'Yes, Ma'am,' But Don't Make It A Law


How would you feel if you were pulled over by a police officer for speeding, but then received another citation because you didn't address the officer with the courtesy title of "Sir"?

Louisiana passed a new law that requires students in kindergarten through fifth grade to address their teachers as "Sir" or "Ma'am". Critics of the new legislation claim the law is unreasonable and oversteps the boundary between parenting and academic instruction.

We believe the spirit of the law is right on the money. Respect seems to be a vanishing characteristic within the walls of America's schools. Schools should be able to establish policies that require students to address teachers in a professional manner.

However, developing respect for teachers and finding ways to enforce proper classroom behavior is the job of local school boards in cooperation with parents -- not the job of our lawmakers. If we allow legislators to create new laws that enforce good manners, then what's next -- laws that prohibit elbows on the dining table? Or maybe a fine for not saying "thank you"?

Learning respect for others and courteous behavior are important characteristics for all of us, young and old. But if we want to heal our children of disrespect for teachers, creating a new law is not the right medicine.

Respect must first come from the example children see in their own homes. It needs to be enforced with love and firmness so that when a child steps out to school, jobs and relationships, it is carried with them. The trouble comes when some parents do not teach or expect a child to use these lifelong skills.

As with many challenges our children face today, the question of "Whose job is it?" continues to cause lawmakers to spin their wheels. This will continue as long as we will let it. Let's start with what we can do at home and with our local school boards.

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