I was disappointed, but not surprised, to read of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) response to last Friday's Cincinnati shootings. We were assured that there were sufficient surveillance technologies and safety officers in place.
One expected that the MOE's response would include strategies for bringing about behaviour change in the population so that our people would be less inclined to act in ways that would bring pain and suffering to others.
Indeed, the White Paper (1993) on Education, adopted in the past as a guide to educational policy, informs us that the education system of T&T is expected "to establish and maintain the ethical and moral values necessary for civilised …relationships .. in our society (p. vii).
We have focused (with limited success) on preparation for work, and for further education, and have neglected purposeful and effective instruction in living in peace and harmony.
I am not speaking of the lecture-based instruction in "life skills" and the nonsensical "etiquette" projects that privileged individuals have foisted on the nation. I am referring instead to well-designed initiatives that use practical learning tasks to engage students in real-life activities that can induct them into practices that will shape their consciences positively, so that they will experience remorse and guilt from the mere contemplation of hurting others.
Some may argue that this should be part of the upbringing provided by parents, but I believe that notwithstanding the many capable parents around, there is an increasing majority who are incapable of aligning the moral compasses of their children.
In this situation the education system should exercise its mandate in providing experiences to all students, from kindergarten to university, to shape their consciences positively and develop their appreciation for ethical conduct. We should not embed this kind of moral development in religious education offerings, but treat it as a separate subject with its specific objectives and methodology. In other words, students should be involved in caring behaviour and should directly confront the consequences of violent behaviour, without preaching and sermonising.
If we neglect moral development the other school subjects become meaningless as preparation for life.
This is the kind of revolution that we need in our education system.
Our present curricula, from early childhood and beyond, neglect this imperative to make our population resilient to the enticements of criminal behaviour, and engender appreciation for moral and ethical conduct. The MOE needs to engage in serious curriculum reforms if we are to become a more civilised nation.