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IN THE CANDID CORNER – Research deviant youth

Matthew Farley

IN THE CANDID CORNER – Research deviant youth

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A belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness. – Joseph Conrad
Ever since Minister of Education Ronald Jones opined that demonic forces are afflicting some students in our schools, a raging debate has ensued. I have not yet developed the ability to discern the presence of such forces in anyone, so I cannot critique the minister’s remarks.
The Bible contains multiple references to demons.
It is unclear whether demons actually exist as spiritual forces or if demons were a catch-all phrase to explain disorders that people in biblical times did not understand, such as epilepsy or mental illness.
The Bible promises that God’s followers can help others find relief from their “demons”.
The words “demon” and “demons” are mentioned more than 70 times in the Bible, so demons clearly were considered to be significant in the Bible.
Only two of those references are from the Old Testament and both pertain to evil people making sacrifices (including their own children in one reference) to demons. Jesus healed multiple people from being possessed by demons.
Most of the New Testament references involve “driving out” demons (
As a student of literature, one of the things I understood very clearly is that there is a perpetual conflict between the forces of good and evil which exist side by side in our world.
It is also my view that the forces of good will always win over the forces of evil. Sometimes it may appear that the wicked are prospering, but this often is only for a season. Good will always conquers evil.
The Honourable Ronald Jones is a trained educator. He must understand the challenges facing children both in our schools and in the wider society.
On the one hand, the minister might be right in that when evil forces infiltrate one’s life, one is capable of anything. On the other hand, we as teachers are not trained to identify demons whether in school-age children or in adults.
Our training does not even equip us with the ability to handle and understand all the learning disabilities that may hinder children’s  academic achievement. Not even the best of us knows for sure the underpinnings of deviant behaviour.
We may, if we choose, accuse the minister of speaking out of turn. We may opine, as some have, that his comments are in poor taste as is the view of Ormond Mayers in the SUNDAY SUN of September 18.
It is his assessment that the deviant behaviour in which some of our schoolchildren engage is conditioned by a mindset, a lack of social values, exposure in their formative years to broken homes, sexual and physical abuse and bad parentage (Page 14A). If this is the case, then many of us might be demon-possessed.
Chris Freeman, on the other hand, in the same edition of the SUNDAY SUN, praises the minister as being on the ball and credits him for understanding the forces of evil.
Anita Shepherd challenges parents to get their act together and calls for prayers for our children. Pastor Chesterfield Walrond thinks the minster is a believing person since he possesses such Bible knowledge. Bravo, Minister! There is your passport for “Peter at the gate”.
Whether or not we support the minister in his assertion on demons and their likely impact on school-age children, the fact remains that not just the youth, but society in general, is facing major moral challenges whose genesis is not difficult to understand.
Without labelling such problems as having to do with demonic forces, what is clear is that they are negative forces with which we are grappling.
I see violent tendencies. I experience the spirit of defiance, disrespect, rudeness, idleness, disruption, irreverence, non-compliance and a range of other worrisome trends and behaviours that threaten to derail even the best intentions of our educational investment.
In the field of education, our decisions must be based on empirical data. Our outspoken Minister of Education has voiced an opinion on the possible root cause of the deviance which some of our young people manifest.
He may be right or he may be wrong. What is clear is that he is strategically placed to move to the next step and commission a study with the main objective of understanding, not exorcising, the factors which might help to explain the root cause of deviance among our youth.
Rather than chase the minister across the country in pursuit of the truth about demons, Dr Jennifer Obidah, who is director of what used to be the Evaluation Centre at the University of the West Indies, should be given the terms of reference for what should be longitudinal study.
As educators we cannot rely only on “a voice in our head” if we are to make serious and far-reaching educational decisions.
Matthew D. Farley is a secondary school principal, chairman of the National Forum On Education, and  social commentator. Email [email protected]

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