First there was none, now there are two
New Vision Civics - return of the era of civics for young Jamaicans

WHEN L C Ruddock’s 1967 Civics For Young Jamaicans disappeared from school textbook lists years ago, Jamaicans bemoaned the absence of simple but valuable lessons on basic issues such as the parliamentary system, how government functions, and a template for social behaviour.

Some have blamed the rampant indiscipline, disorderliness in the society, lack of manners and disrepect for the traditional institutions on the lack of knowledge of civics among the Jamaican youth.

Now, in less than a week, two such publications have appeared — one a full-fledged, 206-page, school-ready text by writer Joanne Simpson and the other a 62-page handbook by Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment Brown’s office, both hoping to fill the gap by targeting young Jamaicans.

Joanne Simpson, author of New Vision Civics

Simpson, the CEO of Trailblazer Ink, described her book, New Vision Civics, as “preparations for the future and this era of modernisation” in an interview with the Jamaica Observer. The book has been endorsed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

“With an expansive coverage of pertinent civic information, the book gives context to Jamaica’s social, economic and political development. It looks at our journey through challenges and our many victories, and gives light to the country’s vision of development,” said Simpson.

Parchment Brown said her office’s Jamaica, Strong and Free, a Civic Education Handbook, is designed “to provide a brief look at the Jamaican Constitution, and to give insight on good governance and key institutions which assist in the smooth operation of the country’s affairs”.

Olivia “Babsy” Grange

In her message endorsing Simpson’s New Vision Civics, Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange welcomed “this all-embracing publication that captures our history, culture, governance, and national objectives under one cover”.

“This book maps an incredible journey from our past and provides strategic information to guide our future. There is much to be gained as students and members of the society when we understand who we are and the important role we play as citizens of our beloved nation,” said Grange.

“The mission is clear in New Vision Civics, which inspires as it guides you to charting your personal development path, and aligning yourselves to national goals and objectives… A good civics education is critical to your development as it gives you the edge to better understand the processes and the boundaries that guide your interactions,” Grange said.

In her interview with the Observer, Simpson argued that people development is central to civic education, as it gives shape and purpose to everyday existence and our future in a global world.

“It is difficult to imagine a democracy without solid civic education because a democracy is about people — and governance takes place on their behalf, and does not exist on its own. The need for consensus building is clear, achieved through clear understanding of the boundaries that govern civil society and government, and the inter-dependency of their relationship.”

Author Joanne Simpson at work on New Vision Civics

Besides providing pertinent civic information, the highly pictorial book highlights the structure and pillars of Jamaica’s development, covering topics such as Jamaica’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms; the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the responsibility that goes hand in hand with the protection and enacting of the related laws.

New Vision Civics is youth-centred, with specific objectives of empowering Jamaica’s youth for leadership. They are critical to succession planning and the future of Jamaica. We have covered a wide berth of topics but it is necessary to give context and answer the ‘why’ of events and the reason for national goals and objectives.

“Embedded in the text is a thread of excellence to inspire them to self-development with the requisite values and attitudes in tow. The presence of high-level personal achievements in the arts, music, culture, sports and business that embody Brand Jamaica should fuel their drive to success,” said Simpson.

Further, the book incorporates high points for social development in accordance with Vision 2030, the development master plan towards which Jamaica is now winding down. It looks at responsibility for the environment, the use of traditional and social media, gender issues, individual and communal values, and the role of security forces.

Simpson believes that “civics in schools is an excellent genesis to creating an informed society to build a healthy democracy. People are disempowered through lack of information — and disempowered people are usually angry and difficult to govern”.

“Without a well-oiled and informed civil society, the relationship between the society and government becomes challenging. Civics education is the lynchpin between subjects under the humanities which is to prepare people for peaceful co-existence, to add value to achievements of the past, understand the world we live in, and provide the tools to embrace the future. In brief, civics education is the raison d’etre of the State.”

The author said New Vision Civics had been long in the works, ensuring thoroughness and relevance, making it an excellent civics textbook for grades 7-9, and a resource book for students of history, social studies and culture as well as for teachers in training.

“As an author, my personal mission has been to educate and inspire the Jamaican people, hence writing a civics book was just a matter of time. I wrote it with purpose and context, and with understanding of the needs of my fellow Jamaicans and sensitivities of government, achieved over the years of research and my training as a journalist,” she told the Observer.

“Politicians — present and aspiring ones — people in leadership, social development and community development, tourism, security forces, should find this book a timely and useful companion book,” Simpson added.

Copies of the book are available at Kingston Bookshop and Sangster’s Bookstore, and leading outlets across Jamaica. The digital version is also available at: www.joannesimpsonjm.com

BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive editor - special assignment allend@jamaicaobserver.com

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