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The Times
  • Loretta LaRoche: Beginning of the end? Incivility on a school bus

  • My elementary school years were spent in a public school whose principal, Ms. Winters, had to have been a former mercenary for a Third World dictator. No one ever dared to cross Ms. Winters or any of the teachers who were her clones.

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  • The incident caught on tape of Karen Klein, the school bus monitor being bullied, made me spend some time reflecting on how times have changed. My elementary school years were spent in a public school whose principal, Ms. Winters, had to have been a former mercenary for a Third World dictator. No one ever dared to cross Ms. Winters or any of the teachers who were her clones. Talking in the halls was prohibited and if you had to go to the bathroom you had to wait until you got permission. Your bladder after several years of “holding” was probably as efficient as a camel’s.
    Acting up in class was considered an act of infamy and, if it did occur, it consisted mainly of laughing inappropriately or trying to get another kids’ attention while the teacher was talking. The latter indiscretions would lead to verbal reprimands by the teacher in front of your peers, which was embarrassing to say the least.
    Marring the surface of your desk, making faces or whispering to someone sitting next to you meant you would make the dreaded trip to Ms. Winters office. I, of course, made several trips to see her due to lack of “self control.” This meant sitting in a chair in her waiting room until she deemed it was time for her to give you “what for.”
    Her reprimands usually consisted of asking you “What makes you think you can behave the way you do?” and “How do you think your mother will feel when I talk to her about your unruly behavior?” Once I got home, I heard the whole lecture again and had to stay in the house after school as a punishment.
    The nuns I had in high school expected even more self-discipline. I probably could have been a monk when I graduated. What got me and my schoolmates in trouble seems to be like the proverbial pimple on an elephant’s butt compared to some of the mean-spirited incivility that seems rampant today. Perhaps it was because kids had a much greater fear of authority, or parents didn’t feel that their kids should be the center of the universe.
    I just know that the Klein incident should have created a national forum on civility and how its recidivism is creating a more aggressive, impatient and rude society. If we do not begin to rein in this problem we will end up with a society of self-absorbed individuals who have no ability to empathize. And this my friends is often the beginning of the end.
    Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Mass. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360, send email to getalife@lorettalaroche.com, visit the website at www.stressed.com or call toll-free 800-99-TADAH (82324).
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