Insubordinating Conjectures

18 12 2008

Different cultures lend themselves to different approaches in nearly every facet of life.  When it comes to children, this is especially noticeable.  Everything from the value of free time to notions of discipline are starkly contrasted between parents of different backgrounds, and it isn’t uncommon for me to notice my own shortfalls because of this contrast.  I used to take pride in my accomplishments of childhood, but many of the kids I see on a daily basis are somewhat listlessly doing what I used to only just accomplish with both fervor and exertion.

Yesterday, an 8th grade student was loudly and publicly reprimanded for failing to go to one of her instructor’s offices after being called.  Having received my fair share of spankings and lectures as a kid, I am not one to criticize the effect of apparently harsh discipline on kids.  (perhaps I should be the first to be critical of it, says Micah in my head.)  However, it wasn’t simply the discipline that bugged me.  It was the fact that this student was one of the most sedulous kids I’ve ever met.  Last week, she began ranting to me about one of her peers (whom, coincidentally, she was defending from taunts immediately before getting in trouble) who had called her “too serious” because of her penchant for working harder than most people on her assignments.  This girl then went on to describe the insidious nature of laziness to me.  College, she said, is already ridiculously hard; if she doesn’t start taking her schoolwork seriously now, she may find it too late to restructure her work ethic upon her first day at Stanford.

Hopefully, that paints something akin to my impression of this kid.  So, when I hear her being chewed out for not coming when called, I viscerally detest every word.  Here is someone who, naively or not, gets it. Why not stay at least somewhat composed before lecturing her more discreetly later on?  Even more than that, does it not occur to this lady that her student might take such a reprimand far worse than those who are accustomed to being in trouble?  Someone who spends nearly every waking moment to satisfy requirements and achieve long-term goals will maybe, just maybe, be a little more sensitive to being made an example of in front of her largely lesser peers than one of your frequently churlish peers.

As I’m already far beyond the boundaries of coherent paragraph-structure, I’ll throw in a paraphrase of Trumpkin:  If children are treated like incorrigible fools, how can you expect them to become something better?  I have always tried to treat kids like adults (to a reasonable degree, mind) whenever possible; seeing them cowed like idiots is infuriating.  Certainly, one must have a firm hand with children so as to correct their behavior, even if the child is a “good” one, but I can’t abide sinking to the level of a frothing taskmaster when dealing with 14 year-olds.

(When my children grow up to be serial killers, you can throw this back in my face.)