Ater's story of how the efforts of well-meaning teachers to instill tolerance in their students led him to become painfully self-conscious about racial differences he'd never noticed before (How years of imposed political correctness have affected my perception of people) reminded me of something that happened when I was in first grade.

Our teacher gathered us together before recess one day and told us that a little boy who was on crutches would be joining us on the playground. She said, with an air of deep gravity and concern the like of which we had never heard from her before, that we were NOT under any circumstances to stare at him, and certainly not to make fun of him.

Well. Obviously there was something really frickin' weird about this kid for her to deliver such a warning, weird and no doubt utterly mysterious and fascinating. The result? When he came out to play we all fell silent and stared at him. Then a group of bigger kids made fun of him for a while and he angrily hobbled away followed by the teacher who'd escorted him in. The other teachers stood to one side and did nothing to intervene.

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