A new Harris poll, the first of its kind, surveyed 2,250 adults last fall to compare their memory of “school dynamics” in the context of respect when they were students with modern schools — and the poll found that Americans today believe there’s less respect in educational institutions than ever before.
Greg Toppo of USA Today writes that the number of respondents who thought teachers were respected by students and their parents or vice versa, teachers being respectful towards students and parents, showed a large decline. Among the biggest drops were respondents’ impressions of the percentage of parents who respect teachers, which has plummeted from 91% to 49%. The percentage of respondents who agreed with the statement “students respect teachers” dropped from 79% to 31%.
The findings on student respect for teachers are nearly identical for adults who are parents of school-age children and those who aren’t.
Respect is defined as feeling or showing deferential regard for one’s own and other’s esteem. The lack of respect in school relationships is alarming to many officials. If students don’t respect teachers, how can it be expected for them to respect the learning environment teachers try to create and uphold? There are also concerns that if parents don’t respect the very same teachers, then students will model that behavior.
And if teachers fail to show respect for their own students and parents, then they will in no way help garner respect for themselves, damaging the way students will respond to them and the parent-teacher relationship that should be maintained strongly as learning has to take place in the classroom and at home.
“We have gone from a time when parents believed what the teacher said in regards to their child’s behavior and reacted accordingly to the present, where parents stare in disbelief and think of a million excuses as to why their child misbehaves,” says Marybeth Harrison, a public school speech therapist in Hunterdon County, N.J. She said teachers are “sadly the first to be blamed,” as parents cite poor classroom management or a lack of patience. “It’s time for parents to start ‘parenting’ and teach manners, respect, etc. … at home. Let teachers teach.”
The findings don’t surprise everyone as Arnold Fege, president of Public Advocacy for Kids, has noticed “a lack of respect for public education over the years,” whether the issue is testing, teacher evaluations or school choice.
Some teachers and parents argue that the findings are not reflective of current school environments as they find it to be the same as when they were students.
One Los Angeles teacher Michael Ulmer stated, “I shake students’ hands when they enter the classroom. Seeing as no teacher I had ever did the same, I would say students have the same or more respect these days. It’s all about expectations and modeling behavior.”