AMONG THE many roles that schools also perform is that of moral agents, whereby universally accepted standards of conduct and behaviour consistent with the propagation of a mature democracy are introduced/reinforced in would-be adults at all levels of the formal school system.
This is consistent with the doctrine that schools shape and mould the future society, assuming that school functionaries subscribe to and uphold these tenets which are in turn reinforced and embraced by other social education institutions. In this way the morality compass of the would-be adult is established from a tender age in the hope that they would not depart from it.
But the ease and extent to which dishonest people are able to ascend to leadership positions, both nationally and internationally, poses a significant threat to democracy in many countries. Despite the fact that such people violate ethical standards and yet be able to be democratically elected to positions of governance is a sad indictment on any good education system.
People seem most willing to forgive/ignore lies, deceit, dishonesty, deception and indecency, behaviours which violate the socially accepted codes of morality for factors that they consider to be superior to their existence, such as the superiority of one racial group over another.
Many would argue that immoral individuals would identify with corrupt others who present themselves for leadership. Thus, dishonest people are embraced to become leaders whose leadership and approach to governance will now obviously be characterised by innate immoral behaviour and conduct. If the occupant to the profession is immoral, then the profession would be characterised by immorality.
The extent to which democracy flourishes in a society to a large extent depends on its capacity to allow ethical principles to prevail over self-interests. Any society that embraces ideals of social justice, equity and fairness must jealously guard and insist on high standards of ethical behaviour at both the public and private level.
If schools working in tandem with other social education institutions are able to produce citizens who are resolutely grounded in solid principles of human rights and human decency, that which is right from wrong and good from bad, then dishonest, deceitful people would be roundly rejected if they present themselves for leadership positions.
Further, if leaders deviate from the universally acceptable principles of decency they will be held accountable rather than pardoned on account of the supposedly bigger objective – the bigger prize such as race superiority and dominance.
Correcting this state of social disequilibrium is no small task given our historical antecedents that asserted skin colour as a basis for being entitled to govern and exercise power over others. The Black Lives Matter message resonating around the world within recent time is a blunt reminder of the extent to which prejudices continue to flourish.
Unless the education system is calculated and focused on eradicating this misconception and antithesis to human decency, depraved leaders will continue to emerge with the social approval of masses whose ignorance convince them that such is the status quo. Merely asking teachers to infuse a moral and values education into the informal curriculum is certainly insufficient to counteract the onslaught of messages of untruths, lies and deception that bombard young impressionable minds at every turn.
Schools must produce critical thinkers who are grounded in principles of honesty and civility, thwarting their temptation to become educated mercenaries, ready to pounce on gullible citizens, taking advantage of their ignorance.
The slavish adherence to exams as the basis for schooling has resulted in the evolution of a society where lies and untruths propagated by leaders are unreservedly embraced by followers with gleeful enthusiasm. The advent of social media has given unscrupulous leaders unrestricted licence to play on ignorant and insecure minds to achieve their decadent goals, usurping democratic principles without any remorse.
If democracy is to prevail in any society, it is imperative that schools ensure that one of their main purposes is to function as moral agents, thereby producing good decent citizens who will reject immorality in all its forms at every turn, regardless of skin colour or class.
Teachers in their formal and informal practice must consistently embrace and model behaviour that is beyond reproach. Their commitment to this ideal must be unwavering, even in the face of declining support from the home, community, church, and media.
Other right-thinking conscientious individuals and institutions must not remain silent and join the campaign to stamp out abhorrent conduct synonymous with many public officials. Lies, hate and racial prejudices cannot be socially sanctioned in private or public.