Erosion is a big problem, isn’t it? The internet tells me there are four basic types of erosion: hydraulic action, abrasion, attrition, and solution. Storm surge and flooding can cause dangerous erosion, and weathering and deposition of soil can create serious problems for our planet.
But my readers know me well enough to know I’m not interested in that kind of erosion.
When I was in high school in Arizona in 1969 I had a substitute teacher in English class, a substitute that was there for an extended period of weeks. He was a small, frail man who always wore sweaters, and he trembled almost constantly as he taught. [I learned before he left us that he had been a Marine with extensive training in karate, and he trembled because of hypoglycemia; this information came out after a German Shepherd went berserk and attacked him one Saturday – he killed the dog with one strike as it leapt for his throat]
And in that class there was a rather large boy who always sat in the back of class. He was extremely belligerent, uncooperative, and disrespectful to the substitute teacher. One day, after being reprimanded, he shouted some profanity, threw his classroom textbook, and stormed out of the classroom. I couldn’t believe his attitude, his lack of respect, his incorrigible manner.
Even though the 1960s were years of protests about police brutality and government abuse of power (against hippies, Vietnam war protesters, blacks, etc.), there was still a sense of propriety, and a respect for authority that prevailed in most places. The Berkeley and Kent State disasters were not the norm. There was still an overriding respect for authority.
I didn’t begin teaching high school myself until 1979, but the topic of respect for authority still surfaced regularly. But when we had a teacher from Vietnam join our staff he expressed his dismay at the difference in level of respect for teachers that existed between Vietnam and the United States. [BTW, we were on the low end of that comparison]
After nine years of teaching I was away from it for a number of years before returning to it in 1993. And the difference in respect had eroded markedly during that time. In fact, the administration of that school did not agree with my approach to education and suggested I reward students with candy when they complied rather than punish them when they did not. Erosion. It’s a problem.
That was 27 years ago. I wonder if things have gotten better . . . .
What I hear from teachers, of course, is that it has not! Erosion doesn’t improve without erosion control methods. And our society has become more lax with regard to control methods. As Allan Bloom pointed out in his monumental book, The Closing of the American Mind (1987), Americans have their minds closed in the open position. And that was over three decades ago.
When I was last teaching I had a student (not one of mine) who was distracting my class by looking into the small window in our classroom door. I stepped outside quickly to get him to stop, and I took hold of his arm as he walked away. He said, “You can’t touch me!” I was shocked. I didn’t have the presence of mind to say, “Why? Are you invisible?” (as a seasoned south Chicago area teacher suggested later that I should have).
We have reached a time in our society where “authority” is equated with “enemy.” Many feel they have the right to question anyone in authority, and have their queries answered to their satisfaction before they comply with authoritative instructions. And no one seems to care that this free wheeling (and often cavalier) attitude is eroding the foundations of our society.
We are so drunk on our own definition of FREEDOM that we define everything in terms of how it affects us as individuals, and not us as a corporate body, as a nation.
This lack of respect for authority has colored our sight so much that anything that smacks of restriction, or limitation, or anything verboten, is immediately suspect. For many years now the entertainment industry has battled against anything forbidden, and our society is showing the effects of that “freedom.”
Many think they are standing up for justice. But they do not see the ground eroding underneath where they stand. Erosion is often gradual. We notice the times when it isn’t, and we are appalled at the damage. But when it is slow . . . we are like the proverbial “frog in the kettle” (thanks for that phrase, George Barna), we are cooked before we know what has happened!
Erosion can occur in any sector of our society. It can occur in politics (and it has), law enforcement (and it has), legislature (and it has), religion (and it has), private enterprise (and it has), and social organizations (and it has), etc.
We need to get back to basics. Before it’s too late.