A superficial first read of Victor Hugo’s statement: “He who opens a school door, closes a prison,” might lead one to surmise that the sole reason law offenders get convicted of crimes is lack of affordable and accessible education. On a thoughtful second read one cannot but unveil its couched feeble premise. Long before organised legal proceedings were arranged and possible penalties spelt out, traditional societies had laws which were learnt not necessarily by being formally schooled, but by social interactions with the wider community. Defaulters penalised on the basis that they were informed and aware of laws guiding conduct in their communities and attending penalties which accompany damnable flout of such laws.
The relevance of formal schooling for societal uplift whilst acknowledged cannot suffice to validate Hugo’s assertion. This is due largely to the fact that citizens do not necessarily need to be schooled in order to be law-abiding citizens. They rather need to be educated. The revered English statesman Thomas Moore expressed this lucidly: “Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills, or abilities – that’s training or instruction – but it is rather a making visible of what is hidden as a seed…To be educated, a person doesn’t have to know much or be informed, but he or she have to have been exposed to the transformative events of an engaged human life…One of the greatest problems of our time is that many are schooled but few are educated. “
Psychologists backed views expressed in the prior paragraph by establishing with logical deductions that a child when born knows virtually nothing. Children come as “blank slates”. Then, as they grow up in their native societies or distant place of nativity, they learn and acquire basic traditional norms, customs, laws and values of the society in which they inhabit. They are taught values which often breeds sound character. The children nurture, and are aided in nurturing themselves to overcome natural impulsive human tendencies. This enables the child to associate with others without interference by traditional or legal authorities. What we esteem or value often determines our values. Values we hold dear have wide-reaching effect on our day-to-day existence. It affects our manner of speech, regulates our actions, reactions and lifestyles. If I am of the conviction that life is sacred per se, I will be more disposed to safeguard others lives. In this respect, home is truly our first school.
Man as a social being has assorted means to learn. Agents of socialisation such as homes, peer groups and churches are veritable means of discussion through which information is disseminated, including teachings on laws and penalties pertaining to conscious and reckless breach. In this regard the novelist Mark Twain quips: ” Never let formal education get in the way of learning. “
Arguments can be raised that education enhances one’s chance of successful living in a manner that dissuades probable imprisonment of at risk citizens, thereby reducing crime rate. Yet, the majority of countries have high unemployment rates. Creating more jobs would not aid the eradication of criminal activities that lands one behind bars. Those who retain their freedom of movement and association are individuals who consistently nurture their minds, hearts, train hands and eyes to evade trespass of institutional laws. Again, the novelist Mark Twain says: “There is nothing training cannot do. Nothing is beyond its reach. It can turn bad morals to good; it can destroy bad principles and recreate good ones; it can lift men to angelship.” These are people of upright disposition like Thomas Crapper, a plumber who on collaboration with Joseph Bramah produced the first practical water closet.
History abounds with cases of schooled men and women who despite their high educational qualifications, performed and aided cringeworthy acts. Consequently, they served jail terms. So, do we say that they never went to school? They partook in deeds an otherwise sane individual would loathe. The same can be said for the cruel reign of national leaders. These are schooled suited burglars who perpetrate daylight robbery, just by using pens to alter monetary figures. Persons of undeserving authority loot without due thought our collective treasury meant to improve and sustain national growth and development. They run afoul of laws whose knowledge seem to be the exclusive reserve of the schooled and enlightened. A pervasive use of knowledge and ingenuity; even dubbed in some quarters as an “evil genius.” This suggests that one does not indeed necessarily need to be schooled for him to live rightly. “Wise people, even though all laws were abolished, would continue to lead the same life,” said Aristophanes.
During the colonial era in Africa, appointed representatives of colonial governments literally had few or no laws which would restrict undue advantage of foreign officials over their subject peoples. And as such, unduly foreclosed cases of physical, emotional, psychological and sexual assaults were witnessed. Africans were those who protested such abuses even though they were not schooled like their white counterparts. These are infringements which in that era, had the foreign officials been in their own native lands, they would be prosecuted. A further proof that schooling does not bequeath one with the sixth sense of discernment needed to distinguish between right or wrong.
In conclusion, I am rather convinced that they who ignite authentic existential values in individuals, close prison doors. An inside-out task which starts from the home, where we are built in character and schooled in values. An ubiquitous saying goes: ” Skill, knowledge and character can take you to the top but only character will keep you there.” And what is character but the abstract reflection of our values. The destinies we control, which sustains or mars our inalienable human rights.
* Nwanolue, Obiekwe and Ezeibe, Christian(2017) A History of Political Thought: Plato- Zik.
Enugu, Nigeria: Parakletos Immunis Drive
* Ozumba, Mike(2009) Minds Alive: An Introduction to Logic and Philosophy for Tertiary Institutions.
Onitsha, Nigeria: Feros Prints & Co. Limited
* Uwaoma, Nkwam(2012) Introductory Psychology.
Owerri, Nigeria: Rescue Publishers
* Nwankwo, O.B.C(2008) Fundamental Issues in Political Science.
Enugu, Nigeria: Quintagon Publishers
* Robbins, Anthony (2003) Awaken The Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!
New York: Simon & Schuster ( Free Press Edition)