Whether or not schools and universities have a responsibility to EDUCATE their students on social behavior alongside the academic is a debate that has both weight and depth to the extent that it divides the global citizenry right in the middle. For the proponents, all institutions of learning – right from pre-school to university – are mandated to go beyond the academic curriculum to shape the value system of their learners. However, those of the contrary opinion argue that every individual, including students, have the freedom to choose what to think, believe and do to the extent that it does not interfere with other people’s rights and freedoms.
To clearly put this question into perspective, let us begin by defining “educate” in the context of the question. To educate is to “Give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to (someone), typically at a school or university.” (“Educate”, 2016). In this first definition, giving moral and social instruction is well within the confines of education. In another closely related definition, to educate is to “give (someone) training in or information on a particular subject.” (“Educate”, 2016). In this case, this particular subject could be academic, social behavior or any other. Social behavior, by definition, basically means how two or more individuals relate with or behave around each other.
In the true context of education, both in schools and university, it is almost impossible to divorce academic from social behavior education. In light of the ever emerging social issues such as HIV/AIDS, gender, racism, drug abuse among others, different communities and systems of education all over the world are faced with the dilemma of whether to introduce these topics or remove them from their curricula where they already exist.
For example, many counties in Africa are continually including social subjects in their curriculum, both in schools and universities. Teachers, instructors and lecturers are required to have additional training in HIV/AIDS, guidance and counseling, First Aid and other such skills in order to enhance teaching standards and attain a more sustainable and integrated education system. Topics such as HIV/AIDS, drug & substance abuse, gender equality and leisure & recreation are all included in main stream academic subjects like Math and Science or taught in dedicated subjects such as Social Studies and Life Skills. Successful education systems such as Japan’s attribute their success to a very solid value or character education culture that has withstood the test of time, Western influence and globalization (Hoffman, 2010).
Elsewhere around the world, we have seen and heard of several countries phasing out religious studies from their curricula. For centuries, religion has played a major role as a source of reference in shaping a people’s social value system. Also interesting is the introduction of “non-religious worldviews such as humanism” in school curricula, especially in leading democracies. (Long, 2016) This is meant to carter for the secular portion of the population in line with the principle of non-discrimination.
With the above literature in mind, the question boils down to how do we want our children and future generations to relate with each other? Whereas most people support the principles of freedom championed by most democracies, it goes without saying that these freedoms can never be limitless. Each person has the responsibility to ensure that while exercising their freedoms, they do not infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. And what better place to learn about this kind of responsibility than in schools and institutions of higher learning?
School-going children and university students spend most of their time in their respective institutions. They easily learn from their peers and teachers, who also couple up as their mentors. Traditionally, bad habits were punished both at home and at school in equal measure, and thus, the offender would learn what is socially right and wrong. In the modern world, however, with human rights watchdogs, smartphone cameras, CCTV and the internet all over, even punishing your own child is a very scary affair. There is always “someone” (or something) watching and you might just land yourself in big trouble. In addition, parents have relegated their responsibility as disciplinarians and role models to the backseat. Children as young as 2 years old are being taken to baby care homes and later to boarding schools even before age 10. In most cases, it is the teachers who are left with the enormous burden of teaching both social behavior and academics. What would happen if they do not? We would have a society full of valueless, ignorant individuals who have no idea on how to treat each other with respect, dignity, empathy and love.
As mentioned earlier, it is almost impossible to divorce the two. My college lecturer always finds a way to sneak a couple of stories in his philosophy lesson. “Watch out young men and women. There is a lot of sex in college, including this one” he says. “But after enjoying your ride to cloud nine,” he continues “remember you’ll fall back to cloud one-pregnant and abandoned, with HIV or an STI, and your life will simply crumble”. Sometimes, his moral teachings sound scary to the point that we find ourselves thinking hard before engaging in such social vices. And that is the whole point about learning – acquiring appropriate problem solving and survival skills. In the end these off-the-cuff teachings might just save the lives of some of us.
For one to succeed academically, one must have a high level of social uprightness. How else would you listen to a teacher you can’t respect and obey in the first place? Would there be academic integrity and ethics? How would one cooperate with one’s peers in a group work assignment? How would a football team play together without mutual respect? Social values such as politeness, empathy, thankfulness, apologizing when wrong, among others are almost paramount for personal development and growth. These can only be best taught in schools and universities which have a high level of cultural diversity in terms of race, religion, gender and culture. The values taught in schools can further be reinforced at home by parents and other family members.
Without social education, students will suffer from unprecedented levels of ignorance. They will lack the necessary skills on how to relate with each other, there will be discrimination and prejudice. Once this happens, it will only be a matter of time before intolerance, hate, and radicalization set in. The end result? A global society which is at war with itself. The ever rising cases of terrorism, murder, sexual abuse and other human rights violation are largely as a result of a broken down and continuously degenerating value and social behaviour system. The damage has already been done but it is never too late to make things right again. Social behaviour education should be included in school and university curricula.
In conclusion, all institutions of learning have a clear cut responsibility to educate their students on social behavior. Perhaps what needs to be debated is “what better approaches should schools and universities employ in social/character education in order to achieve a more cohesive, tolerant and harmonious society”. Nurture (both at home and school) must work to positively bring out the best in an individual’s nature. I believe every true teacher or lecturer’s ultimate satisfaction is to know that they have positively impacted and shaped a young person’s destiny.
Educate, Def. 1, (2016). In In Oxford English dictionary online. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/educate
Educate, Def. 1.2, (2016). In In Oxford English dictionary online. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/educate
Hoffman, E. (2010, May 16). Prized Japanese social values that withstand “Westernization.” Retrieved from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2010/05/16/commentary/world-commentary/prized-japanese-social-values-that-withstand-westernization/
Long, R. (2016, July). Religious Education in schools (England). HOUSE OF COMMONS LIBRARY BRIEFING PAPER Number 07167.