Leaning Too Far To The Other Side

The late comedic genius (my opinion), Henny Youngman often delivered a joke about going into a doctor’s office, raising his arm and saying, “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” The doctor very nonchalantly (as expressed in Youngman’s delivery) responded, “Then don’t do that.”

I’ve been in school classrooms for more than forty years now. I’ve seen attitudes and behavior of some students become progressively more negative through those years. Now, mind you, this is NOT all students. There are definitely more students who are responsible, reliable, and accountable students, but numbers have grown on the side of those who are disrespectful, rude, distracting to teachers and other students, and whose behavior takes teaching/learning time away from those who seem to want that time to teach/learn. That doesn’t seem, and really isn’t, fair.

My parents always impressed upon us the mindset that we were in school to learn and that the teacher, principal, secretaries, custodians, nurse, any adult visitor to the school there for whatever reason, and our fellow students, were to be respected at all times. That included how we spoke to them, listened to them and treated them. If we got ourselves in trouble in school, we took the consequences that accompanied it. That’s the way it was because the school said it, and our parents said it, and the two were pretty much always in agreement, and cooperation, with each other.

If we talked disrespectfully to adults, or picked on, or fought with, another student in our own student days, and received disciplinary action, we usually got it from school first, then our parents later. We had no voice in the matter, we did the crime…we did the time, no questions asked, no discussion allowed. And we certainly didn’t argue with school personnel who followed through with the punishment which we, essentially, imposed upon ourselves, and we absolutely didn’t raise our voices to our parents when they made sure that we knew they were backing the school, and/or the teacher. The consequences weren’t negotiable, by students or anyone else. Responses to those students today who don’t like whatever consequences may be imposed when behaviors aren’t acceptable, work expectations of school, teacher, or district aren’t met, or rules are broken, should echo the response of the doctor in Henny Youngman’s joke, “Then don’t do that.”

I know I’ve lived in a different time, but some things (my opinion) should be constants. Respect for authority should be near (at?) the top of the list. Accountability should also be there, and Self-Control and Discipline should join them.

In my more present experiences, the philosophy has seemed to sway a bit (farther?) away from that of the days of my youth, and the beginning of my career as a teacher. What I experience in some instances is, at times, disheartening. I’ve encountered children as young as 8 or 9 who talk back, sass, yell, refuse to listen, who disobey, and who are insubordinate toward adults in positions of authority in schools, on teams, in clubs, organizations and/or in communities. Today, if some students, players, or members of any of these groups are disciplined or punished, there are numerous calls for negotiations, some reaching demanding proportions at times, to have consequences reduced or eliminated entirely, and in what appears to be more situations than not, the punishments usually are reduced and/or eliminated.

There are campaigns in many settings today, to try and reward children for good behavior. I think that’s an admirable approach and it certainly makes sense to reward positive acts, but there are times, I think, we may be leaning too far in that direction. In some instances, (my opinion) we’re rewarding children for doing what should be done. We’re almost bribing children to follow directions, not talk back, not be disrespectful/rude, and to have self-control. If adults drive and stay within speed limits, pay taxes on time, or don’t rob stores/people, should they get rewards for staying within the parameters of the law? In the futures of these children, many will go to work. They’ll be expected to act in a certain way, follow company policies, complete assigned tasks, be there regularly, be on time, and if they do this, they’ll receive a full paycheck at the end of one or two weeks. The same applies to them as citizens. There are certain responsibilities that are imposed on citizens, or persons living in a country or state, etc. Failure to meet those responsibilities results in consequences. It’s called Real Life. A student needs to go to school regularly, be on time, behave in a certain way, perform assigned tasks, follow school district rules and if they do all of this they’ll receive a quality education. If a person on the job does more than they’re asked to do, perhaps they’ll receive a bonus, if a student does more than expected maybe they’ll get extra credit, or maybe be rewarded with a pizza party, or a prize, but that would be for going beyond, not for doing what’s expected.

If schools are here to help students do better in life, then they shouldn’t give away the education by lowering expectations, standards, and quality of work. That education should be earned by a combination of effort and mastery, with students receiving any help in any area where help is assessed to be needed. The same should be true in the real world, as no one should just give people jobs or pay checks. Those things must be earned as well. The “everybody gets a trophy” philosophy defeats the importance and validity of hard work, effort, and discipline.

In the post education world, those working in any capacity, position, job, career, or profession will be told to perform tasks and reach goals. They’ll receive proper training in some cases, or may have already received it as a pre-requisite for getting the job, and then be helped along the way if needed. They’ll be given a set of rules and policies established by the company. They’ll be expected to meet certain standards and meet certain expectations in their employment, and if they don’t, or refuse, or disrespect the company, or slack off and waste time, or try to do little and still get paid, I’m sure they won’t be employed at their job very long. You won’t see very often, if ever, an employer/supervisor, allow employees to talk back to those in charge of the company, or faction of it, or not do the work that’s expected of them on the job, nor will they be rewarded just for being on time for work, or just following the rules of the company. So again, if schools are to help students in life, and all the talk in education today is to prepare kids for their college and beyond years, why does it appear that we’re leaning way overboard to the side of some that are not conforming to expectations and taking time/ attention from many who are putting forth effort to meet standards and expectations?

All children deserve the opportunity to earn an education, but part of that opportunity must include the understanding that they need to give something to get something. They shouldn’t be permitted to get away with taking learning time away from other students, or teachers, who could use time spent on disciplining much more productively … educating. It’s a matter of fairness to all, giving all a chance to learn, and earn their education, and some not be given more unproductive attention at the expense of others.

All this has been done before, and many children, from many generations, have done very well by it. With a tweak here and/or there, it can be brought back today as well.