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Saving our children: more than a slogan

We are minded to return to the subject of discipline and our youth by the recent observations of acting school principal Wayne Willock. His utterances are not new, nor radical; but there is a freshness about them –– even if for no other reason than that we seemed to have forgotten all about these commonsensical principles.

Most simply put, if a student can be so disciplined in his area of study to produce works of the highest standard, which can make for the meritorious, maybe he can transport that discipline to his day-to-day living, presenting him as an exemplar among his peers. Of course, we are not suggesting it is necessarily an easy transfer of will; nor does Mr Willock, for that matter.

Indeed, it calls for application and resolve –– by student, parent, and, yes, teacher! We aver that in many a case the conscientious teacher will have to apply the same techniques of inspiration, persuasion and constraint to some parents, as he would to the student.

Bombarded these days with all the sultry sex imagery, public sex advice and bulletins, the glorification of homosexuality –– in the church and without, the foul language, violence at the tip of a hat –– and a bullet for punctuation and emphasis, and the overall distended chaos –– political and social, what can we more senior citizens offer as among the best approaches to yet motivate our upcoming generation (among it those who will be running this country in the next ten to 20 years) to clasp the importance of ethics and morals for a good, healthy social life?

Gladly, there is still that residual community group for whom ethics and morals are staple, and ingrained; and though the battle to bring some ethical and responsible order might be uphill, we will not be rid of these standard bearers, and Mr Willock might count on their support. For we need educators of Mr Willock’s thinking now more than ever.

Without a doubt, the bombardment we alluded to has had a most negative and debilitating effect on how moral –– or not –– our behaviour has been. And short of Barbados’ becoming a puritanical dictatorial society, this iniquitous influence will most likely linger on.

Teaching our children to think analytically, and to apply their discipline honed in subject study to their actual daily living, and to be self-reflective will be our one –– if only –– recourse.

History is full of life lessons; we can use its record of injustices, for example, to teach morality and considerateness. We can take the historical examples of savage slavery, murderous kings and nation-conquoring bullies that we hope would appal students and appeal to their conscience, kindness and generosity, and have them apply these ungracious and wicked deeds to current life; see the connection.

The goal: to carry over the emotions they feel in their study to their daily life. We must, too, get our students into spending time discussing their emotions beyond the textbook and why they felt the experiences they read of were right or wrong.

That is why we are impressed by the principal Willock principle and declared modus operandi. He acknowledges the transfer of discipline in study to that of daily living. And he does not limit it to academic exercise.

“Some students don’t see the transfer of discipline from artistic work, from singing, from whether [they] are able to bake a nice cake, or be a great cadet, or whatever it is that they are doing . . . . If that discipline is transferred into . . . your deportment and behaviour for school in general, it would be a phenomenal thing.”

Addressing his teachers of the Princess Margaret Secondary School at the Crane Resort on the occasion of an awards ceremony for two of his outstanding students who had won Caribbean Development Institute scholarships, Mr Willock reminded them that they were essentially operating in loco parentis (in place of parents) between 8:40 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. every weekday and they had every responsibility to mould their charges in the most gainfiul way they could.

Today we live in an era of human rights without realizing that the liberty of each one of us ends where the other’s starts. Years past, morality, decorum and neighbourliness were high on our culture list, policed in joint responsibility by parents and teachers. Now, some parents have neither the time nor interest.

And some teachers refrain from the in loco parentis onus, often lest they be bullied by student –– and parents to boot. Unfortunately, teachers are having all the blame put on them for the wayward young ones, most of us these days not recognizing that society at large has a responsibility towards morality itself, especially in the fashioning of what our children might be.

We have lost much of that sense of social responsibility. But thank you nonetheless, Mr Willock!

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