New York City’s public elementary and middle schoolers will be told not to make fun of each other. The New Yorker reports on “Don’t Laugh at Me.”
The program, which is the brainchild and heart’s desire of Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul & Mary, aims to combat bullying by emphasizing the moral lessons of folk music.
Yarrow heard a ballad at a folk festival in 1999.
Moved to tears by its swelling harmonies and first-person testaments to the effects of ridicule—“I’m a little boy with glasses, the one they call a geek / A little girl who never smiles ’cause I’ve got braces on my teeth”—he decided to incorporate the tune into Peter, Paul & Mary’s repertoire.
The program “is now used in at least twelve thousand American schools and camps.”
My daughter encountered “Don’t Laugh” when she interned with the California Education Department’s violence prevention unit. She thought the song gives tips on who to pick on for callow bullies who don’t realize that a classmate wearing glasses or braces is victim-worthy.
Number 2 Pencil lives in fear of “over-earnest old hippies writing drippy songs.” She also recalls Yarrow’s 1970 conviction for sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl. Well, he didn’t laugh at her.