Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Laptop link-up: A question of respect

BBC News hosted a laptop link-up between pupils in Northampton, UK, and Zossen, in Germany, on the issue of respect.

German (left) and English school
Different country, same problems?

The event was part of a week-long series on the issue, which is focusing on Northampton.

The Year 11 pupils from Unity College and Geschwister-Scholl-Schule debated the issues that matter to them, ranging from respect in football - with the impending World Cup in Germany - to how they should treat people from different cultures.


Unity College, Northampton:

"I was surprised that they were so similar to us," says Miriam Beresford.

All are in awe of the German students' level of written English, and Aminul Hoque comments on their considered views of the world.

"They had such mature views for their age," he says.

German student Sebastian Voigt's comment that as "guests of the earth" we should respect the environment was particularly poignant, says Aminul.

"Perhaps we should have been deeper," muses 16-year-old Michelle Culverhouse.

Harry Turner
Harry: Cupboard prank was a shock

However, they are shocked to hear that a teacher in Zossen had been locked in a cupboard.

"We might joke about doing something like that but we wouldn't actually do it," says Harry Turner.

Miriam is interested to know whether all the students are from similar backgrounds, noting that they are all white and German.

All agree that their lives would be "more boring" if they didn't get the chance to mix with different cultures.

When the question is put to their German counterparts, the pupils say there is less of a social and cultural mix at their school than at Unity but that differences come out in people's views and "styles".

Despite their positive views, the UK group believes that the majority of students in their school are not respectful enough.

"It's even worse with the younger groups," says Miriam.

"They're not only disrespectful to each other but to us as well, and it's getting worse."

Geschwister-Scholl-Schule, Zossen:

The six students at Zossen's Geschwister-Scholl-Schule are not that surprised that their UK counterparts hold very similar views.

"It's what I expected, we are the same kind of people after all," says Katja Kamp.

Nonetheless, they are very taken aback to hear that there are 47 languages spoken among the population of Unity College.

Some parents just don't care about how their children develop
Sebastian Voigt

Despite this diversity their views were similar to our opinions, notes Jennifer Ostwald.

Zossen, although just 30 miles south of Berlin, is very much a rural area, lacking the diversity of the German capital.

Here most children come from a similar background. There may be a few differences in wealth, but neither clothing nor language would give them away.

The UK school came across as much more disciplined than their own - partly because of its seemingly intricate system of report cards and "head of years", but not least because of the fact that British pupils have to wear uniforms.

"Disrespect is not an age thing, because many young people do show respect," says Katja Kamp.

"It all depends on their friends, their family, their upbringing."

And Sebastian Voigt adds that "some parents just don't care about how their children develop".


QUESTION: How do you and your teachers show respect for each other?
Franziska Walser 14, Geschwister-Scholl-Schule, Zossen


Christian Simons, 15
I treat all my teachers with respect. I do this by being quiet when they speak and get on with my work when asked. If you don't treat the teacher with respect then she rips out your tongue!! If we treat the teachers with respect they give us respect back, but when we have a supply teacher the respect goes out of the window.

Aminul Hoque
Aminul: There is mutual respect

Aminul Hoque, 15
There is mutual respect between teachers and students and we address our teachers by calling them "Miss" or "Sir". Abuse and disrespect is present though, usually aimed at supply teachers who are vulnerable and inexperienced. We are severely dealt with should we act inappropriately towards a member of staff and are either put on report, have letters sent home, or both.

Miriam Beresford, 16
If you respect the teachers, in listening when they are talking, and doing what they say, and following the rules, that will give you respect in letting you be more responsible for your learning at school, and they will treat you more like young adults. I do sometimes go against the school rules by wearing jewellery or using my phone during lessons, but as I have never caused trouble, teachers often will not confiscate my phone or jewellery straight away, but will give me the chance to change what I'm doing.

Jitu Miah, 15
To show respect for my teachers I listen to them in class and keep eye contact. I take their advice and do the work they set. This benefits the teacher as well as myself. It really depends on how you were brought up; some students are disrespectful and ignorant. You can tell they won't get very far.


QUESTION: How much respect should we give to the people that are different?
Alina Albrecht 15, Geschwister-Scholl-Schule, Zossen


Jitu Miah, 15
People who are different should receive the same amount of respect as we do. People who are new to me and are different, I show them respect even if they are older or younger. We should help them feel accepted and wanted into our society.

Unity College students
Unity College students

Harry Turner, 15
The amount of respect that we give should be exactly the same for everyone regardless of who they are. I have friends from all backgrounds and cultures and I respect them all for who they are, not what they're labelled with.

Christian Simons, 15
We should treat everybody the same, no matter what colour their skin is or what their religious beliefs are. So we should give everybody or try to give everybody 110% respect.

Michelle Culverhouse, 16
Whoever we are and whatever race we are, you should treat everyone with the same amount of respect. so nobody should be treated any different.

Afia Khatun, 15
I think that in this world, in this day, everyone is equal and therefore should be treated equally. There is no reason for racism or discrimination as long as we respect each other and the beliefs and views that we have.


QUESTION: The English language makes no distinction between addressing people formally and informally. Does that change the way you respect other people?
Julia Werner, 14, Geschwister-Scholl-Schule, Zossen


Miriam Beresford, 16
Often we will speak to our friends in a relaxed and confident way, using slang words and swear words. But when speaking to older people, and others who I don't know so well, I speak more formally and watch what I say. But it is also about the tone of voice which is used. With young people, they might speak to other young people with attitude, and sometimes aggressively. Often now, this same tone is used towards, teachers, older people and others. This is not respectful in any way.

Michelle Culverhouse
Michelle uses slang only when speaking to friends

Michelle Culverhouse, 16
No, not as such because I'll speak to my parents in a different tone than I'll speak to my friends. When I chat to my friends, I'll use slang but when I'm chatting to my parents, I'll use standard English.

Levi Johnson, 15
No. When I speak to my parents, I use words like "good morning" and "hello". When I'm with my friends I say "what's up?".

Aminul Hoque, 15
Yes, actually I would say it does. However, as I am multilingual, I can see the contrasting ways in which the elderly are addressed in Bengali compared to that of youth in English. The tone in which the sentence is delivered may also play a part in the way respect is perceived.


QUESTION: Do you have respect towards other people?
Jennifer Ostwald, 15, Geschwister-Scholl-Schule, Zossen


Afia Khatun, 15
Yes, I do have respect for many people. If you show respect towards someone, you are more than likely to receive it back.

Harry Turner, 15
I do respect most people but I find it harder to respect people who don't respect me or my friends. If they will not give it, do they really deserve it? I also find it hard to respect people who stereotype me.

Miriam Beresford
Miriam says she was raised to respect others

Miriam Beresford, 16
I was brought up from a very young age to respect all people, especially those older than me. I was taught not to shout at my parents or others, and that everyone's opinion matters. I respect most people, including teachers and others in authority, but find it hard to show respect to people who do not give it to me or others. Often there are young children around the school, who are rude and ignorant, to both older pupils and teachers, and this annoys me. If they act like they do as they get older, they won't be given respect. Young people will be stereotyped due to this behaviour.

Aminul Hoque, 15
I do respect my elders, they have wisdom and experience beyond our age and anything which they tell us will nearly always help us be a better person. As a society, the youth are stereotyped to be thugs and are thought to always be engaged in yobbish behaviour. However, this is not the case and in order for us to respect others, we need to be respected first. Give respect, get respect.

QUESTION: Have you ever been confronted with racism?
Sebastian Voigt 14, Geschwister-Scholl-Schule, Zossen


Afia Khatun
Afia believes everyone should be treated equally

Afia Khatun, 15
I have not ever been confronted by racism, however, I take this issue very seriously and believe it should be dealt with properly as everyone should be treated equally.

Levi Johnson, 15
Yes, when it happens it is usually just verbal but I usually just shrug it off.

Jitu Miah, 15
No, I have never been racially abused by language or physical action. I hope it stays this way, because I also respect other cultures.


QUESTION: What kind of people would you give respect to? Eg. teachers, famous people?
Levi Johnson, 15, Unity College


Levi Johnson
Levi's question is on role models

Julia Werner, 14
I would respect people who have done great things, like inventors and authors - for example JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien, the author of Lord of the Rings.

Franziska Walser, 14
Everybody deserves respect, not just people who wrote a book or make music. It is important to give people respect that are honest to me, good people, who are good hearted. But I admire people like Geschwister Scholl [resistance fighters during World War II] and Martin Luther King.

Jennifer Ostwald, 15
Everybody should be respected, because everybody lives in this world, builds their own life, their own future, and should be treated as what they are, not just because they do great things. Pupils should be respected not just for their good grades, but for what they are, for the person they are.

Alina Albrecht
Alina admires Xavier Naidoo

Alina Albrecht, 15
People who respect me earn my respect; I like people who respect people that are different to themselves. I admire Xavier Naidoo - [famous black German artist, who sings about political problems and racism].

Sebastian Voigt, 14
We should respect not just people, but the environment as well. We are guests on the earth. We should respect people who manage to beat addiction.

Katja Kamp, 14
We should respect everybody who is respectful to us.


QUESTION: What kind of disrespectful behaviour annoys you?
Jitu Miah, 15, Unity College


Sebastian Voigt, 14
I really don't like it when people just pretend to be respectful, when they suck up to somebody without having real respect. I don't like it when people don't respect other people's possessions, after they have worked hard for something. We had a case in a village nearby, this woman had a restaurant, she worked very hard to set it up, but somebody burned it down.

Jitu Miah
Jitu asks about disrespect

Jennifer Ostwald, 15
When small children disrespect older children, that's really annoying. And when teachers ignore you, that's disrespectful.

Alina Albrecht, 15
Once a group of students locked a teacher into a cupboard, because she had screamed at the students and had given them bad marks without a reason. That was disrespectful from both sides.

Katja Kamp, 14
When students are not respectful to their teachers, when they insult teachers, or when they always try to have the last word. I don't mind it if teachers are strict, but they have to be fair.

Franziska Walser, 14
I don't like it when people don't respect others with different cultures, religions and traditions ... that's unfair. I want everybody to respect my opinion - after all, I will respect theirs as well.


QUESTION: Is respect taken seriously, or is it something you do only to impress your parents?
Harry Turner, 15, Unity College


Julia Werner, 14
I think it's for real, because if we respect our parents, then we get respect as well. If you don't respect other people, not only will they disrespect you, but you won't be able to get your way.

Franziska Walser
Franziska says respect is important

Franziska Walser, 14
If I want to get respect from my parents, it's important to show respect to them - so that they listen to me when I talk to them.

Sebastian Voigt, 14
Today many young people don't respect their parents. Many say: 'I don't need your rules, I don't want to live like you, I want to live my own way'. They don't care about their parents, don't accept their rules.

QUESTION: Are young people respected in your society? Are they judged for what they wear?
Miriam Beresford, 16, Unity College


Jennifer Ostwald
'Told we're too young': Jennifer
Jennifer Ostwald, 15
Yes, we are respected, but sometimes people think we should not listen when they discuss problems, they say "you're too young".

Sebastian Voigt, 14
Older people don't respect the hip-hop - they think it's BS. They don't respect the clothes, the music, but mainly they don't respect the language that is used in hip-hop music. They use swear words, and the older people think it's not good for the education of young people.

Alina Albrecht, 15
Music connects people that are interested in the same things, and there aren't any fights at concerts.


QUESTION: How do football fans behave when you have two rival teams playing?
Aminul Hoque, 15, Unity College

Sebastian Voigt
Sebastian is a Hertha fan
ANSWER: Sebastian Voigt, 14
I'm a fan of Hertha BSC [in Berlin] - it depends on the team, sometimes the fans of rival teams are fighting each other, but in Berlin the fans are not so aggressive. And all players treat each other with respect.

QUESTION: Have the changes in Germany since the Berlin wall fell affected respect between older and younger people?
Afia Khatun, 15, Unity College

Jennifer Ostwald 15
Older people were more respected before the wall came down than now.

Katja Kamp
Katja thinks parents used to get more respect

Katja Kamp, 14
My mother told me that when she was young, people would never talk to their parents like the way I speak with my parents. So, maybe they had more respect. I think it's better (now), my mother is not that strict.

Alina Albrecht, 15
There is less respect now. When I was in seventh grade, I had more respect of older pupils, but the younger children now are very disrespectful, not just towards us, but towards teachers as well.

Sebastian Voigt 14
I think all parents say that they behaved better towards their parents. It depends on their point of view.


QUESTION: How are the elderly treated in your country, are they respected?
Michelle Culverhouse, 16, Unity College, Northampton


Students at Geschwister-Scholl-Schule, Zossen
Geschwister-Scholl-Schule students
Jennifer Ostwald, 15
My grandfather lives next to us, next door, and sometimes he goes shopping for us. He is not really an important part of our family, sometimes he calls on us, but it can get on our nerves when he comes around every day.

Sebastian Voigt, 14
I think it is important to visit them, because at that age they are a bit lonely, so they don't get bored. My grandfather has Parkinson's disease, and we have to support my grandmother and him. My grandfather is now in a care home.

Franziska Walser, 14
My grandparents share our house with us, it's fun to live with them because I can speak with my grandmother, it's easy, there are no problems.

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