Teach Them While They’re Young

The Kid was recently asked by his Form Teacher to represent his Year in a welcoming session for the Year 6s, who would be transitioning to Year 7 early next year. For those of you not familiar with the Australian educational system, up until 2014 children studied 7 years of primary school, followed by 5 years of secondary school.

In 2015 this changed. Year 7s were no longer considered Primary School students, but Secondary School students. This meant that they were no longer the oldest in their school, but the babies.

The Kid’s school, Peter Carnley Anglican Community School, has both Primary and Secondary departments. For Year 6 students already at the school, the transition into Year 7 would hardly cause a ripple, meaning simply a change of venue for classrooms and having a new set of teachers. But for Year 6s coming into the school from outside, the changes would be many indeed.

To help The Kid prepare for his Q&A session with the Year 6s, I asked him what he had found most difficult about his own transition. He replied “The bullying from those already in the school, they all know each other and don’t welcome outsiders”. Having come from a Primary School outside the catchment area, this was to be expected, I suppose. But I know he really suffered at the hands of several class bullies, to whom ticking offs and detentions seemed to mean nothing.

I suggested that, instead of speaking about Bullying, he emphasised the importance of Inclusion. How about if he encouraged the in-house Year 6s to include newcomers from outside in their conversations, play, discussions and to welcome them into their circle of friends. How about they got to know the new students, especially the ones not just from outside the school, but those from different countries, races, cultures and religions. Knowledge of new customs, food, festivals etc can only enrich their minds and widen their horizons.

After all, if everyone learns from a young age to get along with others, regardless of their differences, then when they grow up, surely co-operation and peace will prevail, rather then competition and war? Or perhaps I’m being too optimistic? Surely, with this screwed up world going from bad to worse, and with racial and religious tensions growing by the day, we could start Change at the beginning, with our young when they’re at their most malleable and impressionable, before the rot sets in? If the parents are too set in their ways, too busy, or ignorant or averse to changing their own mental attitudes, surely good moral values, ethical thinking and common decency can be taught, encouraged and inculcated in schools? Or don’t the teachers care either, that their students are turning into automatons without manners, conscience or a sense of responsibility for their own future?

I’m reminded of a concept I first came across when reading George RR Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series – that of a custom where the defeated party’s child or children are sent to live with the victor’s family as “hostages”, to be raised as one of their own children. This custom may well have been common in real life Medieval times, (forgive me but I never studied European History in school while growing up in Malaysia, I can tell you all about Malaysian history, but not much about European history). My point, from a chess player’s view is: if your children have been “adopted” by your enemy and raised, not as a prisoner but as part of his family, then would you not think twice before considering another attack on his stronghold? Maybe it’s not Peace on a voluntary basis, but rather a forced Peace…but over the course of several generations of this practice, one would like to think the barbaric, violent tendencies in Men would have been extinguished? And replaced instead by the union of two or more families, leading to a united front?

And, from the viewpoint of the “hostages”, they have received a good upbringing, education and yes, love, from their father’s enemy, they have played and grown up alongside the enemy’s children, they will probably marry into that family and inherit the land…so why would they wish to disrupt that perfect scenario?

I suppose what I’m trying to say is: in order to change the way things are, we have to start with ourselves. We have to Be The Change We Want To See. Recent world events have brought this point home very clearly to me – we fear that which we do not know, and that leads to us wanting to destroy it, so we can feel safe again. It works both ways.

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