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School toilets and the difference between honesty and integrity

Posted on: March 7, 2016

I think the press tried to litter their pages with click bait in the form of the “new” cleaning programme in Singapore schools.

The programme is not entirely new. It is just more official and part of the Character and Citizenship Education programme according to MOE’s press release.

There was no major kickback by adults on why kids should sweep floors and pick up after themselves. The lack of a reaction is a good thing this way.

It is not if, like me, you think the programme has not gone far enough.

The cleaning of toilets is outside the limits according to this news article. I am not the only one to wonder why this is the case.

I know of kids who refuse to use the school toilets because they are disgusting. My son is one of them and he paints a vivid picture of what they are like at his school. You can almost smell the pong from the descriptions.

I hope the aunties and uncles who clean them get biohazard pay. If not, they should be given hazmat suits.

The cleaning of classrooms and shared areas is easy. It is also very public. The cleaning of toilets is more personal and private.

This is like the difference between honesty and integrity. Someone once described honesty as something you display in public while integrity is something you had in private.

I look at it this way. If you are not honest, you cheat others; if you lack integrity, you cheat yourself.

Someone might say this is a semantic game, but I take the terms seriously. Do we want kids to learn that you can behave one way in front of others and another way when no one is looking?

Kids pick up these lessons more quickly than we give them credit. Take for example how most schools have tray return policies. These are monitored and enforced, so kids do this in school. But after school they have a meal at a fast food joint and leave the trays and litter at the table and walk away.

There are things kids do when someone is watching and making sure. The motivation to do good is extrinsic because they will be punished if they do not toe the line or they might be rewarded if they do. However, when someone is not watching, they learn that they can ignore the task. There is no intrinsic motivation to do the right thing simply because it is right.

Can we call it an education when only half a value system is taught and caught?

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