By Kristen Gyles
Does the duty of passing down morals and values rest solely in the hands of parents? Or is this a job for our schools? Schools preach and teach what in their estimation is best for the development of students, just as churches preach and teach to their congregants what life choices they perceive as being most upright. All social institutions promote the values and ideologies they feel are of especial importance.
I have often queried the role of the school in child development and it seems as though there is some lack of clarity as to what the answer really is. Of course, some would posit that schools are holistic development systems designed to nurture children into success stories of intelligence, morality and social adaptability. Sounds great. But if this is the role of the school, what exactly is the role of the parent?
As we hear from time to time, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
The truth is that such an all-encompassing and impactful role can’t and perhaps shouldn’t be played by two distinct and unrelated parties, especially when the two parties don’t always see eye to eye. For example, a child who grows up in a household where their parents frown upon the idea of their hair being chemically treated will have a hard time understanding why the school has a ban on afros, locs and many other natural hairstyles, while all styles of processed hair are allowed.
The two messages conflict. Yet, the rationale given by the school as to why such a pervasive and dictatorial rule exists is that they are grooming young professionals for the world of work, which as we know is not particularly welcoming of many natural hairstyles. But, again, is this a reasonable undertaking by the school? Or is this simply an over-stepping of boundaries?
Within our cultural climate, I couldn’t neglect to point out that not only do many of our schools go above and beyond in indoctrinating students with their own narrow ideas of morality and virtue but many of our schools do our children a great deal of social harm in brainwashing them with some of the most Eurocentric and antiquated colonial mentalities. It is for this reason so many schools are still engaged in disputes with both students and parents over whether or not certain natural hairstyles are appropriate for school.
To go a little further, there are some Jamaican schools in which our Jamaican Patois had better not be heard nor spoken. That is, unless it is ‘Jamaica’ Day when the Patois can be freely showcased as nothing more than a gimmick for a good laugh.
These attempts to shield our students from our Jamaican language is just another clear example of so many schools overstepping their boundaries in seeking to provide moral and developmental guidance to students and instead doing nothing but ruining the sociocultural progress the country seeks to make.
Patois is a definitive cultural emblem that many Jamaicans take pride in. Why exactly would any school want to shut our students away from such a marked cultural emblem?
There is a certain kind of parental control that our schools take pride in exercising. It is what drives the need for schools to dictate everything to students – from what they should eat to what their hair should look like. I doubt this culture can in any way be a healthy one for students to be immersed in, especially when, the directives given by the school conflict with those given at home.
It is certainly nothing strange for our high schools to have rules that prohibit the wearing of coloured sweaters, or the wearing of hair extensions. It is commonplace for schools to prevent students from wearing lip gloss and to prevent them from wearing bantu knots as well as many other natural hairstyles.
It is about time we stop majoring in minors and focus on grooming our children for academic and intellectual greatness. Afterall, many schools are woefully lacking in this regard.
Kristen Gyles is an educator and freelance writer.