This is a recent post by the journalist Ray Sparvell from WA Today an Australian news website April 9 2015
The week before last two teenagers were allegedly involved in a wild rampage in Northbridge. Police are currently blitzing shopping centres throughout the state because of the usual increase in trouble during school holidays. By the end of the bushfire “season”, police had also arrested 16 kids, aged between 10 and 17 over arson-related charges.
Now, I’m not saying kids have got the mortgage on creating trouble. There are plenty of adults filling prisons with their own anti social behavior and recidivist criminality. We’ve also got one-punch idiots, road ragers and football players – young and former – making asses of themselves. There’s not enough space in this column to chart it all.
But it’s easy to have a beef with the kids: “they’ve got no manners”, “no gratitude”, “nose always stuck in a media device”, “want-it-alls who don’t want to put in the hard yards”. And so on. Then as they get older, its binge drinking, drugs and a general lack of respect.
They are the headlines but we know that most kids who play up, do go on to make a worthy lives for themselves and their families. We all did, right? I’m sure there are plenty of us grateful that social media wasn’t around in our day to record our indiscretions.
The reality is there probably isn’t any one single factor that leads a kid to make bad choices . . . and keep making them.
But I’d like to shine the light on an unfashionable champion that could make a positive difference. And for that I need to be sitting in a studded leather chesterfield with a pipe and a snifter of brandy wearing my mess jacket rattling with medals. Call me a grumpy old duffer if you will, but here’s a subject you probably last heard from your grandparents.
When was the last time you were asked what were your core virtues? Virtues are personal moral traits like courage, tolerance, honour, perseverance, dignity, justice, prudence, frugality, compassion and more. Every individual should have a platform of virtues that is the foundation of their character.
Virtues provide an individual with a moral compass that can inform every decision. When a kid is contemplating an action and his moral compass says “it’s wrong”, then maybe that kid will make a better decision. Without a set of virtues to fall back on, there is no moral handbrake.
How many of us were taught virtues by our parents? Did we learn them at school? Did we have any mentors who taught them to us? As it happens, virtues are getting a dusting off and a new lease on life around the world as new generations look for a set of beliefs to live and act by.
In the US, virtues are gaining new profile through initiatives like the Virtues Project, a grassroots campaign that received United Nations’ recognition during the International Year of the Family as a “model global program for families of all cultures”. In Australia, educators are adopting “values education” as a means of moving the virtues from “ornamentals” to “fundamentals”.
My challenge to us all as adults is to adopt a set of virtues and self assess a personal benchmark. Score yourself on each from 1-10 and start from there. The good news about virtues is that you can practice and train toward a desired standard.
But a final word on the kids: they are society’s future. Some kids do learn the importance of virtues at home from parents who understand that they are the foundation of independence.
Where other kids don’t have that guidance, then maybe that is where the education system has to step in – and early. After all, the opposite of a virtue is a vice.
And in a moral vacuum that’s what awaits the vulnerable.