The following article first appeared in The tribune on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
The National Education Summit demonstrated once again how we Bahamians love to fool ourselves into complacency. We actually believe our own propaganda that wonderful things are being achieved by our public education system. Until we call a spade a shovel, very little is likely to change and all too many of our little darlings will remain semi-literate & semi-numerate.
After 36 years of independence we should be ashamed of ourselves & not congratulating ourselves in self-denial. We must face the fact that a serious problem exists in our system as only then can a solution be found & implemented successfully.
It’s time we faced a few unpleasant truths. One of the most basic truths is that the shocking number of students attaining only a grade D in our public schools is simply not acceptable. Got that? —– IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
Another is that, not surprisingly, grade D teachers produce grade D students. A wit once defined a teacher/educator as one who casts artificial pearls before real swine & this seems to describe our situation quite well. We cannot expect success in the classrooms until teachers’ pay raises are closely tied to merit and even rudimentary morality.
The flip side is that the teachers should also be paid a decent basic wage and be dealt with honestly and respectfully.
Year after year we insanely repeat the same failed teaching methods and expect a different result from grade D.
Most of us no longer live in an agrarian society, and there is no earthly reason why classes shouldn’t go on longer throughout the day, and the summer holidays be markedly shortened. Both of these proposals are anathema to teachers.
Furthermore, although we can accept the inefficiency and waste of the public’s money being spent on, Bahamasair and the Water & Sewerage Corporation, etc., the waste is not acceptable in educating our children. They are far too precious and deserve much, much more.
Yes, it would be nice if the students were to learn a second or third language and had more access to computers and games and so on. However, second and third languages other than Creole, cannot be learned without a reasonably good basic command of the written and spoken English language. Likewise, the full potential of computers cannot be realized without being able to read reasonably well.
Unfortunately, although they are not very sexy, the three R’s are just as important now as they ever were and probably even more so. (Does Adderley’s Law ring a bell?).
Amazingly, there are indeed quite a few kids who do well vocationally and academically in our public schools. But they do well in spite of the public schools and not because of them. If we don’t make sensible radical changes in our so-called education system, the vast majority will continue to have nothing better to look forward to than the venerable University of Wulff Road. Some will even eventually end up governing us with their grade D mentalities and propagate still more dimwits because they couldn’t read the instructions on a condom package.
It is often said that so many children have difficulty learning because of a terrible home life, or poverty, or poor nutrition, or lack of role models (other than Michael Jackson of course) and so on. There is no doubt these are highly significant and challenging factors. However, it is also quite fashionable to blame society, or even the churches.
This is a cop out. As a lay member of society, I refuse to take responsibility for poorly trained or lecherous teachers, or for incompetent Ministry of Education desk jockeys and paper-pushers, and especially for unimaginative self-serving politicos.
I lay the blame for this education foolishness squarely on their shoulders and not mine or society’s. Many of our kids are highly capable of learning as is demonstrated by the fact that they seem to have no difficulty learning the latest hit song in its entirety, or the latest dance moves or foreign slang overnight!
Any school child that is capable of learning but is disruptive, dangerous, truant or uncooperative should be dealt with in a firm and lovingly understanding manner, and prevailed upon to see the error of their ways. (In the movie ‘Crimson Tide’, Gene Hackman, who plays an unsavoury character, tells Denzel Washington that if a cattle prod is used, one can even teach a horse to deal cards. A bit harsh, but probably effective).
I understand that the word ‘educator’ is derived from the latin word for ‘to lead’. Leadership may be sadly lacking in our Bahamian education context, but the whole country would gain greatly if any educator that doesn’t wish to lead the children would just step aside, cut bait, and let those who do care, dare to build the nation.
Nassau, 10 July, 2009