Ethics & the Young
Halfway through E. R. Braithwaite’s modern classic- To Sir, With Love, I feel a sense of pride to be a part of the teaching community. The patience and perseverance of the protagonist, in dealing with the ‘class’, is legendary.
I, specifically, feel attached to the scene where ‘Sir‘ decides to take matters in his own hands and let his rowdy, crass class know who was in-charge in his classroom.
The etiquette of language and conduct he lays down for them is as relevant today, if not more. He decides to lead from example. He takes offence on his students using words like ‘bleedin’, that too used by young adults who come from uneducated, destitute, low on luck families. Compare it to the language used by kids these days and we’d be ashamed of the way our civilization has developed. Children from well to do, educated, cultured backgrounds use words far worse than the innocent looking ‘bleedin’ and feel cool doing so.
The respect he suggests, they accord each other by addressing the girls with Miss and boys by surname, is also a lost art these days. I have been a teacher too long to know that students these days don’t even extend this courtesy to their teachers and elders.
Not long ago, we were students too and we looked up to our teachers, treated them with a deference befitting their station as bestowers of knowledge and wisdom. I hate to generalize, but this attribute is largely missing from students today.
Just a few days back, I was talking to someone about a whole different thing and I told him that it is only the first time something happens that we don’t approve of or like, that we are disappointed. Beyond that first time, it is expected behavior. We may not like it but we, then, don’t expect conformity. Same stands true for inculcating the virtues of good language, sound conduct and etiquette amongst a class full of students who are bent on believing that their cool quotient is more important than boring adherence to manners. Initial disappointment gives way to expectations of obnoxious behavior.
That said, I still believe that taking the advice of one’s elders and teachers stand people in good stead in the long run. The morals passed on through the generations is pure gold. The values thus imparted and absorbed stand the tests of time.
Every generation has its fill of uncouth & boorish students with indecorous and bawdy behavior, it is left to the teaching community, more than anyone, to bring them to grade, to polish them into shining examples of human decency. Even if a handful of our charges from a class, take our teachings to heart and turn into compassionate, responsible and well-mannered adults, our work is accomplished.
There will always be a few who fail us in our attempts to breed decorum and instill virtuous, winsome traits in their character but that is a personal choice not a teacher’s shortcoming. We need to rise above that and keep up our diligent efforts in pursuit of our noble profession.