Is this generation of parents the worst ever?

Thursday, March 01, 2018

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The Rotary Club of St Andrew has long been providing a forum for the exchange of useful ideas and the promotion of critical issues of national development, through its speakers' bureau.

The club must have felt extremely justified in its decision to invite Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police Steve McGregor to address this Tuesday's luncheon on the theme “Tackling the beast: Perspectives on crime and violence in Jamaica”.

“We make the mistake all the time to think that [the] parents that we have are good enough. This generation of parents are the worst ever,” Mr McGregor, the head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's Safety and Security Branch, bluntly told the Rotarians and their guests.

Mr McGregor made that statement after outlining plans by his unit to focus its efforts on preventing youngsters from being lured into criminal gangs, hoping to replicate his success in getting young people in Western Kingston off the streets by 9:00 pm, in other communities.

Such bluntness is not always appreciated by people who prefer a greater level of political correctness. But people, like Mr Sameer Younis, who spent a lifetime urging Jamaica to take family life more seriously, are likely to applaud Mr McGregor.

Of course he did not present empirical data to substantiate his suggestion that this is the worst generation of parents ever. But when one listens to the constant complaints of teachers, guidance counsellors, deans of discipline, social workers and others in the care of children, it is easy to agree with the policeman.

The police often end up with the failures of parenting, and who better to speak about the quality of parenting? The anecdotal evidence suggests that a great many of our children — a substantial number of them born to teenaged mothers and fathers — are raising themselves with little and sometimes no parental support.

Mr McGregor is telling us something we have always known, that these children, especially the males, are the prime target for recruitment by gangs, drug dealers and other criminal enterprises who are wreaking havoc in our country.

But beyond Acting ACP McGregor's choice of words about parents is the critical suggestion that Jamaica should be focusing more deliberately on keeping youngsters from being lured into a life of crime.

“Our young people make up the bulk of those who are being killed and, equally, they've become the bulk of those who are doing the killing. So anything that we're going to devise, most of it must be focused around young people,” he said.

His logic is simple: prevention is better than cure. We must reach the youth before the criminals can get to them. Or as our wise old people used to say: “bend the tree before it is grown”.

It may not be possible to bring back a long gone past or to fit the past into the present. But we have still not bettered the old practice of a community being responsible for all the children. Believe it or not, it does take a village to raise a child.

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