It was about 9:10 am or so on that Monday morning and I was hurrying to catch up with my 10:00 am statistics lecture. Along the corridor of Hall-2, very close to Hall-3, the venue for the lecture, I heard a shattering noise that jolted me to a halt. Looking around, I saw a group of students gathered around where the noise had come from. So I moved closer. There, lying scattered all over the floor, was the remains of a very nice smart phone which I bet cost a fortune. When I asked what had happened, I was able to find out that:
1. The phone belonged to a student, and
2. It was smashed by a lecturer.
I was told that the phone’s owner was being chastised by the lecturer for distracting himself with his phone all the while the lecturer was teaching. While the lecturer was calmly trying to talk some sense into him, the student got belligerent and rude, resulting to the seizing and smashing of his phone. Now, the pending question becomes: as part of the school team, was it the lecturer’s/school’s responsibility to help educate his/their student(s) on social behaviour especially in good conduct and action? Obviously, this is a dilemma that must be solved since if the teacher tries to educate students on social behaviours, some parents raise alarm that the teachers are crossing their boundaries; and yet, if the students misbehave, some parents raise alarm that their teachers are not helping them (students) acquire appropriate social behaviours.
However, before I go any further, I would like to elaborate more on what social behaviour entails. Social behaviour is a broad subject with diverse opinions that may not be exhaustively discussed, even if I choose to dedicate this entire article to it. Nevertheless, it is the right and proper way to act within a given society. It ultimately manifests itself in good behaviours and conducts, ethical and moral grounds, good values, and the sense of good citizenry. In fact, social behaviour actually wraps itself around the idea of good behavior, and perhaps anything on the contrary is classified as an “antisocial behaviour”. To cap it all, social behaviour is instrumental in the formation of appropriate character and personality. Hence, should schools partake in the formation of these appropriate characters by teaching social behaviour too? To answer this question, we need to first of all answer the question about why schools are established.
The purpose of establishing schools
The following comments reflect various opinions on the purpose of establishing schools:
To George Counts, an American philosopher, “the purpose of school was less about preparing individuals to live independently and more about preparing individuals to live as members of a society. In other words, Counts felt the role of schooling was to equip individuals with the skills necessary to participate in the social life of their community and to change the nature of social order as needed or desired.”
Daniel Heller says,”the four aspects of this purpose, which precede any thought of curriculum, are kindness, thinking, problem solving and communications. These four should be part of every class in every grade everyday.”
Let us imagine how the global world would be like, if a greater percentage (those that attended any form of school) are able to learn from school to always be kind to everyone, be good at thinking through the consequences of their actions prior to execution,nbe great at solving problems and have great communication skills.
Furthermore, according to Seth Godin, the purpose of school is to “become an informed citizen. Be trained in rudimentary skills necessary for employment. Homogenize society, at least a bit. Build a social fabric. Teach future citizens to obey authority. Teach creativity and problem solving. Decrease crime by teaching civics and ethics. Increase understanding of a life well lived.”
Then Steven Schwartz held that, “the goal of university is to build a fairer, more just society”.Obviously, all seem to be tilting towards a central point which is that schools should own the responsibility of teaching social behaviours alongside the academics. As might be expected, there could be some contrary opinions to this, but I choose to stand with people like George, Daniel, Seth and Steven. And I will tell you why.
I recall one of the statements attributed to Henry Adams that “A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops”. This statement resonates with me and is part of the reasons I think that the goal of the teacher in the school should not stop with teaching academics; it should include teaching appropriate social behaviours. What follows are my attempts to validate my position.
I think that social behaviour and academics are like two sides of a coin. For a coin to retain its status as a coin it has to have a head and a tail which should be on the same piece of metal. Similarly, for a school to be effective, social behaviour and academics should be parts of the same schooling process, and should also be taught in the same place – school. Academics prepare students for special skills like: accounting, economics, laboratory procedures, critical thinking, and problem-solving, proper communication, broad understanding of our world, and so on. On the other hand, social behaviour prepares students for how to manage, use and blend these special skills and many other skills into their daily lives.
On several occasions, for instance, I had a genotype test. Most of these tests acclaimed me ‘AA’, while one acclaimed me ‘AS’. But I knew that I couldn’t have been an ‘AS’ since my parents were both ‘AAs’. The scientist that acclaimed me as ‘AS’ gave me an undue test result, which could have been very misleading and life-risking if I didn’t have the knowledge that I had. I guess work ethics eluded him. Same happens in many other sectors. People no longer take care to ensure that their responsibilities are well carried out. With this in mind, here are other reasons why schools should teach social behaviour alongside academics. Some of these reasons are:
a) Every school should be an environment which influences the general development of those who attend it.
b) A vast population is bound to attend one form of school or another in a life time, hence get it right with them and the society gets the right boost needed.
c) Much time is spent within school vicinity, paving way for a great influence to be exerted.
d) Every school should provide opportunities for learning appropriate ways of interacting with one another both within and outside the school environment.
e) A school that teaches disciplined social behavior can be sure to indirectly boost academic performances.
f) A school that teaches disciplined social behavior can be sure to help students learn to make very calculated and informed decisions which have a lot to do with academic performance and general life success.
How to achieve teaching social behaviours alongside academics in schools
In other to teach social behaviour alongside academics in schools, we (the people who are directly or indirectly involved in this teaching) should proudly engage in the following processes:
a) All role players in this cause should take it as a delightful duty and not a burden on them.
b) Be an example of what we teach. Students will prefer to see what they are taught reflect more in the characters of their tutors. They need to feel it, so they can comfortably reproduce same without having some misgivings.
c) The students can be inspired through telling them stories of those who surmounted all odds even in the midst of tribulations because of their social behaviours. A typical instance being Mahatma Ghandhi.
d) Positive discipline practices can be adopted.
e) Incorporation of more behavioural awards alongside academic awards: This way, students will always have an incentive to learn and practice good social behaviours.
f) Finally, role players in this cause – mostly teachers – should be trained on how to do this.
On the basis of my explanations and positions above, I argue that the lecturer in the story with which I began this essay, was right by trying to discipline his student. It was his responsibility to help educate his student on social behaviour and that was exactly what he tried doing. Therefore, all schools should take up the responsibility. It will help create a better and more just future for our children.