Research Paper: Heinous Disrespect: In Whose Lead Shall

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¶ … Heinous Disrespect: In Whose Lead Shall We Follow?

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically...Intelligence plus character -- that is the goal of true education." -Martin Luther King Jr.

There was a time in the United States when you could walk into a classroom of fourth graders and if you asked them what the Golden Rule was, they would respond in kind: "To do unto others as you would have done unto yourself." Walk into a classroom of fourth graders today, and the vast majority of students would probably ask if it was a t.v. show or a video game. Unfortunately, it appears that the principle behind the Golden Rule has somehow been left behind. Are we, as Americans, simply too busy? Is it because Apple has not invented an application for the Golden Rule as of yet? Is there any way to bring the Golden Rule back to our lives and the lives of our children and, specifically, into our classrooms? Do other countries such as China and Japan have similar issues in educating their youth? This paper shall look at the notion of respect, which underlies the Golden Rule, in a comparative sense examining respect amongst the youth in the classrooms of the United States, China, and Japan, with the purpose being to see where each culture stands and what each culture might be able to learn from one another.

Respect is defined as "commonly the result of admiration and approbation, together with deference." Admiration, approbation, and deference are character traits that we are not necessarily born with; indeed, these are traits which may be acquired and/or enhanced and/or lost through one's personal growth process as well as through one's education and socialization. As such, there is no denying that respect as a construct is a combination of natural and acquired conditions; and, therefore, respect may be categorized under the set of behaviors in which we, as individuals, learn or acquire or lose through our experiences in and our knowledge of the world. Moreover, respect has been noted as "the single most powerful ingredient in nourishing relationships and creating a just society" (Lawrence-Lightfoot 13). However, there has been very little systematic research. Parents, educators, researchers, children, and adolescents in many societies all note with alarm a growing problem of disrespect and a decline in respect for self and others. Given that this is not an isolated concern within our boundaries, perhaps by examining the patterns that exist in different societies under different norms then as concerned educators, students, practitioners, and parents, we can hopefully learn from each other in order to bring back a more respectful classroom and, in a larger sense, a more humane world.

Education in the United States

Background re: Respect in United States Classrooms

Today's students in classrooms in the United States are not only declining in terms of the test scores in which they produce, but they are declining in exhibiting basic respect toward each other as well as toward their teachers. Indeed, when interviewed, there is a commonality amongst both private and public educators in the United States. In a speech delivered to Columbia University by Langdon Winner at the turn of the century, Mr. Winner succinctly summarized the sentiment of educators in the United States regarding how students treat each other: "…[T]he atmosphere of negativity in student subcultures, far from being a minor annoyance, has become one of the most serious barriers to teaching and learning that they have to confront each day, filling much of the social space in the halls and classrooms" (Winner, 2000). As a direct result of disrespect in the classroom, a report by Public Agenda entitled "Teaching Interrupted," reports that behavior problems in the classroom translates into students having less time to learn, partly because the teacher uses class time to discipline a few troublemakers but also because the troublemakers create an atmosphere that is not focused on learning. When asked what the reason was for the students' misbehavior, the number one reason was indeed confirmed to be disrespect by 73% of teachers and 68% of parents (The Washington Times).

Despite the fact that teachers and students and experts alike recognize a lack of respect as being a driving force behind lost opportunity for teachers to actually teach, the United States has become pre-occupied with content coursework over moral character education. Indeed, some districts are implementing programs which infuse morals into the educational day; however, unlike many other industrialized nations such as Japan, we do not have a national uniform policy for implementing moral education into our schools (Kilpatrick, 1992). Perhaps, the data herein regarding how disrespect has manifested itself in terms of violent and abusive behavior amongst students and against teachers as well will provide convincing evidence of the need to bring morals back to the forefront of the school day and the core curriculum.

In the United States, in addition to students routinely behaving in a manner that exhibits baseline disrespect toward others, disrespect also translates into more egregious and harmful acts such as bullying, violence, and suicide. Indeed, Federal education statistics reveal that between 1996 and 2000, 599,000 violent crimes against teachers at school were reported. On average, in each year between1996 and 2000, approximately 28 out of every 1,000 teachers became a victim of a violent crime while teaching at school, and three out of every 1,000 were victims of serious violent crime such as rape, sexual assault, robbery or aggravated assault by a student where he/she taught (Stix). American schools in recent decades have also seen an enormous amount of violence exerted by students toward other students. In fact, from 1983 to 1993, an epidemic of violent and often lethal behavior broke out in this country. As a result of this violent outbreak, millions of young people and their families had to cope with injury, disability, and death and, as a nation, we had to start looking at the loss of morality, tolerance, and respect amongst our young people (Laub and Cook).

Students are also disrespectful toward each other in ways in which either demean, degrade, or threaten violence against other students. Indeed, according to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resources Center, almost 30% of youth in the United States (or over 5.7 million young people) are either involved in bullying as a bully, a target of bullying, or both (Winner). Traditionally, bullying has involved hitting or punching (physical bullying), teasing or name-calling (verbal bullying), or intimidation through gestures or social exclusion. However, recently, technology has given children and youth a new means of bullying and disrespecting each other. Cyberbullying is the term now used to describe online or electronic bullying and it includes sending mean, threatening, vulgar messages or images, posting sensitive and/or private information about another person, pretending to be another person to make that person look bad, and/or ignoring someone in an online group (Willard). While some educators believe that cyber-bullying is not in their purview, data from a telephone survey of preteens (6-11-year-olds) and teens (12-17-year-olds) reveals that 45% of preteens and 30% of teens who had been cyberbullied received the messages while at school (Opinion Research). Moreover, online victims are eight times more likely to report carrying a weapon to school in the last 30 days than non-bullied victims; and cyberbullying has led to at least 4 cases of suicide in the United States and many more abroad. Suicide related to cyberbullying has now been given a name: "cyberbullycide" (Ybarra and Mitchell).

Progress Being Made and Remaining Challenges in United States

Data reveals that the United States has made some progress with regard to decreasing one of the most egregious forms of disrespect in the classroom: violence toward other peers. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the annual rate of serious violent crimes in schools in 2007 (40 per 1,000 students) was less than half of the rate in 1994. While the actual number of violent crimes committed decreased, the overall percentage of students who report being threatened or injured with a weapon at school has remained relatively stable since 1993 (United States).

Despite a reduction in violent crimes, incidents of cyberbullying and fear amongst ethnic minorities are presently on the rise (United States). Furthermore, the amount of teachers leaving the profession as a result of the stress brought on by disrespect and violence in schools has been significant and continues to remain constant at approximately 1/3 of teachers leaving the profession because of students' ranges of disrespectful behavior (The Washington Times). Accordingly, the United States is still struggling with regard to students exhibiting basic respect toward each other and their teachers. With the advent of technology, we have also seen an advent of a new medium for disrespect, cyberbullying, which has yet to be adequately addressed. Additionally, the teaching profession has not remedied the attrition rate for new teachers nor has the problem of fear on behalf of ethnic students been adequately addressed as… [END OF PREVIEW]

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