I visited with two sets of kids during my trip to Colosse. The first was my college roommate Hubert’s twins. The second was the three kids of my other college friend, Al Cavanaugh. Hugh (re-)introduced me to his daughters as “Will” while Al went with “Mr Truman.” I’m not at all offended with the former, but the traditionalist in me prefers the latter. It was how I was raised to refer to people my parent’s age. But these days, even if a parent wants to go that route it can be problematic because a lot of adults insist on being called by their first name with children. So it might not be a tide worth fighting.
I am getting older and more and more of my friends have kids. We were all raised with Mr and Mrs, but their kids haven’t been. So an age-peer will refer to my mother and father as Mr or Mrs Truman, but their toddler kids go with Bill or Susan.
I’m too lazy to look it up, but a couple of blog posts have been written on the subject. James Joyner (or one of his professorial co-bloggers at Outside The Beltway) spoke disapprovingly of the trend of college professors either wanting to or being encouraged to go by their first names with their students. The idea behind this trend being that you don’t want hierarchial relationships and it should be considered a relationship among equals. Joyner, a former professor, pushes back against this because teachers and students are not equals and it does nobody any justice to assume otherwise. Heebie-Geebie from Unfogged, a mathematics professor, expressed appreciation that a former student referred to her as doctor rather than shifting towards a first-name reference.
In the student-teacher relationship, I am more of the same mind of Joyner and Geebie. One of the irritating things about college was when students would challenge professors as presumptive equals. My friend Karl was – until the professor finally lost patience and put him in his place – so bad about this he almost ruined the class we took together. That’s not to say that what professors say should go completely unchallenged, and questions should definitely be asked (“Have you considered this?”), but by and large they are there to teach and you are there to learn. Any questions and challenges ought to be in an effort to better understand what they are trying to say. Not to prove that you, and undergraduate student, know more than they do. First-name bases – to the extent that they make a difference – seem to encourage the latter behavior.
Yesterday I went to orientation to be a substitute teacher. This was for the Redstone elementary schools. One of the things they kept harping on was dress code (which essentially boiled down to “no t-shirts or jeans”) and the insistence that, whether you prefer it or not, you are to be addressed as Mr or Mrs. The point being to establish authority. I’m not entirely sure how necessary this is with elementary school kids, though. Don’t get me wrong, I approve of both (preferring the Mr and Mrs and being a fan of non-casual dress codes generally), but it strikes me as the area where it makes the least amount of difference.
There is no orientation for the secondary schools, but it came up that (while presumably the Mr and Mrs honorifics are still required) they are much less worried about dress codes. That struck me as odd since that’s the place (in K-12 at any rate) where kids are most likely to challenge the adult-kid nature of the relationship. That strikes me as where it would be most important to draw every distinction you can.
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