What is our country’s greatest resource? Is it our Barrier Reef and our fishing and aquaculture industries; or, the citrus, sugar, and banana industries taken together, or, is it the land, including the cayes and atolls? It’s none of these. Our greatest natural resource is our children.
There are some very interesting ideas about how a model society ought to be structured. The one I will discuss was presented in a book I read many years ago called Plato’s Republic. My recounting will be from memory, so, it will not be exactly as it was written by Plato.
Plato said that the children were all wards of the state. They would be taken away from their parents when they reached the age of reason and put into camps where they would be cared for, trained and educated. The training would be in military discipline and the use of arms, so, that they would all be able to serve in the defence of the nation in the time of need. After their primary education, it will be determined what they are best suited for and that will be the area that their training will concentrate on to prepare them for their lifework and position in the society. Some will be tradesmen, some artisans, some be trained as officers for the army, some professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers, some in the performing arts and the best minds will become philosophers and professors and they will be rulers of the society. Society would have a hierarchical structure and each individual will belong to a class. The class structure would not be rigid, so that, there could be movement of individuals upwards or downwards, depending on performance or qualifications. The rulers would set high moral standards for the rest of society to emulate and, since everyone’s basic needs would be satisfied, there would be little excuse for criminality.
Since Plato wrote The Republic in the 5th century, no nation has adopted his idea of a model society. I think the ruling classes in most countries did not want their sons to be soldiers. They wanted them to in the professions or businessmen, so they could join the ruling class. And yet, Plato was absolutely right about one thing: what you do or don’t do with the children determines what kind of state you will live in.
We will begin to have social change for the better as soon as our leaders realize that every child’s basic needs have to be met; that every child must have a basic education; that every child be taught good health habits of mind and body; that everything be done while the child is young to ensure that he grows up to be a law-abiding and productive citizen.
There should be a partnership of government and civil society leaders, together with the children’s parents and guardians, to do everything to ensure that the children become assets to society. Regard it as investment we can’t afford not to make.
We did this once before when the centrepiece of the 1992 Crime Commission report recommended the establishment of a National Service Corps, to draft the same young people who later found themselves in the gangs. Our leaders thought then, that we couldn’t afford the expenditure. Now, it is costing the nation ten times as much and has destroyed our Administration of Justice System.
Now, I am sounding the Tocsin once again and, I am saying, we have to do whatever is necessary to take good care of our children. No expenditure of energy, time and money is too much.