Rampant Toxicity

On several occasions this week I was with educators. Some were classroom teachers, some were administrative secretaries, and some were principals and district superintendents. All of these occasions were social gatherings, not business meetings. As I mingled with folk, I was stunned to hear their personal “war” stories of the school year.

Their overarching conversations focused on the toxicity of others. One district office secretary said, “Sue, I hate to answer the phone. The vast majority of those calling begin with a fiery, swear-word rant about their issue from bus routes, to playground time, to cafeteria services, and of course, teacher performance. Their anger overrides any attempt to have a reasonable discussion. I’ve been so brow-beaten I decided to quit, but with the help of my husband, I learned to not internalize nastiness.”

Principals and classroom teachers are at the forefront of the educational toxic environment. Somehow, they are accountable for school violence in addition to their already cumbersome duties. Books are banned, lesson plans are questioned, assessment practices are challenged. To add further to the chaos, state legislatures and governors pass hundreds of new requirements on the institutions that were designed to ensure an educated public, ala Thomas Jefferson and Horace Mann.

Unfortunately, it seems no one is immune from rampant toxicity. An orthopedic surgeon and several others were murdered this week in a Tulsa Hospital by an angry patient. Flight attendants are shoved, hit, and even punched in the mouth by unruly passengers. Restaurant servers endure her harassment from customers, and police are the frequent victims of ambushed violence. Even fire and emergency folk are subjected to this uncontrollable cancer.

The English language has nose-dived. Gone are the words of decorum and civility. Confrontation has replaced cooperation. All of us has become you versus me. Disparaging, insulting descriptors have eradicated empathetic kind words. WHY?

The answer lies with us. Is this truly the world we want to live in–a world of hate? WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS.

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