Rant Alert

Today is Wednesday, but my grandson isn’t at school this morning, and neither are 350 or so out of the 1000 kids at his school. How come? It seems that yesterday there was an anonymous school-shooter threat sent out over Instagram or Snapchat. Fortunately some of the kids broke ranks and reported it. According to the school district, police are investigating the incident. When my daughter heard about the incident, she attempted to call the district’s threat assessment number. Her call went directly to voice mail—no living breathing human was available. Last night the school sent out a platitude filled e-mail explaining how they would be doing everything possible to keep students and staff safe. Well obviously at least a third of the parental units involved didn’t quite believe those words were … well … mightier than the sword, as it were.

They also may have looked at what was on the docket for today’s half day of “school,” and decided five classes of twenty minute duration plus an hour long district-mandated “Advisory” class which is actually something purported to teach the students so called life skills like etiquette and empathy.

Etiquette? Isn’t that something you’re supposed to learn at home? Doesn’t that include things like opening doors for little old ladies or saying excuse me when you burp or saying please and thank you or sharing? I learned all of those things at my mother’s knee. Or in Sunday school. And I certainly didn’t need to have a sixty- minute class every week of eighth grade in order to have those “life skills” drummed into my head. They were already there.

If you are a person of a certain age, you are most likely smacking your forehead right now and saying, “What in the world is going on here?” You might even be tempted to include a few un-grandmotherly words while you’re at it. It seems to me that those are all things that ought to be taught in the home rather than at school! Whatever happened to the three R’s—reading, writing, and “rithmetic? My daughter is more than capable of teaching her son good manners, and she has done a remarkable job of same. She is definitely not qualified to teach him geometry or algebra. (Ditto for me. I couldn’t teach those, either!)

Back in the Ancient Eighties, one of the bestselling books on the lists for weeks on end was Robert Fulgham’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. From what I can tell, the current 8th grade version of Life Skills includes learning to greet classmates in the hallway with eye contact—no electronic devices needed. But, if students happen to do do a good job of cleaning up after themselves in the cafeteria, they get extra device time one day a week. Right. In my book that would be called a mixed message. What about cleaning up after themselves in the cafeteria because it’s the right thing to do or even BECAUSE I SAID SO!!! Wouldn’t that qualify as one of your basic life skills?

And what about the kid who sent out that anonymous message? As of tonight law enforcement has determined that the author of the threat was indeed a student at the school. Obviously when it comes to living by the Golden Rule and treating others as you would like to be treated, s/he missed the memo. (I’m sure there’s some newly-mandated pronoun usage that is more inclusive than that, but I digress!)

Back in the old days, troublesome kids who wanted an unauthorized afternoon break from some tiresome teacher or other would set off the school’s fire alarm. Everyone went through an unscheduled fire drill and then returned to class. These days I suppose a few “school shooter” days need to be built into the school calendar right along with “snow days” By the way, in all my years of attending public schools in Bisbee, Arizona, I never remember a single snow day.

As for the source of the “anonymous” threat? Now that police investigators have tracked it back to its source, with the person who sent it be held accountable for terrifying kids, parents, and teachers? Will that person end up being unmasked or expelled? Not bloody likely. That person has Federally mandated “privacy protections. By next Wednesday, the culprit may well be right back in school, just in time for that week’s advisory class. After all, common sense seems to have gone out of fashion long ago.

I doubt attending life skill advisory classes will make one whit of difference for the author of those threats. By eighth grade, I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed.

32 thoughts on “Rant Alert

  1. I agree with much of what you are saying. My sister (who’s old enough to retire) and her daughter are both teachers. I have learned from them that, sadly, many kids today and for the past many years, seem to get little in the way of common sense teaching at home, which may be one reason these things are “taught” at school now, though they are indeed things every kid should learn at home, when they are much younger than 8th grade.

  2. My opinion is that the etiquette class should be given starting in kindergarten and reconfirmed every year thru 4th grade. After that it is too late. As for anonymous threat, that person should go to the principals office for a week, or worse!

  3. You certainly said what so many of us are thinking…and put very well. It is a very different and scary world then when we grew up.

    I also wanted to say I finished reading “Sins of the Fathers” last week….your comments regarding alcoholism (and its companion, drug addiction) were so spot on…methinks you spent some well used time in some AlAnon meetings…I know they have saved me .
    Thanks for all you do….please keep doing it..you bring so much pleasure to so many.

  4. My great granddaughters (3) started middle school this year. Petrified at what is in store. My 10 year old grandson learned manners at his father’s knee. 3 year old walks you to the door and thanks you for coming! My granddaughter lives in a tract of hones with tons of kids. They seem quite normal, but they have manners, treat each other well, and the same can be said for their parents. Thank you for expressing the frustration so many of us feel.

  5. What a sad commentary. I see a lot of kids (and their parents) who have not mastered basic manners, common courtesy, or even any apparent awareness about the needs or feelings of others. Somehow my mom and dad conveyed all those things – not by lecturing and scolding – but by example and expectations. I don’t see that happening in a lot of families today. Part of me thinks, since it’s not happening in many homes anymore, maybe it should be happening in school. But then, I don’t really trust the school system to teach “values” to our kids. They have their own agenda, and it may not be the good old Golden Rule that we learned. Sad, very sad. I hope the child who made that threat will get some real help, and some real consequences too, to drive it all home.

  6. I also agree with what you are saying. We taught our children at home . An example is in California where the Governor has signed a bill that high school doesn’t start before 8:30 am and middle school doesn’t start before 8 am so that the kids get enough sleep. I thought that was up to the parents to get their kids to bed at night to get enough sleep. We had a time we went to bed and got up to get to school but that was in the 1950’s and 1960’s, times have changed and not for the better.
    I enjoy your blogs and am still on the wait list for Sins of the Father.

    • Concerning the new California start times for students: it’s not “pampering “ to have these start times delayed—it’s neuroscience. I taught middle and high school for 30 years, and it’s true that teenagers function better later in the morning. Younger children, on the other hand , do better earlier. Unfortunately in many school districts it was the bus schedule that determined school start times, not scientific research.

  7. Right On!!!
    I love what you had to say and are spot on!
    My daughter is an elementary teacher and I hear stories of how the kids now days have a don’t care attitude and or have no manners!
    Parents aren’t teaching this at home as they don’t seem to have any manners themselves. It’s very sad!!!

  8. I have an instance of a poor kid getting expelled because a table with several kids , at lunch time were discussing school shootings. The one speaking the loudest was overheard. The girl that heard it thought it would be funny to report the poor boy of talking about school shootings. He was immediately expelled. The police came to his house to arrest him after 10pm. He had to change schools, names and hire lawyers. It is still ongoing. The one that thought it would be funny? No punishment or apology. The other students at the table that were also discussing school shootings? Nothing. I agree, school shootings are horrible and something needs to be done. However , to not let kids speak their minds is not helping to fix the problem. I wonder if some day one of your books could address this problem. You do put good messages across.

  9. My roommate works in a craft store. The other day she had a mother with a four year old son. She was rude and freaking out because her son was four years old and she had to take him shopping blah blah blah. The lady behind her said he had destroyed the store and mom never said a word to him. Poor parenting is a huge problem and then they expect teachers to do the parent’s job when they start school with no foundation at all. I had a teacher, 15 years ago, tell me she could tell within three minutes which kids had discipline at home. No respect of any sort for themselves or others. I often wonder if they teach ethics and appropriate clothing to college students before they turn loose into the working world. I’f only we could vaccinate common sense.

  10. Very well said, JA. Totally agree with you. Our once great country is going to Hell in a hand basket…..and mighty quickly I might add !!

  11. I agree with what you said. We live across from a school drop off and what see and hear is extremely bad. The language they use and the way they treat others is uncalled for. They step out in front of cars and we live on a busy street. They don’t look or seem to care. Parents need to take responsibility for their kids action and teach them how to behave.

  12. Unfortunately, the reason the little darlings are getting that “life skills advisory class” is because those things that we USED to be taught at home (like basic good manners) are no longer being taught at home. Children raised by wolves have better manners! (Wolves will discipline their pups by grabbing them by the scruff of the neck and shaking them, wile growling. Some kids nowadays have NEVER been disciplined, and they rule the household, rather than the parents. Some parents not only look the other way when their little heathens misbehave, but tacitly encourage the behavior because they think it’s “cute.” They don’t believe their little “angels” could possibly do anything wrong. Then they wonder why their kids are ending up in serious trouble. Saw WAY too much of that when I was substitute teaching.

  13. Bravo! I don’t have children. But I was raised as you were. I listen to my friends getting upset because the poor dear was blamed for something, and their child would never do those things. In one case, the kid was a high school senior so allowed to drive to school. He was always running late so parked in the teacher’s lot. He’d been warned several times but kept doing it. Then came the day the car was gone. It had been towed off to a lot 30 miles away. He incurred towing and storage charges to the tune of $200. His mother went off the deep end. How could they do this to her child? Why couldn’t they have come into the school, pulled him from class and made him move the car? Why not just give him a warning? I had the audacity to ask had they not already given him several warnings. I’m surprised I’m still alive, particularly since I also pointed out if he were my son, I’d charge him for the ride to the impound lot. And he would have to pay all the charges he’d incurred. She left work and stormed the school. The school stood firm. She gave her poor dear a ride into town and paid the fees. Really taught him something.

  14. We had the same thing happen here in Tucson and also in Sahuarita a week ago. School canceled for 2 days due to a active shooter threat. Emails sent out to students saying let’s kill 300+ kids today. Then was reported that it was a former student who now lives out of the country.

  15. I am with you on the point of manners and golden rule. I teach adults at my company and some days I feel like I am in a room with 5th graders. Some just ignore directions, keep texting, and chatting during class. I was raised with basic manners and knowing the right thing to do. Thanks to dedicated parents, I knew rules and love. You hit it on the nail with, what is happening in our schools…just hope it gets better.

  16. What a truthful rant. I am of that age (69 and counting) and I taught my children the Golden Rule – or the switch, whichever they thought would get it in their heads. I have never relied on someone else to discipline my child, but as far as teachers were concerned they had my blessing – since they had them more hours than I did. For me, the frustration is that they have taken all the power away from the teachers and given it to the children, who are clearly not ready to accept that much power – though they are sure they are, in fact, ready.
    Anyhow, I’m glad your grandson is okay, but I’m sure he is scarred for many years to come…and they wonder why we have so many kids on medication/counseling – look at the pressure they deal with – all we worried about was earthquakes. Sad days.

  17. While I agree with the points you make, it does not good to simply say what should take place. Obviously it’s not – so what’s the solution? Perhaps teaching these skills in school is the only opportunity some children have to learn these behaviors. It appears that we’ve skipped a couple of generations in teaching basic human decency. This is evident in all aspects of life. Speak to solutions – not just complain.

  18. I grew up near a small town in Iowa many years ago. Population was a bit over 700 and many families were related. I couldn’t get into much trouble because someone would tell my Mom before I got home. She wasn’t that strict, but my sister and I were to behave. We got that look if we didn’t. Sometimes it was embarrassing to have everyone know your business, but if trouble came they would help without being asked so it evened out.

  19. I’ve heard of threats on the news that have gotten the kids in jail for it. Its a Federal Offense, the mother said my son didn’t mean it. The arresting Officer asked if they where guns in the home to which the mother replied yes, but her wouldn’t shoot anyone. The officer told her, if he has access to a gun, than he very well could do it.
    I’ve heard of a few incidents were the person calling the thread in lands in jail. That’s just started recently but at least its starting to happen. If you don’t discipline your children the police will! My children where taught to say please and thank you, write a thank you note and help elderly people in general. I also taught them to cook,do laundry, sew, do dishes, clean, mow the yard, etc., etc.. Its so sad that their generation is not passing these manners and life skills are not being passed down to their children. I have to constantly remind my grandchildren to chew with their mouths closed!

  20. Happy Birthday to you! I’ve sent you a card, but wanted to tell others who may not know that today, October 24th is your birthday. Celebrate wisely and well!

  21. Yes Happy Birthday indeed!
    As far as etiquette being addressed in school, trust me in this day and age it needs to be reinforced daily. What seems normal to you in getting those lessons at home is nothing like expectation of the good ole days.

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