“DON’T be fooled by those who say such things, for ‘bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33; NLT).
The title of the article, “Walk Away From Bad Company: Training the Youth to Make Wise Choices” is consistent with one of my values that I, as an educator and a citizen of this country, Saint Lucia, share with you: I am a firm believer that teachers teach children, not subject areas. By that I mean we must train children who will be the leaders of tomorrow. And we must train our young children to take their rightful place in society, to encourage them to be decent, helpful, protectors of our environment, and be thinking individuals who will be able to cope reasonably with the massive changes that are affecting our society. We need to remember, always, that children’s emotional, physical, and social well-being are paramount, and the main thrust of elementary education, in particular, is the youngster’s healthy development (Kirman, 2007).
“Walk Away From Bad Company…” is not a subject area. It is a statement that reveals God’s words of wisdom to every woman, man, boy, and girl, as clearly viewed above. What this means is that the Bible challenges us to consider the kind of company we keep, and their impact on our character.
Many students are introduced to bad company or the gang culture at a very young age, and there are many reasons why they do. Let us view two major categories: stress in the home resulting from economic instability, unstable/broken home, low education attainment and expectations, seeking an identity, and family member in a gang, among others. The other is stress in the school which occurs, generally, when a teacher(s) says to her class of students who show little to no interest in their school work, “You learn, I get paid; you don’t learn, I get paid.” Very often, students may transfer their low self-image to their work, and not try to do better. They view themselves as not being good, so why should their work be any good. Kirman (2007) asserts that if a child has a low self-image, it will be reflected in scholastic work, as well as in the manner in which he or she values. The author encourages teachers to try to learn about their students’ self-image as soon as possible in order to assist them in developing positive self-image.
I am of the view that teachers who embrace a personal philosophy and values that can potentially lead students to join a bad company or gang–paving the way to self- and societal-destruction–should definitely not be retained in the school system. These teachers themselves are a potential threat to the people’s children and society at large! With strategic planning and deliberation within the education system, drastic measures can be taken to identify the culprits in the first place, and to make necessary changes for the sake of the vulnerable youth.
Importantly, let us have some additional food for thought: where are the school counsellors who have been appointed in the various schools on the island for such a long time now to assist in students’ career trajectory? Does it make sense to pull struggling students out of their academic classes to see the counsellors? If yes, then, there should be a significant improvement in the moral and social fabric of the school system by now; is there? Are there improved student academic performances as a result of the counsellors’ interventions and initiatives? Counsellors, do you have a robust home-school-connection programme to rely on in your practice? Are you, counsellors, doing all within your jurisdiction to help ameliorate the moral and social aspects of the school system in the first place? As a concerned counsellor, have you ever addressed the entire school body (perhaps not in a one day-session) on making wise choices and, particularly, the dangers of being in a gang or following bad company? What is your take on these issues, Madam/Mr. principal? How do you, Madam/Mr. principal, ensure that your teachers and counsellors are not teaching or training “your” children to fail? Where is the Ministry of Education in the grand scheme of things? Hopefully, change is on its way.
Certainly, training the youth both theoretically and practically to make wise choices and decisions, for example, by walking away from bad company or a gang is one of the most important moral and social imperatives for raising standards in schools, homes and in human society. The time has come when we need to be vigilant in training students (from an early age) to select companies or friends by weighing the social, moral, political, economic, and educational gains of such relationship so that they do not end up regretting their actions. They may end in shame that may be difficult to remedy. There are many youths of the nation who came from good homes, but ended up on the streets of Castries, for example, as “zombies” or at the Bordelais Correctional Facility–the only prison in Saint Lucia, simply, because they were not taught or trained to walk away from bad companies, gangs, or so-called friends.
To quote the Editorial (Saturday, November 19, 2022) in “An Open Letter to the Saint Lucia Youth,” a pertinent question is asked, “How do you build your character?” The Editor asserts that the first thing one must do is to understand that you need help to do that, and that you need to seek God’s help first and foremost (Please see the Editorial for important details on this subject).
Truly, we must place a high premium on the wisdom of God delivered through the Bible that is superior to all other kinds of wisdom, as we seek solutions to the plethora of issues that confront schools and society today. This is the ONLY way out, believe it or not.
Therefore, all stakeholders in the field of education, including the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) must wake up to their responsibility of making sure that bad companies, groups, or gangs are eradicated from schools. It is in the interest of all of us.