Cultural disrespect toward professors

Behavior that speaks volumes.

Erin Hardin, Guest Writer

The most reliable time marker signaling the end of a class — yes, even more constant than the changed angle of the sun or the rumble from the depths of my stomach — is the collective shuffle of notebooks and folders hastily shoved into zippered bags.  

While certain satisfaction is found in efficient packing, this common occurrence is problematic because the professor is still speaking and there are a few more minutes until the official end to the class. Collective early packing is one of several ways disrespect for professors becomes ingrained in our Westmont culture, although this disrespect is not unique to one school or stage of education.  

I do want to acknowledge that I am not immune to impatience towards the end of class as I mentally switch to the next task or place I need to be. There are certain difficulties with Westmont’s hustle culture combined with being told to take sabbaths and steward time well, which is another topic for another piece.  

Appreciation for the brilliance and gracious compassion many of us experience from professors should be more emphasized in our actions, not just our conversations. The best solution to this common disrespect is to be more aware of how we view and talk about our professors.

Coming from a mixed-Asian background, I grew up with adult figures emphasizing the importance of education and respecting educators. Specifically in Vietnamese culture, teachers are well-paid; the entertainment industry pays less and is considered less serious work. The sentiment towards actors is more along the lines of, “You have to rely on your looks to be able to work?” People recognize the children of teachers in public and comment positively about the respectability of the family.

According to the Global Teachers Index from 2018, teachers in China and Malaysia are treated with the same level of respect as medical doctors. Another factor is the high academic performance among some Asian students. Some classrooms in Japan and Korea encourage daily naps to improve mental health and memory. In Europe, some teachers ask students to address them by their first names to build bonds and encourage greater student engagement. Some teachers in the UK create shoeless environments to prioritize the comfort and well-being of their students.

The values from my family were clear: access to learning is a gift and higher education is a worthy pursuit of time after high school. Our professors have spent years in school to reach their high levels of expertise and spend even more time continuing to learn and publish academic articles. The investments of time and mental and emotional energy from our professors are blessings that should never be taken for granted.

Based on a theory to increase respect for teachers, changing certain aspects of Westmont culture and of the broader U.S. educational system will require raising salaries and changing the social atmosphere. To start, the least we can do is wait for a few more seconds to politely pack up our books.  


Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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