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Controlling the Uncontrollable Leggo Beast Pickney

Published:Wednesday | August 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM

We have a tendency to throw around offensive words to describe or refer to people without giving much consideration for what it connotes and how it might make people feel. Words and phrases like dunce, miscreant, rowdy, mongrel, homo thugs, dundus, and these days 'leggo beast' have become (somewhat?) commonplace and used largely in relation to people of a certain social class, and sometimes in the most unlikely of places by the most unsuspecting people.

Sometimes we might take offence to use of these words and the context in which they are used and other times we applaud people for 'saying it like it is' because there is no more eloquent way to put it in Jamaican or English. I reckon offence seem to be taken more often than not when you are of a certain social class and/or hold an 'important' position. Some of us are more rowdy and leggo than others, I suppose.

It is rather appalling and sad that so few of us are able to see why the 'leggo beast' comment by the minister of education, Rev Ronnie Thwaites, to refer to the behaviour of some children, is problematic. Not surprisingly, even fewer of us are willing to accept that it is indeed a problematic comment. Perhaps we should think about what it means to be a 'leggo beast'. Would you be OK in being called a 'leggo beast'? Is 'leggo beast' ever used in a good way? What does it really mean? Why should children be called such? Maybe that will prod some amount of concern and make us see how offensive and problematic it really is.




This idea of 'leggo beast' children is one of the reasons why the designation of 'uncontrollable children' found comfort in the law. It's the very reason why so many of our children have been locked up, sometimes in adult facilities, for non-criminal offences like running away from an abusive home. But I suppose it doesn't suit our interest to see why 'leggo beast' is a very problematic comment, especially from the minister of education, because there is no better way to describe children with acute behavioural problems.

Educators who fail to recognise and appreciate that their role is more than teaching a subject will be quick to defend the minister's comment because they are exhausted by the levels of antisocial behaviour among their students. But this isn't about that. We are all aware that the behavioural problems are seemingly insurmountable these days. We are also cognisant of the fact that our educators have quite a daunting task performing multiple roles on a daily basis in and out of the classroom. We also agree that it shouldn't be the educators' responsibility to parent. However, given the state of affairs in many of our homes and communities (I believe there is national consensus on this) those for whom children are in their care, like teachers, must recognise and accept they are obligated to do much more than teach math and English.

Teachers play a critical role in their students' life. You get into the job to impart knowledge, discipline, values, mores, and norms. Apparently, we have all forgotten that school is also an agent of socialisation.




Colhoun, Light and Keller in Understanding Sociology remind us that "considerable socialisation takes place in school" though the family is the primary agent of such. They argue that "while the official purpose of school is to teach young people intellectual and technical skills, it also teaches them cultural values and attitudes that prepare them for their roles as adults". Maybe this is one reason why there are so many parents sending 'leggo beast' children to schools because they weren't properly prepared for adulthood. My facetiousness aside, we have to recognise that children spend an awful lot of time at school and it 'is [therefore] the primary agent for weaning [them].' As IONUT ANASTASIU posits in her paper on 'Family and School Understood as Agents of Socialisation', "The key task of the school [... is] to prepare [children] for life in society, to develop them for the purposes of assimilation the specific values and norms of the social world in which they were born and will live the adult life."

Let us not abdicate our responsibilities and obligation to our children. We can't afford to cast the 'leggo beasts' aside, nor can we speak without giving consideration to the impact it might have on people.

• Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to and