Don't laugh! Old folkster's message to kids
When my kids were little and we’d set off on a long road trip, my bag of traveling tricks would always include several Peter, Paul, and Mary tapes. And as we rolled along the New Jersey Turnpike on our way to Grandma’s house, we’d all sing along to “If I Had a Hammer” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
There was nothing covert about my choice of this music. I knew I was indoctrinating my kids with the kinds of social values I think all children need as part of their moral fiber– values such as peace, justice, equality, and social responsibility.
At the age of 64, Peter Yarrow is playing it solo but still whistles this tune. Based on the ‘60s idealism of wanting to change the world, his organization, “Operation Respect,” seeks, according to its website, “to transform schools, camps, and other organizations that focus on children and youth into more compassionate, respectful, and safe environments.”
Yarrow has inspired a set of educational resources designed to help educators create such a climate, and is traveling around the country singing its praises.
Meriwether Lewis Elementary School has decided to incorporate Operation Respect’s “Don’t Laugh at Me” program into its state-mandated character education curriculum. So the PTO is bringing Yarrow to town to help kick off the program.
The folk singer will present a concert for kids at the school on March 7. That evening Yarrow will take the stage down the road at Western Albemarle High School to perform many of the old favorites including “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and “Light One Candle.”
The feature presentation of the evening, however, is the song that forms the core of this character-building curriculum. Written by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin, “Don’t Laugh at Me”— the song and the program— hopes to sensitize children to the painful effects of behaviors that ridicule, disrespect, ostracize, and bully others.
And since what Yarrow really wants is for people to hear his message, he insisted that there be no admission charge. (Donations will be accepted.)
"We've lived through a time in which people felt they could forge their own future and make a better world," Yarrow says. "We may not have achieved our dreams in the time frame that we once believed was possible, but the magnitude of what is yet to be achieved only confirms the importance of our commitment. Knowing this, we can't stop now.”
Peter Yarrow performs in a free public concert at Western Albemarle High School Friday, March 7, at 7:30pm. Route 250 West. 295-8521.