When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
–– 1 Corinthians 13:11.
The would be ultra-liberalists among us now uncircumspectly declare that children having sex in school is nothing new, as though it was normal behaviour in the classroom or on the school grounds. And as though those of us shocked by the effrontery and shamelessness of the sexually active pupil today are overreacting, or are simply hypocritical.
One commentator, riding on this flawed notion, recalls how 74 years ago a little boy and girl were caught copulating –– probably attempting to, as it seemed to be “their first time” –– in the preparatory school’s orchard. Of course, they were both expelled. Which speaks to the zero tolerance of that kind of conduct in our educational institutions of long ago.
And most assuredly it was not an act encouraged by peers, who were likely anyway to report such a misdeed to their teachers and even their parents. At that time, for sure, the school system, the church and the community at large would frown on such behaviour, which would explain the trouble the offending infantile pair would have gone to make it an act of deep secrecy and privacy.
Sex among school pupils and students in the earlier years was an aberration; not a normalcy –– and certainly not so 74 years ago! Generally at that time, a child’s behaviour became a problem if it did not match the expectations of family, community leaders or the church –– normal or good conduct being determined by what these entities considered socially, culturally and developmentally appropriate.
Today, while some church heads and community role models will speak out against the sexcapades in our schools, they can expect no quarter given from the defenders (“sex in school is no recent phenomenon”), the detractors (“there are more important things, like our sagging economy”), and the misguided (“it’s just righteous indignation”).
Years past, children were taught and encouraged to be children, growing up in anticipation of being adult and then doing mature things. Children were allowed to be children –– nurtured in good habits and set examples of proper public behaviour, like respect for self, decency and an appreciation of other people’s space and property.
Today, buoyed by a misbelief that children are now more naturally mature in thinking (because they are technologically savvy), parents and guardians expose their charges to all manner of ill-suited music and conversations –– to a great extent sexual in content or flavour –– confusing the young ones as to their true role and purpose, and thwarting their proper and positive development.
And it does not help that the more senior citizens among us will seek escape in the concept that this growing misconduct among our children is just a fad, and that like many things in vogue will fade away with time. The truth is more children are committing offences today than they did 74 years ago, and with greater intensity, for all the advances in education and career counselling we boast.
There is a principle among some child behaviour experts that your charges may stop a bad habit if you ignore it. While we hold that as codswallop, we will take their position that consistency in your reaction to your child’s behaviour is important since rewarding and punishing the same conduct at different times confuse the child.
This, regrettably is what some of our more liberal community leaders and commentators are doing in the stances they take on this burning issue of sex in schools, and other deviant behaviour.
Clearly, ignoring the dilemma we face with our youth will not stop their unwanted behaviour –– neither in the short or long term. When unacceptable conduct occurs, like suspended schoolchildren travelling through the rain from St Lucy to the Ministry of Education in Bridgetown to complain for their principal, the offending students ought to be told their behaviour is inadmissible and warned they ought not to do it again. Disciplinary authority should not be undermined!
Children who are made to understand that inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated, and that good behaviour and obedience to authority are rewarded may come to grasp skills they will bear with them through life.
The last thing we need is the Ministry of Education being an accessory to the power struggle between student and principal. We are still waiting to exhale on the Darryl Jordan Secondary School issue.
It seems the suspended Darryl Jordan students didn’t see the principal’s punishment as a means of stopping their lateness to school, and as any reason for change in behaviour, and thus unnecessary. The ministry had an obligation to explain to them their inappropriate behaviours –– that they might return to the good.