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Fighting for the ‘common good’

By Lara Pickford-Gordon,
Twitter: @gordon_lp

Corruption is an illusion of “fast and easy gains”. The reality, Pope Francis told judges, administrators and staff from Italy’s court of audit March 18 is that it “impoverishes everyone, erasing trust, transparency and integrity from the entire system. Corruption disheartens individual dignity and shatters all good and beautiful ideals.”

The Fight Against Corruption was the theme of an international conference hosted by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace June 2–3, 2006.  A statement on the Vatican website states corruption crosses all sectors and lack of transparency in international finances facilitated the climate for corruption.

The statement cites the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church on the impact of political corruption: it compromised the correct functioning of the State, had a negative influence on the relationship between those who govern and the governed.

“It causes a growing distrust with respect to public institutions bringing about a progressive disaffection in citizens with regard to politics and its representatives, with resulting weakening of institutions” (No. 411).

Corruption can deprive people of “a basic common good—that of legality: respect for the rules, the correct functioning of economic and political institutions and transparency”. The practice and culture of corruption must be replaced by the practice and culture of legality.

The statements talk about a “human ecology” (Centesimus Annus, 38)—the human environment. Just as the natural environment has been given to man, “man too is God’s gift to man” and there must be respect for “the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed”.

The family is the first structure of the human ecology and responsible for the early formation of ideas about truth and goodness and teaching about love. Man is also “conditioned by the social structure in which he lives”—education and environment.

The absence of a human ecology, according to the statement, enables corruption to grow. “…corruption implies a whole series of relationships and complicity. It involves the numbing of consciences, blackmail and threats, unwritten agreements and conspiracies that first involve, overall, people and people’s moral conscience, and after, their structures.”

It points to the important work of moral education and formation of citizens, and the duty of Church inclusive of all her communities, institutions etc to take on a major role in preventing corruption.

Integrity advocates in schools

The TT Transparency Institute (TTTI) is trying to influence “a cultural change, change in behaviour, change in what is accepted as the norm” by targeting “young” minds.

Partnering with the Integrity Commission of Trinidad and Tobago and the National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations in 2018, the School Integrity Club Project (IClub) was launched for seven secondary schools. They were: Queen’s Royal College, St George’s College, Hillview College, Bon Air Secondary School, St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, Williamsville Secondary and Speyside High School, Tobago.

TTTI Chair Dion Abdool said, “The I Clubs have had significant impact on the schools and has become the platform where students influenced other students to change poor behaviour patterns. It is the goal of TTTI to establish these clubs in all schools in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Integrity Clubs seek to instil integrity and ethical conduct to counter some of the problems and ethical challenges being experienced in secondary schools. These challenges include: disrespect for authority, indiscipline, bullying, fighting, poor anger management and conflict resolution. Integrity Clubs are designed to help instil in students and teachers the core values of respect, fairness, compassion, integrity, honesty and responsibility.

At the Williamsville Secondary the club launched September 28, 2018 with an anti-bullying skit showing the impact of bullying on victims. The club began with discussion on what is “integrity”. The concept was abstract to the students and viewed as having “little to do with them”.

A few students were selected to be Integrity Ambassadors and received leadership training with a former principal. They are part of the Integrity Club steering committee which also comprises the head boy and girl, captain of the football team and head of the students’ council.

The school decided to tackle the problem of bullying using different approaches. A Friendship Day was held January 25 in which students registered and got materials to create friendship wrist bands with affirming words. An anti-bullying expression tree was placed in a central location of the school February 28; students placed notes about how bullying made them feel and what they would like to tell the bully.

While the pilot was for six months, the club continues to function. Meeting on Tuesdays during the lunch break, students play games which encouraged positive values.

Catholic News was told the impact of the Integrity Club wasn’t something which would be seen immediately but it has changed the “aura” of the school.   The feedback may be anecdotal but doing homework, not telling lies, not participating in bullying and speaking out when they see wrong things happening to peers are positive signs.