Wednesday 4th October, 2006

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Cussing in class

The recent furore over the obscene words in a novel used as a textbook in schools is symptomatic of the quantum drop in standards which has hit our beloved country.

I wonder if anyone of our social scientists, psychologists or any of the other “ists” could put a time frame on when this sad dip began.

Maybe by so doing we can trace the source of its origin, thereby arriving at a solution to this serious problem, as I would describe it.

The amazing feature of this controversy was the distasteful fact that it became one in the first place.

Perhaps I am being naive, old-fashioned, or downright not “with it” and I should shed any semblance of a sense of morality and join the rest of the crowd who feel that in this society anything goes.

My gut feeling in this affair should have been guided by one fundamental fact—what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. No grey area in this context.

Try as I might I just couldn’t see how I could side with those who see nothing morally wrong with children just barely out of their teens using the “f” word as a normal part of their school work.

In this group supportive of this unholy development are a wide cross section of the community and, most unfortunately, mothers and fathers of these very same children.

Their main argument for accepting the use of the “f” word in The Humming-Bird Tree is that the children are in any case accustomed to the use of obscenities in their every day environment…in public places, in the cinema, on the television, perhaps even among themselves at school.

That to me is so basically flawed and skewed in its logic.

If it is okay for them to be exposed to that kind of vulgarity in the name of literary licence, then no one could chastise or otherwise punish them if they take it outside their classroom.

Children, the truism goes, live what they learn.

If it is cool for the students to be exposed in a direct manner to the cuss words then it would be okay to drop the charge of using obscene language from the statute books.

With this being the status quo, no police should arrest anyone—including schoolchildren—for bussing a cuss anywhere they chose, left, right and centre.

Students would be allowed to refer to these words in conversations in their classrooms with teachers.

Like, for example, “Miss, Johnson thief me ----ing pen.” Miss cannot admonish the student because that is what they are being exposed to—in the classroom. See how ridiculous it can get?

If it is cool to excuse it in the classrooms by saying they are already exposed to it via the mass media then let us as parents or guardians drop any pretence of trying to instil in our charges any sense of morality.

If we are saying it is cool to teach our children the “proper” use of cuss words (that is what you are saying in effect), then let us embark on a free-for-all.

It is cool to use them anywhere, anytime. After all, we are living in “modern times” so we have to do things in a modern way.

So good moral upbringing is a thing of the past. We have to be hip by discarding those virtues which indicate we are a bit more civilised than those animals which inhabit the forests.

I read with disgust most of the commentaries on this matter and I was deeply shocked by the contributions of people like Prof Selwyn Cudjoe.

He professes to be pro-black but he makes me wonder if in his attempt to be “guardian” of the blacks, he is not turning the same blacks away because of his sometimes myopic views.

But that is an aside for the time being.

I must commend the authorities at the Central Bank for banning the play which was to be staged by a Surinamese group last week.

The manager of the team bluntly refused to take out the cuss words as requested, pleading again that excuse for promoting immorality—theatrical freedom.

We as a developing nation must decide once and for all what kind of society we are leaving for our children.

One that is built on the principles of freedom with responsibility or one with no regard for decency and civilised behaviour

I found it incomprehensible that the Ministry of Education sought to put the blame on the textbook committee for having it recommended for classrooms.

I checked with the ministry last Friday and was told that the book was being removed on the instructions of the ministry and the situation was being monitored to ensure they were in fact being removed.

That is good news but why did it have to reach this sorry stage?

We must ensure that the people who we put in charge of our country are discharging their responsibilities in a manner that would make them worthy of that onerous and sacred responsibility.






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