Are we not able to see, to bear witness, to the cultural and societal attack that is occurring and destroying the nerve center and heart of our promised land?
Or is it that we are not so much blind to the catastrophe as we are uncaring, unconscious or apathetic?
Speaking recently at a gathering in Boston, the Rev. Hurman Hamilton, president of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, perhaps expressed it best when he referenced the “two environmental disasters” in our country. One, at the time, was (and still is) the oil spill threats to the Gulf of Mexico coastline. The other he said, “is the toxic hatred and viciousness that has seeped into mainstream political and cultural life.”
The crude, rude, despicable and very ugly personal disrespect and denunciations of the recent political stage coupled with the vitriolic diatribe (word of the week) of the media talking heads are beyond the scope of this space.
The diminishing respect that is playing out daily among us all is distressing. Specifically, a cause for real alarm that we all talk about is the bullying that infiltrates our kids’ mentality. You are aware of some of the tragedy that has resulted from this senseless behavior. As parents and concerned citizens, we have pointed fingers at the schools and their administrators and teachers to be more aware, accountable, and proactive in addressing the bullying. In the South Hadley school district following the sad student suicide, the focus of anger was at the superintendent. A recent survey reported that 14 percent of high-school students admitted initiating bullying behavior while 22 percent said they had been bullied.
The accepted definition of this offensive behavior is “the repeated use of verbal, physical or electronic expression that causes another physical or emotional harm.” Well, that raises a question with that as a definition: What is it that allows us as adults a license to do what is so common especially on the internet to express demeaning, vile, insensitive, unpatriotic expressions about another person or group of people? We offend race, religion, nationality, and neighbor as well as the truth with our despicable proliferation of negative expression – some think it is humor. Are we not guilty of bullying? Is it only a young person’s affliction?
(The piercing personal attacks and character assassination of the President of Our Country is frightening.)
The point here is that we are all teachers and our children learn from all of us. Each and every day you have teaching moments – situations where how you act and what you say is a lesson that children (not necessarily your own) see and evaluate. Kids are susceptible to positive role modeling and strong mentoring.
Maia Szalavitz, author of Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered, says: “The bad news is that our schools reflect our values – the way we view some people as worthwhile and others as losers. The good news is that we choose the values that we express.”
We can, as adults, choose to teach and demonstrate caring, tolerance, integrity, and a whole bunch of humanity in our everyday lives. To not do so makes the school’s tasks impossible.
Welcome to the teaching ranks!