June 24, 2011

School’s out, gangs in?


A heated discussion is raging in our society about the content of some soca songs for this year’s Carnival and their potential impact on our young people in respect of behaviour and morals. The debate seems to have prompted the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) to announce that they intend to exercise control over the songs to be played during this weekend’s Junior Carnival festivities.{{more}}

The announcement has created further controversy with Carnival patrons and parents taking differing views on the matter. There are those who are adamant that such strong action is needed, while others, though not necessarily in favour of lewd content, are of the view that such intervention is unnecessary and may not achieve the desired aim. Some in fact go as far as to argue that since the songs are going to be played on air and in the public domain any how, it makes no sense to censor the soca material played during Junior Carnival. But is this not like saying that since your children are going to hear people swear daily in public you should not forbid cursing at home?

The controversy has reached the stage where even the Police Service, at the very highest level, has found it necessary to express its disapproval and come out in support of some form of censorship. The problem with enforcing such control is that it is virtually impossible in a free-for-all democratic society. Most radio stations are privately owned and, save for breaches of the law, are free to play whatever music the disc jockeys desire. Individual freedoms have their limitations, and in the exercise of rights, we often ignore responsibilities.

Side by side with the concerns about immorality in Carnival, the society has to grapple with another unwelcome, and related, trend. We speak here of violent conduct, especially among our youth. Some years ago, the escalation of this development had caused the Police to institute weapon searches at Carnival time. Even in the nation’s schools, this trend reared its ugly head, and some schools have had to institute security measures.

Recently there have been reports of gang violence in schools, not new, mind you, but clearly a resurgence of a negative phenomenon affecting schools in the so-called western world. It has reached the stage where even teachers no longer feel safe at school and are targets of attacks, not only from students, but outsiders, and, ominously, in some cases, parents as well. This does not bode well either for our educational system, or for the social and moral health of the society as a whole.

It is a frightening development which must be addressed honestly and openly by all concerned. We have a tendency to try to duck from such unpleasant incidents and to try to sweep them under the carpet. Unfortunately, they do not disappear just like that. It calls for a concerted effort on the part of all – schools, teachers, education officials, parents, the law-enforcement agencies and the society as a whole to save us from this moral and societal degradation. The scourge of gang violence has already cost us dearly in the wider society, with many young men losing their lives in the process. We simply cannot afford for it to further contaminate our schools.