Columns

One thing and the other

Barbara GLOUDON

Friday, March 14, 2014    

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REMEMBER a time of innocence when we could believe the saying "If it ain't one thing, it's another"? Well, we don't have much by way of options. It's one thing and another all at the same time. Let us, therefore, seek refuge in the vernacular, like it or not and admit, "Any weh wi go, macca jook wi". While we're at it, the jooking is not confined to us. The whole world is between a macca and a thorny place.

Last week, this time, we were reflecting on crazy Putin's bid to take over, if not the world, at least a piece of it, so that he can establish his own empire. Re-configure the map. Look out for Putin-land. The only good thing which came out of last week's bad history lesson was the memory of Jamaican heroine Mary Seacole. The reflection on her life of courage on an alien battlefield, where she risked her life to assist others she didn't know, brought me a flood of mail. Home and abroad responded to the suggestion that we should add her to our list of heroes. I wouldn't bet on it happening any time soon. Only molasses moves faster than us when it comes to making decisions, but don't let that stop us.

Ghost plane

Let us turn to the mystery of the missing plane. A great, big jetliner which set off from Malaysia a week ago never arrived at its destination. It vanished, very literally into thin air, becoming what is known in aviation circles as "a ghost plane". This was no magician's sleight of hand... "now you see me, now you don't". We don't want to even imagine what must have gone through the heads of the 239 passengers when the realisation came that they would never go home again.

At the time of writing, the mystery still had not been solved. Does anybody really believe that the benighted Malaysian Government is withholding information because they want to annoy the rest of the world? From some of what I hear, I wouldn't be surprised if it is being said that the plane is missing because the authorities in Malaysia are not bright enough to understand such things -- matters like aerodynamics are just too much for their underdeveloped brain, yuh nuh! It sounds ridiculous, but consider how the developed nations often treat others. The big countries are joining the search now. The puzzle may never be unravelled. It remains both one thing and the other.

UTech shocker

Back-a-yard we're into a season of trying to make another person disappear. The recommendation of the committee set up by the Ministry of Education to investigate the administration of UTech has declared that the head of the institution should pack his bags and go. This is the shocker of the week (so far). Whatever failings are being ascribed to Professor Morrison, it cannot be forgotten that he had a vision for the University of Technology, Jamaica revolutionising the national attitude towards higher education. Like many visionaries, he took risks as he wrote another chapter in the book of Jamaican tertiary education, igniting interest in the building of not just "things", but a nation. The way was opened before -- remember CAST -- and he continued in his own style.

Prof Morrison took some bold steps in recent years. He upped the ante further for poor people pickney to get advanced education. Today's question is, did he move too fast, too far? Was he "driving ahead of his headlights" -- to borrow the words of the late, great Prof Nettleford? Whatever the full story, the current drama now being played out is a sad one. The brutal way in which the rug has been pulled from under Prof Morrison's feet might bring satisfaction to his detractors. It is now one thing and the other all at once. Now that has come to this, let's hope that all steps will be taken to ensure the future of UTech.

Jamaica Day

Last week, in our arguments here, the question arose about the significance of Jamaica Day on the national schools' calendar of activities. I asked then and ask now, what made Jamaica Day different from the other observances of special days -- Emancipation Day, Independence Day, National Heroes' Day? Each year Jamaica Day seems to be just another occasion for school "let-out", another event for which parents must fund costumes, school trips, etc. Apparently Jamaica Day is about Jamaican culture. I haven't got an official definition, but it appears that this is to be accepted as another stimulus for students to understand the world in which they live. True or false? If I have misinterpreted it, I would welcome a "proper" explanation.

This year, I've heard that the emphasis was on sports, now seen as an important aspect of our national culture. I am really curious now -- apart from the fun side -- it would be interesting to know what aspects of the sports culture were highlighted. Yes, as a nation we've been producing athletes of world class. Every child will yearn to be a gold medallist. It is right to celebrate and salute all our fine athletes. The question is, though, did Jamaica Day also help students understand the many nuances of what entry into the arena of sports has come to mean? No -- I don't wish to rain on the children's parade. It must have been great trying to emulate Usain, but what was there to learn about sports in general? Was the occasion used to alert the students about the seriousness of drugs? Children are not too young to be aware of such an important issue. With the current debate, this was as good a time as ever to introduce the topic to them.

Another thing which stirred up my curiosity -- besides having a good time on Jamaica Day -- was there room for discussion on the importance of getting good grades even if you were to become the next fastest athlete in the world? Already there are questions as to why such a fuss is being made about student-athletes having to meet minimum scholastic requirements if they are to qualify for Champs. You may ask, what has CXC and all that stuff got to do with crossing the tape first? If any school included this matter in their Jamaica Day programme, please let me know.

In the spirit of Parliament, I now make bold to address -- Mr Speaker, Sir: Now that we are ready to move our children another step along the education way with tablets in schools, how are the kids being prepared to understand the significance? If they only see the technology as having fun, what will we have gained? Children are being addicted to spending more time with technology than we imagine. When last have you been to a theatre, to a movie, or any kind of event and seen the light from screens glowing like peenie wallie in the dark, and the users spending the time looking down on their personal screens, not at what's happening before them? NB: For those who don't know...peenie-wallie is a small firefly which glows in the dark. When last have you seen one? It's not so easy to see when your eyes are fixed elsewhere.

PS: How come? What has made Kartel and his trials so important that Downtown Kingston had to be quarantined? Really now!

gloudonb@yahoo.com

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