So What Did You Learn at School Today?

It was my first year in Canada. We were all in our car and I wanted to ask my dad about a word I heard at school.  I waited for a lull in the conversation and asked “Pa, what does chink mean?”

He paused.  My 13 year old brain sensed there was something wrong.

“How did you hear that word?”

I told him a classmate said it to me during recess.  It was something tossed my way in a very casual manner that I didn’t even sense anything wrong with it.  He told me the next time my classmate says that, I should tell my teacher.  My memory is fuzzy what happened when we got home.  I’m pretty sure both my parents spoke to me.

That school year, I learned almost every racist term for every race from my class mates.






13 thoughts on “So What Did You Learn at School Today?

  1. This is very poignant, powerful and timely, Matt. Thank your for sharing it with us.

    Sadly, some kids first use ugly, demeaning, racist words and swear words after hearing an adult say them. Then those kids say them to other kids at school.

    As a teacher, I often had a better understanding of a child AFTER I met their parents…for example, if a kid was a bully, I’d often find out one of his/her parents was a bully, too. If a child was kind and gracious, I’d often find out his/her parents were kind people.

    It makes me sad when innocence is lost and hatred, racism, prejudice, etc., is learned.

    I remember the first time a kid in school said something ugly, prejudiced, and demeaning to me.


    • I had the odd “chink” thrown at me during high school. University was ok. My dad had it worse, despite his strong work experience – a lot of firms didn’t hire him. I remember when I started working, he and my mom told me to work twice as hard as everyone else because of our race.

  2. I grew up in a French neighbourhood and ‘chink’ was a word directed at me, often, in addition to other ‘bad’ words. I retaliated with name-calling of my own. I think as kids, most of us were not racist, just clueless. When I called a young, black boy… a “French frog,” he laughed, then I laughed. It was ridiculous. We were friends, but we just liked to needle one another.

    As adults, this cannot be an excuse. We’ve grown up. Words have power, and if there is malicious intent behind the words, then we need to be very careful with how we use them.

  3. yes, school can be a mean place. kids can say the meanest things. BUT kids learn from adults. as long as there are adults (especially parents) who don’t watch what they do or say or teach around kids, there will always be negativity at school.

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