By Odimegwu Onwumere
Since the family front in Nigeria has been weakened by a lot of factors associated with the modern times, school is one place that children should learn most of their characters, apart from religious organisations.
The early knowledge they acquire in the school dispose them to being what they become in the society. They are much concerned about what they were indoctrinated with than upholding social norms and ties, as the society sees. This is how ‘it is my life to live’ was born to characterise the world today, even when somebody is doing the wrong thing.
The indoctrinations in school culminate to overemphasis on individual rights, which sometimes cause disrespect in the area where respect was supposed to be applied. Many people today have different certificates/qualifications they acquired from school but their behaviours do not portray them as people who have seen the four walls of any school. They do not apply the matrix that outside the home there are rules and regulations. They behave the way they like. This is of serious concern.
Martin Luther King Jr., who was a Baptist minister and social activist that led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968, saw the behaviours of some persons and warned that intelligence plus character is the goal of true education. He did not say that holding multiple university degrees, expensive and expansive houses plus costly cars are the true essence of going to school; or frauding. No.
It is obvious that the indoctrinations that we acquire in school affect many in the negative way. Many did not know that the day they entered school began their indoctrination process. Doris Lessing in “The Golden Notebook” warns us in this aspect, saying, we have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be.
Lessing continues that you are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgments. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being molded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.
It is very sad that in the school, we are rarely taught to understand virtues and values, but physics, mathematics, English Language, religious studies, chemistry and so on. These are the main influences that control our lives and not virtues and values, which many people in the modern times see the later as belonging to the primordial. They speak especially the English Language very well without character to show for their fluency.
It is imperative to state that the schools in this country do not mold people to understanding their moral identity, character formation, and letting people understand who they are; instead they are taught to believe in what they are. ‘Who you are’ is not the doctor or engineer you are. ‘Who you are’ is the exhibition of trust, evenhandedness, caring and integrity that make up your character.
Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), who was the 26th President of the United States (1901–1909) once said that to educate a person in the mind but not in morals is to educate a menace to society. Martha Graham (May 11, 1894 – April 1, 1991), also, an American, was a modern dancer and choreographer whose influence on dance has been compared with the influence Picasso had on the modern visual arts, was quoted as having the below lines:
“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”
While school was supposed to invite the perfection desired in tandem with the virtues and morals of the society, it does the contrary. It only functions as a facilitator of people into logics and not how people deal with the nuisance school aid them to create in the society. Ray Bradbury who was an American fantasy and horror author who died in Los Angeles on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91 reportedly rejected being categorised as a science fiction author. He admonished: “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries…”
Many graduates from different schools do not read as if they want to live forever, hence they do not develop fully as individuals with good character and high moral standard. Against this backdrop, it is left for the authorities to check if they would integrate character education and ethics into the country’s curriculum. The character to use the libraries sounds to many Nigerians as a tale from the moonlight. They prefer going to school and not, using the libraries for extensive knowledge acquisition. How people imbibe global perspectives threatens the perseverance of character education.
Mahatma Gandhi, considered as the father of the Indian independence movement saw the need for character education and he warned that “Seven Deadly Sins” are Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Science without humanity, Knowledge without character, Politics without principle, Commerce without morality, Worship without sacrifice…. But many of our schooled persons do not have character outside what they were taught in school. People just behave anyhow anywhere. This is why Abigail Van Buren warned that the best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.
To have a favourable future, we must know that there is no spirituality as good character. It is a sacrifice. One Helen Keller tells us that character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved…. We must accept and practice character, empowerment, love, pleasing, self-discovery, self-esteem, self-respect, truthfulness, wisdom…
We must stop struggling with the sensation of being schooled whereas we are sipping through the cracks of disorderliness; it worth the onus to change for profound characters and drop the shoddy ones. We should know that being schooled is different from values and that, character is commencement of facts and values. We should not forget the fact that values are the foundations for character.
If the school cannot teach us first the values before teaching us Mathematics and English Language in the context of molding us, then the society is served menace to preserve. We must discover our own ignorance, which should be first the progressive idea of going to school, while we aim for success and move forward with our lives.
One Epictetus says that school may have been – or still be – boring, a killer of creativity or downright awful for you. But education is still important because it opens the mind and expands it. And if your years in school were bad or boring you can still educate yourself now… It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows. Like Martin Luther King Jr. would say, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Odimegwu Onwumere, a Poet/Writer, writes from Rivers State.