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Parents aren’t society’s saviours

Sherwyn Walters

Parents aren’t  society’s saviours

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“PARENTS SHOULD . . . .” “Parents must . . . .”
The October 26 SATURDAY SUN’s capturing in word and picture of a classroom sex act gave people a chance to go after the usual suspects.
And, once again, there was a noble-spirited but, ultimately, sterile and diverting focus on parents and parenting as the answer to societal problems.
Now, a lot that I heard is good advice to parents. No doubt some parents who are panting hard after the best means will do the necessary.
But how, with all the varying, often conflicting persuasions of parents, and the ease of following their own course, is this an avenue to broad change? It can’t be, and yet that is clearly what the crusaders are after.
Burning stuff
Miss X feels burning stuff in a residential district is okay, so by deed, in particular, that’s what she teaches her children. The neighbour thinks that’s wrong and calls the police when it happens – and they do not serve and protect him.
Or, you think that when somebody offends your son, he should hit them with a rock or stab them. I don’t. So my son don’ stab-up yours when he takes away his lunch at school – and we still waiting for “satisfaction”.
Again, Mr Y, who himself oversteps the line at work with female colleagues, sees nothing wrong with his 14-year-old boy being “fresh” with the daughter of Mr Parish from down the street. And Mr Parish, who would like nothing better than to be studying his Bible, is now tempted to beg God, “Just gih muh five minutes – five minutes, Lord!”
So, how do we get convergence? Or at least avoid the divergence of a critical mass?
Yet there you go appealing to disparate spirits with their differing philosophies, their fierce independence and, in many, many cases, their absolute callousness about your “better way” to bring to us to a societally happier place.
Disciplined society
The way people talk you must think that they believe we
can add parent to parent and get the sum of a socially disciplined society. Who is going to make them add up to that?
It is fashionable to say it all begins in the home. But hear this, study it, and know it: Fixing the society does not begin in the home.
And never did. Only poor perception and the consequent faulty extrapolation created that thought.
The supposed widespread good in the past that many have attributed to good parenting was more than likely the product of a monoculture built on values initiated and installed by two entities: the religious “authorities” (church) and government (usually tagging with the church – that’s why in the 1960s for cussing in public people were arrested and fined 100 times the bus fare).
Their overarching potency guided, emboldened and “empowered” others – parents, virtually every adult, even prefects away from school. Thus we had greater social discipline – probably not less “sin”, but better public behaviour, which is what we are at the moment concerned about.
So it wasn’t that parents were in the forefront of this; the best of them parented in line with the strong societal expectations created by the church and the state working in tandem and exerting tremendous pressure on the society in the sphere of public behaviour.
Schools did likewise. Neither parents nor the schools were the creators of the master plan. Nor were they the mighty fortress ensuring its survival.
They were the foot soldiers. To believe otherwise is to revise history.
Things have changed. The church has been “downgraded” and government has rebranded itself as not being too much about broad public behaviour, but as narrowing its focus to economics and education and health and tourism and agriculture(?) and a limited notion of “culture”, and such.
And, naturally, the assisting elements (parents, schools and so on) generally do not and cannot have the same broad impact.
Fixing your own children begins in the home (in spite of multifarious influences and attempted encroachments), but fixing a society’s critical mass problems requires critical mass approaches.
Making recommendations to parents is not a societal solution.
Of course, it may be possible to influence a district, through – let’s say – parenting circles. And it may be possible to influence a group of parents in a parent-teacher organization (a small number, mind you, because not many parents pay these groups any attention).
Large-scale hope, if there are grounds for such, must be placed elsewhere.
I don’t believe all, or nearly all, is lost. Of course, neither do I believe that we can turn today’s roller coaster into yesterday’s rocker.
But if you are really interested in putting a dent in societal problems, you must quit the knee-jerk “parents” mantra. We need viable broad-reach approaches. Join the search.
I am on it. Check me next week. DV.
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]