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Whose side are you on?

By By Craig Ziemba / guest columnist
Sept. 21, 2003
The beginning of each school year brings on a whole new round of annual traditions Friday night football, toilet-papered yards and, unfortunately, stories of children disrespecting schoolteachers.
Several of my friends who are married to teachers are outraged with the way some students talk to their wives in the classroom. Even more disturbing is how some parents react when teachers try to discipline unruly students. Rather than reinforcing the discipline given at school, it's not uncommon for parents to curse at teachers who give their children detention. By doing so, parents are unwittingly setting their children up to fail at school and in life.
Granted, teachers aren't perfect and will occasionally make mistakes while disciplining children. In high school, I remember getting a couple of detentions I didn't deserve (and didn't get hundreds more that I did deserve). But there was never a doubt in my mind that barring some extraordinary circumstances my parents were going to side with the teacher when it came to correcting yours truly.
Larger principle
For my folks, there was a larger principle at stake than whose spit wad actually hit Priscilla Baker on the fanny. Mom and Dad wanted to make it absolutely clear that they were on the side of law and order. The realization that they were in cahoots with the teachers to make me learn whether I wanted to or not made a profound impression on me.
Once I figured out that all of the adults in my life were part of a conspiracy designed to make me live up to my potential, I knew that resistance was futile and that crime wouldn't pay.
Even the most persuasive, well-rehearsed excuse for my latest detention fell on deaf ears when I got home. My mother's belief in the depravity of man included me. If she called the teacher, it wasn't to give her a piece of her mind. It was to get the rest of the story that I left out.
I knew that my parents loved me and would stand with me when I did what was right. But I also knew that they would apply the board of education to the seat of learning if I were in the wrong. Ironically, I learned not only to respect authority figures, but actually ended up liking quite a few of them as well.
Mistaken identity
Things were a lot different over at Mrs. P's house. She had several sons, all of whom she thought were angels. No matter what those boys did, she believed their stories and rushed to their defense. When they got in a fight, it must have been self-defense. When they got caught smoking, it was a case of mistaken identity. When they skipped school, it was because no one knew how to teach a genius.
Mrs. P. loved her sons and desperately wanted them to like her, but she did them no favors by making excuses for them when they were in the wrong. By the time they were young men, they were on drugs and in trouble with the law.
Sooner or later, everyone learns life's hard lessons about crime and punishment. It's so much easier, though, to learn them in grade school than in the county jail.
Perhaps the greatest way to show your children that you love them is to help them succeed by holding them accountable for the way they behave.
Craig Ziemba is a pilot who lives in Meridian. His book, "Boondoggle," is available at Meridian Bible Bookstores