Talking in Front of the Children

Talking in Front of the Children

Eric Anderson

My parents may have overdone it. They never “talked in front of the children” about pastors, teachers, or errant family members. I gradually caught on, on my own, that Grandma might be a little confused and that a certain uncle had odd money problems. Looking back, I am amazed at how thoroughly they restrained themselves. Not a word, for example, about the church school teacher who introduced scary nonsense about flying saucers into my third grade classroom, though they must have been appalled. (And who know what they did behind the scenes?)

Indeed, for heuristic purposes, they had the operating assumption (or legal fiction) that my teachers were always right and I was always wrong. But if they were too far in one direction, I fear many of us have gone too far in the other direction.

This opposite heresy holds that anything less than total candor is not quite honest or authentic. Thus, if you have good reason to believe that one of the teachers in the Department of Chinese Calligraphy is a poor classroom performer, it is not enough to have a quiet chat with the Academic Dean. By this point of view, you need to “honestly” discuss this teacher’s shortcoming with students, parents, and maybe even members of the press.

Professionalism in our context means, in fact, that there will be situations in which you emphatically do not share everything you know. A true professional, for example, will argue strongly for a particular policy when it is discussed in committee, but when the vote goes the “wrong” way, quietly defend the University’s policy.

A little dose of “not in front of the children, dear” will contribute, I think, to the success of Southwestern Adventist University.

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