Barbadian Attorney calls for New Approach in Passing on Ethical Values to Children

Attorney-at-Law and Commonwealth Professional Fellow, Kaye Williams, wonders whether Barbadians are facing a “new norm” when seeking to pass on necessary core values and ethical principles to the younger generation.

Speaking on the theme "In Search of Ethical Principles" at the recently held Speech Day and Prize Giving Ceremony at Queen's College, Mrs. Williams, who is a former student of that institution, pointed out that traditional ways of passing on core values and ethical principles to today's student were no longer as effective as in the past.

Speaking on the theme “In Search of Ethical Principles” at the recently held Speech Day and Prize Giving Ceremony at Queen’s College, Mrs. Williams, who is a former student of that institution, pointed out that traditional ways of passing on core values and ethical principles to today’s student were no longer as effective as in the past.

She quoted the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus who said that “the only thing that is constant is change“, while putting forward her own view of the change that she had seen in Barbadian society:

Societies are dynamic. They will change….the home taught and reinforced what was taught at school, which was further reinforced in the church and in the community or volunteer organisations.” However, she argued that as society was now more culturally diverse and children spent more hours on various electronic devices, a new way to pass on values and ethics was needed.

"Our children are not growing up in community or in the neighbourhood. They are growing up online. Students of today are digital natives....Parents, you have seen this all too familiar scene: a group of young people, either relaxing or have come together to study. Everyone has a device, if not two: a phone, a tablet, a laptop. While they are together, there are two, simultaneous conversations occurring.... We need to re look to see where our youth spend their time online and redefine how technology is deployed to engage our youth and to communicate our norms and values," Mrs. Williams advised before an audience that included Principal Dr. David Browne, teachers, members of the board of management, and students.

Our children are not growing up in community or in the neighbourhood. They are growing up online. Students of today are digital natives….Parents, you have seen this all too familiar scene: a group of young people, either relaxing or have come together to study. Everyone has a device, if not two: a phone, a tablet, a laptop. While they are together, there are two, simultaneous conversations occurring…. We need to re look to see where our youth spend their time online and redefine how technology is deployed to engage our youth and to communicate our norms and values,” Mrs. Williams advised before an audience that included Principal Dr. David Browne, teachers, members of the board of management, and students.

Ethical values critical for both academic and social success

The Attorney-at-Law, who has also served on the Disciplinary Committee of the Barbados Bar Association, implored students to understand the importance of the application of ethical principles to their lives and to have a vision for the future which encompassed not only academic success but moral ideas. She argued that a person may be intelligent, articulate and confident, with complete mastery of technology, but if they were without ethical principles, they often found themselves on the wrong side of the courtroom. “We call them the accused,” she warned.

She offered an example of what she saw as an absence of certain values in society by referring to a recent article on a young man who was charged with five serious offences, including three murders, all of which occurred during the short period of January and August 2015.

He struck a quick pose, thumbs together and forefingers pointed upwards, before being hustled into the waiting vehicle. The women in the courtyard offered their sentiments of ‘I’ve got your back’ and ‘stay strong’, Mrs. Williams quoted the article as stating, while noting that this and recent photos of a young lady on Instagram posing with funds allegedly obtained from a robbery were testimony to the ethical challenges facing our society.

Students were also cautioned that while a breach of such principles may not always have serious consequences such as those facing that young man and young lady, ethical codes were still important. “For example a student may be disrespectful, rude and frankly lacking in all manners. That behaviour breaches the core values and will lead to discipline, but it is not punishable by law. The song may say ‘you can’t be ugly and unmannerly, you have to choose one’, but being good looking should not allow you to breach basic principles,” the Attorney-at-Law stated.

She added the core values they should adopt included critical thinking, humility, the ability to care and nurture and productive citizenship.

She added the core values they should adopt included critical thinking, humility, the ability to care and nurture and productive citizenship.

Students urged to have first class work ethic

Mrs. Williams also reminded the children that they should aspire to an excellent work ethic in school, which could then be transferred to the workplace when their studies were completed. “One of the core values ascribed by this school is “productive citizenship”. I urge you to subscribe to a first class work ethic, even when others around you may not subscribe to that ethical principle,” she advised.

The Commonwealth Professional Fellow raised the concern that while Barbados’ motto is “Pride and Industry” Barbadians were increasingly being told by critics that their reputation for being industrious was slipping.

According to her, research supports this suggestion as Barbados had slipped from being in the top 50 ranking in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index – a ranking it has held for several years – to now being ranked 55th. “Of concern, the World Competitive Report notes that Barbados suffers from ‘low labour market’ efficiency, poor work ethics and low labour productivity,” Mrs. Williams said.

She also made reference to a recent study conducted by the Barbados Productivity Council which showed high levels of absenteeism in the financial, accommodation and construction sectors. The featured speaker explained that high levels of absenteeism "remains a serious issue and continues to be a great obstacle to productivity, profitability and competitiveness".

She also made reference to a recent study conducted by the Barbados Productivity Council which showed high levels of absenteeism in the financial, accommodation and construction sectors. The featured speaker explained that high levels of absenteeism “remains a serious issue and continues to be a great obstacle to productivity, profitability and competitiveness“.

Reversing the trend

However, Mrs. Williams noted that Barbadians could turn around this disturbing trend by continuing to take the steps necessary to define their core values. “As a country we must strike a balance – to develop legal frameworks and institutional capacity in line with regional and international legal requirements, but also to develop national priorities (and) national core values which provide a solid foundation for the country’s sustainable growth and development. I challenge you, not to be afraid to step forward, you can contribute to the debate on what are the national priorities for this country’s future,” she urged students.

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