Some teachers and I were discussing the difference between today’s students and those 25 years ago. One colleague suggested that modern children (and their parents) feel a sense of entitlement that did not exist before. To place this statement into perspective, let’s go back to yesteryear when taking a note home from the teacher was often the equivalent of a good spanking or something similar. Parents did not question teachers, and students usually did what they were told by both. Authority, whether right or wrong, had the last word.
While I don’t condone physical punishment as the best method (I did use it on my kids a couple of times), I do condemn the other extreme, that is, let them do whatever they want. In the classroom, we have a deuce of a time, in high school at least, getting work done and discipline observed in most students. Is it due to lax controls on the part of school authorities or does it come from a home where rules are almost non-existent? Have we become a society fearful of enforcing discipline in our children or are modern parents simply too busy to instill the necessary values in the family?
The undisputable fact is that we, the teachers, cannot do what parents neglect or refuse to do with their children. Fundamental rules and values must emanate from the home, even if both mother and father are working. Once kids are in school, we are responsible for their well-being and we try to control their behavior by letting them know that society expects them to follow rules. But we are not priests, or saviors, or doctors, or miracle workers. Without the adequate support from mom or dad, our job becomes mission impossible. It becomes even worse when parents accuse us of not handling discipline with their children adequately. Sometimes, they are so blinded by their maternal love that the poor angel can do no wrong. “You simply do not understand my son”, says a distraught mother, when I show her proof that her precious child had skipped 20 classes. Why so many young parents act that way can only be blamed on their misunderstanding regarding the raising of children. We don’t require parent training in our modern society, but we do let them know that punishing is no longer acceptable. Our modern family values have evolved into a nefarious “laissez-faire” that creates little monsters who firmly believe that they are entitled to everything without working at it, without earning it.
“Give me” has become the new motto of so many students who come to school without adequate material and, of course, without homework. “I left it at home” is a common phrase we hear every working day of the week; unfortunately, it is not accompanied by a genuine expression of regret. These students believe firmly that teachers should accept their flimsy excuses and give them another chance. If they don’t, they simply shrug their shoulders and walk away, thinking that they’ll get the necessary help to pass, somehow. “Tomorrow” is a very distant concept that will take care of itself, somehow. “Planning ahead” is a foreign expression that may come in handy, somehow and some day. “I am responsible” is an unknown phrase for some modern teens.
Will our nation 30 years from now be run by the same adolescents whose values are limited to “I am entitled to”? Or is this a crazy vision by an older teacher who fails to recognize the new values? Luckily, I won’t be around to see the results.