By Ralph Trenary
Back in May I had a column titled “Where’s the Honesty and Integrity?” In recent weeks I’ve recognized a similar issue that I call “gettin’ away with it.”
This is the stuff that’s just hard for me to sit back and watch. When I see it, and if the kids are around it becomes a “ … this is unacceptable …” learning opportunity. Sometimes it’s even cause to call 911.
“Gettin’ away with it” are undesirable practices that are seen too often and in too many circles of American society. While I know that it’s wrong-doing at a small level, it’s still wrong. Most of the time these are petty acts that are lazy, irresponsible and contemptible. Almost always there is a sense of not getting caught and having no consequences to face.
Contemporary sports and entertainment figures are regrettably filling newspapers and magazines with tales of such offenses. But, my greatest concern is its appearance in our schools.
I was unprepared for the answer by the high school assistant principal a few months ago to the question “How are teachers able to catch plagiarism?” This caught my full attention at almost 8 o’clock at night. I shook off the “Z-Monster” and found the continuing discussion amazing and ominous.
The automation tools used by teachers are in a constant battle with other interests that are tempting students with essays and term papers for sale. I am grateful for the commitment to honesty and integrity, but saddened that policing plagiarism has become such a burden on teachers.
Grandma and the other teachers in my ancestral tree would be disappointed and more than a little angry. Thinking back on all of the papers I’ve written through high school, college, in the service and graduate school I’m just disgusted by any internet vendor who would profit from cheating, and also for a parent who would purposely or benignly allow such actions.
“Gettin’ away with it” is hard to present as criminal. These are small actions, but still they shouldn’t be tolerated. I’ve become well aware of the dress-code issues in the big high schools up north. My hope is that Berthoud HS parents are doing better at keeping the saggers, spaghetti-straps and skin-on-display outfits from appearing on campus.
Perhaps all of this is just an extension of my “next-generation” focus and values. The welfare of our society and prospects for the future are undermined by everyone who cuts corners, and plays cat-and-mouse with recognized authorities, both at school and out on the street. Contempt for teachers and principals is a bad start for a future employee, business leader or even a public official.
So, is it likely that the next generation will not be able to fulfill those roles and responsibilities? Not in its entirety, I hope. There has always been non-conformity in every generation. (Something about the irony of conforming to non-conformist subgroups?) Yet I find more disturbing signs of disruptive and destructive actions as the information age progresses. With the rapid ease of accessing information these days it is unsettling to read reports of students unable to do their own work, complete assignments without using stolen sources and defying simple things like appropriate clothing.
Next week I have the opportunity to continue with thoughts on the example, good and bad, that some of us are setting for the kids. I’m reminded of a Medal of Honor recipient who cautioned a room full of officers to remember that the troops are always watching. His lesson was that we can expect little more of our subordinates when we lack the self-discipline to do the right thing ourselves. It seems to me this is also true out of uniform.