Wed | Jun 16, 2021

Manley Wisdom | Play by the rules or sit in the bleachers

Published:Monday | July 1, 2019 | 12:00 AM

I read with great amusement a letter purportedly sent by a local high-school principal to some parents whose children’s complexion had somehow departed from the image the school had on their files.

Being a teacher myself, I appreciated the comical dexterity applied to this social issue of bleaching. It is certainly a matter of growing concern and requires mature thought and discourse if it is to be tackled effectively.

As the letter and the attendant concerns sparked lively debate, I began to see in the vicissitudes of people’s positions some of the reasons behind the mental stagnation of our island home. Did anyone inquire as to whether the school has a policy on bleaching?

I will not seek to address the rightness or wrongness of the practice of bleaching here and now, but if we are to progress as a people, surely we must agree that the rules of an institution are to be adhered to!

It is my abiding belief that one of the greatest contributors to the shifting morality and wanton disregard for laws and authority is a lack of insistence on teaching our children the value of rules. Somehow we have spawned a generation that believes if you can’t explain it, I won’t follow it, or worse yet, if I don’t agree with it, I won’t follow it. Unfortunately, many of our schools are now zones of flagrant disrespect, with students lacking order and common decency, and the society unwittingly spurs them on.

I have heard arguments suggesting that bleaching is not a suspendable offence. It is unfair to deny children an education because of bleaching, some say. But may I humbly submit that one of the fundamental responsibilities of schools is to teach our children the value of rules and following them? As adults, they will have to abide by rules, many of which they may disagree with, and find downright stupid.

Children are not developmentally ready to make certain decisions. Issues surrounding controlling their impulses, delaying gratification, managing emotions, and properly scaling social approval versus moral rectitude all demand that children are brought up in rule-bound environments.


We seem to have found ourselves living in a world that has gone so human-rights crazy that it is now lacking in common sense! I recall a few years ago, when one principal explained that in an attempt to teach his young female charges about the importance of carrying themselves as ladies, and not ‘little skettels’, the school decided to lengthen the girls’ skirts. The full explanation seemed well reasoned and was explained to all the stakeholders.

John Public angrily took on the school when administrators decided to send home girls who were in violation of the new rule. To my dismay, the then minister of education lambasted the principal on air, saying that there are more important things to quibble over than the length of girls’ skirts, and this should not stop the girls from receiving their education!

So now we have to put up with things like the ubiquitous taxi man that makes four lanes where only two legally exist, because waiting in line like everyone else is too inconvenient for him.

Some of the asinine arguments of the intelligentsia empower our students to run amok, under the impression that they are in charge and can do whatever they please, whenever they please. We are methodically taking away from the school and its agents the power to curb indiscipline and to change rude and recalcitrant behaviour.

We would have failed this generation if we do not teach them how to conform, and then send them out into a society that will forcibly contort them into submission when they flagrantly oppose rules and laws.

It would be more beneficial to teach our students that when they agree to be a part of an entity, the rules must be followed. If change is needed, comply first, then complain. They would have at least gained enough respect for their position to be heard respectfully rather than be seen as defiant.

Manley Wisdom, JP, is a pastor and educator. Email feedback to and