Bill Ralston writes in this week’s Listener about keeping kids safe and says: Kids do face a larger array of hazards than their parents did. But the biggest problem they face is not being armed with the fundamentals of life – a set of core values.
His view is reinforced by this true story: A university student told her mother that she had been talking to her friends and they’d all concluded how lucky they were to have been brought up in families where their parents loved each other and their children; set them boundaries and made them face consequences when they breached them; modelled work ethics, taught them the value of money and the importance of values including honesty, kindness, consideration and respect for themselves and others. The mother was touched but she was also saddened because when she’d been 21 she’d have taken these things for granted because they would have been normal; obviously her daughter and her friends didn’t because they no longer are.
There are many reasons for this, one of which is the intrusion of the state into people’s lives. Of course there must be some rules and safeguards, but those who try to make the world really safe, not just for children but for all of us, actually make it more dangerous because we stop taking responsibility for ourselves.
Personal responsibility is one of the core values, like the others the students recognised, that used to be common place, but isn’t so common anymore. Bill refers to Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft’s appeal for schools to help those kids whose families don’t teach them personal values. I am wary of putting more on to already over-loaded teachers and I also wonder how much can be taught at school if it’s not being modelled at home and in society at large.
The following verse is supposedly written on the tomb of a bishop in the crypts of Westminster Abby:
Start with yourself
When I was young and free and my imagination
had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As
I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world
would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat
and decided to change only my country.
But it too seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate
attempt, I settled for changing only my family,
those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realise:
If I had only changed myself first, then by example
I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement, I would
then have been able to better my country and,
who knows, I may have even changed the world.