RUDE! How the Presidential Debate Affects Everyone

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Have you seen Mad TV?  Remember Bon Qui Qui?  She’s a bit rough around the edges, but she does make a good point.  When she screams “RUDE” and puts her hand up, the person who is acting at the burger joint if caught off guard for many reasons. As I watched those damn debates, all I wanted to do was jump into the stage where Obama and Romney were and slap their hands every time they were rude and scream in my best Bon Qui Qui voice, “RUDE.” Forget the comments about Big Bird, just the rudeness of both men. Perhaps a slap on the wrist wouldn’t have been effective, I would have paid a 3 year old with a gong to just continually bang on it when the men were being rude. That might be loud enough to shut them up. I actually quit listening to the content (it started to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher “wwaaahhhh, wahh, wah, wah, wah”) but instead starting focusing on how many times they insisted on being rude.

Why is it bothering me?  Because people watch this and then think, “this is how I should be behaving.”  It’s no secret that education as a whole gets less and less respect. Teachers are exhausted because of increasing standardized demands, having to basically raise their students in many cases, and continued battles with things that shouldn’t even be on the table like etiquette.  Higher education is no different anymore.  I overheard a grad student say he was becoming a college professor so no parents would bother him and I did LOL at him (oops) and then share with him the semesters that I had parents emailing me and calling my office phone because their son/daughter had not received an A in my class. What the what??? What happened to manners in general? Where did they go? Classroom civility has become an issue at the undergraduate level as students see others model bad behavior, they come to class with their ‘guns blazin’ and have no problems being disruptive, rude, and extremely confrontational on purpose.  While debate is healthy, getting in a peers or a professors face for a 9 a.m. class is not.

I had a conversation with PIC about the debates a few nights later and he commented that of all the news outlets he looked at (he’s a bit of a news junkie), not a single one mentioned the fact that both candidates were extremely rude to each other and to the moderator.  They were not respectful of one another or anyone they might be speaking too. Don’t get me started on content, I’ll get on a far-away tangent. People were critical of Jim Leherer as the moderator and while he might have done a better job commanding the two men, the bottom line was that neither of the candidates gave a s*^t about respecting Leherer. No one cared about the respect or lack thereof that the two candidates exhibited.  In the world we live in today, it seems the loudest mouth gets the crumbs and the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so when will being a polite or introverted person come back in style?  I, for one, can’t wait and it can’t come soon enough.

Education continues to face major put downs-not from lobbying groups, decreases in funding, or by bad press, but from PARENTS–perhaps the group that should be the biggest advocate for education of all kinds.  Instead of crapping all over your kids teacher or professor, sometimes it’s best to say nothing until you get the facts.  I don’t think parents do it on purpose all of the time, but I do recall that some of my hardest working students were the ones whose parents took two minutes to invest in their kids education. These were the parents who sent emails to check in, not attack. These were the parents who came to parent night just to be informed. These were the parents who volunteered to help, not scorn. Their only agenda was for their child and creating a positive educational environment, not sneaking around to dig up dirty dirt and then freak out every faculty in the building.

This trickle down even exists in higher ed.  Outside my office window I heard students discussing a professor they didn’t like and one said to the other, “if I don’t get the grade I want, I’ll just keep emailing and arguing with him (the professor) in class until he just changes it.” Hey you little brat, why don’t you try EARNING the grade you want first, then the argument will be null and void?  But that’s not how these young people think.  True learning and grades are often not directly correlated and today’s generation is having a tough time with that. They only see winning as the outcome. They LEARNED this behavior from somewhere though and odds are, it was their parents or from parents in their former peer group. This saddens and frustrates me to no end.

As a former public school teacher, I burned myself out and the rudeness of my students and parents was one of the contributing factors.  I had a student who announced to me on the first day of school that on December 13th he would no longer be in school.  He was dropping out.  Every person in his family dropped out of high school and he would be doing the same.  He was so PROUD to be quitting school and quite frankly, he made my life a daily hell when he did come to school until December because of his rudeness, lack of any kind of human respect, and because he knew his days were numbered and neither parent gave a shit, so why should he? A few years later, his younger brother graduated against amazing odds and not one of his parents attended his graduation. Out of four siblings in that family, he was the only one to earn his high school diploma and his parents couldn’t be bothered to attend.  Even if education wasn’t their priority in life, shouldn’t they support their son (first and foremost) and then support the institution that was working with him to get him to graduation day?  No, instead they emotionally beat their kids into thinking that education was worthless and the child that wanted to succeed, they shunned from their family. I’m sure they have good reasons but there is no excuse for allowing anyone to be as rude and disrespectful as that young man in my class was.  That goes into human decency and it is unacceptable.

I would insist that the two candidates clean up their acts for the next debate. If nothing else, stop being so damn rude. To each other, to the moderator, and to our country. Basic principles are still important and it’s important that as a first world country, as role models, and as decent human beings, they go back to the basic rules their moms and dads taught them. You don’t have to be a privileged child or a poor child to know that common etiquette is important and this ‘show’ we’ve been giving all of the other countries of the world is making us look like jerks.

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