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Something to Think About: What are We Teaching Our Students?

Op/Ed By Michael Vaughn –


new michael vaughnAs you read this column, please keep in mind that the reason for this column is to get you to think.

I am only stating my opinion, as I see it, and asking that you take a non-emotional approach to analyzing the reasons you believe what you believe, so that you can effectively think about them.

A few weeks ago (at the time of this writing), Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was the commencement speaker at Bethune Cookman College, in Daytona Beach, Florida.

This is a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), which has a very proud heritage.

I have had the privilege of recruiting at some very historic HBCUs, including Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University (NC A&T), and Howard University.

Through those experiences, I have met some wonderful young people whom I have been very proud of, and I love going there for their rich heritage, and excellent students.

However, I was extremely disappointed when I heard about what the students at Bethune Cookman did this year, during their commencement ceremony.

During Devos’ address, some of the students started booing, and they turned their backs on the Secretary in such a rowdy manner that the president of the college had to admonish the students.

This is utterly shameful, and it puts such a stain on this historic institution that it goes against the honor and respect which the institution stands for.

It is ok, and even American, to disagree with others.

However, the people who did not like the results of the 2016 presidential election have started to act in ways that undermine our democracy.

Some of those people have even applauded the actions of these students, and this is just as disappointing, if not more so, as what the students did during the ceremony.

I say this because our approval of this action teaches young people that disrespecting someone is tolerable, and I believe that this type of mentality will only lead to someone getting hurt.

As an American, my opinion is as valid as yours, and I should not be disrespected because of it.

If it is politics we disagree about, beat me by going to the ballot box!

That is how we, as a nation, should take care of our political disagreements.

Unfortunately, today, following our recent presidential election, many of us have tended to disrespect others when we’ve disagreed.

There is a saying that says, “What one generation tolerates, the next will embrace.”

If we disrespect those we disagree with, this will become the norm in our society, and we will be on the verge of anarchy, because no one will respect anyone.

No matter who we are, or what our relationships are to others, there will always be opportunity for disagreements.

Spouses disagree with each other, parents disagree with children, children disagree with parents, students disagree with teachers, athletes disagree with coaches, etc.

However, we should still respect those with whom we disagree, and respond to them in the proper manner.

We should also vehemently reject the notion that, because I disagree with you, I have the right to dishonor and disrespect you.

That is a slippery slope that we, as a nation, do not want to climb.

A similar incident also happened at Notre Dame University recently.

Vice President Michael Pence was delivering the commencement address, and a group of students walked out.

This was a stupid response to his address, because the positions they were protesting are most likely positions the institution they were graduating from supports.

So, basically, they have just given thousands of dollars to a school they are now saying goes against their beliefs.

Seems stupid to me!

However, stupidity is the one outcome people are guaranteed when they act based upon their emotions instead of logic.

It has been said that our emotions should follow our decisions; our decisions should not follow our emotions.

We have an opportunity to show students that there is a proper time and place to disagree with others, but that their disagreement does not include disrespecting the person with whom you disagree.

Ultimately, when you disrespect someone, it only weakens your argument, and diminishes its effectiveness.

So, let’s make sure we know what we are teaching!

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(Disclaimer: The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)