Have you heard of 5-year-old Emma Burton from Olathe, Kansas? Probably not. But every American needs to know this little girl, because we could learn something from her.
Little Emma Burton has become a sensation, of sorts, throughout her home state because of her refusal to defy her principles in her kindergarten class.
What principles can a 5 year old have? What personal beliefs could a youngster that age possibly have? Miss Burton has personal conviction in something that most children – and adults – do: which team to cheer for in sports.
Emma’s mother, Bug Bytes blogger Julie Burton, recounted the events on her blog as follows:
Thursday afternoon, I am waiting outside the school with Kate. Kids come running out of the doors. They all run up to me, all trying to tell me something…
Emma’s mom! Emma’s mom! Emma is crying! She’s in trouble!
Wait, kids! What happened? I look up. Emma is being escorted out by her teacher. Emma is in a complete meltdown. Her teacher is struggling to hold Emma’s hand while carrying her backpack, binder, coat and a piece of paper.
Emma wouldn’t color a jayhawk!
BAAAHAHAHAHAHA. I could not help but laugh. A couple moms near me chuckled.
Emma’s teacher made it to me, very angry.
Emma would not color this Jayhawk today with the rest of her class. She told me she would not color it. She told me she does not like KU and her family likes K-State. She asked me for a K-State picture instead but I told her this was her only option. She took the paper, crumpled it up and threw in the trash can. I asked her to get it out of the trash can and she told me no then refused to speak to me the rest of the day. I told her I would have to have a chat with you about this and she will need to color this tomorrow during recess.
I am trying not to laugh. I have my hands over my mouth, trying to hide my smile that I can’t get off my face. I’m sure her teacher was not happy with my reaction.
I told Emma this is not about the schools, it’s just about the state of Kansas. This does not mean she has to like KU and she can throw it in the trash when she gets home. She told me she wouldn’t bring a Jayhawk in her house.
I took Emma home, crying. I thought about this on the walk home. I was getting mad. This little Jayhawk the kids had to color has everything to do with KU. Even if you argue about the historical significance of the Jayhawkers (which was a very bloody and violent time in Kansas. Nothing a kindergartener needs to know) there is no reason to color KU’s mascot blue, red and yellow. This little Jayhawk the class had to color has everything to do with the University. I feel the teachers should get rid of it entirely or give the kids an option to color one of the two major colleges in the state.
Now this is where little Emma shines through. Her mother pressures her to comply and conform, but the tot insisted that she would not cave in to what she believed in:
I was left with the dilemma on what to tell Emma. I ended up telling her that Scott and I were not mad at her. She would not receive a punishment from us. We were actually proud she fought for her school and did not back down. BUT, she could have handled herself a little differently with her teacher. She did not need to cause a scene by destroying the Jayhawk page by throwing it away. She did not need to have a meltdown and refuse to carry any of her belongings outside. I asked if she would please color the jayhawk, just for her teacher, and be done with it.
Emma, you need to color this thing. The teacher might have to send you to the principal’s office.
I don’t care. I’m not coloring it.
Hmmm…Ok. What if I make you a deal. What if I print out a Powercat and you color it purple, grey and white. Then write an apology to your teacher because you were rude. Will you agree to that?
Ok, but you need to color that Jayhawk for your teacher.
(silent, exhales) Fine.
Yes. But I don’t like it. And I’m wearing a K-State shirt tomorrow.
Fine. You don’t have to like it. Just do it and I want you to tell your teacher you’re sorry as well.
The next day was the “Kansas Party” – which I volunteered to help with. The other moms told me they heard what happened via their own children. They all thought it was very funny. One mom gave Emma a high-give for sticking up for her school (behind teacher’s back). One mom told me her daughter told her Emma tried to use purple crayons but the teacher would not let her. Another mom told me her own daughter was scared to throw away her Jayhawk when she got home because she thought she would get in trouble too. I can only assume Emma caused quite the scene the day before. I asked her teacher if Emma colored the Jayhawk. She did. And she got the apology note.
After the party, I drove Emma home. I asked her if the Jayhawk was in her backpack.
Yes. Get it out and put it in the trash can.
Ok. Emma, what is this Jayhawk coloring book?
She wanted me to color that today too. I told her no.
Did the rest of the class color it?
Yes. But I would not color two jayhawks.
What did your teacher say to that?
Emma Burton is definitely an incredible child. Standing up to an ‘authority figure’ to defend perhaps the only strong personal conviction that one could have at 5 years old. Maybe it’s high time that we all pause and review our personal convictions and beliefs to discover if we have given in or given up.
Whether you stand for something as great as Freedom & Liberty, or something as seemingly minute as a college team: Never surrender, never back down, and never abolish your principles in the face or fear of ‘authority’.