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Parallels: Changes Needed in Schools and in Society

By Gustavo A. Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant – There are parallels between the urgent need for initiating changes in our Education System (schools) and the urgent need for initiating changes in the way we live today. (“Unlearning Old Habits Part II”, follows next week.)  Violent crimes, such as shootouts, murders, and gang wars, are reported almost daily now, throughout the entire country, but especially in Belize City. However, all the loud outcries, public condemnations in the media, or large demonstrations staged throughout the country, cannot suddenly change or stop the violence that is now being loudly renounced by the public! Why?  So many Belizeans continue to refuse to admit/embrace the fact that we now are living in the 21st Century, and need to adapt changes — in our schools and in how we choose to live. How much longer will we silently “look on” with indifference each day as we see our young people “go astray”? We have no one to blame BUT ourselves as more and more of our young males drop out of school, and violence and crime increase in our communities. Why be suddenly very worried and concerned over crimes reported everyday in our communities, when we stubbornly persist that no one dare suggest to us “changes” in how to live or raise our children? If we know all there is to know about living in the 21st Century, why look on in horror as we witness extremely high gang activities, senseless murders, crimes and unbelievably violent behaviors among our young people, especially males?  Failure is so much easier than success.  We have to work for success, but not for failure! So, let’s continue to scream, shout, point fingers and blame everyone else, but ourselves; perhaps the Police and government will eventually solve “our” problems.   

Once more, I encourage everyone, especially you “Don’t tell me anything!” adults:  We are now living in a new age (technology), and we have no choice BUT to adapt and embrace change. If we stubbornly persist in refusing to accept/adapt to change, the violence that we are experiencing today will get worse. A thousand policemen on the streets everyday, “top-level” government and gang meetings, or large “peaceful” demonstrations everyday will NOT change nor stop the growing violence today in what was once “peaceful” Belize. Let’s be proactive, not reactive, and address the core problems, not only the symptoms! Violence and crime in Belize today are but symptoms of much larger problems that will continue to create unbridled “brewing and explosive tensions” among our young people.

Belizeans:  Let us each take first steps in a very difficult and “personal” journey to reinvent, reform, and strengthen schools and society in 21st Century Belize. It’s so much easier to refuse to take ANY steps, or care less where we are headed, and simply “let sleeping dogs lie”.  However, violent crimes are not only poor people’s problem (“those” people). Increasing violence and crimes among our young males today is a LOUD cry that our society (families and schools) is not serving them, or caring about their needs.  Since my very first article in this series, each week I encourage educators to embrace and initiate “change” in the ways we run schools everyday. The overall response, as seen in commentaries posted to this column, remains:  “Keep schools the way they were as when I was there. What worked then will work today.” I continue to watch helplessly, everyday, as more young boys choose to drop out of Primary and Secondary schools throughout Belize.   

Why more “committees” or “studies” to determine why more females than males in Belize today pursue tertiary levels of education? It is so plain to see:  as more and more of our young males continue to drop out of school Educators in Belize continue to believe that it’s not their problem.  PLEASE:  Whenever increasing numbers of young boys choose to drop out of primary and high schools, it becomes a problem for all of us! Each time a young male student drops out of school and never returns (because “teachers are boring and a total waste of their time”) where does he go? What does he do? Who becomes his major influence in life? If we continue to “not care” who drops out of school, why should we care when we see the “not pretty” end results of our indifference?  Despite any/all negative criticism I continue to receive, I insist that we cannot run schools and teach like we did 25, 50, or 100 years ago. How much longer will we not care nor want to be bothered…

Belizeans: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee and accept that we must change our “old comfortable habits” and replace with effective 21st Century ones! Changes are difficult for any older (my) generation; but our youth today desperately need/want us to embrace change! Obviously, no one can force an adult to change his/her habits. So, do we continue on the same course, and watch silently as parents bury their children everyday, and more and more people opt to stay home “under lock and key” at nighttime — where it’s safe? The media (radio, television, newspapers, and the internet) is “alive” now with loud screams and attacks on everyone but ourselves. How very ironic that many people now seem to know exactly what “others” (government and police) need to do. When will we start screaming at ourselves? Note the parallel:  scream at educators because young people are not learning today; scream at everyone but ourselves because of a growing crime rate.  Let’s take those first small but important steps to signal to our young people that we will effectively respond to the rapidly changing world around us today AND raise them to “fit” in 21st Century Belize.

When Belizeans go to live in other countries, especially the USA, to seek employment, and a “better life”, they do not all leave their children under close and watchful eyes of grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, brothers/sisters. Sending back money to their children is NOT the only thing the absent parents need to do! Our young children need to be monitored “closely” everyday. Many parents, who now leave the country and their children, as well as parents in Belize today, provide innumerable material comforts (cell phones and “must have” latest technology gadgets) to their children. However, what remains MISSING are daily parent/child interactions and growing relationships, moral support for children, introduction and enforcement of discipline, guidance, and time that parents spend with sons/daughters. Missing and most necessary of all is that feeling of being loved and cared for that NO material thing (latest technology invention) can provide. Parents, whose top priority remains “earn more money”, whether in Belize or abroad, only create problems for their children and society. We are now seeing the consequences. No amount of money or expensive toys can teach values, or answer a child’s burning questions, or show love like a parent can!

Today, through technology, young people can see/say ANYTHING they want; and their exposure to “life” far exceeds what any of their parents ever had.  A large percentage of our 350,000 people, many from throughout Central America and other  countries, live in extreme poverty as they struggle to do “whatever it takes” to make a living. Merely providing our children with money and material comforts (sending it from abroad) is NEVER enough! Merely sending our children to school everyday is NEVER enough! Our children may seem to love us for the many material things we give them; but, society pays the price — sooner or later.  We have reached “later”.   

Parents:  it is never too late to make an effort to “keep up” with our children. Participate in their world, and establish a relationship with them today. Learn from them! You have more power than any expensive computer could ever have.  Keep sending powerful messages to our children by living and modeling positive behaviors and values everyday.  

Or, continue to stand idly by and watch as our Belizean society sinks lower and lower. Yes, we want educated, well-behaved, motivated, and high performing young Belizeans living among us today; more important though, we want “happy” young Belizeans.

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