‘Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.’ (Aristotle)
I have always been interested in education and the opportunities that education presents to young and not so young. Since the 1940s a good education has been regarded by most people here as most important. The standards here in the north are very high but the unfortunate thing is that we educate an awful lot of people for export. Not enough is being done to provide the young people with job opportunities and not enough is being done to create better infrastructure to entice investment to places like Fermanagh. For one thing, the roads here are in a disgraceful condition. Education was a key to the movement for equal rights in the 1960s. A new generation had grown up more confident and better informed to take on the corrupt political establishment. Education, at its best, gives people confidence. It will help to research and provide facts about political and social life. Education will continue to contribute to better social and economic conditions in the north. There needs to be more emphasis on educating the heart and the emotions.
Most education in the past has been about intellectual formation. There was not much about emotional development when I was going to school. There was corporal punishment and bullying. The corporal punishment has been stopped. The bullying is more difficult to stop. As for sex education that took place in the back of the bus on the way home from school!
There is an urgent need for a comprehensive education programme for young people that include being taught the meaning of love and relationships, the sanctity of sex and emotional development. Parents are the primary educators in this regard but many parents do not feel well enough prepared or confident to talk about this subject to their children in an open and caring way.
In terms of religious and moral education a lot needs to be done by the educators and the churches. This calls for financial investment. The linking of sex and sin has done untold damage to men and women and to our appreciation of the gift of sexuality. For young people, it is an amazing and sometimes shocking discovery and young people sometimes find it difficult to cope especially if they have not been prepared for the changes that take place in their lives. Young people from the beginning of puberty ought to be prepared by parents and teachers to accept this intrinsic part of their being. They need to be educated to learn respect for themselves and one another especially during these formative and challenging years. Those who discover that they are gay need all the support possible to help them feel they belong. Teachers have a special responsibility in this regard.
I am in favour of co-education. It is good to see boys and girls forming relationship in a safe environment. It is not so wonderful to see boys and girls at a very young age experimenting with sexual activity which sometimes ends in pregnancy. According to surveys more and more young people at a young age are engaging in sexual activity. It is no wonder since promiscuity is everywhere on TV and on the internet. Young people do not always think about the consequences of their sexual activity. They are overcome by their emotions and passions. There are so many teenage pregnancies nowadays. So many babies born into a situation where the young woman is left to care for the baby with or without the help of her parents. There are so many unwanted babies and so many abortions, all of which can cause heartache and anxiety especially for young girls and their families. There is a great need for education and formation in the sexual/emotional area of life. In an ideal world there would not be unwanted pregnancies but we do not live in such a world and so we need to deal with the situation.
Another reality nowadays is the availability of pornography on the internet. Watching this stuff can do untold damage to people’s minds and it can become addictive. There is really a great need for more regulation of this kind of distortion of human sexuality. A most urgent need is a more comprehensive education to prepare young people for their emotional and spiritual development. As the Greek man said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”