Integrity Matters
May 28, 2008

We're all models of behavior

Question: (E-344)

Another school teacher was arrested, this time on suspicion of drug possession in a nearby community. Others from across the United States who work in our nation's classrooms have been accused and some convicted of rape, stealing and a host of crimes that are an embarrassment to the honorable profession of education. Regardless of the excuses offered by these socially and morally bankrupt individuals, their failure to live up to their social contract is indefensible.

Human beings are obligated to be respectful and honest. They are expected to bring with them, each day, appropriately developed competencies, including constructive social and language habits, along with performance skills that enable them to do their jobs well. Individuals who interface with the most vulnerable members of society, our youth, are challenged in an intense way, being held to an exacting standard to honor the public trust, remaining above reproach. Mistakes happen, but seemingly wholesale violations of cultural integrity - by educators - give caring members of society reason to pause. Teachers themselves are outraged by those who have broken the public trust. But, before self-righteously condemning those who have been "bad" examples, it could be informative to take out a mirror and assess hypocrisies in our own lives.

Everyone is a role model, for better or worse. Educators are responsible for living up to the "demands of the job" of guiding others, constructively. Certainly, modeling positive values is essential. But mistakes happen. Careless and thoughtless behaviors tear at the fabric of community. Yet with pro-active and thoughtful responses, the integrity of relationships, personal and professional, need not be damaged permanently. Sincere apologies combined with corrective actions go a long way in making things right.

  • Thank goodness that we still recognize "out-of-bounds-behaviors" and are willing to condemn them:
  • Spiritual leaders violating young people emotionally and sexually
  • Self-serving attorneys who misappropriate funds from a last will and testament
  • Accountants who knowingly set in motion tax evasive financial transactions that leave clients high and dry
  • Health-care professionals practicing sloppy or even life-threatening medicine
  • Skullduggery, trickery, chicanery and deceit - by public servants and private bankers

Should teachers seduce students or deal drugs? No. Should power brokers, whether at home, in public, in the boardroom or on the political stump, embarrass, devalue or humiliate others? Of course not!

As our society experiences increasing coarseness - in language and behavior - it is incumbent upon us to remember that our words and deeds, all of them, have an impact. Pointing to the frailties of others, while continuing to ignore one's own destructive behaviors, will not restore integrity.


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