Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Loss of Civility

I remember being completely stunned when I first heard the news. A student at a high school near where I work had been killed that morning. The students I teach are likely to go to high school there. As I ate my lunch composed of a lean pocket and a fruit cup, a coworker asked if I had heard the news. Naively, I said yes, thinking that the reference was regarding health care or some other national issue. I kept eating, unknowingly, blissful in my ignorance.

A student, who just a few years ago had attended my workplace, killed another student while at school. There are still teachers that remember him. There are still substantial ties between this young man and the school. He had a dispute with another young man and is accused of stabbing this other student numerous times. This dispute concerned a girl. Unfortunately, while this event is rare it is not unheard of around the country.

Why mention this? Serena Williams goes off on a profanity filled tirade, and does she get punished? Joe Wilson is totally inappropriate in his actions during a joint session of Congress, and how is he reprimanded? Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift, with a drunken tirade, as she accepted the Video Music Award for Best Female Performance. What sort of rebuke does he get for this abomination of behavior?

For those of you that followed these events, the answers are obvious. Each of these individuals got reprimanded, but the overall effect for each of them was beneficial. As I write this, I’m tasked with the job of helping young adults not only learn, but also teaching them the rules of good manners. Don’t misunderstand; this is one of the jobs of teachers in general, not just me.

We have basic rules. Teachers are taught to limit the number of rules so as not to confuse or overwhelm the students. Typically, there are about 5 on every list. Within these five two are; don’t speak when others are speaking and don’t use profanity. So what is this all driving toward?

As I teach how can I tell my students to respect each other if our national figures are lauded as heroes when they act like idiots.

By the way, there were reports that a student in my school had a weapon this week.