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Moral education, philosophy, values and ethics

Friday, March 9, 2018

Moral education at primary and secondary school levels should be encouraged as one possible way to prevent a future in which there would be a recurrence of the current challenges facing Trinidad and Tobago.

Moral education ought to include philosophy, values and ethics.

We live in an unhappy land. Nearly every national institution has become compromised. The late Professor Maxwell Richards’ 2008 Presidential inaugural address is spot on. He said in part:

“Economic deprivation is a powerful provocation to the failure of states. But in my capacity as Head of State I want to tell you that unless the institutions of the people are sound, coherent and, if you will, reading from the same page, we are not going to succeed.

“The evidence of failure is emblazoned in the media every day. We read of violence; we read of institutional failure; we read of social dislocation; we read of educational malaise in which children who are not stupid become failures and consequently increase our population of those who are considered anti-social.”

Teachers, priests and parents used to be our community leaders. They have been replaced by “the street”, a combination of the traditional media, the new social media, film, video, venality and violent criminal behaviour.

Whether we agree with him or not, Ras Shorty I sang that Trinidad and Tobago is in this sorry state because we “Pushed the Creator out”.

Teachers are now so disrespected that regardless of the work of the good ones, Peter pays for Paul and Paul pays for all.

I remember Machel Montano when he was junior monarch, 1984.

His calypso, Teachers footsteps, was no doubt a part of general sentiment. It was a serious indictment of the teaching profession.

This year, in his cry for parental leadership, Brian London sang “I playing police”.

There is already a draft “Core Curriculum Guide for strengthening morals and values education in educational institutions in Trinidad and Tobago” prepared by Dr Kwaku Senah, between 2002 and 2005.

One recommended book was Doreen Anderson’s Moral Education, A course intended to encourage high moral standards in our children…” It quoted precepts from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and the Bahai.

Unfortunately it does not mention anything about African faiths, local regional or continental.

The late chief servant Makandal Daaga proposed that ethics be introduced into the curriculum of the now defunct Elizabeths College in Tobago when Mr Embau Moheni, current NJAC deputy political leader was the principal.

Dr Walter Lipman started Philosophy for Children better known as P4C. He launched the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children (IAPC) at Montclair State University in 1974. The idea of philosophy for children has now spread to 50 countries.

In 2014 Matsephe Letseka wrote “Africanising Philosophy for Children (P4C) in the South African Context”. He mentioned that “scholars and intellectuals are in the forefront of advocacy of African philosophy as a basis for conceptions of education in (South) Africa. In 2000, the then minister of education South Africa, Professor Kadar Asmal, initiated the formation of a working group on values in education. The group released a report on the promotion of values such as equity, tolerance, multilingualism, openness, accountability and social honour in schools ... These are the values which African philosophy and Ubuntu espouse”.

He noted that Ubuntu is also featured in a 2001 Department of Education publication on values, which observes that “out of the values of Ubuntu and human dignity flow the practices of compassion, kindness, altruism and respect which are at the very core of making schools places where the culture of teaching and the culture of learning thrive; of making them dynamic hubs of industry and achievement rather than places of conflict and pain... Ubuntu embodies the concept of mutual understanding and the active appreciation of the value of human difference...”

There is much to consider in these latter initiatives.

Aiyegoro Ome


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