It’s that time of the year again when my English students remind themselves about arguments, persuasions and debating.
I sit at my table (for once), my class of 36 young men and women on the cusp of getting their drivers’ licenses have been given a topic and are frantically composing mini-speeches and propositions to offer up in a class debate. I am tempted to go walking around, poking my nose into their conversations and ‘helping’, but I have promised to be a good teacher and let them brainstorm and formulate ideas all on their own (wipes tear, they grow up so fast!).
At last, my budding lawyers and politicians are ready. They have selected two presenters, and I have become ‘Madame Speaker’. I am excited. We are debating increasing the legal driving age, and I know even the ones in support of this motion are secretly against it (which teenager does not want to drive?). I cannot wait to hear what they have come up with.
They both stand and I give them leave to speak, allowing them two minutes ‘speaking time’ each. The student in favour of the proposition begins to speak. As he is close to concluding, he makes a very good point; a loud voice echoes from among his peers, “Hush yuh stink mouth!” I am aghast. The only thing preventing my duster from sailing through the air towards the assailant is that pesky little law… I yell for order, as the class has erupted in laughter. “You feel you is Moonilal!” One shouts, more laughter ensues. “AG Sexy, yuh taking that?” Another yells, eliciting even more laughter.
I manage to get them back into ‘class-mode’ with a stern warning, and grant them one chance to redeem themselves by completing an otherwise successful debate. The student speaking in opposition suddenly begins to stutter on his last point, concluding with: “I have more to tell you, but not tonight!” His classmate responds, “Why you doh come outside and tell meh! Ent yuh name man?”
At this point I am livid. I get to my feet and begin what they would term, a major ‘blow-out’. I ‘buff’ them about having decorum, respect, good behaviour, appreciation of each person regardless of their differing views; I go into a tirade about discipline and the breakdown of order in society. I tell them they should be ashamed. I say they are the future and if their class room activities are all about jokes, what does that say about our nation’s future? They are quiet, remorseful even. I ask, “What makes you think it is ok to behave like this in my classroom?” One girl puts up a hand, “Miss. That’s how they behave in Parliament, and they running the country. Ent we suppose to try to be just like them?”
I am speechless. She is right.
“Remember, governance is a big word that includes human rights, freedom of speech, economic transactions on a worldwide basis- it touches everything. It’s everywhere” (Vint Cerf)
“With proper governance, life will improve for all” (Benigno Aquino III)
“Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power” (Clint Eastwood)
“When you speak of role models, when we talk to our kids, everybody is a role model, everyone” (Walter Payton)