In Okemah, Oklahoma, the Oakes Elementary teacher sent home a letter to Zayde’s parents about how left-handedness is associated with evil and the devil.
“From picking things up to throwing things, to batting, to writing, to just coloring you’d do at home with him, he’s always, always used his left hand,” Alisha Sands said. But when the pre-kindergartener was doing his homework, he was using his right hand.
“I just asked ‘Is there anything his teachers ever asked about his hands?’ And he raises the one and says this one’s bad,” Sands said.
When Alisha questioned the teacher in a letter, the teacher responded with an article that said that called left-handedness “unlucky,” “evil,” and “sinister.”
The article, according to Alisha, said, “For example, the devil is often portrayed as left-handed.”
Alisha went to the superintendent with the article.
The word Sinister does mean “left handed.” Let’s take a drive through history…
It has Latin roots and was used in augury in the sense of “unlucky, unfavorable” (omens, especially bird flights, seen on the left side were regarded as portending misfortune), and thus sinister acquired a sense of “harmful, unfavorable, adverse.” The superstitious Greeks faced North when observing these omens. The Romans however, faced south and thus left was favorable. Therefore sinister also retained a secondary sense in Latin of “favorable, auspicious, fortunate, lucky.”
In medieval heraldry, a bend or bar on the left side of the family crest indicated illegitimacy and thus sinister was evil.
So, the boy in Oklahoma is now learning how to write like any other pre-K student, using his left hand. The parents transferred the boy to another school and are planning complaints with the Oklahoma Board of Education.
FYI – the writer of this piece is also sinister and went through similar situations…half a century ago. Some things just don’t change.