In our last CCE Corner, we talked about how looking for the good helps students thrive. In this lesson, we talk about looking for the good in authority.
Lesson 7. Respect authority: listening to those who know more
The writer of Hebrews instructs us to, “Obey those who rule over [lead] you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
Respect for authority is foundational for all education. A child is not prepared well to learn if he or she doesn’t listen to the teacher and doesn’t show proper respect to adults at school – or at home, at church, anywhere! Academic growth can’t happen if a child doesn’t listen to a lesson in the classroom. But character growth can’t happen either when a child fails to do what he or she is told at school. This goes beyond the classroom. Respect is necessary in the hallways, lunchroom, and at recess. While critical for individual growth and development, it also impacts the community. Disrespect interferes with the educational process for everyone.
Part of respecting authority is admitting you don’t know as much as someone else and believing that he or she has something to share that is for your good. Listening to those who know more than you includes: your teacher, your minister, your coach, your music teacher, your parents, your babysitter, as well as the great minds of the past and the present.
Our advice for thriving in school?
1. Work hard at home to talk respectfully about everyone, especially those in authority (e.g., don’t pick apart the minister’s sermon on the way home every Sunday).
2. Try to help your child see the teacher’s perspective when he or she complains.
3. Pray for those in authority.
4. Encourage your child to, “Obey right away, all the way, every day.”
5. As difficult as it sometimes is, help your child behave and learn well in school by following through with prompt consequences for disobedience at home. And with this, remember to provide positive feedback whenever your child listens well!
If all of this sounds uncomfortably authoritarian, it would be good to remember what Aristotle taught about the cultivation of virtue. Aristotle observed that virtue is a mean between two extremes, a path with a ditch on either side. Courage, for example, is a path between cowardice on the one side and rashness on the other. He wisely counseled that in order to become virtuous, we need to know the particular vice toward which we tend. It’s probably fair to say that our culture tends more toward disrespect for authority than toward too much fear of it. We need to be reminded to “bring joy and not grief” to those who “watch out for our souls.”
In our next lesson, we’ll talk about some habits that help us learn by bringing order to our lives.