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Monumental Disrespect

I recently took a trip to Washington, D.C. As part of the trip, I took a tour of the city’s many monuments and memorials. I was absolutely appalled by the behavior of some of the younger set that I witnessed during the tour.

One of our stops was at the memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the middle of it is a larger-than-life statue of FDR and his dog, Fala. Several kids wanted their picture taken with the “cute doggie”. OK, understandable. I walked on.

It was when I passed by again that my jaw truly dropped. Children were swarming the FDR statue, literally climbing all over it. One boy was hanging from FDR’s outstretched hand. Were any parents pulling them back? No, they were taking photos! I was disgusted. Not only could they potentially damage the statue, it was just downright disrespectful. This was a memorial, not a jungle gym. I couldn’t watch anymore, and returned to the tour bus.

Our next stop was the newly-opened Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. It had just been dedicated that week, and I was anxious to see it. When I got there, the first thing I heard was excited screaming. A large group of girls around 12 years old were trying to get into formation for a photo in front of the towering statue of Dr. King, and they were shrieking and giggling like they were in line at a Justin Bieber concert. Worse yet, the curved shape and granite walls of the memorial meant the screaming echoed … a lot. It would be impossible way to quietly contemplate the memorial the way I had hoped to. Thankfully, a D.C. Parks Police officer spoke to the group’s chaperone, who yelled at the girls that this was a memorial and they needed to be quiet and respectful. Why it took a police officer talking to her for her to realize this, I do not know.

After the group settled down and I got in my quiet contemplation (it really is an awe-inspiring memorial), I went up to the police officer and thanked him for quieting the group. He shook his head and said he sees this behavior all the time. I shuddered to think of it happening at one of the war memorials – where there’s a good possibility of some of the deceased’s loved ones being there – or at Arlington National Cemetery, which is both a historic site and a place where military funerals are held on a regular basis. The police officer told me there are YouTube videos of the guards at Arlington’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier scolding spectators who show disrespect. I looked and was saddened to see just how many videos there are.

It’s a real shame that people seem to think any outdoor site is meant to be a play park.   1024-11



And here is one of those youtube videos of the guard sternly reprimanding the crowd…

I am sure there are people who will wring their hands claiming that the guard was oh so rude to speak to the crowd in this manner.   But in this context, the very firmly stated rebuke must have the force of conviction behind it in order to decisively address multiple offenders at one time and silence them quickly.   To do otherwise prolongs the disrespectful atmosphere.

{ 98 comments… add one }
  • Amber November 3, 2011, 3:28 pm


    I’m not a fan of memorials. I find them hokey and disingenuous. If it’s not at the ACTUAL site of the event and therefore connected to history (i.e., Gettysburg, Auschwitz, Normandy, the OK bombing site), or a graveyard, I really, really don’t see the point to erecting a monument. Why, so we can all go and worship at the feet of a giant Lincoln or pointy building christened after Washington? How on Earth is some piece of stone or bronze supposed to make me feel more connected to a historical event or person? And 100 years from now, who’s going to care about a giant stone erected for so and so in a location far removed from him or her — except as a nice, level place to munch on lunch, I suppose.

    And statuary! Huh. Statues of actual people, rather than nice, artsy representations of gods and myths and so on, were originally erected by the people themselves to show the world how awesome they were. Why on earth should I honor that piece of ego as anything but, perhaps, well rendered by the artist? And as for statuary erected by loving acolytes, I see them as well-intentioned but ultimately futile. you never know who history will keep on its books through the centuries. That statue may be well cared for and remembered, or eaten away by the wind and rain while people pass by wondering who the heck that statue represents.

    Historical museums I have no qualms with. They are the keepers of history, and the good ones tell a story one can follow with text, diagrams, artifacts, video. Monuments just take up space.

  • Jennifer November 3, 2011, 3:31 pm

    I was taught from a very young age that you did not shriek and scream in public, except if someone is trying to hurt you. If I were doing that I would have gotten pulled aside and told to stop. It is something that I have seen with people my age, in their early to mid 20’s, that appalls me. I have gone to baseball games and had to leave early because someone has decided that it is ok to scream in my ear WOOHOO, thus giving me a headache that lasts for most of the night. I’m here to enjoy myself and I can’t if there are people who don’t want to acknowledge anyone besides themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that children should be seen and not heard, but if you are in a place that is subdue and reflective then you need to emulate that. At an amusement park, yeah shriek all you want. There is a time and place for certain behavior and part of being a parent is teaching your children what they are.

  • --Lia November 3, 2011, 3:38 pm

    Cat– “A local high school had to stop showing a famous film about the Holocaust because the kids thought it funny to see people being tortured and murdered. They whooped and screamed with laughter.”

    How were the students prepared for the horror? Were there councillors on hand to help them deal? Was there any warning? Was there any screening to make sure the students were ready? How old were they? I ask because I remember being shown a film of live action footage of opening the camps when I was too young. Laughing and whooping would seem a normal reaction for young people who aren’t equipped to scream and sob in front of their peers. That’s embarrassing in a school setting. Any raw emotion is embarrassing at that age. Even older folks don’t always respond in the “correct” way. There’s a fine line between crying and laughing. It sometimes gets crossed.

  • kingsrings November 3, 2011, 3:39 pm

    I watched this video clip – it didn’t sound like the soldier was actually admonishing someone who misbehaved. He was just stating to everyone the rules like it was a regular part of his job. He probably says that many times a day just as a reminder to everyone.
    As far as disrespectful behavior, I think sometimes tourists and visitors don’t realize the difference between visiting a place like Disneyland and visiting a memorial site. It should be obvious, but sometimes it isn’t. And I’ve also observed that being on vacation and fun seems to bring out the worst in some people. They get too much into the let’s-have-fun-I’m-on-vacation, no responsbilities mindset, and they start acting out.

  • Purseland November 3, 2011, 3:39 pm

    Each year, I take a group of eighth graders to State Capital for their class trip. Each year, our class is commended for their appropriate behavior and good manners. However, before each trip, I spend quite a bit of time with the class informing them of what they are going to see and giving them background information and how what we are going to see is relevant to them. They know that the guides are there to educate them and that they will be treated with the utmost respect. They are also assigned a grade for how they act. These tours are an extention of my classroom. Unfortuately, our groups have overlapped other groups who don’t seem to treat the tour as a time for quiet learning. I will point it out to my kids and tell them how proud I am of them. Once in a while, one of my students will ask me if there is something I can do about it. Of course, I can’t.

    This doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Outside our capital are two massive statues reflecting our state’s agricultural heritage. These statues are male and female and they are distinctively anatomically correct. We’re talking statues about the size of ten humans put together. The kids are not permitted to climb on the statues but I usuallly turn my back and pretend to look at the fountains while the kids steathily take various and sundry pictures of the nekkid pair. Twenty-three years I have been teaching middle school and the kids still think they are getting by with something.

  • Nellop November 3, 2011, 3:42 pm

    One of the worst things I have ever seen was at an abandoned torture camp. As it was, the place had just been completely deserted one day – which meant that everything was left as it was when it was operational. This included huge bloodstains and a lot (and I mean A LOT) of torture equipment. It was truly awful – and almost everyone there was in a sort of shocked and humbled quiet. Many people were saying prayers quietly or silently to themselves as we went through.
    Then there was ‘that group’. The group of giggling, screaming teenagers, who were posing next to the equipment for photographs. Thumbs up poses, mock screaming poses, v-sign poses etc
    They had clearly come from the same school, but I couldn’t see anyone who looked like they were with them. Despite stern looks from others there, and being asked several time by volunteer staff at the site to be quiet, this continued the entire way round.

    Just appauling 🙁

  • Iris November 3, 2011, 4:15 pm

    I DO remember what it was like to be a 12 year old and I am absolutely certain that there were times when my friends and I were inappropriately loud in solemn places. However NOT when we were under the immediate care of an adult. However excited *I* was to be in the place it was not my right to impose my excitement on everyone in a 3 mile radius. A 12 year old can’t always be expected to remember this on their own but adults were there to remind us when we were getting too loud. If the excitement came from the history of the man (which I doubt) then great, but it is still inappropriate to ruin everyone else’s ‘enjoyment’ with your excitement.

    As for those defending the children climbing on the statues – if a child came to your house and started climbing on your furniture and jumping on it or standing in your room squealing with excitement would you be happy if their parents said “How lovely that their super excited to be at your house. Children are so vocal when they enjoy things”?

  • AS November 3, 2011, 4:45 pm

    I think it is a tourist/vacation thing that people often leave their brains behind.

    That said, I’d say that I never encountered even 10% of the bad behavior in all my visits put together to DC. People do behave badly sometimes, but I wonder if there was one particularly obnoxious family in OP’s tour group.

    @zimi61 “Unfortunately it’s not just an American thing, it’s a tourist thing.
    If you get out of your racist “we are better than thou” bubble, you’ll notice that bad behavior transcends all cultures.

  • grumpy_otter November 3, 2011, 4:48 pm

    I took my daughter to the Holocaust Museum this summer–it was my second visit and her first and we had the same experience andi had. High-school age kids talking loudly, laughing, and running about, bumping into people who were trying to view the exhibits. Then it got worse–I was overcome when looking at a photo of young children moments before they were herded onto the trains to the camps and I started to cry. The kids pointed at me and giggled. I gave them my best “withering stare” but it bounced off. I think some people just lack empathy.

    But I’m with the others who think certain memorials are more open to frivolity. Dr. King might even have appreciated the energy and enthusiasm.

  • Ellen November 3, 2011, 5:29 pm

    I was in Germany in 1980 and visited Dachau. In the museum were horrific displays of the Holocaust. I was looking at the displays and there were other adults there as well. Suddenly, a large group of German school kids came in and were goofing around, talking loudly and generally being incredibly offensive given the setting. The adults with them did little to stop it. I left the museum and began to walk the grounds. Throughout the visit, these kids were running (they were stopped at one point by someone working there) and clearly were not prepared by the adults to understand their very own history. Disgusting.

  • delislice November 3, 2011, 5:56 pm

    I agree that people’s behavior should be appropriate to the site. I behave very differently at the Holocaust Museum than I do at a college basketball game.

    I’m also in agreement with some other posters that the OP comes across as a “children should be seen and not heard” … and “in MY day…” type.

    I have chaperoned sixth-grade field trips many times. Twelve-year-old girls will make a shriek and giggle fest out of a trip to the vending machine. I’m not at all surprised that a group photo op inspired much shrieking and giggling. I think it’s fine for people to move around, converse, and even run around and make some noise at outdoor statues, so long as they don’t impede or crash into anyone else. Statues set out of doors in large public areas are a very different beast from memorial sites or indoor museums.

    As for children “swarming” all over the statue (again, the tone comes across as one who would rather not have to encounter any Small People), just a few years ago I crawled up into the O of the famous LOVE statue to have my picture taken. Oops, did I swarm? Unless there are clearly delineated areas marked “Do Not Touch” or “Stay Behind Ropes,” I think it’s okay to touch or even climb on statues. When my children were young, we lived near a Revolutionary War battlefield that featured a general on horseback. There were invariably children climbing up to sit astride the horse with the general. It never occurred to me that that was a problem.

    I’m all in favor of respect and quiet … in cathedrals, at cemeteries, and in museums. A lot less so outdoors and among the statuary.

  • ladycrim November 3, 2011, 6:22 pm

    Hi. This was my submission.

    Let me make it clear that the girls at the MLK memorial were not just giggling – they were SHRIEKING very, very loudly, and also running around while the chaperone attempted to get them in photo formation. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say their noise levels were of those who were actually at a Bieber concert when he stepped onstage, as opposed to just in line for it. I don’t ask for the silence of a tomb, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to be able to hear myself think. As I had just arrived at the memorial when the park police officer quieted the group, it’s quite a fair bet that I was not the only one they were disturbing. And while I didn’t interview them to see why they were giggling, I don’t believe I saw them even glance at the memorial itself. It did not strike me as them being excited to be there so much as just hyper.

    Yes, there is a difference between a monument and a war memorial or cemetery. I tried to make that distinction when I said I’d hate to think of this behavior at one of the latter places. And, well, you saw the video. It happens there too.

    Also: I was only about 13 myself when I took a school trip to D.C. Not only were we not misbehaving, but we spent most of the trip with a group of 10-year-olds who were also well-behaved. We did not stand in silent formation and we did have plenty of fun, but we did not treat the city like a playground either.

  • Anonymous November 3, 2011, 6:37 pm

    When I was 12 I visited the Holocaust museum. I was tall enough to be able to see the videos of the medical experiments. I spent the next 20 minutes in the bathroom throwing up. I’m not sure young kids should be taken to that museum. I know the message is important, but that’s a tough message.

  • zimi61 November 3, 2011, 6:39 pm

    @AS I don’t appreciate being called a racist, especially as I don’t see what about my comment would insinuate that being an American somehow makes one better than another non-American.

    I believe you misinterpreted my statement. First off, the original post was about an American site, and I wanted to relate how I experienced similar situations from and in other cultures. Second, I don’t see “American” as being a defined race. And, third, I would say that it is Americans who are usually thought to be the boorish and inconsiderate traveler. There’s a reason we’re told to say we’re from Canada.

    It is not just Americans in general who behave this way, it is tourists from all nationalities, but until my recent trip I too had only assumed it was American travelers who would behave in such a manner. I don’t believe that being a tourist should automatically dismiss you from being considerate of other cultures and their valuables, no matter where you are from.

  • Jones November 3, 2011, 6:44 pm

    I have to POD –Lia.

    A LOT of kids have been conditioned not to show sorrow/somber emotions; called ‘crybabies’ and worse, these young people learn to laugh in face of horror and pain. Then, reflecting what they have been taught, they make fun of others (even elders) who show signs of those emotions.

    It’s a sad truth but I have seen it more than once.

    I haven’t been to DC, but I honestly thought it was very disrespectful to host ghost tours in Gettysberg.

  • Cassandra Splawn November 3, 2011, 6:57 pm

    Back in the mid-80’s, I was fortunate enough to take a class trip to Washington D.C. All of the students on the trip were in the 8th grade, so our ages ranged from 12-14. I do recall some instances when we were a bit rowdy or loud, but those occasions were when we were at a water park, a mall, etc. As we visited numerous memorials we were either very quiet or more subdued than normal. It never occurred to any of us to behave in such a disrespectful manner as was described above. I know many things have changed (not necessarily for the better), but what I have just read truly shocks and saddens me.

  • PastryGoddess November 3, 2011, 7:20 pm

    As a resident and worker in the DC Metro Area, I’ve go to Arlington on a regular basis with my photography group.

    The Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier makes this announcement each time a new Sentinal comes out. It’s a standard announcement. However, if people are being too loud, the sentinal won’t stop, but the guard watching him will come out and reprimand DIRECTLY. That is no fun.

  • ellesee November 3, 2011, 7:27 pm

    I am shocked but not surprised. Like others, I think those giggling school girls were excited with having thier picture taken and being with friends or generally, not being in school. They aren’t really excited about the memorial…. they will eventually learn that there is a time a place for being loud and overly excited (hopefully).

    @Amber….. you do realize the irony of what you said? True that museums are keepers of history…. but that includes monuments that were built before. Someday, a future museum will house our present monument and statues.

    As someone who is in environment design….I can tell you that tourists are the worst offenders. They leave behind their brains and manners at home.
    Unfortunately, Americans in general seem to be the worst. You can call me racist but I know I’m not. This is based on observation in different countries by talking to the people who build the parks. A theme park, which has global branches (not that hard to figure out), in the US have constantly guard, rope off, super glue to the extreme, and often replace their props/statues because of the guests trying to “test” how strong it is, steal it, or who knows what disrespectful act. The people who build these props have a protocol to finish to endure extreme stress inflicted by tourists. In a non-US country, the props and statues that were installed in the park on day 1 are still there without the need of being replaced and have little maintenance performed from general wear and tear over the ages. Take that as what you will, but the difference is there. I’m not saying that ALL of the people in a certain culture act in a certain behavior, but these are general statements from people who are “behind the scenes” on a daily basis and not a quick personal observation from a vacation.

  • Miss Raven November 3, 2011, 7:50 pm

    I’m not sure if this point has been made, but as someone who did a lot of traveling before I was in high school, I’d like to make it now.

    As grown-up as 12 year-olds like to think they are, they’re not. We know it academically, but as a society we think nothing of class trips and youth groups visiting memorials, historical sites, statues, churches, and other places that could be considered solemn. Kids are dragged to these sorts of places all the time, if they’re lucky. I remember my trips quite well, and at the time, I really thought I had a handle on the importance of it all.

    I didn’t, and neither do these kids. No amount of prepping by tutors, teachers, group leaders or parents can make groups of kids under 15 appreciate standing in these places and seeing these things. They are not equipped emotionally, and they aren’t old enough to have any real historical context. Just because they know the story of Martin Luther King and why he was important doesn’t mean they have any notion whatsoever of what adults are feeling as they stand before his monument.

    I visited Pisa, Versailles, Washington DC, Mauthausen, Notre Dame and the Vatican before I even needed to wear a bra. Looking back on it, I am overwhelmed at how much I missed the point of it all. It moved me, sure, but not to the point of remembering to be silent in a large group of other kids. It moved me like anything moves a pre-pubescent: In a completely egotistical fashion. And for the record, my parents, teachers, and group leaders honestly did their very best. They were just completely outnumbered.

    I can’t be alone in having these experiences… You know, the ones I’m grateful for, but still wished I had postponed 4 or 5 years, until they would REALLY mean something. I don’t want to excuse Boorish behavior from kids, because it is obnoxious and rude. My suggestion is simply that instead of being angry that they aren’t (can’t) really appreciating where they are, we as a society wait until such time as they will (can).

  • Anderlie November 3, 2011, 8:07 pm

    Lia, I imagine if the holocaust film is famous it can’t cross so many lines that a counsellor is needed. Bit reactionary, no?

  • Jenn50 November 3, 2011, 8:18 pm

    I agree with many of the posters here. Children will act up. Rather than blaming them, I blame the people who are supposed to be supervising them. Talking to them about expectations ahead of time, dividing the groups so that kids aren’t with other kids they tend to get silly with, and correcting/removing them when their behaviour is offensive goes a long way. That is your job as a parent and a teacher. To fail to do so is to fail your young charges.
    I also don’t believe that being in the mere presence of a statue makes it rude to speak in hushed tones. There are places where silence is expected, and I don’t think most public monuments qualify. Certainly the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is an exception, and the expectation is conveyed. If you are part of a guided tour and your guide is speaking, it is certainly rude to be speaking. If you want silence for quiet contemplation, choose a time of day when the sites tend to be quiet, as one poster suggested, such as early morning. The fact that YOU require silence to experience a monument does not make it a rule.
    Those complaining about 12 year old girls giggling at the MLK monument or children/teens reacting inappropriately to Holocaust movies need to remember that the adolescent brain is not yet finished growing. Their responses to situations that an adult would consider grotesque or solemn are often paradoxical; that is to say, a child (and yes, teenagers are children) might laugh when you feel they should cry or be sickened. Sometimes, this is just a nervous reaction, and sometimes it’s an attempt at bravado in front of peers who would judge you as weak if you showed you were affected. It’s very normal in teens. I find that breaking the kids up into smaller groups diminishes this effect significantly. I’m terribly disappointed that someone who identifies themselves as a teacher wouldn’t recognize this quality in their students and instead holds it up as an example of what horrible little miscreants we are raising these days.
    I will concede that some people just don’t know how to behave. This will always be true, but most sites have security to deal with bad behaviour. If you bring it to their attention, and they choose not to intervene, I would take it as a sign that your view of the etiquette does not align with that of the administration. The behaviour of the 40-something men with the female statues was disgusting, and I’m glad it was dealt with.
    I have to say, the OP and some of the subsequent posters seem stuffy and superior to me. I’m not suggesting that we tolerate people being disrespectful, but I find that people respond better to correction when it doesn’t come laden with gobs of judgement.

  • Kelsey November 3, 2011, 8:45 pm

    Re: Roosevelt Memorial

    I actually wrote a paper for college about how people interact with memorials. I wrote about the FDR memorial and this type of action struck me. I found it fascinating compared with the Vietnam memorial.

    I will say that the FRD memorial was designed to be interactive and this type of behavior(interacting with the statues) is expected.

  • Kimi November 3, 2011, 9:25 pm

    I tend to be a little emotionally sensitive, and find my self crying at any movie with even the sightest sad parts. That being said, I found myself in a class one day watching a holocaust film with no warning. We weren’t in the middle of a war unit or anything, it was about books that had been turned into films. That being said at the end of the movie one girl made a tasless joke while I had to leave the room to cry. For a minute I was not only appaled, but angry with her. Then I realized that it was her way of dealing with things that got too overwhelming. And I should note that this was in a post secondary class, and we were both adults at the time.

  • Another Alice November 3, 2011, 10:23 pm

    I don’t believe for a second that these young girls were giggling and yelling because they were “excited about seeing the Martin Luther King memorial.” Come. On. If anything, great excitement or enthusiasm would be transferred into awe, and subsequently quiet, not yelling. They were all charged because they were on a trip outside of school. Field trips are, to many students, “free” days, even though the teachers intend it to be a continuation or supplementation of the learning experience. Now, their acting that way was caused by being poorly prepared by the teacher, yes – but that still doesn’t make it appropriate. I say this especially because they’re older; they’re old enough to pick up on the fact that no one around them is behaving this way. Even preschoolers (and I know because I teach them) can be trained relatively easily to be quiet at certain times. Of course, they may falter now and again, but proper prep means a brief reminder should be efficient in calming them down.

    And, no, absolute silence is not expected at any memorial, especially an outdoor one. But one is truly missing the point if they go, glance around, take a few pics, and loudly carry on conversations about where to go to dinner that night. I’d rather people not go at all than go and not appreciate it. It’s like ANY place – whether a restaurant, museum, zoo, library, etc.: Your purpose may be slightly different than others’ but you must assume controlled behavior is a must. I’d be annoyed by a loud, obnoxious group of girls at the mall, frankly. Yes, they’re young; yes, it’s understandable. But an explanation is not an excuse. I wouldn’t say anything, as the mall doesn’t require solemnity, but hey, noise is noise, and is annoying.

    I see this at the World Trade Center memorial all the time. Before the memorial was built/possible to visit, tourists would take beaming photos of themselves in front of what is essentially a massive grave. I always wondered if any family members of victims were around (it’s not like this happened 200 years ago), and how I would feel if someone took a photo in front of one of my relatives’ final resting places, grinning as if they were at Disney World.

    Once I was at a dolphin exhibit, underneath watching the dolphins swim underwater, and two parents were allowing their two under-5 children to sit on the ledge of the viewing windows and SLAM their fists against the glass. I mean SLAM, to the point where I worried the glass would crack. Another mother asked them to stop (her teenage daughter was mortified, to which the mother replied, “What? They’re never gonna see me again!”), and they continued. It took one of the workers to say, “Please stop. It’s 100 times louder to the dolphins.” Even though they stopped, they had that ignorant, “What the hell is her problem?” look on their faces. I mean, even if an animal wasn’t involved, they didn’t even stop to consider that perhaps the other visitors might find the sound annoying.

  • AnonMom November 3, 2011, 11:31 pm

    This post and reading the comments has brought back so many memories, I can’t even begin to mention all of them, but I can say that I have been appalled at the behavior of others during times when reverence is the norm.

    My most recent memory is this: At a 9-11 memorial ceremony, during the moment of silence, there were no less than 15 people all around us, in the crowd, chattering away to each other or on cell phones. My 11 year old child glared sternly at one man (next to us) until he noticed what was going on and put the phone down. We could still hear the person he was talking to saying “Hello? Hellllllooooooo! Can you hear me?!?!?!” It was astonishing how disrespectful these adults were. These were not teenagers acting disrespectful to the guest speakers, these were their parents and grandparents. During another part of the ceremony, one speaker became emotional talking about his “brothers” climbing into the towers and losing their lives, while trying to save others. The crowd was dead silent, waiting for the man to regain his composure. Some 40-something twit behind me starts going “Wait, his brothers? OHMYGAWWWWD that dude lost a bunch of brothers? Hey you guys! Listen…that guy lost brothers, yeah, more than one!” A firefighter in the crowd, in front of me, finally gave a disgusted sigh and shook his head. Who can honestly be that stupid? I really believe she did it to get attention because half the crowd turned to look at her and then she started giggling. After the speaker was done, I leaned down to my child and whispered “Do you know who his brothers were?” He replied “Of course, he’s talking about his fellow firefighters.” The firefighter in front of us overheard, turned around and asked to shake my son’s hand. He thanked him for showing so much respect. I still get emotional thinking about the fact my junior high aged son had far more respect at his young age than so many around us my age or older. My child isn’t quiet at these memorials/ceremonies because I threaten or lecture him. He’s quiet because his father and I have modeled appropriate behavior. WE are quiet and respectful, therefore our children are too. On the extremely rare occasion one of our children did something inappropriate, a quiet verbal correction or even “the stink eye” was enough to make it stop. Reaching over ropes to touch a museum object only happened once. I pulled the children aside, got down on their level and explained why the ropes were there. I don’t recall them speaking during a moment of silence, ever, because I think they just understood it was time to be quiet. I’ve been told my children are “too compliant” and “not normal” because they know how to behave in public by people who never correct their own children’s behavior and feel they need to drag us down in the mud to alleviate their own guilt over being too lazy to make an effort. To contrast that we’ve had many strangers, over the years, tell us how wonderful our children are and asked what our secret is. All I can ever answer is that they know how to behave in public and that I am very fortunate they understand what’s expected of them at certain events. I consider myself lucky, not better than anyone else.

    In another incident from last year: I was one of the parents who volunteered to go along on a 5th grade field trip. The premise of the event was that small groups would rotate from exhibit to exhibit, listen to guest “teachers” give a short lesson (less than 5 minutes) then have about 10-15 minutes of hands on learning that usually involved some sort of take-away item. (One booth was agricultural in nature, a short lesson about potato processing was given and each child got a bag of chips at the end) I had a small group of students I was in charge of. Immediately 2 of them were acting up by rubbing against each other and giggling while the volunteer instructors were giving lessons. I was mortified. I pulled them aside and warned them that they were expected to show respect to the kind people who had volunteered to teach them at this special event, that they needed to listen quietly, keep their hands to themselves and show that (school mascot) students were the best in town. The boy looked genuinely scared of getting into more trouble. The girl rolled her eyes and called me the B word under her breath. 10 years old! I took a deep calming breath, moved my group to the next exhibit and flagged one of the teachers down. The boy took a seat and the girl immediately started rubbing up against him again, giggling, talking, calling him a “pet name” more appropriate for adults who were very intimate. I looked at the boy and pointed at another seat. He moved without complaint. The girl tried to give chase, but I told her she had to stay put in “time out” (Their school used this as a redirection/discipline tool) The teacher arrived just in time to hear the female student call me the same B word, but this time loud and proud. I calmly stated “That’s twice now that you have called me that. You will not do it a third time without consequences.” The girl was removed from the group, sent off with another teacher for an extended “time out” and the teacher who over heard the girl and my correction praised me for being firm. Later, back at the school, the teachers thanked all the parent helpers and gave an impromtu speech about how I’d handled my group and 2 students who were misbehaving. The teachers were adamant that parent helpers need to be firm and calm and have to use the time out system, or ask for teacher intervention, if they have a student out of control. One mom complained that she didn’t want the kids to hate her. (Her group had been running all around the facility all day and at one point got scolded by the event coordinator) My son’s teacher replied “We are here to guide them. We are their teachers, parents, grandparents and helpers. We are not here to be their friends.” The mom looked at him stunned, as if he was speaking a foreign language. Before the next field trip all helpers were to read and sign an agreement to implement appropriate corrections based on the school wide behavioral program or seek the help of a teacher. The other mom was not happy. Oh well.

  • Tara November 4, 2011, 12:09 am

    Respect and empathy can be taught. My son, who has been diagnosed with ADHD since he was six, behaved extremely well when we visited the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, HI two years ago (he was 8 at the time). I coached him briefly on the boat ride out to the memorial about how he was to be quiet and respectful, but I fully expected that I would have to admonish him at least once while we were out there. Happily, I was wrong. My son was very quiet and respectful and did not jump around while on the monument. He asked polite questions and was fascinated by the oil that still leaks from the ship, but he behaved beautifully and I was very proud of him. Being a teenager is no excuse for disrespectful behavior; or at least it shouldn’t be.

  • Marna November 4, 2011, 3:44 am

    I saw quite a bit of this last visit to D.C. One place, however, where I saw VERY little of it was the Vietnam Memorial. Perhaps because that conflict is still fairly recent in Americans’ collective consciousness–or perhaps because there are enough surviving veterans of that conflict who visit there and would have no problem at all in putting their foot down and nipping it in the bud.

  • Edhla November 4, 2011, 7:52 am

    I hate swarms of tweens and teens who shriek and scream in public because they’re “having fun”, but I honestly see no disrespect in sitting on a statue.

    A grave, yes. Like Amber said above. A grave, or the actual site of past tragedy (e.g. Pearl Harbour, or a concentration camp) I can definitely understand the OP’s horror. But a public statue? It’s just a rock, ultimately. Let’s not get carried away and worship it. There’s no sacrilege in being photographed with a statue.

    Caveat: there IS something wrong, though I wouldn’t entirely call it sacrilege, in being photographed with a statue if the statue is not “in public”, i.e., it’s in a museum or a place of worship. For obvious reasons. I figure if you can photograph yourself sitting on the edge of a public fountain, like one in a city plaza, there’s no harm in photographing yourself leaning on or sitting on a statue in a similar location.

  • Shannon November 4, 2011, 8:18 am

    I live in DC and avoid pretty much all tourist destinations during spring break class trip season. It’s deafening and stressful (I tend to be highly sensitive to noise and commotion).

    For the most part, you can avoid noisy tour groups by avoiding the more kid-friendly museums like American History, Air and Space (which, for the record, hasn’t been updated since I first went in 1986, and is a crushing bore), and Natural History. I prefer the Hirshorn and the National Gallery of Art.

    The memorial I have the hardest time with is Jefferson. Signs abound telling visitors to speak in hushed tones, but that doesn’t always happen. And since it’s a marble rotunda, the noise echoes and can be very stressful.

    That said, the most disrespectful museum behavior I saw was in Cherokee, North Carolina (my dad is Eastern Cherokee and we were there visiting family). We were taking a look at the then-new Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and in particular a very sad exhibit about the Trail of Tears. At that point, a family of tourons came barging through, with the children shrieking and attempting to climb on everything in sight. I gently took the mom aside and said that many of the museum’s visitors are tribal members like my dad, and this exhibit was quite painful for them. A respectful silence was encouraged. Of course, she rolled her eyes at me and let her kids rage on, but at least I felt like I’d stood up for my dad.

  • LovleAnjel November 4, 2011, 9:19 am

    @Miss Raven

    I too did a lot of traveling to memorial sites as kid (my mom has a thing for the Civil War – I had been to most of the battle fields before I hit junior high). I knew to be quiet & respectful of the sites. When we went to DC in junior high, being with my giggly 12-yr-old friends did not make me giggly at the memorials (we went Arlington, the AIDS quilt, ect). I actually gave other kids a dirty look when they got loud. (In the Air & Space museum and National Zoo we were giggling fools, however.)

    I certainly get more out of the sites now. We recently went to the WWI museum, and giggling and laughing visitors drove me from several exhibits. I was taught from an early age to be quiet & respectful, even if I didn’t truly understand the gravity of a site (I remember being excruciatingly bored at most of battle fields, but I also knew to keep my mouth shut until we were in the car). Most parents don’t have time or an interest to take their kids to places like that, so they don’t learn. Knowing a place is a memorial does not replace training in how to act there.

  • hannabanna November 4, 2011, 10:07 am

    I have several feelings here. First, Im sort of with the poster who said memorials are a waste of good space. I went to Israel several years ago and every dang spot that had anything to do with anything had a church splat right on the top of it. All I did was visit churches. That’s not the way to see and feel a memorial spot.

    2nd – I’m not sure who it is that thinks that kids get anything out of visiting memorials. They dont mean anything to a kid. Kids need to experience history in a more concrete and visual way, which is very hard to do. Teachers have to make history come alive, and that’s not with a memorial. Memorials are much, much better for an older generation, and chaperones, scout leaders, and teachers etc. should stop taking kids to see these things.

    To make my point, I was at the Holocaust museum in Israel. In came a huge group of Israeli soldiers –these were young kids, 18,19,20 years old. They were the noisiest, rowdiest group of kids. My heart broke more at seeing these young kids who had to serve in this Army than almost anything else I saw that day. But their behavior told me a couple of things –first, that many of them were scared to death and were reacting the way kids do, with laughing and punching and shrieking….but mostly they were just acting like kids. Even with proper teaching beforehand, you can not know how a kid is going to react to a memorial–especially with torture equipment and pictures of victims.

    A statue of Abe Lincoln means nothing to a 6 year old, and not even sometimes to a 16 year old. Even though parents can still teach a child the appropriate ways to act in certain situations, having a kid go and stare at a big piece of rock is probably not the way to teach history.

  • Amomymous November 4, 2011, 10:33 am

    I agree with several earlier posters that the locations people are mentioning are all very different. The Holocaust Museum, the World Trade Memorial and the FDR monument are very different. Some of the stories people have mentioned in the comments are truly appalling but the incidents in the original story happened at places that are not tombs, not museums and outdoors. There is a line between frowning on inappropriate behavior and wanting to dictate the actual behavior of others. Sure, it would be nice if everyone out in the big, wide world was quiet and calm when we want them to be but at some point isn’t the true breech of etiquette trying to control how other people act in public?

  • Lilac November 4, 2011, 10:42 am

    I have to disagree about kids not being able to appreciate monuments. I think it is true that they might not know enough about the historical significance of the person or place that the monument honors to appreciate the monument in that context. They might just know that the person contributed to our country in a significant way. My 12 year old couldn’t wait to see the Lincoln Memorial. Lincoln is definitely the president that most kids know the most about and admire. She loved it and could appreciate the monument for the man. There is another context though. She might not have know much about the Korean War–but the monument was amazingly moving. And I think she did feel that. The Jefferson and Washington monuments offered something else–beauty and awesomeness. There was something about just being around the Washington Mall that invoked a patriotic feeling and an appreciation for American history. The monuments are doing their jobs when you don’t have to know what the person did or what the monument represents in order to feel connected to that shared consciousness or grief. And I say this as a person with BA in history. I believe everyone should have a better than basic knowledge of the past but not everyone does. The monuments exist so that we don’t forget but also that we FEEL that connection with the past.

  • AS November 4, 2011, 10:48 am

    @Zimi61 – your sentence had sounded to me as if you were saying that Americans are not boorish but only the non-Americans are. I apologize for misunderstanding.

    BTW, is there a term for people who discriminate others based on nationality? I know racist is not the exact term; I am not sure if xenophobic can be the term because they are not necessarily “phobic”.

  • --Lia November 4, 2011, 1:42 pm

    After I posted, I realized that the famous movie must be Schindler’s List. A friend told me her teenage daughter’s reaction when she was shown it in school. Nightmares and severe disturbance for weeks. My friend was horrified. She had to sign papers that it was O.K. for her daughter to get sex-ed. The educational materials were sent home so the parents could read them first and decide if they were appropriate for their particular children at their particular age. And then Schindler’s List, an R rated film, was shown without so much as a permission slip. (The school rules are changed now.) Even if my guess about Schindler’s List is incorrect, the movie still showed torture and murder, and the students did react with inappropriate laughter. The conclusion I’m coming to is that the movie was the wrong choice in educational materials. I’m glad they’ve stopped showing it. If they were going to show it, having councillors on hand and preparation before would have been the way to go, not just blaming the kids for being kids.

    (@Jones– Help me with what POD means. I googled, found many answers, and am not sure which one you mean.)

  • Jones November 4, 2011, 2:45 pm

    “Pod” the way I meant it was that I agree with your statement; I’m in agreement with what you said and so our opinions could be two peas in a pod.

    If it was Schindler’s List, it should not have been shown to unprepared teenagers. I watched it when I was almost 21; I’d read books on the holocaust and listened to a presentation given by a survivor. I had to stop it a few times to ‘get some air’ and ended up feeling very ill. Afterwards I was glad I’d seen it but to see what actually happened, reenacted, made it so real and horrible I could hardly think of anything else for 2 or 3 days after.
    I haven’t been to any holocaust-related museums but my husband went to one when he was a young teen and he is adamant that they aren’t for kids, he should have been older and ours will be much, much older before we take them to learn of that horrific history.

  • Rifish November 4, 2011, 7:46 pm

    I think we’re not giving children enough credit if we expect them to shriek and giggle everywhere they go. Of course kids have lots of energy and aren’t socially and mentally developed, but they should be able to be quiet and respectful for at least short periods of time. I remember field trips in middle school where I was embarrassed at the behavior of some of my classmates. Running, yelling, playing in museums and on nature walks, talking over tour leaders, screaming and throwing things on buses, cussing at chaperones. Kids will act like that if you let them, but they are certainly old enough to know better. I went on plenty of field trips and family trips that I thought were supremely boring, but I still knew when it was appropriate to talk and laugh, and when to shut up.

    As for kids being to young to understand a memorial, I think that depends on the child. I was 13 when I visited the MLK memorial in Montgomery, AL, and I appreciated it very much, and treated it with respect. I was much less enthusiastic about visiting memorials in DC as an older teen. I was having a particularly bad mood day when we visited the Vietnam Memorial. I didn’t understand it at first but I figured I’d stop whining for a second, go look at this pointless wall and get the obligatory pictures, then we could go to lunch. Thankfully everyone there was very respectful. I could feel the reverence in the air and was drawn to contemplation. I started to read the names, one by one, at first to pass the time, but then more deliberately, thinking about each name and the fact that it represented an actual person, someone’s loved one. After about 30 minutes my mom gestured that she was ready to go. I looked over the section of names that I’d read, then I backed up at looked over the whole monument, how many names I had not gotten to, and I realized then just how moving a stupid wall could be. Had I been out of control,running around giggling and playing with my sister I would probably still think of it as a pointless wall.

  • Anonymous November 4, 2011, 9:11 pm

    I first tried watching Schindler’s List when I was 12 or so. I was with my parents, and they talked to me before hand. They allowed me to watch war violence movies as a kid because they thought it would make me take violence seriously. They were right. I didn’t finish the movie (I gave up during the liquidation of the ghetto scene) but I think it can be okay if a kid is in a safe situation.

    I think it’s more okay in college. We watched the opening of Saving Private Ryan in a class I took as a senior in college, and people are more okay with adults crying in class. In high school being a jerk is more socially acceptable.

  • Stacey November 5, 2011, 12:51 am

    I read Amber’s comments and can see where monuments are not everyone’s cup of tea. Okay. How is that in any way related to showing respect for property that is not yours, in company of those who DO have a desire to visit said monument and for whom it may hold deeper meaning? Not many are compelled to attend a monument, and if one prefers not to linger because “their parents made them come” or “the school organized the trip and I have to go” then simply give the minimum deference of allowing those who are interested to participate and amuse yourself by some means that does not distract those around you or risk damaging property. I don’t understand how one person’s valuation of monuments at nil, or how the misguided inattention of some should mitigate the experience for others. As the poster wrote…these sites or statuary commemorate events and people, times and circumstances that are significant for many and solemn observances still occur at some of them. For adults, especially, your participation is not required, merely your courtesy towards the people around you and their desire to connect with something they consider meaningful, perhaps powerful, perhaps even sacred to them in a patriotic or personal sense.

  • Wendy November 5, 2011, 3:37 am

    Yep, not surprised at all…. a couple of summers ago, we went to the Field Museum in Chicago. Lots of artwork, statues, sculptures, etc. Near every statue was a sign which stated to NOT climb on nor even touch the statues. A lot of them are made of bronze, and the oils from skin and friction from rubbing against them will damage them over time. This was clearly explained on the sign, yet…. people standing in line, letting their kids crawl all over these works of art, like monkeys or ants. Did they really not see the prominent and numerous signs? Do they really see this as acceptable behavior? Or do they (most likely) just not care? It was really sad to see, and made me quite upset. I didn’t say anything, of course…. I’d wished that a museum employee could have, though, but darn it, they shouldn’t HAVE to, people should know better.

  • lkb November 5, 2011, 5:48 am

    Sort of unrelated but sort of not: It seems at times that it’s not so much the kids as the parents.

    My kids go to a Catholic school and whenever there is a school-wide event it’s in the church next door. I see and hear the teachers telling and showing the kids how to act quietly and respectfully. But then the parents and others are all around talking, giggling and running around (to get the best picture spot of course), including when the event is taking place. I keep meaning to ask (in the days/weeks before events) the powers that be to please print a note in the program on the order that: (“We ask that you remember that this is a place of worship and that your children have put a lot of hard work preparing for this. Your silence and respectful attention models how you want your children to behave.”)

  • Kimberly November 5, 2011, 3:16 pm

    I’m glad that others confirmed that the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown makes that announcement regularly. I thought that was what happened but is has been 20+ years since I’ve been there.

    School groups – It is important that teachers know their audience. Several years ago another teacher and I thought about taking a group to the Houston Holocaust Museum. We were reading a book about the Holocaust in class. We went to preview it – and decided very quickly that this was a no go for our group.
    1. Size we had 100 kids and couldn’t see them fitting into that space.
    2. Content – we knew it would be intense but on viewing the museum we decided that 1 group would be rude and crude to cover their feelings, 1 group would break down and cry, and a 3rd group of kids could handle it. We gave the information to the parents of the 3rd group. Several of them got together and took their kids down to the museum.

  • Mabel November 5, 2011, 4:23 pm

    For those who say stuff like “the adolescent brain isn’t developed,” maybe it isn’t but that is NO excuse for disrespectful and rude behavior. Shame on the kids for acting that way, shame on anyone who didn’t prepare them for their outing, and shame on parents who condone this when they are supposed to be teaching their children manners. This won’t change when they get older either, if no one pulls them up short. I’ve left venues before because of this type of thing and the employees did nothing. It’s bad enough when it’s a public place but even worse when you have to pay to be there.

  • Rei November 6, 2011, 2:08 am

    Having read books about the Holocaust (Lisa’s War, Number the Stars, The Diary of Anne Frank) as a child, I can tell you that when I finally visited DC as a kid, I couldn’t even go to the Holocaust museum because I knew I would be in hysterics. I wanted to go to pay my respects, but I refused to be disruptive, even if it were just an understandable amount of crying. When I was a preteen, if I thought I couldn’t behave properly in a solemn place (if I believed I would become too upset by it), I asked not to go. If I had to go, I would look at the floor and think about something else silently with my hands folded until I could leave. I can’t take full credit for that though. I became that way because I took my mom’s attempts to teach me to show respect for death (and those who were claimed by it) to heart. Did I also mention I had and still have a pretty significant case of ADD? If your kids don’t know where it’s okay to act up a little and where it isn’t, you can try to blame their frontal lobes, but we all know who really bears the blame.

  • Jenn50 November 6, 2011, 11:50 am

    I didn’t say it was okay to simply blame the kids’ underdeveloped brains for their misbehaviour, I said that the parents and teachers didn’t do enough to prepare and correct the audience. Kids sometimes make poor choices, because they haven’t developed the foresight and impulse control to do better, and it’s up to the adults in their lives to remind them to conform to the expectations of the event, even if that means removing them from the situation. My oldest child was quiet and thoughtful, while my middle child needs to be constantly reminded that certain behaviours are not acceptable. He’s not evil or under-parented, just much higher energy, and requires more correction. He has been blessed with a series of teachers who understand that, and give him lots of gentle reminders that he needs to be quieter and calmer. I’m glad of that, because without that help, he could easily be one of those kids giggling, shouting, or climbing where it’s not okay.

  • Enna November 7, 2011, 3:57 pm

    Being disrespectful such as climbing over a statue of a person is bad. Nelson’s Column has lions around it’s base and tourists do climb on them and sit on them. I don’t think that’s to bad as they are animals. As for lauging at a war memorial it is bad, but sometimes people are immautre and they can’t handle it so they giggle – it’s something a teacher mentioned when she took a group of us to Berlin. It does require proper handeling though, they need to know how to handle their reactions and in some cases be disciplined. The girls who were giggling, that could have been high spirits not bad behaviour however being told to “calm down” would be okay.

  • Susan November 23, 2011, 9:22 pm

    Let’s face it: children who act this way do so because it is just too much trouble for their parents to teach them to behave. I have three children, two of whom are now adults. Because I was with them most of the time each day, it has always been in my best interest to train them to be respectful and even to sit still when the situation calls for it. If they were always in someone else’s care, I doubt I would want to waste the small amount of time I had with them working on manners.

    Just in case you think that I have unusually docile children, my husband and I adopted all three of them out of the foster care system and all three have some sort of diagnosed mental illness. However, my oldest son loves to brag that even on a day when he was being hospitalized for a break down, he stopped and opened the door for me as we entered the facility. It was so a part of his life that it never occurred to him not to.

    Oh, and one more thing. We live near DC and I we first visited the tomb of the unknown solder when they were 4, 6 and 7 years old. When we arrived at the monument, I simply told them that this was a very important place and that they must be quiet. Because they were used to sitting quietly for an hour or two in church each Sunday, it was not a problem for them.

  • erica September 11, 2012, 12:06 am

    hannabanna- I respectfully disagree.

    I can tell you that while in Oklahoma we visited the memorial.
    we went at night.
    all those chairs lit up.
    it most definitely affected me.
    we brought our children the next day and told them the story of what occured there.
    My kids were around 4, 7, 10.
    They know how to behave even being that young.

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