THE EDITOR, Sir:
The recent Maggotty High episode with students' rowdy and lewd party theatrics has come to the fore and has caused much outcry within Jamaica and the diaspora.
Public opinion unanimously calls for disciplinary action to be taken against the students. The Ministry of Education officials are livid about the handling of the situation and are demanding explanations about the school administration's timing, knowledge and handling of the situation.
One reaction I have heard is that Jamaica, including its schools, is degenerating, and children are much worse now than they used to be. This is based on the existence of video evidence that has been publicised on social media.
What we need to bear in mind when we make these assertions is that technology has rapidly developed over the past two decades. Mobile telephony and camera phones were once distant imaginings.
Therefore, even if similar acts were committed decades ago, there would very likely be few, if any, photographs, and news of the event would not have left Maggotty. The principal may have got wind of the saga and dealt with it within the confines of the school.
Today, episodes like these go viral in minutes and an entire nation becomes involved. Conversely, students were not being fed with a steady diet of lascivious images on demand on phones, computers and other devices, where women and men constantly aspire to outdo each other in the video light.
The changes in technology have impacted our social behaviours more than we realise. Unfortunately, the humanities have not kept pace with the rapid technological advancement.
The information age has brought tiny but powerful devices in the hands of the highly literate, the moderately literate, and those with limited literacy skills. It has also put these devices in the hands of the moral, immoral and amoral. These devices are not sold with code of conduct or social dos and don'ts attached.
THE NEW NORMAL
If children are constantly fed with images of antisocial behaviours, these behaviours will inevitably become the new normal.
The Maggotty incident, instead of being an opportunity for grandstanding and venting, is an opportune time to reflect and effect change. A thorough inquiry should be conducted on the circumstances of these children and what led them to engage in their behaviour. Bring in the scholars from the social sciences, education and psychology to make sense of this unfortunate occurrence and provide help for these students.
Create a model for the treatment of these cases rather than making up the procedures as we go along. Many of these children may just need the right intervention and a second chance to become outstanding citizens of Jamaica.
CLEMENT LAMBERT (PhD)
School of Education, UWI