Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I feel sad and confused tonight. Bob talks about the kids he's teaching - fifth graders, and one of the main themes is selfishness and rudeness. Kids mock Bob and each other - say cruel things, "have to be watched like a hawk" or they steal things from each other or destroy books and pencils. They are unwilling to put up with the boredome of sitting quietly and reading while other kids finish tests. They have to have fun all the time. Being bored, ever, is not acceptable. They don't seem to be reversing roles, exercising empathy very much at all. I know theat many of these kids have tough stories and I know they are young enough that they still need to be taught right from wrong - but the tone just seems off and it scares me to be living in a world in which such selfishness is considered a necessary evil in fifth graders. I see it in other places too - especially with drivers. People in cars don't meet my eyes and smile as often as they used to when I come to an intersection on foot. Generally now, if I meet a driver's eyes, he or she just goes through the intersection. I think I remember a time, not too many years ago when there was more interplay, more connection, whoever actually went first. I want a gentler world. I'm willing to take the time to be gentler with others, to listen and watch and care. Sometimes it seems like the willingness is not reciprocal.


Ruth said...

I feel this too. I watch Chris's students and I listen to his stories about their behavior in class and I worry.

2/3 of his students say they don't like to think--about anything (not just school, but boys, clothes, sports, anything). They say it is too quiet and troublesome. They don't want to be alone with themselves and don't seem to know what they think ot feel about anything. Or even why they act as they do.

Chris had a student turn over a desk in class last week. He asked her why she did it; "I dunno"

"Was it an accident?"


"So you did it on purpose?"


"Why? Did you want some attention, did you think it would be funny, were you angry, what's up?"

"I dunno"

And he believes she really didn't. No impulse control, or civility. They just act without thought--and they don't even deny it or see that as problematic.

And this whole lack of thought thing seems epidemic. I've spoken with other people most of whom say they don't like to think--that I am being overly analytical and need to just loosen up and have some fun. They arent concerned with a real meeting of minds or personalities. They just want to do whatever feels good or makes them laugh.

I don't know how to change it. It really feels like I'm in the minority--people don't actually want to have real interactions with me. I am appaled. I want your more gentle world. But I don't know how to make it happen

And I also wonder what right I have to try and change a system if I'm the minority? I believe I'm right--I believe my way is better. But if most people disagree and I try to change them "for their own good" then I become a prostelitizing zealot like the bullhorn-born-againers I despise.

I feel dismay.

SeaStar said...

Ru - I am so bewildered by this issue of people not wanting to think - about their actions, the impact of their actions on others, or even their own process. I'm shocked and scared and it never occured to me that maybe I should leave this "well enough alone". It seems so dangerous, as if three year olds were running around with loaded guns. What you wrote makes me identify with the born-agains - feeling so sure one knows what is right for the world. Oh my! Nothing is simple.

Chris said...

I don't understand a lot of the crass and rude behavior my students exhibit. Usually it's directed towards each other...but it's like they don't know how to be friends without dissing. It bothers me how ungentle people are with one another. I try to remind them they don't always have to slam each other.

SeaStar said...

I'm glad you keep reminding the students that slamming isn't the only way to connect. And model a different way too. I wonder how much of the rudeness comes from TV and movies - and where that thread in the media came from.

Ruth said...

I think we are all scared. I think the dissing is a type of double-speak desigend to keep us from every being open enough to get hurt. I know that is what they say about it as a flirting behavior: if you leave it ambigiuous there is less possibility of getting rejected--you can always just laugh it off.

I think the dissing as a way of connecting (Chris's family does this too) is similar--it is a way to display affection without fear of being vulnerable. I wish I knew why people are so scared of eachother (especially people who are family). I think it is also a way to save face for eachother--like it is embarrasing and uncool to be sincere.

I don't know how to change it.