R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find Out What It Means To Me

It was only a matter of time before circumstances lined up in such a way to send me over the edge into a rant about respect in society today. It made me feel old.

The spark for today’s rant was unfortunately provided by my son, who informed me that one of the directional keys on his school-issued laptop was broken. Hey, no big deal, it happens, right? But he explained “I don’t know if I did something that made it loose, or if someone in class ripped it off while I was in the bathroom.” My response was something to the effect of people needing to learn to respect other people’s stuff. And he says “These laptops are a piece of junk, so people don’t respect them.”

Them was fightin’ words. I was appalled that these MacBook laptops had been deemed pieces of junk by these 15-year-old experts. And that this opinion meant they could be treated poorly. I am not ashamed to say that I launched into a typical uncool adult tirade. “So, if you decide that the car we provide for you to drive is a piece of junk, it will be OK if you abuse it?” Well, no, says my kid in that I-know-the-correct-answer-and-will-give-it-to-you tone of voice. “So, do you and your friends think the school is obligated to provide laptops for you? And that they should be top of the line? And then everyone would take care of them?” Of course, he is silent now, because clearly Mom is on the rampage and any response could be fatal.

“How about if you decide that someone in your class is a piece of junk, or stupid, or poor, or uncool – do you abuse them too?” I’m probably talking to myself at this point, but the parallels are so obvious to me, and no longer about just my kid and his laptop (and for the record, my kid is a good kid who just got blasted with Mom’s rant, and eventually wandered out of range relatively unscathed). I have spent several months discussing issues in the schools that are rooted in a lack of respect – teachers and staff treating each other poorly, students bullying others, and administrators looking the other way. And the question I ask, repeatedly, is why is this OK? From little things to big things, why? Why is it OK for students to drive over the grass and across medians and park every which way in the parking lot? Why is it OK for students to line up in the lunchroom and create a gauntlet of verbal abuse that others have to pass through? Why is it OK to toss trash and “miss the basket” but make no effort to pick it up – because that is what custodians get paid for? Why is it OK for teachers to criticize teachers in another class or program for no other reason than “they think they are so special?”

And why are administrators so oblivious to it all? I’ve actually been told that “the kids don’t see the negatives” by an administrator, who in the same breath will tell you how smart they all are. I walk out thinking I must be from an alternate universe – one I like a whole lot better than the current one. One where people have manners. One where it is easier to be kind to someone than nasty. Where $1000 laptops – and cell phones and iPods and people –  have value. Why can’t we live in that universe? Why is it so hard to change our own?

<end rant>




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