Congratulations. You did it. You have reached the threshold of public education. I am excited you have plans. I am proud you have been accepted to higher institutions to continue your education. I should be more excited for you, but I grow concerned as I recall what I have observed this past school year.
Not Social Enough
Initially, I thought this year was going to be a breath of fresh air. Discipline was not a standout issue. Classes were not talkative. There were fewer fights than usual. There was less visible drama.
I soon noticed the reason for the seemingly compliant behavior. Everyone’s heads were down, staring or smiling into a screen, or thumbing through it rapidly. Sure, you all were being social in a “new” way, but no one was noticing anyone else around them.
Why does this concern me? Your social skills are declining. Your conversations are awkward with adults. Your comebacks are terrible. Some of you can only make unintelligible responses to the simplest questions, like “How’s your day?” It is also evident in your inability to answer questions asking you to explain something.
Shaming Trump and Clinton
Another reason for my concern is what and how you define deviance and punishment. This is not only you. It is engrained in our society. There are two scenarios that this has been observed.
A sociology class was discussing how societies discipline, or punish, deviant behavior. Here is one of the questions the class was asked: “How do schools punish deviant behavior?” Here is the sum of your peers answers:
- “You could be talked bad about”
- “People could make fun of you on social media”
- “Your friends could abandon you”
- “Nobody will respect you”
Perplexed, I responded, “What about In School Suspension, Detention, or Dress Code?” It was as if those were new concepts.
These Were Our Candidates
We have developed a nation that does not equate formal punishment with the same severity as informal punishments, such as public shaming or leaving people out of our social circles.
Most people thought making jokes and shaming Donald Trump would be enough to stop him from being elected. Other citizens thought shaming Hillary Clinton for political deviance and poor health would be enough to turn her supporters. Both sides were wrong.
Is there a lesson to be learned here? We cannot equate shaming alone as punishment. We must have organized consequences for immoral behaviors and rhetoric.
Our public schools have figured it out. Organization is on our side. It is a weapon you are not yet skilled at using. One day you will be. Considering the landscape of the previous election, let’s both hope you will be more equipped than your elders.
My last reason for concern is your lack of responsibility. Your expectation of help is your teacher giving you the answers; You’ve missed so many days of class that a senior skip day can’t possibly seem like anything cool anymore; And your ability to blame your failures on your teachers, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, and work is a skill none can rival.
At this end, however, I must say that I agree with you. It’s not all your fault you are irresponsible. It is not your fault you are awkward in your social life. It is not your fault your teachers are outnumbered and fail to pay you the proper attention you deserve. It is not your fault you are not skilled at organizing for create change. It is not your fault you do not know the definition of responsibility.
It’s My Fault.
I have regrettably failed you in many ways. I have a flawed expectation that you have two parents who help and hold you accountable for your education. I have failed to acknowledge you are more than an identification number. I have allowed you to turn in “late work.” I have not aptly prepared you for the work force nor college. I have placed more emphasis and value on your attendance, rather than challenging you to be an ‘A’ student. I have turned your teachers into “70s machines,” forcing them to do “whatever it takes” to make sure you pass from grade level to grade level. I have failed to teach you the value of consequences for your actions. I have treated you like a paycheck. Every graduate handed a diploma is another financial deposit in my account.
So I guess you can consider this more of an apology letter than a parting letter.
Forgive me for polluting a great opportunity the past twelve years.
Despite my faults, I have not lost hope in you. You have much to offer Class of 2017. I know one day, the reality of the end of our relationship will hit you (some, later than sooner), and you will wake up to handle your responsibilities. I pray God guides you to find your path, purpose, and passion to live for someone and something greater than yourself.