Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Bless You Controversy

Back in the day, when students came home saying they got into trouble the parents would usually ask “what did you do wrong.”  Now when kids come home from schools not only are parents narrowing their eyes toward the teachers, some are actively looking at tearing down educators because their own boring, pathetic lives are tremendously unsatisfying. 

This brings us to the current controversy at Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville, California, about 90 minutes south of Ukiah.  The story goes that teacher Steve Cuckovich was conducting a test in class when  he ended up having to discipline his freshman students for repeatedly disrupting class by responding to sneezes with an overenthusiastic chorus of "Bless you."  The sneezer would then thank each giver of the blessing individually.  It was obvious that the students were distracting the class.  Even students within the class admitted that when they were interviewed.  Apparently the teacher then gave a small history lesson on the use of “bless you” in relation to sneezing and then the whole shebang spiraled right out of control.

Without really talking to the teacher or the principal, a parent of one of the students called the local Fox News affiliate, who instead of conducting some semblance of journalism, parked outside of Will C. Wood High and treated the issue like Jesus himself was being crucified by the school.  The issue went viral and the faith in public education in Vacaville went down the toilet because of some bored parent had nothing better to do than believe their teenage kid.  In actuality the problem was a class of adolescents being a pain in the butt.  Every teacher has had one of these group issues at one time or another.  Someone coughs and then the entire class goes on a coughing spree.  Someone’s phone starts to ring and the class hums or clears their throats in unison to protect the technology violator.  With freshmen it is more common, although there is no excuse at all for it to happen during a test.  25 points off?  Not a chance.  Distractions during an exam are an automatic zero on the exam and that is made plain and simple from the very beginning of class.

This is the kind of stuff that steers the best and brightest away from teaching.  It isn’t the pay or the long hours, it’s the fact that society has a problem with respecting education.  Obama can repeal No Child, and Brian Williams can hold a hundred town halls.  But nothing will change until parents have faith that educators are professionals.  This should have been a non-issue that was turned into a viral mess because a bored parent gained more traction than the teachers and administrators at Will C. Wood High School.  There is something seriously wrong with that.     

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