Subject Charles Knighton
Schizophrenic seems the most apt description of so-called socially progressive governments including, of course, Barbados. Not a week passes without some government minister calling for more citizen self-reliance while other ministries continue to foster a dependency on government by broadening and deepening the metaphorical social safety net. Human nature being what it is, originally well intended social safety nets meant to be used as springboards to self-reliance have instead become hammocks of dependency for far too many.
The Advocate’s editorial of Dec. 5, “Positive approach” mentions, inter alia, the important nexus between extracurricular activities and the social fabric, particularly via volunteerism. The editorial further suggests that such volunteerism “can help address many of the disciplinary issues encountered in our schools and the wider society” as volunteering fosters a discipline which “imparts a feeling of accomplishment and engagement as volunteers develop empathy for others and a greater social awareness.”
Let us engage in the following social experiment to gauge at least somewhat whether self-reliance is undermined by government policies, and whether volunteerism can indeed produce the social benefits the editorial suggests.
Let all children volunteer to contribute to their school’s upkeep in exchange for vouchers redeemable for privileges that school kids value. Initially, the inculcation of such positive attributes as being on time, maintaining a proper attitude and displaying the proper respect for those in authority trump how well they perform their assigned tasks. Together with the social benefits enumerated in the editorial, think of this as an experiment in capitalism (work for reward) and self-esteem building (status through achievement).
To determine whether children use this opportunity as a springboard to self-reliance or as a hammock of dependency, tax the vouchers and give a share of earned privileges to those who chose not to participate. The lessons learned through such an experiment would surely be enlightening to those willing to see.