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Venting should not be socially accepted

Submitted by on Wednesday, 16 February 2011 No Comment

I’ll admit to occasionally rolling my eyes at someone’s back after a frustrating conversation.

I’ll cop to longing for a voodoo doll so I could return the torture an annoying person was inflicting on me.

But those were momentary thoughts that flitted across my brain just long enough to alert my self-censor that I was just as out of line as the person who’d ticked me off. I got over it and moved on. I certainly never memorialized them on a public forum and then said “oops, just venting!”

It seems today, though, that “I’m ticked, therefore I am” is in danger of becoming accepted conduct. All manner of ill-advised acts are rationalized under the umbrella of “just venting.” It makes me wonder what happened to the paraphrase of the Golden Rule that I fight to instill in the guys: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

The latest prominent example of this is the way Pennsylvania high school English teacher Natalie Munroe is handling her “caught with her knickers down” blogging incident.

First, she claimed she didn’t think anyone would ever see the postings. Helllloooooooooo. It’s the worldwide web. When  you include a photo with your blog, it’s not hard to figure out who you are even if you don’t use your last name.

Next she claimed it was an opportunity to amuse herself and her friends. Yes, calling your students “rude, lazy, disengaged whiners” is a regular laugh riot.

Then she used my favorite excuse of the modern era.

“The same way millions of Americans go home at the end of the day and complain about select coworkers or clients or other jerks they had to deal with, I came home and complained on my blog about those I had to deal with,” she told the Bucks County Courier Times.

Just as I’ll defend a high school student’s right to make a fool of himself on Facebook, I’ll defend Munroe’s right to say what she wants in her blog. I think she probably can make a strong First Amendment case if the district decides to turn her suspension into a dismissal. Unlike the blogging school secretary who claimed, “oops, it was fiction,” Munroe doesn’t appear to have invaded anyone’s privacy.

But, as with the high school student, it doesn’t mean it’s right because it’s legal.

Yes, I can understand – a bit, but not completely because I’m not in her shoes – Munroe’s frustration. I was stunned recently when a classroom note came home with one of the guys politely reminding them that a project had been due a week earlier and saying that anyone who needed supplies to finish it should let the teacher know.

That teacher was much more charitable than I would have felt like being.  The kids had had two weeks to finish the work and countless reminders to do so. I would have wanted to hand out F’s and moved on.

I’ll also admit that the guys are occasionally rude – mostly it’s to me, though. Their teachers consistently say they’re respectful to adults at school, so the problem must be me. I think my policy of listening to a vent them calmly asking “you finished?” is backfiring. It’s worked with a number of adults in the workforce, but it’s not with children who still need to be taught that venting is wrong.

The biggest irony in Munroe’s vent? She also complained to the paper that students these days are “less willing to work, to think, to cooperate.” I’m failing to see how suggesting, as she did in her blog, that some students are “frightfully dim” and “whiny, simpering grade-grubber with an unrealistically high perception of own ability level” encourages a spirit of cooperation.

But, then, that’s the problem with a vent. It might feel good at the moment, but it does nothing to solve the problem.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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