Thursday, April 18, 2013

Whatever happened to basic respect?

I've been thinking about this since it all happened a while ago. At the time, I didn't say much about it to anyone because I was so floored by it that I could hardly believe it was true. I didn't want to believe that I'd seen what I had.

In addition, I chose not to say anything then because I know that a lot of people both here locally and in general are going to disagree with me, probably vocally and angrily. Which is fine, but it still bothers me.

The fact that it's still bothering me now tells me I just need to write about it.

So, here we are.

I live in a very politically divided city in an otherwise very liberal county. We're the furthest right that anyone gets in this county full of hippies, environmentalists, organic food growers and triathletes.

I have close friends on both sides of the spectrum, and for the most part we manage to get along just fine so long as no one brings up certain topics. I gave up thinking I could change anyone else's mind a very long time ago and I know that it would take a lot more than a passionate argument from someone else to change mine.

For the most part, we just collectively agree not to talk about things. Unless we happen to be among friends that share our political persuasion, then we're all for it. You learn quickly to censor yourself in these parts depending on who you're with.

Anyway, it's with that general background that this story takes place.

A while back, I was at my daughters' school for an assembly. At this particular assembly, some of the kids were selected to share their work. That month they had been charged with the task of preparing a report on an "important person". The kids were left to their own devices to choose the people they wanted. Some chose athletes, some chose musicians, some chose historical figures.

One of the children selected to speak chose Barack Obama.
When it was her turn to give her presentation, she stepped to the microphone and announced who her important person was. The gym, filled with over 500 elementary school children.

Some of them booed her. Then more and more and more. It was subtle, but it was there.

Kids, booing a classmate because she chose the President as her important person.

It made my stomach turn.

At what point did it become acceptable to teach our children to boo the President?  When did it suddenly become okay for people, children especially, to so blatantly disrespect the office? Aren't kids supposed to look up to the President?

When did it become okay to boo a classmate?

I don't care which party you belong to. It doesn't matter what your political persuasion is. I don't care if you disagree with the outcome of the election. It doesn't even matter if you happen to personally like the man or woman occupying any given political office at the time.

They are still your elected leader.

The office itself demands respect, even if you happen to think the person occupying it doesn't.

Teaching kids that it's acceptable to disrespect our highest office, to boo the mere mention of the President's name bothers me tremendously. I fear what may become of our country when these kids grow up, bringing their flippant disregard and their blatant lack of respect for authority with them.

When I was a child, such disrespect would never have been tolerated. Then again, children were taught to respect authority on a different level then. Children were not catered to or led to believe that their naive impressions of things were equivalent to adults. Children were not adults yet, and they were treated accordingly.

Back then, adults didn't discuss politics with children. The President was the President, and when the President spoke, we were supposed to be respectful and pay attention. Permission slips sent home just to listen to the leader of the nation give a speech weren't even a consideration. Politics weren't important. Government was.

The President was an important person just by virtue of the fact that they were the President, regardless of which party occupied the office.

Elementary school kids can barely even begin to comprehend the structure of our system. They can't yet understand the intent of the framers or the checks and balances put into place. Even still, they are clearly being swayed now by the political views of their parents, and being led to believe that it's perfectly acceptable to be dismissive of the President just because mom and dad say it's okay.

Think about how you talk in front of your kids. Realize that they are sponges who absorb and repeat what you say and do. They model your behavior. Understand that they pick up on the comments you may make about elected officials. If you show disrespect, so will they.

We have to teach our children to respect the system, to respect the offices, to be willing to work with people who don't share our views. To respect authority.

Shouldn't we be teaching kids to be critical thinkers, to be civic minded, to be able to see different sides of issues?

The most ironic part of it all is that the school my girls attend prides itself on being an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme.  The teachers spend an endless amount of energy on teaching kids to be open minded, principled, cooperative, respectful.  They focus on teaching them to be tolerant citizens of the world, even if they may be taught otherwise at home.


  1. *stands and slow claps* Thank you for putting so articulately what I have been thinking for a very long time.

  2. I stand by my right to oppose a political leader, but I am an adult and I can do it with respect and maturity (most of the time).

    But to boo a child? That is horrible. How did you keep yourself in your chair while this was happening? I'm glad you wrote about it.

    1. I'm not saying there is anything at all wrong with opposing leaders, with questioning their policies, with being critical of their voting records or any of that. It's the total lack of respect for the office and the system that bothers me. The great thing about our system is that if we don't like whoever is in charge, we can vote against them next time.

    2. Don't worry. I knew what you meant. :)

  3. I'm not sure who or why someone would disagree with you. I don't agree with many of our President's policies. But he's still our President. You stand when he stands, and write "President" with a capital P. Because whether you like it or not, he earned it.

    I would love to know if other parents booed as well. And what did the principal or teachers do in response? Sickening.

  4. Oh, that is pretty awful. Kids or adults shouldn't be booing anyone. It's an immature way to show feelings. I'm all for having opinions on they matters but kids are just following what they see their surrounding adults do and probably have no idea what the reasons are behind the behavior. But..... As I said before, booing is an unacceptable way (in my mind) for anyone to show their opinion.

  5. I remember this same argument for Bush. I really think that's when it started. The media started it. They refused to acknowledge his title, calling him "Mr. Bush" instead of President Bush. It infuriated me. As you said, it is one thing to disagree with politics, but another matter entirely to disrepect the office.

    1. I agree Elyssa, it started with Pres. G.W. Bush - and as much as I LOVE the Dixie Chicks, they had a big hand in it, in making a public denouncing statement against a sitting president "okay" - it snowballed from there.

  6. I get your argument, but I am going to say too, why is it acceptable to treat a classmate with disrespect? Maybe that's where we should start in third grade. Someone who has worked hard to put together a presentation in school should not be booed...especially a third grader. Rudeness and disrespect should not be tolerated, whether it is toward the president or a homeless person. Disagreements and differing opinions should be expressed in the proper forum, but shaming a child for the person she chose to admire seems especially rude to me.

  7. Echoing what Justin said above... I would take serious offense to anyone disagreeing with you on this topic. I'm curious what was said by the school staff to those children that were booing.

    I'm of the same mind that you are and become angry myself, when I see the Office of the President disrespected. I may not agree with the party views of a sitting President; however they were duly elected to the position and respect should be given... period. When I hear people refer to the President simply as "Obama"... it makes me angry. The President should be addressed as Mr. President or President Obama. While I have grave concerns with both parties and the elected baboons currently residing in D.C., I do believe in the government as it was designed to be. A government of the people, buy the people.

    We should be teaching our children respect for the office and for their elders.

    "When I was a child, such disrespect would never have been tolerated. Then again, children were taught to respect authority on a different level then. Children were not catered to or led to believe that their naive impressions of things were equivalent to adults. Children were not adults yet, and they were treated accordingly."

    Love this! More adults and parents need to feel this way.

  8. That is outrageous! Just to be sure I was considering this fairly, I imagined how I would have felt if it were GWB instead of Obama. I didn't like him, and if my son had existed at the time, it's possible that I may have even taught him to dislike him. But to boo a CHILD giving a speech? Never. In fact, children shouldn't be taught to boo anyone, period. Such a rude act. Did the teachers do anything?

  9. I know this was not the main point of your story (which was a very good one), but I think I have a bigger problem with booing a classmate. Were children booed by fans of rival athletic teams as well if choosing a particular football player? Less disrespectful to the important person, but equally disrepectful to the student...terrible.

  10. I get pissed when media give attention to "mature" adults booing a multimillion dollar athlete that has followed the Benjamin's to a different team. Do these people think they are really making a statement?
    But to boo a child... in school... for a class assignment???? Unacceptable!!
    In my school days, a snicker out of place during a classmates presentation would get you sent to the principal's office for a paddle.
    The fact that they booed her is a bad mark, the fact that they booed her for her choice of "an important person" and that being the President... horrifying.
    I want to know, did the staff running the assembly try to control this? I'm appalled

  11. "The office itself demands respect, even if you happen to think the person occupying it doesn't."


    POTUS commands respect PERIOD! Shame on the parents of those kids for raising them to behave in such a way, and WHERE WERE THE TEACHERS?? the Principal?? Were these disrespectful students chastised for such behavior?? Seems to me that would have been a GREAT lead in for the teachers to do a lesson plan around.

  12. No one did anything when it happened. I can't say whether any of the teachers addressed it later. There were more than a few students involved, and again I have no idea if anyone spoke to them afterwards.

    The little girl did a great job with it all, took it in stride and just kept on with her presentation.

    1. Kudos to her, and I know me... I would have been waiting for the Principal the minute the assembly was over (IF I could have sat on my hand and bitten my tongue THAT long!) trust me, and earful would have been had! lol - then most likely followed by a letter to the District and the SD Supervisor to make sure it was addressed... but I'm a complete bitch :)

  13. Kelly~as the teacher of this young child that you speak of, I was shocked to read this post. I just finished re-watching the video clips we took during the assembly and there is no such "booing". I wanted to re-watch the clips to make sure, as I was right next to this student and there could have been comments at the back of the gym that I did not hear up front. If there were comments, it was not loud enough to make it to the front of the room, or on tape for that matter. As an IB teacher who helped open our school, and has taught these IB ideals, rest assured, I would have NEVER let this kind of disrespect that you speak of happen to ANY student of mine. As a former teacher of one of your own daughters, I would HOPE you would know that I have more respect and credibility than what you are portraying here. I would love to speak to you further about this in person.

    1. It wasn't loud, but it was present. Other people have said they heard the same thing I did. I don't question the integrity of the teachers here and as I said before, I don't know what transpired afterwards, and I can't say what anyone else heard. It did bother me quite a bit, and one of the primary reasons I didn't say anything at the time is that the adults didn't react. I don't think for one second that this comes from within the school.

  14. Kelly~ I wish you would have come to us immediately when this happened. Then we could have addressed it with the students. We were so busy leading the "show" that we did not hear any of this disrespect that you speak of. It is unfortunate that many assume that teachers would just sit by and let any of this happen if we were aware of it. We have much more pride, self-respect, and dedication to our school, the ideals of IB, and our students than what many of these comments portray. Unfortunately, teachers are often the scapegoats these days, and I an saddened to think anyone would assume any teacher at our school would allow this kind of behavior.


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