‘Give me the child of seven and I will show you the man’ ; so runs the famous quote often attributed to Ignatius Loyola. Whether as a mantra for education or other fields, it has resonated with the wider community due to its insight into how early development can have a profound and lasting effect on adulthood.
It is interesting and encouraging one of the Coalition’s election policies this week in its high-volume ‘law and-order’ campaign attempts to look at the preventative measures which can help stop juvenile crime at the very best point; by the individuals themselves who are making the choices.
The idea is to reintroduce and expand on the presence of police in schools in the hope that a better understanding of police in a less combative setting will form the groundwork for respecting not only police and the protective role they play but even the rule of law itself. At face value it may seem too simplistic an answer to a complex issue and begs the question if police should be the ones trying to fill these gaps in schools when other structures and influencers have failed.
There is, of course, also large amounts of work already done by Victoria Police at a community liaison level including at schools. We can leave the politicians to argue about what is the right amount of resourcing for schools. But at the heart of this policy is an attempt to answer community concern of a small sub-group of miscreants who have an entrenched lack of respect for the law or those who enforce it. Whether it is violent home invasions or ramming police cars these individuals are a complex but concerning problem which punitive action alone seems unlikely to solve. Indeed if recent reports are true, more jail time, including in adult prisons, seems to act as a facilitator to recruitment into more serious criminal endeavours
So how to stop this slide before it all starts? The latest plan may be short on detail and carry the problem of stigmatising some schools but at its hear it shows a broader approach to redress the balance between obedience and respect.
It is more than likely this imbalance has always been a problem but such a move also identifies how early these attitudes are formed, how the complex combination of poor life and education choices, perverting influences, the absence of structure, role-models and opportunities can take the child of seven and make the destined life criminal of 14 or 21. Anything that breaks that fateful spiral early has some merit.