Dirty White Boys

I've taught high school for nearly twenty years, and I'm still surprised by what will galvanize a class discussion; the other day in Creative Writing, an African American kid told a humorous story about how his grandmother-- who watched him every day after school-- insisted on bathing before returning him home to his parents, and I remarked that my own children bathe every other day, but only if we force them to, and this provoked a serious and spirited discussion about cleanliness, hygiene, and bathing frequency, and during the course of this discussion, two African American kids both admitted, sincerely and with true candor, that they had heard rumors from their parents and grandparents that "white people don't bathe every day," and when I confirmed this to be true, they thought it was hysterical and egregious -- and the Hispanic and South American kids in the class agreed, and told me about "inside clothes" and "outside clothes," and how you could never let "outside clothes" touch your bed, and this made me want to stir the pot some, so I told them that my kids often go to bed "with sticks and leaves in their hair," which may have been a slight exaggeration but the reaction it produced was worth the hyperbole (one girl actually turned to me and said, "Are you sure you're raising those kids right?").

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