Passing the ethics buck
Children need to learn ethics, says Kgalema Motlanthe. Agreed, but who is showing them the way?
‘We may need to begin exploring creative ways of introducing subjects related to ethics into our school curriculum very early in the development of the learner,’ said Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, giving a lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand this week.
I applaud the Deputy President for speaking out against corruption. But take a look at your child’s teacher and ask yourself: is this the person who should be tasked with instilling ethics into our society? Yes, teachers - like all of us - have a role to play, but shouldn’t the driving force in that area be the people in our country’s leadership positions?
It’s already in classrooms in a way, woven into the life skills curriculum.
According to the Department of Basic Education’s Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement: ‘Life Skills deals with the holistic development of the learner throughout his childhood. It equips learners with knowledge, skills and values that assist them to achieve their full physical, intellectual, personal, emotional and social potential.’ (My italics)
The biggest problem with asking teachers to teach ethics is the social environment. It’s like asking teachers to extol the virtues of vegetarianism at a braai festival.
It seems a big task to require teachers to instil ethics into children in a society in which their parents may be faced with a traffic officer asking for a bribe, and where daily headlines scream about corruption in high places. Or where the parents themselves may be stealing from their workplace and ducking taxes.
It’s all down to the parents, of course it is. Yes, teachers should make an effort to demonstrate and encourage ethical behaviour. But what is said and done at home will be the deciding factor.
And it will be wonderful when parents can comfortably point to our political leaders and say: ‘You see, my child, good values and ethics are a way of life in our country.’
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