The Italian Marxist theoretician and politician Antonio Gramsci, who had been jailed by the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini, wrote in one of his many prison notebooks: “Common sense is a chaotic aggregate of disparate conceptions, and one can find there anything that one like[s].”
It would seem that Gramsci was looking into the future and seeing Springer Memorial School. Except, it would seem, common sense has taken a long holiday in the ongoing “wrapper controversy”.
It has been eight weeks since a 14-year-old student has been barred from attending classes at the Government Hill learning institution. Her sole transgression was her refusal to pick up a wrapper when ordered to by a teacher, making it clear that her mother had not sent her to school to pick up garbage.
We do not know what sort of attitude the teenager adopted in her response, but let us for a moment imagine the worst-case scenario and say that she was rude. But hasn’t she been punished enough?
How did such a simple issue escalate into such an ugly tragedy? Why can’t intelligent adults put aside their intransigence, settle the matter and have the child back in class?
After all, while the school and the mother stand their ground and the Ministry of Education seems impotent, a 14-year-old is being deprived of her right to an education.
Amid the chaos and disparate notions, common sense is lost after all, and all sides are finding anything they like from the situation, which has degenerated into a circus without a ringleader.
We are not attempting to point fingers, but reason must prevail. Having suspended the child for a week, it was unreasonable for the school to demand that she must pick up litter for which she was not responsible, before being allowed back. The child was punished. Get on with it!
Schools are about learning, not irrational punishment; and teaching must be Springer’s primary concern.
What lessons was the school teaching the children in its care? Was Springer telegraphing to the students that it did not matter whether or not a transgressor served time for wrongdoing, he/she ought not to be forgiven and must face continuous punishment?
If the school wanted to teach the students a lesson about cleanliness, upon seeing the wrapper, the teacher at the genesis of this cruel charade would have picked it up, deposited in the refuse bin, then proceed to share a lesson or two with the students present about keeping their surroundings clean and pride in their school.
Would this not have been a much better lesson? And let us not forget that the child being punished was not the one who allegedly left the wrapper on the ground.
Instead, what we see is a level of intransigence that has resulted in much scratching of heads.
Parental advisor Shelley Ross has described this attitude as an abuse of power.
The child’s mother is not without blemish either. She has repeatedly complained that her daughter is suffering, both academically and psychologically. She could have ended this a long time ago by explaining to her daughter that she was right to refuse to pick up the wrapper, but that it would make her no less of a person if she made the point but proceeded to pick it up anyway. Instead, she will not give an inch.
Sadly, the Ministry of Education allowed this situation to get out of hand.
Just last week, Minister of Education Ronald Jones called for cooler heads to prevail. Mr Jones and his team at the ministry had a responsibility to resolve this matter in an amicable manner.
The arbitrary attempts to transfer the child, first to Daryll Jordan Secondary School and later, to Ellerslie Secondary School, has left much to be desired.
The child’s mother has asked for meetings with the ministry. That she has yet to be heard is unfortunate and shameful.
She has asked for a say in where her daughter will be transferred to, but has apparently been told by the lack of a response to get lost. Clearly, neither the school nor the ministry heard the minister’s plea, and Mr Jones neglected to take his own advice.
In Gramsci’s Prison Notebook, he also wrote: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
In this crisis, the morbid symptoms have appeared in the muscle flexing by the school, the demonstration of power by the ministry and the lack of tack displayed by the mother. They all may feel better. However, a 14-year-old is tonight in limbo, left without a school and deprived of an education.
It would be a terrible shame if by their action they hinder the birth of something new for this child.
It is high time that all involved put aside their grossly, overinflated egos and agree that enough is enough. It is high time the child is returned to school and has some normality restored to her life.