Tuesday 17 September 2019

How not to celebrate

The news that a group of graduates ended up assaulting the Dean of the Faculty of Sciences was to say the least mind-boggling…what on earth were they thinking?

There are conflicting versions of what happened, but the end result is that someone was seriously   injured.  These groups of celebrating university students take over the islands each year, and most of the time they are treated with fond indulgence, even when they stop traffic as their hired bus stops smack in the middle of the road so that they can pile out and have their photo taken.  We tolerate it even when they make a din blowing horns and whistles and generally letting off steam after their years of studying.

But I think punching the head of a faculty in the eye and fracturing his shoulder is taking things a bit too far.

According to reports, the students were being rowdy on campus, and when the Dean came out of his office and asked them to be quiet, “(he) ended up surrounded by 30 to 40 students who threw him to the floor when he tried to protect himself”.

The graduates’ version is that the Dean slapped a student and that is why mayhem broke out, while another report said that the student’s nose was broken.  However, in the end a 22-year-old B. Com graduate was arrested for assaulting the Dean.

What kind of behaviour is this? It makes one wonder what kind of education we are spending our money on if graduates turn into the worst kind of hooligans just because they are told to be quiet out of respect for other students still attending their lectures.

Looking at this violent incident in the context of other types of anti-social behaviour I see around me, I’m starting to see a general trend. Put simply, there is simply no sense of what is appropriate and what is not.  There is a time and place to be rowdy and a time to be respectful and zip it…or at least the common sense to take the rowdiness and euphoria at having finally graduated off campus grounds, where it does not disturb others.

I read somewhere that around 2,900 students graduated this year, which is very positive for the country, but what is the point of churning out people with diplomas and degrees who have acquired knowledge and yet have remained uncouth?

Perhaps it is because I’ve been away from the island recently, but at the moment I seem to have a heightened awareness of our general rudeness.  When you have been to countries where the people are extremely polite, the lack of manners here strike an even more discordant note. It’s not just about saying please and thank you, it’s about smiling and looking you in the eye to say hello. It’s a certain gentleness of manner and friendliness, not biting your head off because they’re in a bad mood and you just happen to cross their path.

It’s about people introducing each other when they are in a group where not everyone knows one another – and not letting someone stand there being ignored while you talk away, not even bothering to include them in the conversation.  If I had a say in the school curriculum I would include a subject called Good manners & Etiquette  from the time children are in kindergarten, perhaps to partially make up for what is obviously lacking in so many homes.  The breathtaking arrogance I hear about in some many private (independent) schools is testimony to the fact that this is one area where money, social class and who you are Daddy is has nothing to do with anything.  The collapse and dearth of manners is right across the board; we have landed ourselves with at least one generation which uses expletives for conversation and complete obnoxiousness as a standard rule of thumb.

But it’s not just the young who simply have no idea how to be courteous to others.

Now that I’m working from home, I sometimes answer phone calls on my land line which are obviously wrong numbers. “Hemmhekk fejn?” (where is that?) one woman demanded to know imperiously as soon as I said hello. I told her she had phoned a private residence. “Ok, bye” and blamm, she slammed the phone down. No apologies, not even a hello at the beginning of the conversation to pre-empt her demand. Now, you would think since she had called my number, she should have at least attempted to tell me where she was trying to phone rather than high-handedly wanting to know where she had phoned.

But this is the arrogance we live with every day. The arrogance of, I’m sorry to say, the ignorant.

In our desperate scramble to hike up the numbers of students who continue to follow their studies at tertiary level, I think we have forgotten to teach them that the way they treat others is the biggest life lesson young people will ever learn.

Are we instilling in them the values of being kind and kind-hearted, or is it simply easier to poke fun and ridicule others as we saw recently in those clips doing the rounds of that hapless Miss World Malta beauty contestant who faltered and stumbled in her use of English during an interview? OK, admittedly she should have been better prepared and ideally, we should choose beauty queens whose grasp of English can hold up well when speaking to judges. But, come on, our general standard of English has taken such a nose dive that I would bet quite a few graduates are unable to string coherent sentences together either.

While people were busy killing themselves with laughter over her gaffes (“birds are the only things that fly”), my heart went out to her.  Yes, her performance in the interviews was pretty cringe-worthy, but why such cruelty and meanness? At one point it was pretty clear she was unravelling and had lost her train of thought; she was simply chattering away without realising what she was saying.  It was almost painful to watch.

I’m uploading it here not to encourage the mockery, but simply for those who have not yet seen it to judge for themselves.

Maybe we should be asking ourselves whether our education is failing on two counts: our standard of English, and our ability to simply be nice to other people.

Either way, we are failing.







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