As educators, we’re encouraged to model behavior that is beneficial for the young people who see us.
We should dress in attire that is appropriate for the situation.
We should speak using words that encourage students to appreciate an evolution in their vocabulary.
And we should talk to others with respect, showing children and youth that being respectful to others breeds respect.
Sadly, the current political climate leaves much to be desired in the way of modeling behavior, unless the behavior sought is boorishness and vulgarity.
Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, in partnership with KRC Research, started measuring Americans’ attitudes toward civility in 2010.
In the 2016 survey, “nearly all Americans, 95 percent, say civility is a problem, with three-quarters (74 percent) saying civility has declined in the past few years and two-thirds (67 percent) saying it is a major problem today. In the online poll conducted among 1,005 adults 18 years and older from January 7 to 14, 70 percent also say that incivility in this country has risen to “crisis” levels, up from 65 percent in 2014.”
Much of the survey questions focus on the civility of the presidential candidates, and survey responders said they wouldn’t vote for someone who they found to be impolite.
Despite this, the candidates haven’t curtailed their negative discourse. The incivility is not limited by political party or gender.
While the candidates have had no shortage of opportunities to address the American public about their ideas and goals – roughly two dozen debates will have taken place between August and May – the events have devolved into professional and personal attacks on one another.
Students are often encouraged to follow current affairs for school. And with the advent of social media, no one is spared from coverage, reaction and parody of the political process.
What does this show young people about politics and public service?
According to Weber Shandwick, such incivility contributes to a lack of interest in public service.
Author Catherine Aird said, “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.”
As educators, perhaps we can use this election season and its players to serve as a warning to young people of how not to behave.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal