Trends, whether good or bad, seem to take the world by storm, and the trends of responsibility are no exception. The age of responsibility, when a person becomes responsible for their actions and takes on other responsibilities, seems to become older and older. The average age for a manager position in America today is 44 years old, while only seven percent of managers are between the ages of 20 and 30 years old. This means that it is becoming more critical than ever to teach responsibility to the younger generations and return to our God-given responsibilities. To learn more about this from the teachers’ perspective, I have interviewed several teachers and administrators at Trinity Academy to find out what makes students responsible, if teaching responsibility is up to teachers, and how students can act and promote responsibility later in life.
Trinity’s teachers and administrators, when asked how responsible the overall middle schoolers at Trinity were on a scale of one to ten, placed them between seven and eight. The same teachers and administrators placed the Trinity High Schoolers between six and seven, with some answering as low as four. This difference means that when it comes to potency of responsibility, people are nothing like fine wines. The pattern in each teacher interview described freshman year as a fork in the road where a group splits from an overall homogenous blend of responsibility levels, into a clear divide between more and less responsible. Nearly every interview touched on the idea that by the end of middle school a student’s hand is held less in daily life, and they will either thrive or crumble under the new pressures. This transition from middle to high school is the time when a parent’s teaching of responsibility is tested, and the teachers begin to see the gaps.
When asked if teachers are called to teach responsibility to their students, the consensus of the teachers seems to state that parents are responsible to teach the basics of responsibility to their children, and the teachers are called to test, grow, and sustain it. Teachers “need to give opportunities for responsibility and then let students fail.” They are called to teach responsibility “by not doing things for them that they can do themselves.” The teachers stated that they have to lead students through a curriculum, but let students be the ones to choose to care and take responsibility for their education.
One teacher used the teaching of Homer as an example of how teachers must encourage students to continue a responsible path and encourage this in others: “We teach Homer because it’s proven to be true and good and beautiful for your soul, but we also want to instill the aspect that you can’t take this and benefit from this or let it die.” Responsibility can be learned and “education is fundamentally a generational thing.” This essentially means that classical education creates lifelong learners and teachers, and responsibility is just another lesson. One teacher eloquently said: “I’m doing this for the world, I’m not doing this for you guys.” The idea is that it is not just the student that benefits, but also the world benefits from the cultivation of responsible students that cultivate responsibility in other people all throughout their lives.
The Christlike view of responsibility for us as students and teachers is summed up well in Galatians 6:1-2: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” The Lord’s word charges each of us with responsibility for our fellow man, and to restore them gently, but also to be responsible for ourselves. The teachers interviewed seemed to either align their teaching views with Galatians 6:1-2, or the idea that “you reap what you sow, and I’m trying to teach them to sow the responsible things, but they have to do that on their own and suffer the consequences if they do it wrong.”
Environment also potentially plays a role in the development of responsibility, particularly what is allowed in those environments. For example, many of the teachers believed that the drinking age was responsibly set at 21 and could be set even lower to allow the teaching of responsible drinking even earlier in homes. While the drinking age did not seem so much of a responsibility issue to the teachers, some thought issues about the driving age or social media were more relevant. The concern about the driving age led one teacher to say that the age at which a person can operate a vehicle should have more to do with a test of maturity and responsibility than how long they have been alive. The other issue of social apps causes people to neglect responsibilities, leading multiple teachers to say that apps like Instagram and tik tok should be limited to older groups or have daily time limits.
To extend my data further, I have also interviewed students from Cary Christian, Wake Forest, ENLOE, Cardinal Gibbons, and Penn State. The Penn State student observed that his college student body had an overall responsibility level of 4. This student identified distraction as the number one hindrance to their peer’s responsibility. “They don’t seem to be able to balance how much they care about what they’re learning and every other distraction”. The biggest distraction identified by student interviews was alcohol use. Almost all the interviewed students believed that the age of responsibility has become significantly older because of the emerging and growing mass of distractions in the world. The amount of content displayed in public places, on televisions, and on our phones detract from our time spent with God and responsibilities. My personal view is that there has been a shift towards the secular value of personal happiness, and the idea that our desires outweigh our God given responsibilities. Somehow I think my personal view aligns with the general students view; I say this because giving into distractions in some way places our current happiness above the responsibilities.
At the end of the day, responsibility is a thing formed in each person, shaped by respect or fear, success or failure, confidence or doubt. The formation of a responsible person is not linear, but a sudden click. The sudden push that makes each mechanism and gift from God in a student work together to glorify him. When that “click” happens, each of us will be truly responsible to live our lives carrying out what we are called to do and inspiring others to follow what the Lord calls them to do. The cultivation of a well-rounded schedule from a classical education causes the “click” to occur. Trinity, in my opinion, has cultivated an environment that protects the teaching of responsibility.
Interview With the Author – Anne Walker Wall
Anne Walker Wall discusses her inspirations, motivations, and the discoveries she uncovered while writing this captivating article. Listen to the interview below: