If you talk pretty, you can say almost anything you like

 

photoA print out of this quote hangs in one of my classrooms: Good English, well spoken and well written, will open more doors than a college degree. Bad English will slam doors you didn’t even know existed.

It’s a great quote, but behind it lies something sinister.

When people talk pretty, we lap it up.

I’ve just finished watching Q and A, a live political question and answer show broadcast here in Australia. An African-American man was on tonight who spoke like a poet with a bluesy lilt and flawless rhythm. The audience lapped it up. I loved him… he was on point as my teenagers would say, but did we really know what he was saying? I sure didn’t.

If you can talk pretty people will follow you…

(Russel Brand)

… wherever you go…

(Adolf Hitler)

…Beware the power of the great orator

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Please teach your children about unconditional respect.

I’m sure that one of the most horrifying moments for a parent is when they hear their children parroting them and suddenly realize what they sound like. I can sympathise.

But there’s one thing I’m hearing from kids that goes beyond simple parroting; it highlights a core issue about what we’re teaching the next generations about respect.

See, they think that in order to give respect, favour has to be earned.

That’s just not right.thumbnail

Last week I was teaching my German students about the formal and informal versions of ‘you.’ I gave them an example: “If Tony Abbot came to our school and needed directions…”

I couldn’t even finish my sentence without yells of ‘elephant ears,’ and ‘we hate him.’

They’re 13 year olds. They can’t vote for another 5 years and I’d be willing to bet they know next-to-nothing about politics. They’re parroting what they’ve heard their parents say.

What I want to know is, can the parents hear themselves? Can we hear ourselves? Those kinds of comments aren’t about exerting our right to have a political opinion; they’re about slander and bullying.

What kind of values are we teaching our children when we publicly malign and disrespect the person in the highest position of power and authority in our country?

Is it any wonder that teachers and police officers and parents themselves aren’t receiving the respect they deserve?

Some kinds of respect are unconditional.