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The Secret Message Game

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When I was in grade school, my teacher once had us children play something she called “The secret message”

Ten of us children were placed side by side, as the teacher whispered something in the first child’s ear. That child was responsible for whispering what the teacher whispered into his or her ear into the second child’s ear, and so on, until the tenth child was told to write “the secret message” on the board.

A vast majority of the time. The message would change in subtle ways.

For instance. “Joseph ran out to the playground where he fell down and scratched his arm”

Might become “Joseph ran out to the playground where he broke his arm”

It was usually subtle changes that ensued.

After the first time doing this annoying task, I decided to have fun with it.

“Mary was swinging on the swing as Jack was waiting for her.”

And when it got to me. I changed it completely to.

“Jack was playing baseball and Mary was his girlfriend”

I had suspected at the time – I think I was 7 for this exercise – that the teacher was trying to demonstrate the nature of communication and how quickly a message can deviate between different voices.

So when the tenth kid said “Jack was playing baseball with his girlfriend, Mary”, the teacher glared at me.

“Why did you change the message?” the teacher demanded.

I grinned. “It thought it would be funny.”

A month later, the teacher decided to play the game again.

She’d not forgotten my prior alteration, and told me to play the game like I was told to, and even sat me at the end as the first in the sequence.

I giggled. I smirked. I sat on my hands as she told me:

“Mark went to the store and bought a banana, an apple, and a pear,” she said.

The thoughts raced through my head. “Do I obey the teacher?,” I thought.

I leaned over and whispered “Mark the monkey went bananas when the teacher gave him an apple and pear.”

I was no longer permitted to play the secret message game.


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