Monday, April 22, 2024

THE LOWDOWN: Gifts galore


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DUE TO GLOBAL WARMING or the El Niño effect, one of these issions or itties sweeps across our peaceful landscape every seven to ten years, wreaking mental havoc on the unsuspecting public and then disappearing into nothingness.One recalls a Shridath commission of the 1990s with much braying about Caribbean integration and fears of Patrick Manning moving into Government House. A similar Forde Commission in the 2000s with equally eloquent rantings about becoming a republic.Now we have a “major report on education” from a committee headed by Dr Pearson Broome or Broomes. Dr Pearson appears in both singular and plural forms in the media. With any luck this will follow CARICOM and the republic down the sink hole of history. But for the record, here are our biased views on the subject.We anti-intellectuals are persuaded that formal education (beyond the primary level) and intelligence are mutually incompatible. Indeed, formal education actively inhibits the development of common sense.There are exceptions. My contemporary Robert Vaughan insists he was “educated in spite of Harrison College and the University of the West Indies”, a view to which I myself susbscribe. First, the 11-Plus exam. We see nothing wrong with this as an indicator of which children are academically inclined. We see nothing wrong with the academically inclined children joining their peers in the schools that parents decide offer the best prospects for education.We reject as utter nonsense the statement that “Barbadians abhor the idea that their children from upper social standing should fraternise with children from lower social standing”. The 11-Plus exam has ensured that children from every village and hamlet make it to any prestigious school if they have the ability. All classes meet as equals and fraternise to their hearts’ content. We strongly object, however, to the current emphasis on academic education as if those not so inclined are somehow failures. That too is nonsense. The average successful firm needs maybe one or two graduates in specialised areas. Everyone else, including the managing director who must make critical decisions, should have no more than a basic education so as to develop natural intelligence and common sense.In a recent BBC comparison, it was pointed out that India opted for large numbers of university graduates, China for more basic trades. China’s development has far outstripped India’s. Graduates don’t produce. In fact, during the Cricket World Cup fiasco, thousands of artisans came here to hold down good-paying jobs while better-educated Bajans watched.We also reject enforced zoning and mixing children of widely different academic abilities so that non-academics suffer the perpetual trauma of not being able to keep up. Let us not pull down our “elite” schools in the pursuit of some standard level of national mediocrity. But, equally important, let non-academics fulfil their goals in other fields.Finally, we reject the suggestion that Barbados scholars be cloned in the narrow confines of the University of the West Indies. Let our scholars spread their wings, embrace new cultures, widen their perspectives.More on education later for I must acknowledge some gifts. First, a new puppy, “Gabriella”. Gabby is as cute as Rihanna but built more along the lines of the Graf Zeppelin or GV Marshall. Our security is now assured, what with the dive-bombing blackbird squadron on the front lawn who recently chased a Jenn’s Health Food driver to the confines of  his van.Then on Sunday a nice lady brought her Jamaican family to visit – a farmer who breeds horses and mules and his dapper 94-year-old father who still does the occasional dutty wine. Afterwards she presented me with a bag which contained another bag which contained. . . . I started to sweat, afraid to look. A big police fellow was due to come for milk. And me, caught red-handed. I was wrong. It wasn’t that. It was a bag of top quality Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. Hoad goin’ be percolating in style! Muchas gracias!Finally Andrew Bynoe sent me a bounteous gift bag containing his collection of poems, accompanying CDs, his proper pork song, sundry trinkets and a whole gold pig!Alas he forgot to include a sample of Pie Corner ham but no doubt this oversight will soon be remedied. Blessings, Sir!Christmas come early, boy!
• Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator.


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