I'm an adult first degree black belt and certified instructor and have been the senior student in the adult class. In our organization you must be at least 18 years of age to test for certified instructor status. Recently, a 13 year old second degree black belt moved from the children’s class into the adult class and is now considered the senior student. I have a problem deferring to a child and having to call him sir. Does rank out rank instructor status? Does age out rank seniority?
First, let us deal with instructor certification within the rank structure. Traditionally, when lining up for class, students line up by rank. Instructor certification does not matter when lining up by rank since instructor certification status is a separate entity from rank. This make sense since it is quite possible to have a 2nd degree certified instructor in a class that has 3rd or even 4th degree students. When instructing, the instructor runs the class no matter the rank of the instructor and other students.
In most organizations, students line up by rank with age have priority within the same rank. This makes sense, except when it pertains to children ranks versus adult ranks. It appears that your organization moves students into the adult classes at 13 years of age and considers them as being in the adult ranks, even though a child does not legally become an adult until 18 years of age. Contrary to this policy, your organization does not allow instructors to test for certified instructor status until they are at least 18 years of age.
I think it is degrading for adults to have to defer to children. Children are taught, or should be taught, throughout their childhood that they should respect their seniors, that adults are much wiser and should be obeyed, and that adults have certain privileges that children do not have. Adults should never have to defer to children. However, your organization, and many others, considers it is okay to have adults call children sir or ma’am and to give children precedence over adults.
The current “politically correct” view is that teenage children should be considered young adults and should have the same rights as adults have. It is now considered improper to do not give the same respect to a teenager than you would give to an adult, since it may impede the teenager's emotional growth.
I first earned a black belt in Taekwondo over 35 years ago but, when I joined my current Taekwondo organization, I had to start over as a white belt and work my way back up the rank structure, so had to line up and defer to children for years. I outlasted other students until I gradually became an instructor and the senior student. I am now a 3rd degree and can still perform at a level at which most much younger students cannot perform, but, due to deterioration of discs in my neck, I cannot free-spar at the intensity required at a testing. Therefore, I will always be a 3rd degree. Due to this, students that I have taught since they were white belts are now being promoted over me. So now, some of my students are considered the senior students in class. It is good to see my students progress in rank, so is not a problem for them to be senior to me as long as they are adults, but it I have a problem with deferring to children.
I don’t know of any other sport or organization where children have precedence over adults. The highest ranked Cub Scout does not have precedence over the lowest ranked Boy Scout; the two groups are considered separate entities. While the Navy, as the highest enlisted rank, I called all officers sir or ma’am and I was junior to the lowest officer rank. This was not a problem since the two rank structures are separate entities. In the martial arts, children should not be considered adults until they are at least 18 years of age, and children and adult ranks should be considered separate entities. When lining up for class, the adults should line up by rank, and then, behind them, the children should line up by rank.
Until enough discontented adults put pressure upon their organizations to change the policy, we just have to accept it. Don’t get discouraged. Keep pressing on and maybe someday you will be impetus for change within your organization.