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Why, back in my day, I would NEVER ...

I read about the 9-year-old boy in Williamsburg who bit and hit his fourth-grade teacher because she asked him to do something he didn’t want to do.

I’m not going to wade into the debate about what precipitated his “meltdown.” I won’t comment on the comments that insist this kind of thing wouldn’t happen if prayer was allowed in school. I won’t speculate about whether it’s a liberal problem or a conservative problem, or what the child’s home circumstances are that would make him attack his teacher – or anyone, for that matter.

But I will say that back in my day, why, I would have never hit a teacher – never would have talked back to one or shown any disrespect to any adult authority figure. I knew the consequences if I did. They didn’t paddle or anything in those days, but schools weren’t afraid to discipline in other ways. And all children back then knew that if they got in trouble at school, more punishment was waiting for them at home. You were expected to behave in school: no debate, no questions asked, no arguing. You just behaved. And you did whatever your teacher asked you to do without having a meltdown.

My fourth-grade teacher was Miss Grace Lauria. That’s what we always called her, Miss Grace Lauria, to distinguish her from her sister, Miss Loretta Lauria, who also worked at P.S. 21. I remember once Miss Grace Lauria ordered me to stop reading horse books. That’s all I ever checked out of the library on library day. I was kind of afraid of the stern elderly woman, so I dutifully stopped checking out horse books. I did not have a go ballistic on her. I did not hit her or scream at her, “I can read anything I want!” But after a few weeks, I snuck a horse book into my stack and even placed it prominently on my desk. She didn’t say anything, and I was back reading all the horse books I wanted.

What it all boils down to is respect. And learning respect begins in the home, long before children go to school.

And it’s not too late to get that child into some kind of counseling so that he learns respect and self-control.