By Tim Middleton
John Arlott was one of the most revered and respected cricket commentators. Perhaps his most memorable comment came during a Test match in 1947 when the South African left arm spinner Tufty Mann was causing the England batsman George Mann all sorts of problems with his bowling, by the movement of the ball off the pitch, and Arlott quietly and drolly uttered: “What we have here is a clear case of Mann’s inhumanity to Mann”, referring to the words of the 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns: “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!” Therein lies the problem, as has been made only too clearly in recent weeks through the Black Lives Matter movement. However, it is no laughing matter. What is at fault is the PR in our education system.
Schools, like most organisations, are very keen to do their own PR — but in PRomoting their school they tend to PRovoke a PRoblem that leads to PRejudice; that PRoblem is that they PRoduce PRogrammed, not PRincipled, children. Programming children is indoctrinating them and that leads only to disaster. They do things without thinking, because they are told to do so; they are simply programmed to behave in a certain way, to obey without question.
We should not forget that the education system does not simply refer to teachers. Parents, prefects and politicians are as much part of the education system as teachers. When parents tell their child to do something and the child asks why, the common answer is: “Because I say so!” No reason is given, no principle invoked; it is simply a means of programming the child to do as the parent says. It goes further: the parents’ stock warning often is to say: “Don’t do as I do: do as I say.” Once again, where is the principle? Not only do they fail to give a reason, they fail to provide an example. As long as we have systems that encourage authority that is reliant on fear (be it in schools or society), that is based on seniority (which is in effect only a shortened form of superiority), that is based on programming people to behave in certain ways, we will only bring further PR disaster.
Yet let us not forget that PR stands for Public Relations; that speaks of building relations between the public, of drawing people together. We cannot make people like each other; we can only help them to see their place. And that is based on principles not on programmes. We need people of principle. However, principles on their own are not the answer. For too long the only principles that we have taught our children are these: do whatever you like but do not get caught; do to others before they do it to you; do to others because they did it to you. None of those are going to prevent the PR disaster that is brewing. We need people of principle in that they are consistent. They must not condemn some while condoning others; many proudly and provocatively preach against one form of ‘-ism’ yet are guilty of others. We need above all young people to grow up as people who will not judge others but who will do to others as they wish others to do to them.
The fact is, just as the word ‘inhumanity’ involves the word ‘inanity’, meaning foolishness, madness, stupidity, so our inhumanity towards others is all of that because there is no reason, no defence, no principle to such behaviour. Movements will not change the heart of man just as movements of the cricket ball will only deceive batsmen. Ambrose Bierce points out in The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary that inhumanity is “One of the signal and characteristic qualities of humanity”; in other words, humans sadly seem to be programmed towards inhumanity. It is our job as educators to train young people before it is too late to be principled people.
Alan Paton, the South African author whose book Cry the Beloved Country rocked his country in 1948 by the protest against the structures of the society that would give rise to apartheid, later said, “There is only one way in which one can endure man’s inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one’s own life, to exemplify man’s humanity to man.” We need to be principled in every aspect of our life, not just some. John Arlott, when asked to fill in the immigration form on entering South Africa, under the section titled ‘Race’ wrote “Human”. That is the starting point; if we ignore that, we will indeed, 70 years later, be saying, “Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear.” Fear is the fruit of programmes. Let us rather feed our children on principles, the principles that matter. Public relations will flourish when we do.
l Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.