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JEFF BROOMES: Schools also shape society


JEFF BROOMES: Schools also shape society

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FOR MOST OF MY LIFE, I have been told that one learns what one lives and lives what one learns.

I have heard it, and I have believed it. I have also accepted it as a need for early and consistent positive influences in a child’s life, at school but most important, at home.

The early values that a child is exposed to and allowed to inculcate are of significant importance. Hence, the role of good parenting and good example setting is very acutely aligned to the type of young man or young woman that will be realised in the teenage years.

Recently, our schools have been bombarded with several outrageous comments from students such as: “If we don’t drop garbage the maids would have no work,” and “My mother did not send me to school to pick up paper!” Clear signs of bad parenting!

I ask: “Why are so many of our tax dollars invested in education? Is it to develop persons with no respect for their environment? Is it to develop persons who have a better-than-thou attitude towards others? Or is it to develop little prima donnas?”

There must be greater respect for the taxpaying public. Am I wrong to believe that we want children to develop themselves in ways that will positively impact our nation and our world? Or do children go to school simply because it is required by law?

The criticisms are plentiful when principals take direct actions against students for breaches of the dress code. This is so whether it is about skirt lengths, outlandish hairstyles or mountains of powder (flour) on the body. Are they sent to school to challenge rules and regulations?

Parents loudly complain and rechristen principals with the worst names when action is taken against children who arrive at school two hours late and find the gates closed or when students absent themselves from class to spend time turning the bathroom into a virtual beauty salon!

Why is it that when homework is set, parents find it as a distraction to ensure that adequate time is dedicated to that component of academic development? Maybe I missed the memo that stated academics must only be done in teachers’ time and as determined by the student!

And what happens when a student falls ill in class? Should the teacher ignore her and refuse to make contact with the parent? After all, teachers were not hired to be nurses or receptionists. Thankfully, they quite professionally see such actions as extensions of their duties.

A school is the place to live and practise the values that we believe should define our society. Yes, we develop intellectually, but we must also develop socially, culturally and spiritually as well as build on the skills and abilities with which we were born.

Schools are not there to reflect but to shape society. Unfortunately, the small minority of poor parents and their unruly and uncooperative children are presented as the advertising posters. That is not fair to the majority of children who are good and do the right things.

One of the fondest memories in my professional career occurred when the Student Council of a previous school decided to honour the ancillary staff. They presented them with certificates of appreciation at full assembly and then hosted them for a catered lunch. 

These workers were relieved of their duties for the day while the student leaders accepted responsibility for keeping the school clean, the grounds, the classrooms, the toilets and the drains! Such civic-mindedness answered the question: “Why do my parents send me to school?”

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as vice-president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email: [email protected]