A disrespect problem

Published 9:07 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The latest video to go viral on youtube.com involves a North Carolina teacher telling a class of high-school students they weren’t allowed to disrespect President Barack Obama in her classroom.

The implication was that the office of the president and the person holding the office deserved respect no matter which way a person leans politically. There’s truth to that. However, balancing that truth is the First Amendment right to free speech, under which open criticism of the president is protected.

The video (which is really just sound, the image is limited to institutional ceiling tiles and lights) is hard to listen to, but not because of one opinion or another. It’s not the content of the speech that’s disturbing, it’s the way that content is conveyed — with a complete and total lack of respect.

Students are laughing, yelling, just background noise to those involved in the discussion. It’s chaotic; the teacher has to yell to be heard. Over the course of the conversation about the president, for whom the teacher’s respect is obvious, her students are thoroughly disrespecting her, no matter.

The question is, if those students don’t respect their teacher, don’t respect their president, whom do they respect?

By suspending the teacher, didn’t school administrators just announce to all the students at North Rowan High School that their teacher is undeserving of respect?