Culture of disrespect permeates schools
A fellow student — we shall call him Joe — was busily texting during class instead of writing chemistry notes when the teacher told him to hand over the phone and pay attention. Joe responded with a defiant and resounding "no." Smirking, he shoved the phone into his pocket, leaned back in his chair and nonchalantly crossed his arms, challenging the teacher to dare to get it.
The teacher did not have many options. She could order the student to the principal — and probably elicit Joe's refusal to budge from the spot, which would require a security officer to manhandle him out; she could threaten him with calls home and detention (and ignore Joe's response that she was a useless teacher and his parents would get her fired); or she could resume her lecture and let the triumphant Joe win this one, taking some solace in the fact that Joe probably wasn't going to win much in the future earnings scale.
Shocking as it may seem, this arrogant rejection of good manners by students has become second nature in schools across the United States. While the media reports about bullying amongst students, it rarely mentions the abuse that teachers receive. From outright disrespect to more subtle cyberbullying, the growing entitlement attitude in students is causing much stress and pain to teachers.
"Disrespect toward teachers has definitely become worse," exclaimed Jaclyn Lewis, a senior at Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts. "Through video games, television and music, society teaches children to disobey and hate authority figures."
I hear students make comments such as, "They gotta give respect to earn it." This was not something I grew up with. I was taught that all adults were to be treated with courtesy and deference — and one would expect that teachers, people who had slaved for years to earn college degrees, would automatically get any callow youth's respect.
But apparently experience, persistence, dedication and a well-honed mind mean nothing now; teachers must pay homage to the nose-picking, lugie-hacking, gum-chewing wad of humanity that tells her she "don't know nothin'."
Andrea Mejia, MCAA English and creative writing teacher, recalls a time when she asked a student to remain silent and he refused. "He screamed at me, and when I asked him to leave the room, he continued to yell. Finally, I had to call the office." She has also dealt with students picking up chairs and threatening to throw them at her.
The torment, however, does not stay within the confines of the classroom. Technology has created another outlet for petulant whining on the Internet. Through websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and RateMyTeacher, students and even parents have criticized, ridiculed and falsely portrayed many educators, often destroying their victims' self-esteem and sometimes even their careers.
Kalia Klein, an MCAA senior, said, "Anyone who has to anonymously moan about their teachers on the Internet is a coward."
When I was younger, I recall my father explaining how when he misbehaved in school, the teacher would call him to the front of the room to take "six of the best," meaning six hits to the backside by a cane. California outlawed corporal punishment in 1987, but 19 states still use it in schools.
I agree that corporal punishment is brutality, but teacher abuse is out of control. A 2010 study by the American Psychological Association showed that out of 4,735 teachers nationwide, 27 percent said they had been verbally threatened by a student in the past year, and 37 percent had been the target of obscene or sexual remarks from students.
Natalie Landau is a senior at Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts. Her column appears every six weeks in Education.