School is out. Finals are over. The strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” fill the air. It’s diploma time.
I have stopped counting the number of graduations I have attended in all my years.
Last week one great-grandson moved from kindergarten to first grade. It was a happy occasion. I was in a room full of parents and grandparents. And yayas. It was a proud moment for us all.
Someone asked me if I ever got tired of going to these mini commencement exercises. I will not lie. I am sometimes tempted to just stay home and wait for Facebook to tell me all about it. But I go anyway.
So on one hot March afternoon, I got all dressed and pretty and gave up my precious time on the couch, to join eager moms and dads who were there extra early to get the best spot for a photo op.
The children were excited and their enthusiasm was contagious. The teachers put up with their impatience and kept them in line. These ladies are admirable. I am amazed at how they manage to make everything happen without the slightest glitch.
When the music started, 32 boys and girls from The Bridge School marched in, all done with kindergarten and today officially first graders. Each one knew this was an important moment. The concept of at last leaving nursery school was not lost on them.
Lucas and his classmates looked like superstars sitting in little blue chairs, waiting for their names to be called, go onstage and do their well-rehearsed smile and bow.
And my mind wanders. I imagine them in the not-too-distant future stepping out as young adults into this dark and uncertain world. Time goes fast. Will they be ready? What kind of men and women will they become? The thought keeps me awake nights.
I remember words from the book of Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
We face a formidable task. Are we up to it?
The following day I read in the news that the Department of Education (DepEd), as their “response to the demands of society,” will require all schools to introduce changes in their curriculum for Kindergarten and Grades 1 and 2 by teaching Good Manners and Right Conduct as well as proper values.
The directive proposes that children today are more exposed and therefore susceptible to “different environments and technologies that could influence their behavior.”
I suppose this means that some of “the dated, old-fashioned stuff” needs to be taught, and soon, before other forces take over.
My interpretation is that thanks to the new technologies and a devil-may-care attitude from the powers that be, our little ones are now in imminent danger of growing into ill-mannered and rude people who are foul-mouthed and inconsiderate, full of themselves and unaware and uncaring of the existence and well-being of others. Should I go on?
There’s already too much of that. Just look around you. I am tempted to ask: Aren’t we too late?
In fairness to teachers in schools across the country, private or otherwise, I know that they do teach children the fundamentals of good behavior. I don’t know if this is part of the set curriculum. Perhaps it is. I don’t know if they call it Good Manners and Right Conduct. But they teach it!
In my time, they gave us grades for conduct and diligence. Even in high school. My parents looked at those numbers first.
Today most grade school kids are written up in story form. I like that.
It starts in the home
But let’s face it: good manners start in the home.
It begins early. Saying “please” and “thank you,” “excuse me,” “I’m sorry” can’t wait until the child is in school. They must hear it before they can even speak. Eventually the words become part of their vocabulary, and saying them will be second nature.
I believe that boys and girls must be taught to be kind, gentle, thoughtful and caring to one another. Yes, from very early on.
It is all about respect. And they learn this at home. Parents are their first role models.
Children will echo what they hear. Moms and dads: guard your mouths. Be careful of what you say in front of your children. Rein in your negative opinions, your reckless judgments.
Do you label people? Do you point out and laugh at their physical defects? So will your child!
And how can you check your child’s language when you are potty-mouthed yourself? They say that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. There must be a cesspool in your heart. Clean it up, now.
I asked my friend his thoughts on the DepEd idea. He was a bit skeptical and sent a long text.
“It’s about time, but I don’t think curriculum is the problem. Good manners and right conduct were taught in schools way back when. But we had role models then. We had heroes.
“Today, children are still taught good things in school. But media and the internet have shown them that lies, insults and obscenities are cool. They see abhorrent behavior from adults. And they get away with it. So guess what the kids learn?”