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Over-indulgent parents and brand-conscious schools are failing our kids

There’s a sickness infecting some of our boys caused by a toxic combination of over-indulgent parents, schools obsessed with ‘brand image’ and the normalising of sex and violence by mass media

columns Updated: Feb 23, 2018 18:36 IST
Gurugram school,rape,sex
Parents and members of various organisations stage a protest near HAL police station demanding justice and strict punishment for the culprits who sexually assaulted a 6-year-old student at a private school in Marathahalli, Bengaluru (Representative Photo)(KPN)

On Instagram, the seventh-grader threatens to have his teacher and her daughter raped. The eighth-grader emails two of his ‘very hot’ teachers and invites them to a ‘candle light date’ since “I feel like f***ing you right now.”

These kids are respectively 12 and 13 years old. They study in a posh Gurugram school and it is tempting to see them as aberrations, silly boys with raging hormones.

Yet, how do we continue to ignore a rising graph — all involving young male perpetrators — that includes at its most extreme, the murder of a seven-year-old student in another school allegedly by a senior student of the same school because he wanted the exams postponed? Or a 17-year-old who is allowed to drive his family Mercedes and ends up killing another man? Or the two teenagers who shoot to death an Uber driver?

It’s time we saw it, this sickness infecting some of our boys caused by a toxic combination of over-indulgent parents, schools obsessed with academic performance to the near exclusion of everything else, and the normalising of sex and violence by mass media.

From every side, we are assaulting our own and our children’s sensibilities with the shouting matches on television, feeding our kids a daily diet of bigotry, hatred and violence. Words like ‘rape’, ‘lynching’, ‘honour killing’ are now everyday casual terms that carry no sting. The objectification of women and the meaning of what it is to be ‘masculine’ washes over our ads, our cinema and the language of our politics. How do we expect any young adult to be immune?

Over-protective parents are raising entitled children. In some cases, there is a lack of supervision. In other cases, affluent parents cover up their sons’ crimes.

Overlooking what might seem like a minor crime tells the kids that daddy will cover up. It tells the other kids that there is no need to fear consequence. And so, a lesser crime of physical violence today escalates into a hit-and-run tomorrow. In both cases, fathers with more money than morality will sort it out.

Schools eager to protect their brand image are sometimes complicit in the cover-up. The Gurugram school in question says‘stern action has been taken ‘including suspension and mandated counselling’, but a spokesperson said she could not get into details. This is not good enough. We need a larger debate on where we are going wrong and what we can do to fix it, not a bland media statement.

When children see their mothers disrespected at home or staff being ill-treated or parents voicing hate statements against minorities and others then, “How do we counter this narrative in school? How do we tell them that their parents are wrong?” asks a teacher who doesn’t want to be named.

Yet, if we are to take a cue from recent events, we need to be able to talk about value-based education and a wholesome curriculum. We need to talk to boys about respect and consent. We need to tell them that violence, including the violence of language, is not cool. And we need to demonstrate that violations will not be tolerated. If some families are failing to impart these basic lessons, then schools will have to step in and fill that vacuum.

Young people are smart. They need only to be nudged in the right direction. In the United States, it is high school students who survived a tragic shooting who are taking lawmakers to task, demanding a ban on assault weapons. At home, we have seen the success of student-led campaigns to ban firecrackers and plastic and clean rivers.

The fault really lies with us, the adults. We are failing our kids.

The point is not a knee-jerk reaction against a particular seventh or eighth grader. The point is to understand that we have a problem. Unless we fix it, what might seem like an aberration now has all the potential to snowball into a full-blown trend.

Namita Bhandare writes on social issues and gender

Twitter: @namitabhandare

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Feb 23, 2018 18:36 IST