Two seemingly unrelated articles on separate pages in, The Sunday Age, caught my eye this morning and as I stopped to think for a moment and join the dots the link became blindingly obvious.
In the first article Brodie’s law to be used to cut out school bullying, the Victorian Government states that it ‘will use Brodie’s law – which amended the Crimes Act to allow 10-year prison terms for workplace bullying – to protect principals, teachers, and students who are subjected to severe cases of online abuse.’
Why has it got to a stage where we need to be threatened with dire legal consequences if we are not nice to each other? Is it because there has been a breakdown in the willingness to maintain even simple standards of ethical behaviour – (just think of the recent London riots)? It seems that some people, not just teenagers, think that they can do or write anything and get nothing more than a slap on the wrist for it.
Adults as well as teenagers often cite: ‘it was a joke’ or ‘I didn’t really mean it’ or ‘he did it first’. These explanations are given as if they are a legitimate defence but worse still as if they are a moral vindication. It is now rarer that the response is ‘I am sorry, it was the wrong thing to do’.
And so when I read the second article, The case for decency, written by the highly regarded Australian team, Patricia and Don Edgar, the following sentence leapt off the page :
‘What the world needs now is more emotional intelligence and an ethical base for intelligent behaviour.’
It sounds so simple and it is simple. Educators and parents together must unite and ensure that our children reflect on their own behaviour. Emotional intelligence is a combination of insight, self-control and empathy. No matter what the other person has done, it does not, except in extreme cases of self-defence, warrant the child responding in the same manner. Thinking before we act, restraining our impulses and doing unto others as we would like them to do to us is the essence of emotional intelligence and not too hard!