Values, attitudes and the truth


Thursday, September 06, 2018

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So schools have re-opened. Is anything being done to change the mindset of students away from the moral crisis in our nation? Is anything positive being done to teach students how to get to the truth?

In the 1990s, the then prime minister, PJ Patterson spoke about a need for values and attitudes. The 'messenger' was vilified and the message was misplaced.

All sorts of reasons were put forward as to why PJ Patterson should not be the one to say anything about values and attitudes. Everything from the Iran Sugar Deal of the 1970s to the Shell Waiver Affair of the 1990s was mentioned. Principal among the persons who pilloried Patterson was the late Wilmot Perkins who ran the talk show Perkins on Line, which at one time was aired on one radio station and later on others.

There were at least two contradictions in Perkins' position. First, Perkins, who railed against corruption in the society, was in this instance more mindful of the messenger than the message. Second, some years earlier in the 1980s when US evangelist Jimmy Swaggart was accused of adultery, someone rang Hotline on RJR when Perkins hosted that programme. The caller referred to Swaggart as a hypocrite.

Perkins correctly asked the caller if he knew how many persons Swaggart had given hope and trust in God and if he really believed that uncovering Swaggart's personal sins was a good thing. Yet Perkins opposed the values and attitudes campaign because of his opinions of Patterson, while ignoring the need for such a campaign.

When I was in the junior school at Jamaica College (JC) in the 1960s, high schools were undergoing a crisis of insufficient teachers as low salaries caused many to leave the profession. So our principal, the late WH Middleton, taught many subjects himself (geography, bible knowledge, mathematics, biology, and physics) even if he knew less about some subjects than the students.

Middleton, who had a degree in Geography, compelled us to recite pages of Geography notes like poetry while in second form. And while in Physics class in third form, Middleton made us recite Archimedes Principle and to this day 52 years later I can still recite it:

'Archimedes principle states that when a solid is immersed in a liquid the loss in weight is equal to the weight of the liquid displaced. Or when a solid is immersed in a liquid, the liquid causes an upthrust equal to the weight of the liquid displaced.'

Was Archimedes (who was born in Syracuse, Sicily, in 287 BC) ever accused of being a criminal or even a paedophile? I have no evidence of that, but even if he was, would that have made his theory any less true? So why should we choose not to follow PJ Patterson's plan for a values and attitudes campaign when in truth we need one?

Up to the 1960s, JC was organised on para-military lines. The old boarding department was abolished in 1967 and the new one commencing 49 years later in 2016 is really a home away from home, not like the para-military variety of the past. In 1968, one year after the old boarding school had ended, it still had not lost the tradition of initiation and ragging for new students.

One academically bright first former in 1968 who back-answered the bigger boys when they ragged him was asked by a student in the senior school on the downstairs corridor of the Simms building (which is about four feet above the ground) what he would do if he were thrown off the verandah. He curtly replied, “I would only be obeying Newton's Law of Gravity.”

But while I have absolutely no evidence of the great mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) being involved in criminality or immorality, sexual or otherwise, had he been so involved would that have made his 'Law of Gravity' any less true?

Does the current paedophile scandal among priests, bishops and cardinals in some sections of the Roman Catholic Church make the doctrine passed down through the Deposit of Faith any less true? If the doctrine is not true, trust me, it has nothing to do with the sins, the hypocrisy or the poor examples of some of the clergy. Statements are either true or false.

I am not here to suggest or discourage any legal action that anyone should take as I am not a child or parent aggrieved by paedophiles in the clergy of any church. What has happened is wrong and as I wrote a few years ago, it is unacceptable no matter who does it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Number 2357) states, “Under no circumstances can it be approved”.

Indeed, the incidences of homosexual paedophilia among the clergy are serious enough to investigate every single denomination. I suspect that some who call for Roman Catholic priests to be married do so in an effort to provide an even bigger cover for paedophilia as I am convinced that marriage is the greatest cover for that.

If you are not Roman Catholic, it is best to first investigate the ministers of your own denomination as you come into contact far more with your own pastors and such persons, if any, are more likely to harm your child than Roman Catholic priests whom your child would not normally come into contact with. I am not trying to downplay the importance of setting good examples. I am only trying to keep you focused on values, attitudes and the truth.

When an accused person is before the court, the jury is never told about a previous conviction until after the trial, for a very good reason. Such information beforehand might prejudice the jury's mind about the case at hand in which the accused might be innocent.

Statements, true or false, about Patterson's past prejudiced many minds against a values and attitudes campaign. What a pity, because we urgently need it.

Michael Burke is a research consultant, historian and current affairs analyst. Send comments to the Observer or

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