There are many virtues that comprise a good person. Some of these are: love of others, generosity, humility, tolerance, honesty, trustworthiness, patience, and my favorite, responsibility. All these seem to have a common thread in the complex fabric that makes us who we are. It seems that it would be hard to practice any one of these virtues without practicing all of them. Consider the rungs of a ladder. With missing rungs the ladder becomes a very dangerous tool. We humans, as seen by of most religions, have a responsibility to treat our fellow-man in an honest, trustworthy, loving, generous, humble, patient, caring and tolerant manner. Based on the contents of the evening news and newspapers, it appears that there are some of us who are not very religious.
As a teacher it was my responsibility to teach responsibility. The Funk and Wagnalls’ dictionary defines responsibility as:
1. The state of being responsible or accountable.
2. That for which one is answerable; a duty or trust.
3. Ability to meet obligations or act without superior authority or guidance.
It seems to me that the primary responsibility of a student is to learn to function in and understand the world around him. This includes being accountable for one’s actions. I think that we do not adequately teach our students to be accountable. I cannot count the number of students I have known who were passed from grade to grade without having mastered several subjects. Not only have we taught these students that they need not be responsible for their failure to perform, but just as important, we have shown other students that being accountable is not that important.
One of the biggest complaints voiced by teachers is about discipline. Stop at any table where teachers are talking and the discussion will inevitably turn to discipline. The inability of the schools to discipline students mirrors society’s ineptness at dealing with the individuals who are unable to abide by its laws. In the classroom, teachers are reduced to making threats, repeated warnings that are documented with forms and calling parents to inform them that their child is not following school rules (which often turns into blaming the teacher for the child’s behavior) and generally toothless discipline. The teacher is no longer able to help a child see the consequences of his behavior because most of the time there are none.
Ability to meet obligations or act without superior authority or guidance is an interesting concept. I would have to say that this idea is no longer practiced in this country. In no way are we encouraged to make a decision without consulting a higher authority who then consults an even higher authority and on and on to oblivion. In the classroom this is seen through the endless paper-work teacher do to discipline a child. Of course there are the multiple warnings, and the parent’s notifications, parent phone calls to the answering machine and the conferences, all leading to an administrator making a decision about the child’s inability to behave in class, and I might add, he has probably not personally witnessed. Meanwhile, time has passed, class has been disrupted, teacher time wasted and education pushed to the side. If the teacher is responsible for the education of the 25 or so students, then let the teacher do the job! Give the teacher control of the room! No child has the right to interfere with another child’s education and no child has the right to keep a teacher from doing the job he was hired and trained to do.
There is one more article to follow on this subject in which I will offer my humble solution for fixing education in our country. Stay tuned!