The many faces of education


Friday, June 27, 2014

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EXAM results are out. The scramble has begun. The hysteria is on. If our little darlings do not get a place in a name-brand institution, what is the point of living? And what about graduation and money to be spent on what we cannot afford and cannot do without, eg stretch limo and prom outfits? Someone swears that they've heard of a prom for prep school students. Some will say that couldn't be true. Others will ask "So why not? Prep school cyaan enjoy dress-up and party, too?" Oh well.

Now is the time to contemplate why son or daughter who entered school unable to read is going back out, cyaan read same way. You're not alone. Alice James, a writer, once wrote: "I wonder whether if I had an education I would have been more or less a fool than I am. Why would anyone go to school and not come out with some form of education?"

We tear out our entrails every day now, criticising, cursing, destroying each other. We pay lip service to education and yet, more often than not, all the players in the game end up casting blame on the ministry and on the minister of education most of all.

Every minister "gets it" from teachers, parents and public, some time or the other, starting with the Hon Edwin L Allen, BA, a teacher, who was chosen to be the first minister of education after Independence. He served 1962-1972.

He got a hard time from certain persons who couldn't imagine an unprepossessing country man in such an exalted position. Their big joke was to call him BA Allen, EL. They howled with derision when he championed the cause for establishing schools in areas regarded as "country bush". Nobody took
it seriously when he introduced schools
where technical education was the focus.

Today, many years after his death, Mr Edwin Allen's contribution cannot be laughed away. His vision has been justified. One day we should do a review of the many pioneers in education, looking at the lessons they taught and the courage which they drew on for their mission, even if unpopular. Others who came after him had mixed fortunes. The education scene has never had a dull moment.

One minister fell ill during his tenure. There is no evidence that this was the result of the stress and strain, but it could be a possible reason for his term being cut short. Yet another was so unpopular that outcry for said minister's removal was acceded to by the prime minister of the day, who immediately appointed a replacement.

Three females are listed as having served in the hot seat of minister of education. The first held office for only two years. The second was in office for six years and the third for five.

Disagreements between the ministry and teachers are recorded in the book. The Teachers' struggles continue, authored by Mr Dundee D Hewitt, one of the celebrated educators of the past years who was one of the seminal figures in the struggle. He recounts the many "struggles" between the Jamaica Union of Teachers followed by the Jamaica Teachers' Association and one minister after another.

Mr Hewitt highlights some of the more spectacular battles and their outcomes.

One letter by "Teacher Allen", sent to the press, is particularly interesting: "Those who hold the dedicated teacher in contempt as those who are inventing cunning devices to reintroduce an educational system whereby there is one kind of education for the privileged and an inferior kind of education for the underprivileged, are not the kind of persons whom Jamaica needs now... They will start by fooling most of the people, but only for a very short time."

One wonders what Teacher Allen and other educators of the past would say of the current disagreements taking place in the contemporary education arena. Would they agree with those who say far too often that hot air is replacing substance? Mr Hewitt's book was published by the Jamaica Publishing House Ltd, which was founded to bring to light the literary talent of educators, we're told.

In the recent squabbles about the inordinate number of books which students are forced to buy, but not use, it was being hinted that teachers stood to benefit because they are publishers of books which would be included in the lists. This has been stoutly denied. Henry Adams, an American writer/philosopher notes: "The chief wonder of education is that it does not ruin everybody in it, the teachers and the taught."

All that is well and good, but what's the way forward? A popular development at basic-school level is the Career Day costume parade in which the little ones are dressed in the uniforms of a variety of professionals. They are quite cute, but tell me nuh, why was one recently highlighted in this newspaper as a future politician, dressed in a fur-trimmed garment? Is the message saying that politicians must be prepared to travel to far-off lands, even in winter? Will somebody enlighten me?

I'm curious also as to why none of the career costumes which I have been seeing include farmers, construction workers, cooks, electricians, etc. Why shouldn't the little children be aware that the work those persons do will be worth doing by them when they grow up, too? Nothing is wrong with them knowing that not everyone can be doctor, lawyer, airline pilot, etc.

It is not too early for the children to be introduced to such things. What if their parents fall into the less glamorous categories? Shouldn't we tell them that their parents are as good as other parents, too? The whole career parade could be treated as merely fun, even if parents don't always find it amusing to cough up at least $2,000 per costume.

SEE YAH: It's a wonder anything gets done while World Cup fever is on. Up to now, we've not only been spellbound by the course of play, but the contrasting differences in personal conduct are determined by culture.

How can we explain the weird act of madness demonstrated by the Uruguayan Biter? He's lucky he was not competing here. Bite who? He would soon find out what we Jamdowners mean by "water walk go a pumpkin belly" and "What is joke to you is death to us." Ah oh!

So now, FIFA has shown some teeth by banning the Biter for nine international games and from all football activity for nine months. The whining of his compatriots who don't see the offensiveness of their colleague should be declared just as reprehensible.

LAST WORD: Are marches and demonstrations coming back in style? For what? Is there something going on which we don't know about? We'll soon find out what the real motive is. Nothing in Ja remains a secret for long.





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