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I have felt, from time to time, that sorting by alphabetical order has an influence on people that is not always positive.

Maybe it's because I learned to read before I learned the order of the letters of the alphabet, and so all my life I've had to stop and say the alphabet jingle to myself when confronted by a question like, "Which comes first, k or i?"

A real nuisance when filing papers or forms at work.

There are consequences for other people even if they did learn alphabetical order as children. Seems to me I read somewhere a while ago that people whose last names are at the end of the alphabet have a greater incidence of personal problems, emotional and physical.

I know that when I was a teacher and mindlessly having my students stand in line in alphabetical order, the ones at the end were always the ones at the end, always last. They arrived at the tables last and had to take whatever seats were not filled, instead of being able to sit where they chose, the way the ABCDEF children did.

They went through the lunch line last, tail end Charlie, when the most favored entrees had been used up, and had to take whatever was left over.

They were always at the end and had trouble seeing and hearing what was going on, and so were distanced from the sense of community I tried to build in the classroom. And so on and so forth.

As soon as I saw what was happening (and since I have a personal aversion to acting and reacting mindlessly), I used to have students line up in other ways: reverse alphabetical order--or everyone with a long vowel in his/her name first--or everyone wearing green first--or...you get the idea. The children loved thinking up new criteria for lining up.

Then one day I asked them if they really needed me to tell them how to get in line. After all, in the real world (grocery stores, post offices, etc.) there are no monitors organizing the queue. People just walk over and line up. So why not them? Children can do it, too.

That's what they did. I would say, "Please line up for lunch," and they would get their coats and lunch things and quietly get into line.

We talked about it. How little ones sometimes get pushed to the end and the bigger ones need to look out for the little ones and help them keep their place in line, and that's what they did. Other teachers were astounded and never understood how I did it. I kept telling them (in front of the children, too), I didn't do anything. The kids did it all. They were very proud of themselves.

Inner city children are people, too.

be sure to read Batty's comment--it's priceless

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