And nothing numbs the mind more than yet another meandering and meaningless statement emanating from the lips of Education Minister Tara Rivers, who said in response to the assault:
“We all want schools that are safe, welcoming, supportive and inclusive learning environments … we must recognize our responsibilities to all our students, including those who have difficulties and ensure that they have access to the right support … I recognized the need to strengthen the governance of behavior management systems, both in schools and in the services that support schools.”
Here’s what Ms. Rivers should have said:
“A criminal assault has taken place on one of our teachers in one of our classrooms. I won’t tolerate it, the people of the Cayman Islands won’t tolerate it, and I’m going to put a stop to it. Check back with me in a week.”
A fundamental truth is that until Ms. Rivers and the Department of Education Services deal with the discipline issues in our classrooms, all further discussions — be they based on high-minded idealism, faddish curricula or the latest technologies — are fanciful and pointless.
The link between discipline and education cannot be overstated. Ms. Rivers needs to state categorically, and unapologetically, that she will not allow the behavior of the few to interfere with the education of the many.
A further fundamental truth is that an uneducated generation is an unemployable generation. As we have written before, the seeds of social unrest are sown in the classroom but flower in the street.
We recently had a conversation with Police Commissioner David Baines, who was aghast (but not surprised) at the behavior in our public schools. He says that his officers can identify today the students they will be arresting tomorrow. We believe him.
Last year, nearly 20 percent of Cayman’s public school teachers left, quit or resigned from their positions. Exit interviews revealed that in far too many cases, lack of discipline in the classrooms, coupled with lack of support from the administration, led to their decision. Many of these teachers, drawn to their profession for the most noble of reasons, finally threw up their hands and said: Enough is enough.
And yet, if we were to take a poll asking Caymanians to identify the most important issue facing their country, the answer, no doubt, would be education. Time and again, we would hear the bromide, “The children are our future.”
Don’t believe it. The Cayman community has turned its back on its own public school system while a succession of elected neophytes, paper-pushing pedants and “professional educators” have presided over its dysfunction and deterioration.
A short-term suspension for any student who strikes a teacher sends the message that a punch in the face equals a slap on the wrist. Ms. Rivers needs to send a much stronger message:
“Not in my classrooms and not on my watch. As of this moment, recess is over in the Cayman Islands.”