A SYSTEM IN CRISIS
There was a time when you saw school children misbehaving in public, you could have scolded them. There was a time when upon being reprimanded by an adult, the kids would have downed their heads in shame and apologized for their actions.
There used to be an earlier time when you could have taken off your belt and given a sound whipping to any child that was misbehaving. And when they went home to complain about what had happened and related what they had done, they would get another round of licks from their parents.
Try intervening in a dispute amongst school children and you will be greeted by a downpour of the vilest abuse, if not a few bricks to your back or head. You will be told to mind your own business and get on your own way…or else.
If you believe that you are living in the 1950s and 1960s and want to take off your belt, then heaven help you. You may end up getting a good licking and when the children go home and complain to their parents, you are going to be hauled in front of the police for physical abuse. And then be charged for battery.
There was a time when if you saw two school children fighting after school, you felt it was your duty to part the fight. Today there are big men who when they see school children fighting actually egg them on. This is most disgraceful and shows that the real problem, the breakdown in the system, begins with the erosion of social and family values.
Elders are no longer respected. This respect went into remission during the days when there were severe shortages in the economy. Seniors began to lose respect because they could no longer provide for their families.
You had teachers in school being looked down upon because they had to take sugar cake and fudge to sell to supplement their income.
You had some rich kids whose pocket money was more than what the teachers took home. Life became a hustle, and the better the hustle the more money you had. The youths saw how easy it was to make money in certain ways that were spurned in the past. This turned the entire value system in our country upside down.
The problem is also in the family. Too many of our children are being allowed to become materialistic.
There was a time when a clean pair of shoes and well ironed trousers, skirts and shirts were far more important that the brand name outfits that the kids are wearing today.
One time, a young girl committed suicide two days before school reopened, simply because she did not get a brand name footwear.
There used to be a time when the dress code for school uniforms rejected the use of brand name clothing and footwear. There were certain things you could not wear to school and these things were vigorously enforced. No school child could be seen with eye shadow or lipstick or jewellery.
Today, children are wearing brand name socks and knapsacks to school. Yes, there are even brand name book bags.
Lipsticks are supposed to be outlawed but some girls wear lipstick so modestly that it could hardly be seen. Eye liners and eye shadow are applied so skillfully that they can be detected only through close observation.
The teachers are not doing a good job at enforcing the rules, because they themselves are often in dereliction of proper dress codes. Many of them have plunging necklines and skirts that show more than its fair bit of leg.
So there is a moral crisis, because the enforcers of the rules are also in breach of their own rules. Order and discipline break down.
It gets worse because of the actions of some parents. They have no regard for teachers, and in many instances, are not paying enough attention to their children. Some of them do not even bother to send an excuse if their child is absent from school. Others, when summoned by the teacher, indicate that they do not have time.
When teachers try to impose discipline, they face other obstacles. Some of the very negligent parents suddenly become militant and mobilize to take action against the teachers who are trying to impose order and discipline
Some parents neglect to teach their children good toilet manners. This is why a visit to most schools would find the toilets in a most deplorable condition. It is not the neglect by the schools or the educational authorities that are responsible. It is the poor toilet habits of the children who, when they are finished using the washrooms, leave it in such a state that the cleaners fear being infected.
And then some parent goes into the toilet, sees the state is in, and raises an alarm. Immediately, other parents respond like a cavalry going into action. The school is shut down. The gates padlocked. The television crews arrive. The parents protest. They say they will not reopen the school until the toilets are cleaned. Nothing is mentioned about teaching good toilet etiquette.
How is the school system going to improve when there is a breakdown of values at the level of the home and in the wider society? No wonder we can read about gangs invading schools, no wonder we read about children going to school with weapons. The system is in crisis, not just the school system, but the entire social system. The problems in the school are but a mere symptom of a breakdown in societal and family values, especially the latter.
Fixing schools requires fixing social and family values. And this will take some doing in a materialistic world, because materialism promotes individual choice, while promoting social and family values involves subordinating the individual to the greater interest of society. Materialism and social values are therefore in conflict. Resolving this conflict will involve the setting of rules from above. But is this not a restriction on personal liberty?
This is the difficulty that presents itself in reversing the decline in social and family values. Any attempt to do so will be rejected. In the meantime, everyone complains about the crisis in the system.