Pants saga is op­por­tu­nity to learn

Pretoria News Weekend - - OPINION -

THE ten­sion be­tween the so-called grown-ups and teenagers is as old as hu­mankind. Par­ents of teenage chil­dren have from the be­gin­ning of time had to man­age young­sters who felt mis­un­der­stood and “treated like chil­dren” and adults who be­lieved mod­ern chil­dren were worse than them when they were of the same age.

And so the ten­sion at Hoërskool Pre­to­ria West where pupils de­manded the right to wear skinny pants in­stead of the stan­dard size cut, has to be un­der­stood in that con­text if a long-term and con­struc­tive res­o­lu­tion is to be reached. This week’s agree­ment by par­ents to back the school man­age­ment in keep­ing the pants stan­dard should there­fore not be the end of the mat­ter.

In many ways, the skinny pants saga is a snapshot of re­la­tions be­tween adults and teenagers in vir­tu­ally all ar­eas of life, in­clud­ing in fam­i­lies.

In­stead of think­ing of the episode as an act of delin­quency, the school com­mu­nity must see this as a learn­ing and teach­ing op­por­tu­nity for all con­cerned. They must see this as an op­por­tu­nity to be open to fu­ture dis­cus­sions about mat­ters that af­fect the school.

It is ob­vi­ous from the pupils’ ac­tions that they do not feel ad­e­quately re­spected and their opin­ions taken to heart. It is ap­par­ent from the re­sponses of the par­ents and teach­ers that the chil­dren do not fully ap­pre­ci­ate the ben­e­fits of or­der and sym­bols of dis­ci­pline.

Teach­ers and par­ents must re­mem­ber that teenagers have opin­ions about the world and will push bound­aries and the pupils must re­alise that the world is run on rules, some of them with­out clear rea­sons for ex­is­tence, but nev­er­the­less need­ing to be com­plied with.

We hope that the en­tire school com­mu­nity will use the ex­pe­ri­ence to map out strate­gies that ad­dress the pupils’ need to feel heard and re­spected and to place on them the obli­ga­tion to see the nec­es­sary role of author­ity. If they do it right, the school and pupils might teach and learn about life les­sons in a way that no text­book ever could.

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