EDITORIAL - Coping with violence in our schools
We should not be overly surprised by the recent incidence of violence, now seemingly and happily abated, among some of our schoolchildren. Yes, we concede that this phenomenon is a frightening development that speaks to a failure somewhere in our praxis of citizenship, and the chosen mode of effecting violence, through the instrumentality of the knife, is frankly alarming.
Yet we should remind ourselves that Barbados is essentially a violent society, where in spite of our treaty obligations, calls for the use of the cat on, and execution of convicted criminals by hanging are still defended and viewed as warranted. Indeed, the school itself is a place where violence in the form of corporal punishment is freely used to effect a variety of reformist solutions from indiscipline to misconduct to ignorance. It would be only natural therefore for a pupil who believes that he or she has been offended in some way to seek to defend his or her “honour” by the use of violence towards the protagonist. Perhaps we should thank goodness that guns are not as freely available here as in some jurisdictions elsewhere.
At the same time, we must not believe that all hope of a gentler, more amicable existence is lost forever. It is here that the parents have a pivotal role to play by training their charges to think more deeply of the effects of their actions upon others and their loved ones. We do not believe that a youngster who resorts to the use of a knife would have contemplated the various probable scenarios that might ensue from that criminal action. A slight miscalculation in the amount of force used or in the intended placement of the stab may result in the death of the victim, with all that that unfortunate event might entail for the deceased’s bereaved relatives, friends and acquaintances. This is to say nothing of the consequences for the assailant with equal remorse on the part of his or her relatives, friends and acquaintances or of the consequential calumny upon the school.
That this remedy requires a re-education of the pupil demonstrates the enormity of the task we face, but for those raised on a diet of selfish behaviour and a glaring absence of the use of reason to resolve differences of perception, it will be necessary to infuse a regimen of modes of conflict resolution strategies and practised selflessness.
The view has been advanced and as stoutly resisted by officialdom and others that there should exist some prophylactic means, such as metal detectors, to prevent the possession of knives in the school or classroom. In our view, this is to misapprehend the nature of the problem we face. Once there is the intention to do harm to one’s fellow pupil, this may be effected as easily by a sharpened ruler, or the sharp end of a compass or protractor as by a knife. Indeed, a broken bottle would be equally destructive.
Still others have offered the proposition that even more discipline, as that term is commonly understood here, is needed to counteract the problem. Given our perception that this might itself have been contributory to the problem in the first place, we do not support that view.
No, in such circumstances, the clear solution is to remove the will to do harm. This will require, as we have advanced earlier, re-education and a renewed mindset on the part of all those involved in the rearing of our youth. There is no other immediately practicable way, we submit.