little guy, and it's part guessing game part deductive reasoning, and it's lots of fun sometimes, and you can see how it's the precursor to the huge television hit 'Wheel of Fortune', but have you ever really looked at the game? I mean, look at it from a little kid's point of view. Five or six. Just starting school.
The teacher draws a funny shape on the board, and then draws a series of likes next to it. "These lines represent the letters in a word," she says. "You have to guess which letters go there and try to fill in the word. If not ... " She points at the funny shape she's drawn.
The question comes from Jimmy, a nice, sensitive little boy with one heck of a cowlick sitting in the front row.
"That, Jimmy, is a gallows. Can anyone tell me what a gallows is, what it is used for?"
Her gaze sweeps over the class. She looks somehow stern as she waits, and some of the children begin to shuffle their feet and fidgit. They feel a little anxious at her tone, but no one raises their hand. No one has a guess.
"Anyone? No? Well then I'll tell you. A gallows is a contraption used when they hang a person my the neck until they are dead."
"Isn't 'contraption' a funny word? I think so." Jimmy is raising his hand.
"Dead? Like, um... dead?"
She continues to smile, probably still thinking about the word 'contraption' as she answers "Yes, Jimmy. Dead."
From the side of the room and about half-way back, another hand goes up. Norma Robbins, a hefty girl in a pink sweater that she's started already to outgrow, waits for the teacher to nod her assent.
"Um ... what does a gallows have to do with school?"
The teacher's smile broadens, and she swiftly draws another figure on the board, putting it right next to the gallows, the chalk scritching and scratching as she works. This one is a cute, stick-like figure, with a big balloon head and a smiley face.
"We are going to play a game today. The game is called 'Hangman'. I will write a series of lines on the board, much like these, here." She points toward the lines. "That tells you how many words there are in the word. Now, all you have to do is guess which letters are in the word, and when you guess right I'll add them in above the line. Eventually someone will be able to guess the whole word, and you will win the game. Yes, Rob?"
The blonde boy in the back of the class lowers his trembling hand and uses the back of it to wipe away the tears that are filling his eyes.
"W-w-what happens if we d-don't guess right?"
"Well, if you guess incorrectly, that's where Harold comes in."
She taps the chalk on the figure next to the gallows.
"This is Harold. Cute, isn't he?"
There are murmurs of agreement from the class.
"Every time you get an answer wrong, I'll draw a part of Harold on the gallows. First his head, then his body, then his arms and so on. So you all better guess the correct letters and figure out the word, before ... "
"Before what?" says Jimmy, tears running down his cheeks unchecked.
"Well," says the teacher, "before I get all of Harold up here. Once he's all up here on the gallows the game's over, and cute little Harold will hang by the neck until he is dead. So I guess Harold's life is really in your hands."
She picks up the eraser and wipes Harold off the board.
"Okay, who wants to go first?"
She turns back to the class and looks out over her students again, and then pauses, a puzzled expression on her face.
"Why are you all crying?"
Honestly, this is an evil game that puts way too much pressure on the child to succeed. And what kind of hostage-taker mentality came up with this game? 'Guess correctly or I'll hang this little friendly looking dude. Go on, guess!'
It's like something out of the movie "Saw"! I can see it now. "Rope: Just when you thought it was safe to go back t the 1st grade..."
Yeah, can you tell I've been writing Horror stories for the better part of a year? I started this blog so I'd have somewhere to write lighter, funny stuff, but this just snuck in the back door as I was looking at my blog page.
Sorry. I went with dark humor today.
Maybe tomorrow it'll be about rainbows!
Talk to you later!