Today, in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, I played part of an episode from my favorite radio show, This American Life. It was an episode called "Kid Logic" (you can listen for free) about how children relate to the world and make discoveries.
The part I played for my (mostly white, privileged) classes was about thirteen minutes into the episode. It's a man talking about how his 4-year old daughter came to learn about Jesus. They go through the Christmas holidays and she learns more and more about him and his teachings. Of particular interest was the golden rule: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The story progresses and she eventually sees a statue of a crucifix with Jesus on it outside a church. At this point, her father explains to her that "Jesus ran afoul of the Roman government" because the message was so "radical and unnerving to the Roman authorities."
Then time passes a month and they both have off for Martin Luther King Day so they go to have lunch at a cafe. At the table, there was a section of the paper with Martin Luther King on the front. She asked who he was and her father explains to her that he was a preacher. She then says (in arguably one of the funniest parts of this episode) "FOR JESUS!" He then goes into an explanation that he also had a message; "that you should treat everyone the same no matter what they look like." She thinks about it for a second and says: "well that's what Jesus said." She pauses for a second and says: "did they kill him too?"
So when I listen to this story alone, I usually have a few tears welling up. That obviously didn't happen in the classroom, but I did have a good and rather unexpected reaction. None of my kids said anything in response. These little boys who are usually so quick to push away the notion that they are sensitive and caring and emotional just sat in silence while I switched the tape off and started distributing grammar books.