Monday, October 28, 2013

Does Mr., Mrs. or Ms. make that big a difference?

I have had some interesting conversations as an educator with parents, neighbours, colleagues and others about "Kids these days".  It is funny how that phrase has been around for years and I sometimes wonder if you can draw that expression from the 3rd generation of cavemen when the little cavechildren were not picking up wood when they were 2 but their parents waited until they were 3 and the grandcaveparents thought the caveparents were spoiling the cavechildren.  Many are convinced that this upcoming generation is going to face some huge challenges in the "Real World".  Again, this point is interesting because I have heard this since the mid-nineties when I started my path to go into education.
They argue that yes, that there are still a bunch of outstanding and giving kids, but that there seems to be a greater number of children who are too much in control and too anti-authority. They argue that parents are too busy trying to be their child's friend rather than their parents and treating them like little adults rather than little children.  They feel that parents are sharing too much information with their children, giving them information that they are too young to absorb and understand.  Jesse Miller from Mediated Reality and Gordon Neufeld both talk about the parents needing to be parents and not friends in some of their respective presentations.
One person linked it to the fact that many adults do not want to be addressed as Mr., Mrs. or Ms but rather by their first name, because Mr., Mrs or Ms. makes them feel old, and that those titles belong to their parents.  The person in question had suggested by not going by title that it informally removed the adult-child relationship and created a sense of false equality.  When I was a child, parents were always introduced as Mr. or Mrs. and never by their first name.  The only adults that we ever called by first name were Aunts and Uncles, and we always included the Aunt or Uncle as a part of their name. Is that division of title important for a healthy adult-child relationship, or is it symptomatic of a blurred line between parent-child and friends relationship?
It is an interesting question and point for debate.  Has that line become blurred and do titles make a difference?


  1. This is such an interesting topic and one that has had a tremendous impact on my school. I teach at an alternative high school that takes great pride in treating our mostly older students like young adults. Our philosophy has always been if we treat students like adults then they will act more like adults. For a number of years the students addressed all staff by their first names. When our new principal took over he decided he wanted to be addressed as Mr. and not by his first name. The teachers decided it was a good change and we decided to go with the more formal way of being addressed as well. It was a very hard change for my students to make so I told them that calling me Ms. Beth was fine. I, too, do not like to be addressed as Mrs. Still for the reason mentioned in your post. It makes me feel old. I will be turning the big 4-0 in a couple of weeks and having students call me "Mrs." makes me feel ancient. If I taught in a traditional setting there would be no question that I would be addressed as "Mrs. Still," but in the setting where I teach I am perfectly happy going by Beth. The debate we have had is that many students refer to us as simply "Miss" with no name used after it. Some of my coworkers are offended when students call them this because they feel it is disrespectful. Back to your question though---I think that titles are not quite as important to students as they were to previous generations. I'm not saying this is good or bad. It is just something that I have noticed.

  2. Thanks for your comment, it is an interesting debate about how people would like to be addressed or expect to be addressed. For parents I have heard some express frustration as not being addressed with Mr. or Mrs. as they are introduced by first names and conversely some who are introducing others by family name and only want to be addressed by first name. It is much more about expectations than addressing, but there are some who feel they are linked.