Teach children virtues not values – An Excellent Letter.

 

 

Teach children virtues not values
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 1 comment

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Dear Editor,
Why is anyone surprised by the contradictions in the call by a former prime minister to revisit an aborted campaign of his tenure to promote “values and attitudes”? What’s ever balanced in Jamaica?

I paused from reading Grist for the Mills by eminent former public servant Professor Gladstone Mills to write this letter. In a chapter about life as a boarder at Jamaica College (JC), Mills, on the one hand, wrote: “It was an age (1930s) when great emphasis was placed on traditional values — integrity, sportsmanship, fair play, discipline, courtesy, and good manners.” He wrote, on the other hand, that: “Our physical preparation for sport was supplemented by the perennial practice of rising very early — sometimes not long after midnight — pillow case in hand, to raid mangoes from the vast Bombay Estate which extended from Hope Road opposite the JC front fence.”

I paused from reading Grist for the Mills by eminent former public servant Professor Gladstone Mills to write this letter. In a chapter about life as a boarder at Jamaica College (JC), Mills, on the one hand, wrote: “It was an age (1930s) when great emphasis was placed on traditional values — integrity, sportsmanship, fair play, discipline, courtesy, and good manners.” He wrote, on the other hand, that: “Our physical preparation for sport was supplemented by the perennial practice of rising very early — sometimes not long after midnight — pillow case in hand, to raid mangoes from the vast Bombay Estate which extended from Hope Road opposite the JC front fence.”

Yielding to the temptation to indulge in the midnight sport of praedial larceny was quite easy, despite the emphasis on values. Even the headmaster had a conspicuous vice. According to Mills: “While most boys were mercilessly beaten, others, a select group, mainly white or light-skinned, were privileged in the type of punishment they received. The headmaster kept a light piece of board in his study, using it to pat such boys on the back with the admonition: ‘Naughty boy, you should not do this again’.” The patent double standard is a feature of the examples learned by national leaders like the former PM and Mills from those entrusted with the task, in schools, even in churches, of moulding an impressionable child’s character.

Values are deceiving, culturally specific and subjective, no less so when an iconic corporation includes them in its much-advertised corporate mission statement.

Contrastingly, virtues are the real proof of good character. They include, among them charity or love, compassion, faithfulness, forgiveness or pardon, patience or tolerance, understanding and trust.

Every one of us, being just ordinary humans, yields to temptation of one sort or another daily. It may be over-indulgence, fabrication of deceiving tales, pretension, harbouring malice, plotting murder and executing it, or whatever else. Some of us lie with a straight face and kill with a cold heart even as we parade under a public veneer of righteousness and judge and condemn others.

When we yield, inevitably, to temptation, it is virtue that will come to our aid to deliver us from our evil and ‘restore our soul’. Virtue, also, will restrain us from doing further evil. So teach children virtue.

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow as night follows day, how canst thou then be false to anyone?”

H W Dennis
Mona

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