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School CP - January 1998

Bermuda Sun, 23 January 1998


Let's smarten up here!

WE CANNOT undo the past, merely draw lessons from it.

The UBP's worst mistake has been its handling of the young. This Government, with its "bleeding heart" philosophy, has given into them time and time again. It has virtually ceded the store to those who can't spell mortgage and don't know the meaning of responsibility.

It has provided: (a) a very expensive secondary school to ensure equal opportunity; (b) a grand college offering associate degree status at minimal student cost; (c) a growing stadium that approaches Olympic proportions.

It has added: (d) a raft of wholesome summer activities; (e) millions of dollars in financial aid to study abroad; (f) free medical coverage and, finally, (g) the vote at 18.

In response, youngsters have: (a) caused considerable damage at CedarBridge during its first term; (b) remained too illiterate to take full advantage of tertiary courses; (c) underutilized sporting facilities, while others with some talent have twice let down the side when representing Bermuda away.

In addition, they have: (d) slouched around in $100 sneakers "fixing" bikes, getting into mischief and complaining that there's nothing to do, instead of participating in out-of-school programmes and sensible hobbies; (e) taken criminal behaviour overseas under the guise of studying; (f) continued to produce unwanted babies at the public charge and, finally, (g) shown little interest in the political process -- though 1998 may see a change that is not to the UBP's advantage.

As we should have expected, the youngsters have asked for, and now demand, still greater latitude. They are holding the Government (and any parents that they may have) to ransom. It's a spin-off from the Oliver Twist syndrome: Ask for more and some idiot in this affluent society will provide it, so that you don't become a "problem" while we're all out there making money.

Of course, I should not be generalizing because the clear majority of our young are as sensible, literate and law-abiding as ever. Trouble is, the percentage on the other side is increasing. Bad apples are spoiling more and more of the rest in the barrel.

It's the three or four hellions who (since the late '60s) have been disrupting a class of 20 and making it almost impossible to teach or learn. It's the two dozen or so, deeply involved in the drug culture, who are now promoting gangsterism amongst their idle and impressionable peers. We saw in 1968, '70 and again in '77 that it only takes a hundred or two "souped up" teenagers to cause a riot.

Right now, the community and its economy are being steadily undermined by vicious assaults with offensive weapons and an increasing incidence of youthful murders.

Government and the PLP (which may well inherit this mess) are anxious to talk with the young, but it's probably too late for that since both political parties already have youth wings. Maybe, it's even too late for remedial action since we've drifted along with capital punishment, but never used in 20 years, while we retain corporal punishment for naughty boys, though any serious incident that might merit it is turned into a "federal case" and so it's not used either.

I believe in discipline for the young, applied fairly and evenly. Funnily enough, that's what children want too. They need to know how far they can go and the adult response if they decide to go further.

In my opinion, here are a few things that should have happened long ago. (a) A standard code of conduct for all middle and secondary schools that is handed out to the students and publicly displayed, and which has an asterisk against those infractions for which any boy (you don't strike girls) should expect to be caned immediately.

(b) A summer (8-weeks) of National Service for all able-bodied boys and girls of age 18 (17 if academically advanced) at a weekly basic wage in any of the uniformed services or Public Works projects.

(c) No one under 18 to be permitted in any night spot or the bar area of a social club (police spot checks, arrests and club fines).

(d) Anyone under 18 found by the police in a public place after midnight to be arrested and held until released to a parent. (Even Cinderella was home by twelve).

(e) Any girl under 18 who conceives, to have the pregnancy terminated by the local medical authorities forthwith.

The reasons for these suggestions should be obvious to all readers.

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Colin Farrell