Respect is a right, not earned

Maddie Almodovar, Opinion Editor

Respect, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “high or special regard” and “the quality or state of being esteemed”. Saying that ”respect is a privilege, therefore should be earned” suggests that even a child should not be treated with any humanity. However, everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Hence, everyone must begin to change that mindset.

According to Open Education Portal, respect is important because it “encourages good behavior and provides a solid foundation for relationships.” Without basic respect, in both a general sense and in an educational setting, it allows an opening for discrimination and abuse. In school settings, for example, students might engage in fights and bully one another because of the lack of high-esteem. Thus, signifying the importance of treating everyone with the same level of admiration.

The importance of respect goes hand in hand with basic human rights. The belief that respect should be earned is of problematic root. “Respect is a Dangerous Word” written by T.J. Peters, a writer from the Medium, explores the phrase “respect is earned” and its contradictions. For example, if people were to follow this rule, Peters highlights that two people interacting might expect the other side to show acclaim first which would result in an interaction lacking basic respect. Consequently, there may be feelings of inattentive listening, passive aggressive behavior and work ethic. 

At a young age, students are often told to respect their elders. However, this teaching leads to situations where students are one sidedly treating authoritative figures humanely but the same treatment isn’t reciprocated. This standard leads to an unhealthy dynamic between adult and student where the ‘power’ in the relationship is one-sided.  

According to “Schools Must Continue to Teach and Practice Respect” written by Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers, who both held educational leadership positions, adults’ expectation of being regarded might not always be met by those who choose not to be civil, but that can be changed with setting their own standards. Berkowicz and Myers recognize that faculty, staff and teachers must be the ones to demonstrate respect as they are students’ first exposure to common decency.

Peters explores this expectation when he says,no one deserves respect until they give it, but no one gives respect for free.” He claims that the concept leads to a “self-serving and narcissistic” mindset, which relates to the idea that respect is a privilege that must be earned.

Peters explores this expectation when he says, ‘no one deserves respect until they give it, but no one gives respect for free.’

— Maddie Almodovar

However, just as Berkowicz and Myers stated, this mindset is outdated due to the current generation characterized by their defiance. People, including students and staff, must realize the importance of respect and treat everyone with the same level, with everyone composed of their peers, colleagues and students.

As respect is universal, The Radclyffe School outlines multiple ways that students and staff can demonstrate it. Being respectful towards others may be different for each person, but it is important that each and every person puts the same effort into treating everyone equally. For example, students should be conscious of others’ personal space, listen attentively when their teachers give directions and keep the campus clean. On the other hand, teachers should not resort to yelling and should understand that high school students are still learning and could always learn from students themselves. 

According to “How to Achieve Mutual Respect in the Classroom” by Elise Wile, the result of mutual acclaim is “a classroom where more learning takes place as students feel safe, motivated and respected.” However, it is not the teacher’s responsibility to create that atmosphere in a classroom—students must also put in the effort to demonstrate and exhibit approbation to others around them.

Ultimately, people need to make a conscious effort to readjust and rethink “respect is earned”, as this exhibits narcissistic and selfish behavior. Instead, it is encouraged to consciously think of every human being as one deserving of a basic human right known as respect.