Friday, January 26, 2007

Teaching Respect

On a December 8th episode of NPR's "News and Notes" program discussed so-called "Respect laws" that require "students to address teachers as 'ma'am' or 'sir.'"

Apparently, these laws are in response to the disrespectful manner in which so many young people address their elders, these days. In the case of teachers, some of these youths may be less-inclined to show the proper respect because, after all, "You ain't my Mama!"

To be fair, there are a number of very respectful, very courteous young people in this country. Unfortunately, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the whole bunch. In this case, I'd say we're well past "a few."

In the broadcast, the commentators mentioned the fact that, as children, they weren't allowed to address their elders by their first names. Doing so had memorably unfavorable consequences.

The same was true of me. In fact, I still call many of my mother's friends "Miss" this or that.

I'm sure there's a cultural element, as well, though. After all, I don't know of too many Black families where the children can curse at their parents or call them and their friends by their first names. I can't say the same of our White friends and associates.

I don't know if this law is overkill, but I think it's well past time that we backed our education professionals up so they can effectively perform one of the most challenging jobs I can think of.

We need to work harder at teaching respect to our students so they'll work harder at respecting their teachers... and themselves.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think it sucks that it has to be a law. But some kids are out of control. Unfortunately, I have heard many parents say, "Don't nobody talk to my chile like that!" The kids take that to mean that they can off on adults. My kids know that if I ever get a report saying that they disrespected an adult there will be hell to pay.

I remember when I was a kid and I thought I was too big for my britches in church and I got smart with one of the deacons ... in the sanctuary. My mother marched me out to the back and beat the living hell out of me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Chele - it's kinda silly that we have to make it a law, but I do support it. There are many, many kids that are out of control.

At 30, I still call all my parents friends Mr and Miss, I call all their siblings (and spouses) Aunt and Uncle (even the ones that are only 38 and 39.

A few weeks ago, I let a curse slip in front of my mother. A rather tame, "Sh*t!", but my cheeks got red and I rushed to apologize. She still gave me that look, but she accepted my apology. I love both my parents, but I can't lie - I'm still a little scared of them! *lol*

Anonymous said...

@ tdj: You said a curse in front of your mama??? Oh Lawd ... at 42 mine still puts the fear of God in me.

West said...

lol @ "said a curse!!!"

I do it very rarely, but I do it. As a child, I said I wouldn't do it, even as an adult.

I've changed my mind.

There are times that I feel the need to reinforce and remind people of my adulthood.

S'funny, though. Just last night I dreamed that I said, "SHIT!" in front of my Moms.

Anonymous said...

As I have gotten older the rules have relaxed with my mom. We joke around a lot more. Like when she is hassling me about something I will jokingly call her by her first name. She still gives me the look and I will say just joking mommy. Lol.

However I am like tdj. I still call my parents friends by either aunty or uncle or mr and mrs.

As for cursing when I was growing up even works like "That sucks" Or "I hate *insert my brother or cousins name here*" were considered bad words never to be said and could result in punishment. Swear words...I think I blocked out what happened to me if I ever said a swear word.

Anonymous said...

@ Chele and West - Yeah, it slipped out. Kind of like when you lock your keys in the car and you realize it as the door is closing, but you can't stop it. I was so scared, I was stuttering when I apologized. *lol*

Anonymous said...

@ Miss JJ - Yeah, I can't say "I hate (insert person)" around my folks either. Easy way to get a pop to the lip or a thump upside the head.

West said...

If you don't mind me asking, tdj, how old are you?

Anonymous said...

"Ma'am" and "Sir" is a cultural thing, but I think it's regional, not racial. I grew up in the South and my Southern parents (especially my mom) insisted on my brothers and I using those terms. We were always taught that it was a sign of respect for elders.

However, the words themselves don't mean that you actually respect the person you're addressing. That has more to do with what else you're saying and your tone of voice. You can basically curse someone out and still throw a "sir" on the end of it. Doesn't mean that you respect the person, just that you understand that you're bound by a rule (whether social or legal or whatever).

Now that I live up North and am raising a son, I don't insist on his using "sir" and "ma'am." None of his peers do and it would be out of place for him to do it. But I do insist that he show respect to his elders in what he says and how he talks to them.

West said...

"Sir" and "Ma'am" may be regional, but allowing children to refer to adults by their names seems more cultural, to me.

I meant to point out, in my post, that I've had this discussion before with people who insisted that it doesn't matter if a child calls an adult by his or her first name, because respect must be earned through action, not age.

To some degree, I agree. However, I believe it's something of a bi-conditional: having respect often leads to doing respectful things and doing respectful things often leads to having respect.

So, I think there's value in reinforcing such things. I'm not fan of the military, but I think there's a reason they insist on "sir," etc.

I'll want my child to say "sir" and "ma'am," I think.

Shai said...

I was not raised to say Sir or Ma'am. My mom does it. My grandparents who raised I don't remember them using it.

I have to say my fam is unique. My grandfather sat my mom and her 3 siblings down when they were young and told them not to refer to him as Dad, Daddy, or Father. To call him by his nickname. Us grandkids raised by him called him the same. But when we had kids he told them to call him Great whatever. They wound up calling him Greatdaddy.

I call my mom by her nickname. She did not teach me to call her mom and my grandma who did alot of my raising did not tell either. My mom and I lived together my whole childhood except for about 2 months when her bf kicked me out his home. So alot of my time was spent living with my grandma and I called her Ma. I still do.

I have to say my mother's friends mostly asked to be called by first names. Certain elders were Mr. or Mrs.

I have to say it is up to the person the child is addressing. I remember asking my bestfriend's mom what my daughter should call her and she said by her first name. I find that when folks show respect and are open to the children they get respect regardless of which title or name is used.

I mean some folks look like why you calling me Mr. or Ms, call me by my name.

I have had folks who were traditionally raised to call by titles and they balk at how I address fam members. I say if they don't feel disrespected then why are you.

West said...

Well said, Shai.

By the way, folks, I wasn't saying that white kids are any worse than any other kids.

Shai said...

Who mentioned white folks? LOL.

Anonymous said...

@ West - No, I don't mind at all. I'm 30.