If students don’t learn manners in school, they may not learn it at all.

“The dramatic shift is parents’ expectations for their kids,” said Ed Harris, principal at Cahokia High. “It used to be that the parent and the school were in cahoots to make sure the student was doing the right thing. Now, the parent often sides with the kid.

Increasingly, students show no respect for authority figures or for classmates.

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  1. My wife, a former teacher, agrees that this sums up the major problem with schools today.

  2. The incident that convinced me to leave inner city schools was the day I overheard a parent defending her daughter’s right to hit a teacher in the head with a stapler.

    “My daughter didn’t like that teacher,” said the mom.

    I now teach in a suburb. There are still problems with enabling parents, but it’s not nearly as overwhelming as in some urban schools.

  3. When I was a girl (before the Flood) if your mother/father heard that you were in trouble at school, *first* you got clobbered, then they asked what you did, and then you got clobbered again. I’m all for that attitude. Now we have the situation where each time a kid has a new teacher, she/he sends home a novel length form to be signed by the parent. It contains a list of punishable offenses, what the punishments will be, homework policies, etc. This has to be returned and kept on file to show that, yes, you did know that your child would not get an ‘A’ if they did no homework.
    Of course, I can only speak for my local area, but that’s the rigamarole we have to go through here.

  4. I’m still young enough to remember that some teachers undermined this by not making themselves objects of respect.
    Though, for the most part; I agree with the sentiment expressed here.

  5. Meezer’s comments are true for my school, too. Our administration requires that each teacher make a full-length form of class requirements, expectations, standards, homework policy, etc. to be given to parents. For a secondary school, this means oodles of papers for kids and parents to truck around, sign, and organize. It’s a hassle, but it’s the way things are.

  6. Apropos to this subject, earlier this school year when our students were taking the High School Graduation Test in Writing, a Vietnamese student of mine, in response to the prompt “if you could design a new course for your school, what would it be?” , wrote that she would create a course called “Social Behavior” because the students at school were so “rude” and had such “bad manners” including “cursing their teachers.”

  7. I have to do the same thing every year.

    What bothers me is that I have to train my kids every year to respond to good manners (how on earth do their parents speak to them at home??) — that when I ask them to please do something, that the fact I’ve stuck a “please” in there doesn’t make the request optional.

  8. Ah, yes, the damn parents, turning out all those rotten ill mannered kids, with which our long-suffering and noble educational establishment must do its thankless best to repair and restore to some semblance of decency and good citizenship.

    Give me a break.

    I didn’t learn to curse, make fun of other kids, act snotty, crude, nasty, snide, etc at home. I learned these things at school. I acted up in ways I would not have dreamed of trying at home, and from what I could tell, it was much the same with most of my friends.

    I don’t think things have changed a lot in this regard–my wife’s friend was just saying how much more disrespectful and sassier her daughter has gotten since she started school.

    Perhaps kids are ruder than they used to be. I’m certainly not condoning whacking teachers with staplers, or cursing them to their faces. But the obvious and continuing contempt that school people have for parents is really tiresome, especially when at least some of the blame sits on their own shoulders.

  9. It definately starts at home. I can’t count the number of parents I’ve seen who don’t care whether they use foul language around their kids, or other people’s children. Kids do what they see, and they bring it to other children.

    I’m staggered by Suzie Q and Rita C’s posts. If their parents have to be told that the kids need to do their homework to get an A, what must the children be like?

  10. jeff wright says:

    Matt has a point. Although we clearly have a coarser society in this brave new century—witness popular entertainment—the fact is that the school establishment now tolerates, nay accepts behavior that it wouldn’t have a generation ago. The reasons are hidden in the fog of good intentions and “diversity.” Teachers bear the brunt of this, but they’re often their own worst enemies. For every teacher who’s offended by these kids’ attitudes and language, I’ll show you another with a laid-back, whatever, attitude. Call this teacher, “Cool Breeze.” So as kids go through the school day, they encounter SuzieQ and Rita—bummer, dude—but then Cool Breeze steps in and makes their day “fun.”

    So long as we have adult authority figures, be it parents or teachers, who’d rather be friends with kids than work at inculcating them with certain societal values, we’re going to be bitching about the kids. My advice to teachers: forget about blaming parents or the larger society. You can’t do anything about it. Clean up your own ranks.

    I never met “Cool Breeze” until college. Now they meet him/her in 3d grade.

  11. Matt: Do you accept any
    personal responsibility
    for your set of bad
    behaviors ? Your post
    seems to say that you
    were just a victim of
    a bad school environment.
    If that indeed is your
    thought on the matter,
    what a crock.

  12. Matt: oh, a great deal of it is performance for an audience of peers, and general acting up around friends. A lot of it comes from home, too. I’ve sat in on many meetings with parent and child present and watched the child bully the parent. No wonder the child was trying to bully me. FWIW, I am a parent of a school-aged child. Believe me, I cringe when she brings bad habits from home into the classroom, especially since her classroom contains my colleague.

  13. Richard Brandshaft says:

    On the parents siding with the children (even when it isn’t justified): How many stories have you read on this site alone about school officials who are small minded, officious jerks? That hasn’t changed in the 40+ years since I was in school. Presumably, it was the same in between when the parents of today’s students were in school.

    In evaluating arguments, most of us occasionally put more weight than we should on an instinctive trust/distrust of the arguers on either side. Understandable. Who’s word do you expect parents to take: their child’s, or the kind of person who won’t let an asthmatic kid have an inhaler in school.

  14. “Obvious and continuing contempt that school people have for parents?”

    Many, many “school people” are parents.

  15. Sure. I was making a generalization. Some teachers and school staff do generally respect parents and see their role as one with boundaries, and for that matter some parents really do raise their kids badly and screw them up and make problems for everyone else.

    Nevertheless, I think the general attitude of school personnel toward parents is one of contempt: they are lazy and basically stupid, they don’t support the school, they are not professionals and shouldn’t try to tell professionals what to do, they think the whole school should change to accomodate their single kid, they think their kids are little angels but they don’t see them in school. Or, they are raising a bunch of ill mannered brats and now the schools are getting stuck with them, damn those parents.

    I don’t say all teachers or school staff are like this, but it is very common.

  16. Wacky Hermit says:

    When we were wrangling with our local public school principal over whether or not our five-year-old should be placed in Kindergarten or first grade, the principal insisted that our kid should be in Kindergarten so that she could learn “social skills”. I asked her to name one of the “skills” my daughter needed to be instructed in that she could not have been taught at home, and she mentioned “manners”. My daughter was standing right there with her hands crossed over her book, politely waiting for her turn. The principal then went on to say that it was sad how many adults lacked manners these days. I bit my tongue as I thought silently, “And what proportion of those ill-mannered adults do you think went to public Kindergarten?” Somehow I didn’t think she’d be convinced by a statistical argument, seeing as how my daughter’s test scores were not enough to convince her either.

  17. Matt, your assertion about schools’ contempt for parents is clearly filtered through your own less-than-transparent contempt for schools. Nowhere in any of the literature, in any of my school training, or in any of the conversations I have at conferences or with colleagues is there a “general attitude of contempt.” Frustration with specific cases, sure. But it’s never, ever at ALL parents. Why? Because many of us ARE parents!

    The original article dealt with the reality that schools often have to reteach basic manners. Lack of courtesy is not unique to schools. Road rage, air rage, and physical attacks on sports coaches are all enough of a problem that people and institutions are taking protective measures.

  18. In defense of teachers and administrators, may I point out that it is a good idea not to take opinions about the school population in general as a personal affront? In the interest of civil discussion, let’s take it as a given that our own children are well-behaved. On the other hand, please consider that anyone who is not a teacher does not come into regular contact with large numbers of school children. A math teacher at any high school comes into contact with more than a hundred kids on any work day. If they complain of a decline in standards of behavior, they may be speaking from experience.

    Let me add that I do not consider it the job of the schools to raise well-mannered children. That job falls properly to the parents, who should teach their children manners by example. Except…well, consider how many parents spend most of their waking hours away from their children. Add to this the vast amount of time children spend in front of the tv, or in front of a computer, and very little time is left to observe adult manners. Do I need to throw in the influence of divorce on the family? For one reason or another, a large percentage of children don’t have the opportunity to observe adult interactions, and those interactions they do observe may be acrimonious.

    It is not the school’s job to teach manners, and in my opinion, it is not possible for a school to remedy the failings-if any-of parents. A school can lay out a discrete set of behavioral guidelines which students are expected to follow, but that is by no means “teaching manners.” I would not expect such a system to produce considerate, thoughtful people, any more than I would expect a dress code to produce fashion designers.

  19. Matt wrote:
    I didn’t learn to curse, make fun of other kids, act snotty, crude, nasty, snide, etc at home. I learned these things at school. I acted up in ways I would not have dreamed of trying at home, and from what I could tell, it was much the same with most of my friends.

    If either of my daughters “acted up in ways . . . not have dreamed of . . .” and I found this out, they would discover that having done it at school would be the same as doing it to my face. This is the same way my parents raised me. Yes I learned all kinds of things at school that I would not dream of doing or saying in front of my parents–I, therefore, would not dream of doing or saying any of it at school.

    Jeff Wright wrote:
    . . . the fact is that the school establishment now tolerates, nay accepts behavior that it wouldn’t have a generation ago. The reasons are hidden in the fog of good intentions and “diversity.” Teachers bear the brunt of this, but they’re often their own worst enemies.

    At my wife’s school, it is the administration that is the teacher’s worse enemy. Some examples include: Teachers cannot give out 0’s (zeroes) for missed assignments; they cannot down grade for late assignments; in some courses they must allow students another try on tests if the fail; and several others. In one case a student was flunking last Spring and got in a car accident with 3 weeks left in the school year. Eventhough a teacher had proof that the student did not have a chance of passing prior to the accident, the teacher had to give a passing grade because the parents were pushing for it.

    The primary motive for the administration to side with the parents is to avoid a lawsuit. This is the case even when any lawyer would tell them that they would win the suit without a problem.

  20. So perhaps we need to pass some laws that prevent lawsuits?


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