No, You’re Not Going to Teach Me a Lesson


2017-02-16 – Did you ever want to teach someone a lesson? C’mon. Of course you have. That guy who cut you off in traffic on your way over here. So the next chance you got, you cut him off. And then you drove really slowly. But not so slowly that they would get around you. How else would you teach the proper lesson?

I’m here to tell you that your lesson really worked. The guy was mortified. He stopped at a church the first chance he got and took a solemn vow to never cut people off in traffic.

Not! He’s already cut off two people while we’ve been speaking. And he things you’re an asshole.

So why do you do it? Why are you always trying to teach people lessons? ‘Cause, you know, teaching people things isn’t that easy. Ask a teacher!

I’m going to do an experiment here. Pretend that you speak English. K? So, now I’m going to teach you a foreign language. Ready?

.בבקשה, לדבר עברית

!לדבר עברית

!דבר עברית, אידיוט

Okay, now. Are you fluent, yet? What’s taking you so long? Are you stupid?

Well, no. You are probably not stupid (correct me, if I’m wrong). You may or may not know that the language I was trying to teach you was Hebrew. I said three phrases, which I will translate as: “Please speak Hebrew.” “Speak Hebrew[exclamation]!” and “Speak Hebrew, asshole[exclamation]!” Notice that the phrases express the same sentiment at three levels of intensity. I started out nice and became progressively more insistent.

And yet you stubbornly refused to speak Hebrew.

What is it with us that would make us think that this would work? I personally took biweekly Hebrew lessons for 10 years and 6 weeks of language immersion to learn the language and I was just barely able to carry on a conversation.

And yet a child could pass me by in only a few years—all without lessons!

We unwittingly teach our sons and daughters the most complicated thing a human being does—speak language. Unwittingly. But our deliberate language lessons fail to teach a second language in most cases.

And forget teaching math.

And yet we think we can teach someone to improve their driving by shaking our fist at them and mouthing some nasty words.

And we think we can teach people to stop smoking weed by throwing them in jail for several years.

And we think we can teach people to stop hating by calling them racists.

And we demand that immigrants learn English. Demand, not teach.

And we think we can teach people to stop having sex by . . .

Before you say it, I’ll say it. I’m mixing up two ideas. And you’re right there are two ideas here. But am I the one who’s mixing them up?

Or are you the one—when you say, “I’m teaching them a lesson” when what you should really be saying “I’m punishing them.” They’re two different things.

“Teaching people a lesson” is an acceptable cover, I guess—for being an asshole.

But if you want to put it that way, I think we need a whole lot less lesson teaching in this world.

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