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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Discipline and Decorum (Before Political Correctness)

Moving to a new neighborhood and into a new school can, sometimes, leave a psychological scar or two on a child. Of course, change is even difficult for adults, but at least they have their familiar vocations to return to after the last piece of furniture is unloaded into the new dwelling and the last box is unpacked.

This essay begins when my family moved out of Memphis into a suburb known as Whitehaven in January of 1957. I was ten-years-old and in the fifth grade. My new teacher, Mrs. Wilson, seemed to be genuinely pleased to meet me the first morning I attended class, but the majority of the kids in the classroom snickered when I was introduced and some of them cocked their heads to the side and gawked at me as if I was some kind of oddball. Mrs. Wilson appeared to be embarrassed by their behavior and she gently placed her hand on my shoulder and said: “Come, Harry, and I’ll help you find a real nice desk close to John Luther, the kindest and most mannerly young man in our class.”

Mrs. Wilson spoke to a suntanned boy who wore faded blue jeans and a flannel shirt and a pleasant smile: “John, will you please see to it that Harry is made to feel welcome?”

John’s eyes gleamed and seemed to be smiling at me as much as his grin was. “Yes ma’am, I certainly will and I’ll be his friend, and he can sit next to me at lunch time in the cafeteria and I’ll be sure to play with him during recess.”

I sat down in the desk behind John and whispered to him: “Thanks John; I feel as if I really need a friend right now.”

During the course of the day I noticed that a goodly number of the kids in Mrs. Wilson’s class were clannish; that is, they had their own special little group on the playground and in the cafeteria; and would not freely associate with newcomers like the kids at Rozelle Elementary School in Memphis did.

John quietly commented to me as we were leaving for the day: “Some of these kids think they are better than other people, but I’ve gotten used to them and you will too. Just don’t let it get you down.”

Had it not been for John and Mrs. Wilson, I would have been the most miserable boy in my community. I look back and am grateful to God for the kindness that one lone boy and my dear school teacher extended to me on that particular day, and for the remainder of the year that I spent in the 5[SUP]th[/SUP] grade class.

“Kindness is the evidence of greatness”​
Charles Fenno Hoffman (1806-1884)

The last day of school finally rolled around and the classroom buzzed with excited voices. After the commencement bell rang and Mrs. Wilson called the roll, she was called to the office over the intercom. She appointed a girl named Jean to be the class monitor while she was gone.

A boy named Billy Lantert (fictitious name), who had any eye for Jean, stood up and began strutting around the classroom like a Bantam rooster. He started taunting some of the quiet, shy children and embarrassing them with his hateful remarks. When he came near my side of the room I said: Billy, why don’t you leave those kids alone…especially the girls?”

He turned and snarled: “Aw, shut up you greaser! I haven’t liked you since the first day you walked into this classroom” The majority of the kids in the class began roaring with laughter. John wasn’t laughing, and neither was a precious and demure young lady named Margaret.

Billy continued his tirade on me: “You are one of the trashy people who live across the tracks where the men and boys still grease their hair down and try to slick it back like Elvis! And, another thing I don’t like about you is that you wear the same stupid pair of shoes to school every day. Don’t you have any other shoes except for those hideous black high-topped Keds?”

I felt my eyes brimming with hot, salty tears…and I struggled to keep them from streaming down my cheeks. “Yes, I do have another pair of shoes, but they are my dress-up shoes that I wear to Church on Sundays, or when I get dressed up to go somewhere fancy.”

The class was in a virtual uproar as Billy continued on his roll of insulting remarks. “Where do you ever go that’s so fancy, greaser?”

At that instant, the teacher reappeared and clapped her hands furiously to call the class to order, and immediately there was silence in the room. Mrs. Wilson's chest was heaving from her excited breathing and her face was flushed red. She called the class monitor to her desk and inquired as to what in the world was going on.

Jean lied: “Well, Harry began saying mean things to some of the other kids and he made fun of the shoes that Billy is wearing, and this is why the class members were hollering and laughing.”

The teacher shook her head from side to side. "I don't believe a word you just said. Go sit down, Jean." Next, Mrs. Wilson called John to her desk and the two of them talked in hushed tones for a moment. Then, John returned to his desk and sat down.

“I have never, in all my twenty-six years of teaching, seen a class quite like this one. Many of you are rude, insolent, disrespectful, and seem to have an air of superiority about you that I have never seen in school children your age.!”
After she spoke these words the room was as silent as a tomb in a deserted cemetery.

The teacher turned to Billy and said: “And you, Billy Lantert, where in the world do you get the idea that you and some of your snooty friends are so much better than some of the other children in our class?” She didn’t even give him time to reply before continuing: “I’m not going to send you to the Principal’s office to be paddled this morning, since it is the last day of school; but I am going to write a letter to your parents about your atrocious behavior towards Harry and the other children you were tormenting when I walked back into the classroom!”

Billy looked down at the floor and nervously shuffled his feet. Mrs. Wilson continued: “Let me tell you something, young man; you are never going to amount to anything worthwhile unless you change that haughty attitude of yours. Do you understand me?”

“Yes ma’am”,
Billy said as his lower lip began to quiver.

“Then sit yourself down! I don’t want to hear so much as another peep out of you for the rest of the day!”

When the dismissal bell rang, Mrs. Wilson made her way to the doorway and spoke to each child as they departed. When it came my turn to cross the threshold, Mrs. Wilson told me how much she had enjoyed having me in her class this year. Then she leaned down and smiled and said softly: “I hope next year that I’ll have a class full of nice students like you, and John, and little Margaret.”

***********

How I yearn for the days when a school teacher wasn’t afraid to speak out against unruly conduct; and had no qualms about sending a disrespectful and disruptive student to the office for a good old fashioned lesson from the “board of education”.

But, alas, with the advent of Bill Clinton’s political correctness movement and the vast numbers of sheep who blindly follow its tenets, our grandchildren will never be able to experience true discipline and decorum in the classrooms of public schools like many of us were fortunate to spend our formative school years in.

How about it, folks? Anybody have a thought about how the advent of political correctness has, in many cases, replaced common sense and has virtually dismantled the customs of decency, decorum, manners, and respect for others that were the norm in our lives a generation ago?

Comments and observations need not be limited to schools and classrooms. How has the lunacy of political correctness degraded what goes on in the halls of our government, in the city parks where families spend time together, in penal institutions, or in any other facets of our lives?
 
 

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Nice story Harry.
I am not sure when you went to school but I can assure you that school was like that the first day I started in 1970 and only got worse by the time school ended in 83.
I cannot blame this on a person who was not president until 10 years after my experience. Parents raising bullies is not part of political correctness, bullies and bad parenting predate political correctness by eons.
 

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Nowadays, you both would have been in trouble with zero tolerance policies! Last night I went to my sons 5th grade graduation and I noticed how much has changed in the little time since I was in 5th grade. I would say here "I don't mean any offense" but I think I do mean it to be offensive. When I went to school, we had one graduation, high school. Now it is preschool, kindergarten, 5th grade, 8th grade and then high school. Isn't it part of being a kid to do what is expected of you and progress thru school to the next grade? I can understand high school graduations but all these others are just feel good parties. People were giving bouquets of flowers to the girls and the boys were getting gifts too. Every student got recognized for every single club, group, organization, or whatever they were a part of. And since all the kids had to be equal, there were made up categories, like A, A-B, and just plain honor roll. Perfect attendance and excellent attendance. You name it. Now I'm not heartless and loved seeing my son up there but there were no individuals, just a 100 person collective. I don't know. It just seemed like one big "We are all equal" gathering.
 

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Nice story Harry.
I am not sure when you went to school but I can assure you that school was like that the first day I started in 1970 and only got worse by the time school ended in 83.
I cannot blame this on a person who was not president until 10 years after my experience. Parents raising bullies is not part of political correctness, bullies and bad parenting predate political correctness by eons.
You are correct sir. When I started school in 1945, some of the worst bullies were the school patrol boys that were supposed to help the kids across the street.
 

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I think it started to go South in the early '70's as the crop of young teachers started to replace the old guard. I had teachers (3rd - 10th grade) that varied in age from 24ish to late 60's. those more seasoned knew how to control a classroom and one thing was certain, you were there to learn, period. With the older faculty there was no talk of "students rights" or inclusion or even bullying. If you were getting picked on, you either took it or fought back, end of story. There were always schoolyard brawls where I went to school, all the way to Senior High (class of '78) and guess what? No stabbings, no shooting, black eyes, bloody noses? You bet. In the end I can clearly state that to the best of my knowledge, the participants in those types of clashes never harbored vengeful feelings towards each other as we matured. The common denominator in all my reminiscing is that no matter what mischief we may have found our way into, you can rest assured there was an instinctive fear of a painful reprisal from certain teachers if you were caught committing such Tom foolery, (I had teachers that used the phrase), and the well worn wooden paddles hanging on the chalkboards reminded us of that every time we entered the classroom.
 

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It was like that when I was in school too. We moved a few times and some kids were welcoming and others, not so much. I'm still friends with some of the welcoming ones to this day.

I don't know that its any different with adults though. I look at the parents of some kids and the kids just seem to be smaller versions of the parents. I think the difference is that as adults, most of us, just avoid those we don't get along with, or do the bare amount of pleasantries when situations force us to be together. With kids they are stuck together and have not learned the pleasantries part. Of course there are "adults" who simply never learn that either.

As to teachers, I do think they have their hands tied to a degree. But I think its by the parents. I don't think its so much political correctness but parents who number one don't discipline their kids and number two don't think their kids can do any wrong. Those parents will then complain to the school administration of in some cases threaten legal action and sue for emotional distress or something. Thats my observation anyway.
 

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One noon during fourth-grade lunchtime I was teased so badly I cried. One popular boy left the other kids and came to me and said, "Come, Bob, let's go get a ball and bat. I'll play with you." He did and we enjoyed ourselves for the rest of lunchtime. He's the only school-age person who's name I remember.

God bless you, Joseph O'Connor.
 

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The good ones are not all gone. My brother is a Pre-K teacher in a city in which most of his students and their parents are on state aid of some sort. The school tuition is about $300 a month for this public service but it is income adjusted and most parents pay $2 per week (that includes 2 meals and 2 snacks per day). My brother, known to his students as "Mr. Jeff" is one of the kindest people I have ever met, to a fault many times. He has lit into the parents for being deadbeats to their children. He has also paid tuition out of his pocket for parents who do right by their kids and can't make ends meet. He has actually denied promotions and raises a couple times because he is the only father figure many of these kids have and he can't leave them with no one. He has been "written up" by the administrators for speaking his mind to the parents and students. He has found out that the administrators write him up and shred the write up after he leaves the room because he never crosses the legal line and is in the right. His kids cry when they have to leave his class and go to the next grade. He has also held kids back because they are not developed enough to move on. He won't pass a problem on to someone else even if that is the protocol. Some of them cry everyday when they have to go home. He is a good man who is willing to stand up to some of this PC garbage to make a difference. Thanks Harry for giving me pause to appreciate someone who I speak to almost everyday. It's amazing how sometimes even your little brother can be a hero.
 

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WOW - Harry - you've certainly covered yet another situation in a wonderful "nutshell" I agree whole heatedly, and yet I can hardly help from feeling "old" because as I look back so much of my world seems to have been "better" back then - it reminds me of how my father grumbled his way through life about how much better things were in the good ol' days. Don't get me wrong, right now is THE best time of my life! The good Lord blessed me with a wonderful husband who is my best friend and partner, we run a retail business and are almost always together. We still hold hands after 35 years and we both have learned what is really important in life, but the state of today's society, burdened with so much political correctness that we've lost our common sense along the way, is very depressing. It is bittersweet that we have no children or granchildren to leave this upside down world to.
 

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The good ones are not all gone. My brother is a Pre-K teacher in a city in which most of his students and their parents are on state aid of some sort. The school tuition is about $300 a month for this public service but it is income adjusted and most parents pay $2 per week (that includes 2 meals and 2 snacks per day). My brother, known to his students as "Mr. Jeff" is one of the kindest people I have ever met, to a fault many times. He has lit into the parents for being deadbeats to their children. He has also paid tuition out of his pocket for parents who do right by their kids and can't make ends meet. He has actually denied promotions and raises a couple times because he is the only father figure many of these kids have and he can't leave them with no one. He has been "written up" by the administrators for speaking his mind to the parents and students. He has found out that the administrators write him up and shred the write up after he leaves the room because he never crosses the legal line and is in the right. His kids cry when they have to leave his class and go to the next grade. He has also held kids back because they are not developed enough to move on. He won't pass a problem on to someone else even if that is the protocol. Some of them cry everyday when they have to go home. He is a good man who is willing to stand up to some of this PC garbage to make a difference. Thanks Harry for giving me pause to appreciate someone who I speak to almost everyday. It's amazing how sometimes even your little brother can be a hero.
Josh - bless you and your brother! It does me sooo much good to read about him - there IS hope!
 

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Bullying has gotten worse in the Public School systems since political correctness has
run amok and the teachers have their hands tied by policies that take the teeth out
of any discipline or order they might try to impose. I was picked on a bit in Elementary
and Junior High school because of my weight, I was a chubby kid and very shy and
clumsy back then. I lost quite a bit of weight the summer of my Junior year, came
out of my shell and learned how to deal with the people who picked on me. Some
of them became my friends and are still my friends to this day.

Now with gangs and the other troubles in society things are much worse. Teachers
and school officials are hamstrung by overreaching laws and the threat of civil action
should they try to single out any troublemakers who interrupt the educational process.
I'm glad I went to school when I did rather than in today's environment. Thanks for
sharing your story Harry, I wish the Public School systems would let their teachers
exercise the authority that your teacher did.
 

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Harry, your story said it all. In today's world of no one falls behind, everyone gets a trophy, and so on kids just don't have much of a chance.
 
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I can agree wholeheartedly with you Harry. I was one of a small group who grew up poor, but we had teachers who were not afraid to deal out corporal punishment on their own, or send someone to the principal's office to meet with a ping pong paddle or rubber hose regardless of the students social standing! One of those teachers was Minnie L. commonly referred to as Minnehaha. She would apply a wooden ruler across the fingers or the top of the head, or else grab an ear and nearly rip it off your head. God Bless her and several others who kept us all in line. Today teachers like that would lose their jobs and teaching license for even looking cross-eyed at a student. I was raised knowing that if I got in trouble in school I was going to get into tens times worse trouble when I got home!

Amazingly the shy and economically poorer kids nearly all went on to lead good productive lives, while many of the elitist students ended up with one or several divorces and a number of them ran afoul of the law in varying degrees.

That is one reason why I have never attended a class reunion, as many classmates would not associate with me in school not that I needed their friendship, so why should I lower myself to associate with them now?
 

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Schools today remind me of the scene from the movie 1984 where the people are in a cafeteria eating like zombies. When my son was in 3rd grade I went to have lunch with him (while it was still cool for Dad to eat lunch with him). They weren't allowed to talk or socialize during that break time.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Nice story Harry.
I am not sure when you went to school but I can assure you that school was like that the first day I started in 1970 and only got worse by the time school ended in 83.
I cannot blame this on a person who was not president until 10 years after my experience. Parents raising bullies is not part of political correctness, bullies and bad parenting predate political correctness by eons.
I appreciate your insightful comments.

What I was really attempting to get a cross in the essay was the fact that teachers and principals were able to speak harshly to unruly children when the need arose, they were able to administer corporal punishment to those who deserved it, and were able to write a scathing letter to the parents of a hateful and bullish child in those days without the fear of reprisal from the parents or the school board. They would get the support of the principal and the local school board in those days.

My twin sons graduated in 1986, and the "board of education" was applied liberally to their behinds more times than they cared to think about. Also, many was the time that I was called into a conference in the principal's office concerning their skipping school, talking back to teachers, etc. And, I must say, the principal shot straight with me, didn't mince his words, and told it like it was; and I supported him 100% of the time. My boys always received additional punishment at home for the unsavory deeds they carried out at school.

Nowadays...as some have so aptly shared with us, it is a very different story.

Respectfully, I still maintain the inane political correctness movement which I saw beginning in the nineties, is chiefly to blame for the breakdown in discipline and decorum in our public school systems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Nowadays, you both would have been in trouble with zero tolerance policies! Last night I went to my sons 5th grade graduation and I noticed how much has changed in the little time since I was in 5th grade. I would say here "I don't mean any offense" but I think I do mean it to be offensive. When I went to school, we had one graduation, high school. Now it is preschool, kindergarten, 5th grade, 8th grade and then high school. Isn't it part of being a kid to do what is expected of you and progress thru school to the next grade? I can understand high school graduations but all these others are just feel good parties. People were giving bouquets of flowers to the girls and the boys were getting gifts too. Every student got recognized for every single club, group, organization, or whatever they were a part of. And since all the kids had to be equal, there were made up categories, like A, A-B, and just plain honor roll. Perfect attendance and excellent attendance. You name it. Now I'm not heartless and loved seeing my son up there but there were no individuals, just a 100 person collective. I don't know. It just seemed like one big "We are all equal" gathering.
And...some children's baseball teams now hand out "Participation Trophies" to every kid on the team.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
...There were always schoolyard brawls where I went to school, all the way to Senior High (class of '78) and guess what? No stabbings, no shooting, black eyes, bloody noses? You bet.

In the end I can clearly state that to the best of my knowledge, the participants in those types of clashes never harbored vengeful feelings towards each other as we matured. The common denominator in all my reminiscing is that no matter what mischief we may have found our way into, you can rest assured there was an instinctive fear of a painful reprisal from certain teachers if you were caught committing such Tom foolery, (I had teachers that used the phrase), and the well worn wooden paddles hanging on the chalkboards reminded us of that every time we entered the classroom.
During my school years from 1952 until 1964, I never ever heard about students murdering other students or their teachers or principals on school property. As far as I know, it never happened in any school in our entire nation during that time span.

Your remarks about fear of reprisal are spot on!
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
It was like that when I was in school too. We moved a few times and some kids were welcoming and others, not so much. I'm still friends with some of the welcoming ones to this day.

I don't know that its any different with adults though. I look at the parents of some kids and the kids just seem to be smaller versions of the parents. I think the difference is that as adults, most of us, just avoid those we don't get along with, or do the bare amount of pleasantries when situations force us to be together. With kids they are stuck together and have not learned the pleasantries part. Of course there are "adults" who simply never learn that either.

As to teachers, I do think they have their hands tied to a degree. But I think its by the parents. I don't think its so much political correctness but parents who number one don't discipline their kids and number two don't think their kids can do any wrong. Those parents will then complain to the school administration of in some cases threaten legal action and sue for emotional distress or something. Thats my observation anyway.

The teachers and school administrators do have their hands tied, for sure.

I served as the Safety and Training Supervisor for the Transportation Department in a large school district in Mississippi (over 400 school buses in the fleet). Many is the time I attended conferences in the principal's office with "Little Johnny" and his parents about some nefarious deed he had carried out during his school bus ride.

We had to tread softly and choose our words carefully during these sessions, as, the majority of the time, the parents were incensed that they had to take time off from their jobs to attend a "silly conference" just because "Little Johnny" had thrown a D-cell battery from the back of the bus and narrowly missed the bus driver's head and breaking the windshield because the bus driver had scolded him for holding his head and arms out the side window, or because "Little Miss Susie 8th Grader" was written up by the bus driver for playing musical chairs...taking turns sitting in some of the older boy's laps, even after the driver had pulled off in a parking lot and sternly addressed this improper behavior. (I could go on and on...but you get the picture.)
 

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The teachers and school administrators do have their hands tied, for sure.

I served as the Safety and Training Supervisor for the Transportation Department in a large school district in Mississippi (over 400 school buses in the fleet). Many is the time I attended conferences in the principal's office with "Little Johnny" and his parents about some nefarious deed he had carried out during his school bus ride.

We had to tread softly and choose our words carefully during these sessions, as, the majority of the time, the parents were incensed that they had to take time off from their jobs to attend a "silly conference" just because "Little Johnny" had thrown a D-cell battery from the back of the bus and narrowly missed the bus driver's head and breaking the windshield because the bus driver had scolded him for holding his head and arms out the side window, or because "Little Miss Susie 8th Grader" was written up by the bus driver for playing musical chairs...taking turns sitting in some of the older boy's laps, even after the driver had pulled off in a parking lot and sternly addressed this improper behavior. (I could go on and on...but you get the picture.)
My parents would have been incensed if I threw a D-Cell battery and broke the bus windshield... But their anger would have been solely directed towards me! :D :D :D
 
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