Letters & Opinion

Man Was Born Tabula Rasa: A Philosophy of Education in Relation To Violence and Crime in St. Lucia (Part 1)

By Sylvestre Phillip

THE situation of violence and crime in St. Lucia is dire and unless we come together as a people to do something about it immediately, St. Lucia and St. Lucians will pay dearly for our inaction.

This article is intended to look at some of the social situations which fuel violence and, ultimately, crime.

The philosopher, Aristotle, theorised that “Man was born Tabula Rasa”. A simple interpretation of the theory is that man was born without any prior knowledge or perception; he or she was born as a blank slate or tablet. Indeed, it is as he or she perceives of his or her environment and gains knowledge of the real world that a set of habitual behaviours, cognitions, and emotional patterns evolve. By cognition, I mean the process of knowing or of learning; relating to the mind. Many educators and social workers are familiar with the theory.

I would like to begin this investigation by looking at Stephen Paddock. Paddock has been identified as the gunman who recently opened fire on concertgoers at a country music festival in Las Vegas, United States of America. Investigators have worked exceedingly hard to find a motive for his behaviour. There are some things they already know about him. It has been learned that he was a rich man, a multi-millionaire. However, and perhaps very importantly, he was from a broken home.

Notwithstanding that he was rich, the emotional scars brought about by the broken home may have been with him for the rest of his life. This is a psychological phenomenon that many people have not quite understood. Paddock may have been a very good man, but the traumatic experience brought about by the breaking up of the home that may have had a positive impact on his life could have been the main contributor to his anti-social behaviour.

If we research it, we would be surprised to find out that there are many Stephen Paddocks in St. Lucia. Children from many broken homes who are aching: going through a lot of emotional stress. Many of them may now be sitting behind ‘bars’. We in St. Lucia are very lucky that we have not had a situation like that of Las Vegas. But we don’t know — it may very well be round the corner.

I wish to take the opportunity to focus on two institutions in St. Lucia which may very well provide potential disaster in St. Lucia. I refer to the Wellness Centre and Victoria Hospital. Now I have many relatives and friends who work at both institutions. Most importantly, I admire the hard work and dedication of the many Health Care Providers at the two institutions. But we need to come face to face with a reality which exists at both institutions.

Today, many families bring their loved ones to both of these institutions and, whether you want to believe it or not, they turn their backs and never return to see about those admissions long after they have been discharged. The situation is that those persons occupy the beds needed for other potential admissions up to nine months and, in one case that I know of, up to a year after the patient had been discharged.

In many cases, the institutions call the Homes for assistance. But in the absence of any help, they put them out of the institution. I mean on the streets! Our St. Lucian people are thrown on the streets with no one to care for them and without food or medical care. That’s what it is and we can’t sugar-coat it!

No doubt, those people will develop a fierce aggression in those circumstances and may be a threat to our society. Could you imagine a patient with some mental health issue being thrown onto the streets without any personal attention or care? Aggression promotes violence and violence feeds crime or criminal activity. If those people have easy access to guns, can you perceive what’s going to happen?

St. Lucy’s Home has been a refuge for many patients of Victoria Hospital. We owe it to our brothers and sisters to provide a place of rest, meals and excellent physical care. But that Home cannot absorb everybody. In fact, the Home was not designed to admit persons from the hospital whose family members have left them there for dead! (In a subsequent article, I will offer suggestions as to what could be done to ameliorate the negative effects of the environment for our people.)

Youth violence is a significant public health problem in our schools today. A lot of our students are very angry and they have no idea how to deal with that anger. Only a few days ago, I was speaking to an experienced teacher from one of our secondary schools in St. Lucia. She told me that a teacher from one of the classes in the school was going around looking at her students’ books to see whether they had understood the concept that she had taught, all in an effort to help them.

But a male student decided that he did not want the teacher to see his book and communicated that to her. Could you imagine that! Believing that it was a joke, the teacher decided to take the boy’s book to check what he was doing. The student pulled the book from the teacher in such a rage that she almost fell to the ground. Indeed, she was traumatised by that action.

Our schools are laden with angry children. Children with a lot of “baggage”. Youth violence which typically involves fights, bullying, threats with weapons and gang-related violence. These young people probably started as very good individuals .But somewhere along the way, perhaps because of how they are treated at home, the immediate community in which they live, the influence of peers and a host of other reasons, children who were born ‘Tabula Rasa’ become notorious criminals.

The things we say and how we say them; the things we do and how we do them; the non-verbal cues and how they receive them, the responses we provide to our children and those in our care are all very important variables in the concept of cognition and the lasting effects they convey to humans.

In conclusion, it must be understood that everything which occurs in the environment — social, educational, emotional and physical — would have an effect on how an individual perceives, or gains knowledge of, the real world around him or her. I spent 42 years in our education system and I’m happy to be able to give back to St. Lucia through this series of articles which I hope would be instructive.

1 Comment

  1. It is a Spiritual invasion of evil visited on our Nation. Some will deny it but it’s true.
    There can be no way of defeating that stronghold, not by Police or the Law or crying
    but only through shouts of GRACE to the matter: by the Grace of Almighty God, as it is
    said in ZECHARIAH 4 : 6,7.not by might, nor by power.but by my spirit,says the Lord of Hosts.
    We all have tried everything, but have we tried (the ultimate power) the power of the Almighty God?

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