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Garth Rattray | Fatherhood should be taught

Published:Monday | June 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Fatherhood should be taught

Fatherhood is serious business. It’s ridiculous that society leaves this all-important ‘job’ up to the passive acquisition of knowledge, diffused by unknown and usually extremely unreliable sources. There are no organised courses in fatherhood; all knowledge, values and attitudes are gained by childhood experiences and/or by observing the behaviour of other fathers in homes, the community and/or the wider society.

Needless to say, given the embarrassingly dismal performance of far too many fathers, fatherhood promises to be mostly a perpetual cycle of incompetence that leads to dysfunctional families, crime and poverty throughout our society. Without structured classes/lectures, the job of fatherhood will remain within the category of underperforming careers.

We would never entrust our lives to a doctor who learnt medicine only by observing other (mostly incompetent) doctors or who was not apprenticed or formerly educated. How we trust the future of our country/nation to fathers that are usually clueless is way beyond my capacity for reason.

Schools are meant to prepare children for life. They are educated in the rudiments of mathematics, the sciences, English, other languages, history, vocational subjects, accounting, computer sciences, management and a myriad of other subjects, some of which are new to me. Current ‘formal education’ prepares children to possess the tools to earn a living, however, they are not being prepared for life. The responsibilities and vicissitudes of life are extremely diverse and most people are unprepared to face them. There are no formal (high school) classes in ethical behaviour, interpersonal relationships or the most important job that any human being can have…parenting.

During medical history taking, when asked about paternal history, the majority of patients interviewed respond with blank, sad or angry facial expressions and say one of several things: “I never knew my father”, “I don’t know him”, “Last time that I saw him was when I was a little child”, “I hardly see him”, “I don’t know anything about him”, “Who? Him?!”

It is unusual to get a favourable feedback about the fathers in society.

Mothers are usually saddled with carrying the foetus to term and then carrying out the day-to-day, minute-by-minute care of the baby and with raising the child to, at least, adolescence. This relates to planned pregnancies but more so to unplanned pregnancies (which are the majority of pregnancies).

Many fathers avoid the daily chores of raising their own children. They often don’t play the all-important role of a stabilising male personality. They do not impart any wisdom gleaned from their forefathers or from their personal (good and bad) life experiences, and many also run away from their financial responsibilities. Hence the commonly used term to describe many Jamaican fathers: ‘sperm donor’.


The famous quote beginning with, “For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost” is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. This modification may strike a resonant chord.

For the want of a responsible father, a proper childhood was lost.

For the want of a proper childhood, a functional home was lost.

For the want of a functional home, a safe community was lost

For the want of a safe community, a peaceful society was lost.

For the want of a peaceful society, an entire country was lost.

All for the want of a responsible father…

Firearm licences and user’s permits are mandatory because we can’t afford to have dangerous weapons in the hands of irresponsible and untrained individuals. But illegal firearms are abundant and they are in the hands of dysfunctional and criminalised youth, who often use them to slaughter our fellow citizens.

The number one cause of youth becoming dysfunctional and criminalised is bum fathers. Young males need classes in fatherhood to groom them along the correct path.


Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and