Columns

Focus on the 'who' and not the 'what'

Mark Nicely

Sunday, May 04, 2014    

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A common question that is usually asked of our Jamaican children is, "What do you want to become when you grow up?" Traditionally, the responses would be lawyer, doctor, teacher, policeman or policewoman.

In more recent times, however, the answers given by some children include being a Deejay or a Singjay and a few have actually told their teachers that they want to become druggists or scammers. In most of the cases, however, the choice of a profession is usually determined by the financial gains that are seen as the basis for a comfortable life.

In other cases, the choices are influenced by society and what it considers to be the appropriate professions. There are also those who have the "get rich quick" mentality and will choose a profession they believe will enable them to make a lot of money quickly without making the usual sacrifice.

However, the response that the child or young adult gives to the desired profession leads the adult to determine whether or not he or she has ambition; and this ambition, or the lack thereof, is liable to rate the individual's future prospects. Jamaica has produced many professionals who fulfil the societal norms and expectations.

We boast about our many doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, pastors and others. However, even with this achievement, the question is, where are we now? Are we happy with the state of affairs of our country? Are we happy that these children, now grown, have fulfilled the 'WHAT' they wanted to become? Are we happy with their impact on the functioning of society?

The general response, I believe, is no. Instead of indulging in the cause, I want us to focus on a possible solution. Could it be that we have been asking our children and young adults the wrong question? When we were asking 'What do you want to become?' could it be that we ought to have been asking 'Who do you want to become?'

Speaking to the 'who' suggests warmth, personality and character, values and attitudes and sound moral standing. And so, among our professionals we require teachers of good character, who display high moral standards in their personal and professional lives.

Speaking to the 'who' suggests warmth, personality and character, values and attitudes and sound moral standing. And so, among our professionals we require teachers of good character, who display high moral standards in their personal and professional lives.

We require lawyers who defend or prosecute justly, even in cases of twisted truths and half-lies; we require doctors who will carry out their duties with the greatest degree of ethical standards and who will resist any temptation to engage in malpractice.

We need politicians who will distance themselves from corrupt practices and demonstrate their love and regard for the people. We need pastors who understand their role as leaders of God's people, and who are worthy of emulation by those whom they lead. We need accountants who will be prudent in managing people's funds, being fully cognisant that those funds are not their own and so account for all funds in their care.

In other words, we need professionals with a conscience, with a high level of accountability and who hold themselves to some minimum moral standards; professionals who have a heart for others, and with a loyalty to country and fellow human being. We need professionals whom our children can emulate.

So the next time you engage a child seeking to ascertain his or her preferred place in society, ask not, "What do you want to become?" but "Who do you want to become?" and do not stop there. Ask the question, "What kind of professional would you like to be?"

— Dr Mark Nicely is president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association

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