THE EDUCATED UNEDUCATED: Correct them with a light cane
THE article by A. Kathirasen "Rise of the educated uneducated" (NST, May 31) was not only good reading, but it has also generated a discussion on the subject.
The younger generation, that is, the "educated uneducated" (I would call them uneducated literates) who read the column would not appreciate the writer's meaning as they do not know what life was like 40 to 60 years ago.
One needs to compare the present with past to realise the decay that has taken place in society. It is overall decay: the fast food and junk food illnesses that people suffer from; the sedentary life that many practise; the many causes of stress; the moral and ethical values that have been thrown out of the window; the neighbourliness that is hard to find; entertainment with negative values that people enjoy; and the indifferent, aggressive, uncultured behaviour that inflicts society.
To those who can make a comparisons with the past, society has suffered tremendous decay; to those who cannot make such comparison, but are practising unacceptable behaviour through no fault of theirs, life is normal.
The latter group would ask: "What is wrong with the way I behave? I learnt to be like this from the examples around me. I imitated what I saw and heard, at home, in school and around me.
"When I was learning this behaviour, nobody said I should not follow such behaviour, and ensured that I did not.
"When, as an adult, I practised what I had learnt as a child and what came naturally to me, why did you condemn my behaviour, when I knew no other one?"
About 30 years ago, a teenager was charged in a Malaysian court for committing a criminal offence. When he was sentenced, his parents cried.
He told them not to cry for him, but to cry for themselves, as they had not corrected him when he misbehaved as a boy.
This was reported in the press. Was the teenager being insolent towards his parents, who had raised him, cared for him and loved him? The answer is no.
He spoke from his heart and was correct. Were his parents to blame?
Yes, if they had known that his naughtiness could have led him to become an aggressive, uncultured, even criminally-inclined person, but took no action to correct him.
No, if they were ignorant of the way children learnt things, acquired habits and behaviour and did not have the knowledge and skills to take action.
There is a school of thought that states that it's the responsibility of parents to raise their children to become cultured, civilised adults.
It dismisses suggestions of schools being held responsible.
I beg to differ. Parenting skills do not come naturally.
It is not something boys and girls are born with and which will come into play when they become adults.
Parenting skills have to be learnt. Where and how do parents learn parenting skills?
Parenting is not just about providing shelter, food, clothes and sending them to school and tuition classes.
It is about the development of the child, that is, his mental, physical and emotional health, his value system, his schooling and his recreation.
Having children is a straightforward matter, but raising them is not.
There is a high failure rate among parents to raise children to grow up to become like Kathirasen's gentleman on a Raleigh bicycle; my father, too, had one and I used to ride it a lot.
In the good old days of living in extended family homes, skills were handed down from the elders, and young parents had informal on-the-job training in child raising.
Today, they no longer have the benefit of on-the-job parenting training. This vacuum, therefore, needs to be filled.
This is true, but how and by whom?
The social and moral diseases affecting the younger generation are rooted in their upbringing.
It is a tragedy that this is not recognised by those handling or working with children, or making policies affecting children.
For example, child misbehaviour is let off on the excuse that being young, they do not understand what they are doing, or that they are just being playful.
But as they grow older, they will begin to understand good and bad and change for the better. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is absurd to think that children will change as they mature.
On the contrary, misbehaviour that is not corrected as soon as it manifests itself, regardless of the age of the child, is repeated over and over and gets embedded in the body and mind and follows the child into adulthood.
Thus, to misbehaving adults, it is normal and natural behaviour.
Another serious misconception is that any physical punishment of a misbehaving child is offensive and violates the child's rights.
One must remember that the child also has the right to be brought up as a well-behaved, cultured person.
The child cannot articulate this right, neither does he know of it at the critical character-forming age, or even during his lifetime.
So, how is this right of children to be brought up as "educated people" to be carried out, when the children themselves are unaware of those people?
Similarly, children are unaware of their right to be given medical attention when they are ill, but this we do. We are even prepared to let them be operated on.
The difference is that an illness is obvious, and the result of treatment is also seen quickly.
Character development is a different kettle of fish and it takes many years.
Everything that children do, is allowed to do and imitate, has a cumulative effect on their character development. The results become obvious when these children reach adulthood.
Society then becomes saddled with a generation of "educated uneducated", and from then on, goes into a chain reaction that produces further generations of "educated uneducated".
It is a tragedy that some people, like doctors who can influence public opinion and action with theories about child rearing, have condemned spanking to check child misbehaviour.
This is not to be confused with violent spanking of children.
One example is Dr Benjamin Spock's book, Dr Spock's Baby and Child Care, published in 1952, that made spanking look like a despicable act.
What followed after people took his advice has turned out to be a tragedy of enormous proportions.
The Malaysian "educated uneducated" are part of this global tragedy.
More than 20 years after the publication of his book, seeing the generation of children brought up according to his prescription, Dr Spock regretted having propounded the theory that spanking was an uncivilised way of correcting child misbehaviour.
Sixty years later, the magnitude of its destructive, multiplier effect has set some people taking a serious look at today's society and its young, whose parents were taught child upbringing by the book.
As a result, the centuries' old use of spanking is promoted again in none other than the United States.
There is a good paper titled "The Science And Statistics Behind Spanking Suggest That Laws Allowing Corporal Punishment Are In The Best Interest Of The Child" by Jason M. Fuller.
It should be read by all those who think that spanking is a devilish thing to do.
Finally, it needs to be stressed that schools, mainly primary schools, are the place to inculcate good values in children as that is the best time to do so.
The cane was used in schools for a long time, not on everyone, but on the few who had no respect for school rules.
Teachers did it out of love for the children, for they wanted the children to grow up to be well-behaved people, regardless whether they got 10As or 10Fs.
Character development was a core responsibility of schools of the past.
This required principals and teachers to be skilled in child character development, but none seems to have this skill these days, and the lack of political will to arrest the problem of problematic children in the schools does not help.
That schools have abdicated the responsibility of character training is the mother of all tragedies in the area of the development of a nation of educated persons.
A light cane in the hands of a properly-trained person is indispensable in correcting child misbehaviour during the critical formative years.
The education reform that the government is embarking on is meaningless if the core area of a child's education is not addressed in a way that produces positive results.
Moral Education, an examination subject, has been a big slap in the face of those who introduced it to produce a society with good moral values.
Like Dr Spock, we should have the guts to admit that a grave wrong has been done with the demonising of spanking as a vital medicine to correct child misbehaviour when other methods fail.
What is needed is to train parents and teachers on the proper use of this tool, not the banning of it.
The culprit in child abuse cases is the wielder of the cane, and not the light cane.
By the way, even bare hands can be used to abuse children.
The abuser is the one that needs counselling or psychiatric treatment.
Do we have the political will to make our schools the character- training grounds they were half a decade ago?
No political party has come up with proposals on this issue. Is it not of national importance?