Month: October 2013

What kind of messages are we sending to our children

By: Theo Tuwankotta

“You really need to consider the message you’re sending this boys by ending the lockout. It’s the same message that we as a culture send to our professional athletes; and that is that they are above the law. If these boys cannot honor the simple rules of a basketball contract, how long do you think it will be before they’re out there breaking the law? I played ball here at Richmond High 30 years ago. It was the same thing then; some of my teammates went to prison, some of them even ended up dead. If you vote to end the lockout, you won’t have to terminate me; I’ll quit.”

The above written quotation I found from the movie Coach Carter (2005). Coach Ken Carter takes over the head coaching job for the Oilers basketball team at his old high school Richmond, having played on the team himself, earning unbeaten records. Carter quickly learns that the athletes are rude and disrespectful, and are in need of discipline. He hands the players individual contracts, instructing them to attend all of their classes and maintain a respectable grade point average, among other requirements. Carter later discovers the progress reports filled out by the faculty reveal some of the students have been skipping classes and floundering academically. Carter initiates a lockdown on the gym, banning the team from playing until they improve their grades. The act angers the locals, as Carter is criticized by parents and academic personnel alike. The school board eventually confronts Carter, who justifies his actions, explaining he wants to give his team the opportunity and option for further education so they won’t resort to crime. The board, aside from Principal Garrison and the chairman, vote to end the lockout, much to Carter’s dismay.

Sometime (if not most of the time) our goal oriented attitude dominates our way of thought. We do not really care what is the cost of our action, as long as we receive what we want. When those parents of Richmond high in the movie, forced the school to end the lockout, they also send the message that laws are not to be respected. But let us now look at our society, and maybe … maybe we could recognize similar behavior. As parents, sometime we “allow” children to ride on a motorbikes, even cars. Many of us even “pay” the authorities to get these children license when they are not eligible for it. Also with school reports, how many of us allow our selves to “bribe” the authorities to help our children get through their difficulties in schools. School is a place to get education, but clearly we’re sending out the message that school is nothing but a market.

The bad news is, we’ve been sending these messages for ages. And now we are paying the price. Corruption has been found at any level of the governmental office. Even academics are not immune to this severe decease, and also religious people or religious organization. The integrity of these organizations who are supposed to be the guardian of values, is now questionable.

In mathematics, we recognize a special function called norm. In society, we also have norms. To put it in a simple way, a mathematical norm maps an element in a space (called vector) to real numbers of which can be put in order. This is basically what norms in the society do: maps the behavior of a member of the society to some measurements of which can be stated as, for example: being noble, good, acceptable, fair, bad, should be avoided, or even forbidden. And just as in mathematics, by changing the norm we can get a different topology (or simply, a different type of sets), also in the society the norms also define what is good-, acceptable-, or bad- category of behaviors. The difference is, norm in mathematics is basically unaffected by the space where it lives, and the norm is invariant with respect to time. In society, norms are influenced by the society itself and also in general are NOT invariant with respect to time. There are behaviors which are acceptable in the early days of human life which are now considered as unacceptable or even forbidden.

Furthermore, these messages we’re sending to our children, be it good or bad,…. harmful or harmless,…. killing or curing,…. whatever they are,…. these messages help defining a new norm, or transforming the old norm into a new one. And as they become norms, they define the way of thoughts of these soon to be the majority in the society. Let us now talk to our conscience, and check: what kind of messages we’re sending to our children. If we are not careful with this, we are in the process of creating monsters.

Bandung, 09-10-2013