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The Three Rs

Since when did we ever need a law on the books or policies from the Board of Education to teach our children about the very basics of treating each other with respect, dignity and humanity?

The ABC Family movie “Cyberbully”, which aired last week, made several points about Cyberbullying and it’s effects. , I spoke of the issue highlighted by the movie about parents protecting their children despite their behavior, instead of requiring them to treat their schoolmates with respect. This week, let’s take a look at the school’s point of view as portrayed in the movie, which by the way, I found to be pretty darn accurate.

In the movie, the mother of the girl who had attempted suicide as a result of being bullied, went to see the principal at her daughter’s school to try and understand how things could have been allowed to get so far out of hand. The principal lamented that there weren’t any laws on the books or mandates from the Board of Education “that had any teeth” in them with which he could punish those who engage in bullying activities.

Since when did we ever need a law on the books or policies from the Board of Education to teach our children about the very basics of treating each other with respect, dignity and humanity? Why does the principal need a mandate from the Board of Education to include, as a normal part of the curriculum, studies in respect, integrity, tolerance, honor, etc.? Why does the principal need a mandate from the Board of Education to create a culture in his school of mutual respect and civility?

The problem with this line of thinking, as characterized in the movie - “punish rather than prevent," is actually the problem with most parent’s parenting styles. The focus is on “how do we punish after the fact?” instead of the far more effective approach of, “how and what do we teach and role model to our children on a day-to-day basis that would prevent situations from happening in the first place?”  

Parenting is about mentoring your children and teaching them the skills they need to survive and thrive in life. Most parents seem to think it’s about coming up with punishments to impose when their children make lousy choices – lousy choices that the child made, in most cases, because of lousy parenting.  

They say the basics at school are reading, writing, and arithmetic, better known as the Three Rs. It seems to me that there has been more and more focus over the years on memorizing facts and figures and preparing children for standardized tests as dictated by the No Child Left Behind act. It seems to me that lots of children are getting left behind, even if they can read (which is not always the case). The focus on the Three R’s hasn’t seemed to get us very far socially, economically or globally.

There are subjects much more basic, and fundamentally important, than the Tree Rs.  Concepts such as respect, integrity, responsibility, tolerance, losing with pride, winning with humility, have a far more lasting impact on children, and the world, than a child’s performance on standardized tests or memorization of facts. If we focused on those, the Three Rs would take care of themselves.

Gary Benson August 04, 2011 at 05:07 PM
This is all very interesting but I believe the final word is that values and principals begin and are to be taught at home. I do not believe that the public school system should be held responsible for the teaching of "values". I do believe that the rules within the school system should be based on basic values and then enforced. In simple terms, a students History teacher will teach history, the students parents should be charged with ensuring the student completes his/her homework assignments and reinforces the importance of an education. I certainly hope that we, as a society, do not have to rely on government to "teach" us values. I feel that I was raised with a sound system of values that was SUPPORTED by the school system and the church. Somewhere along the line the American value system seems to have been turned inside out. I have often heard it said that parenting is a learn as you go propostion and that no one was taught how to be a parent. Well, maybe that's where the issue lies. Do we need to teach our children how to be parents? Whatever David, Jim, Lois, Bettylou, Vincent, Joel, Skip or myself believe, we are all entitled to our opinion. We should not have to look to government however, to solve a "do the right thing" family problem. Have we as a society wnadered that far from our "base"?
Jim G. August 04, 2011 at 05:23 PM
I don't think any of us disagree with a word you've said (or the gist of Vincent's comments, either). On the other hand, we're not talking about some generic, sweeping case of "leaving values teaching to the schools" here. The sad, sad case is that bullying is and always has been a problem, and that parental responsibility for preventing and halting it has always been hit or miss. If it doesn't fall to schools to provide the community-wide level of monitoring, educating and correction, just who does it fall to? Certainly not individual families and parents, too many of whom contribute to the track record of ignoring, dismissing or even encouraging their kids' participation in intimidation and bullying. If your family values, whatever their source, truly instill in your children the qualities that make them non- (or better yet, anti-) bullies, then you almost certainly understand the bigger issues here. If you're more afraid that a school assembly speaker might tell your children something counter to your teachings than you are that children are being bullied (perhaps BY your children), then I don't think much of your value set. Perhaps you can tell me what that assembly speaker might say to the students of a school where bullying is a problem that would conflict with ANY family values or teachings? That would not be a reinforcement of anything I've heard claimed as a "family value"?
Gary Benson August 04, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Jim, you stated, "If you're more afraid that a school assembly speaker might tell your children something counter to your teachings than you are that children are being bullied (perhaps BY your children), then I don't think much of your value set". (word for word). A school "assembly" in a school that is having a problem with bullying is, in my mind, different than a class being given on values. An assembly of students gathered to hear a speaker warn against the ills of bullying does not scare me unless of course, the speaker is the Principal mentioned by Skip earlier. I think we agree that the problem here is parenting. I am not fearful of the schools "conflicting with ANY family values or teachings", I simply do not feel it is the job of our public education system to have to take on that responsibility.
Jim G. August 04, 2011 at 07:36 PM
I think we may be closer in our beliefs on this than the give-and-take might show. I don't in any way think that schools should be a primary educator of personal and family values, although I do think there are universal values they should encourage and promote. What disturbs me here is that some participants seem to be saying that keeping schools away from any "values teaching" trumps any need to control a vicious and destructive group behavior. I don't buy such an extreme position. The schools are the representative of the community of children and there is a time for them to step in and "educate" as needed when there is this type of problem. There is no other collective body that can - it's not the province of the police, and there is no one church or belief group that encompasses everyone. As much as schools should limit imposing value education outside of some narrow, universal areas, this is one area where they are the right "center" to any solution. If all parents were perfect at instilling respect and compassion for other people, or if being raised in a church-associated world automatically did so, there wouldn't be any problem in the first place. But some of the very worst group-intimidation and bullying cases I know of took place in highly religious settings, so I'm hard to convince that that's a universal preventative.
Gary Benson August 06, 2011 at 03:27 AM
Jim....I agree.

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