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PEP COLUMN: Policy guru Mascoll is so wrong!

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

PEP COLUMN: Policy guru Mascoll is so wrong!

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The People’s Empowerment Party (PEP) feels constrained to respond to the extremely backward proposals for reforming Barbados’ education system that were enunciated by the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) policy guru Clyde Mascoll in his DAILY?NATION column of September 6, 2012.
Apparently, Mr Mascoll feels that the central focus of our education system should be on training the Barbadian student to be a specialist in one discipline or sphere of activity. He further believes that our education system should go about this task by imparting to our students “a very basic education as a platform for specialization”, and that this “very basic education” should be about “problem solving” and should have no place in it for Shakespeare, Bach or “old Greek Philosophers”!
In a paragraph that displayed mind-boggling ignorance about the purposes and techniques of education, Mr Mascoll declared: “Knowing about old Greek philosophers and the like is not basic in today’s world as it was in the colonial days. Such information can be googled.”
Clearly, Mr Mascoll does not understand that the fundamental purpose of education is not merely to fashion a young human being into a worker who will be productive in some narrow sphere of activity, but rather, to give our young people a conception of life itself, and a set of values that will “root” their personalities and imbue them with a strong and healthy sense of identity and a coherent perspective on the world. And none of this can be achieved by the “googling” of philosophers, or by the “very basic education” and narrow specialization that Mr Mascoll is proposing!
The PEP’s vision of the ideal system of education is the very antithesis of Mr Mascoll’s system of narrow specialization. Indeed, in one of our policy documents, we propose for our primary and secondary school students an integrated general academic and technical education designed to “dismantle the false distinction between so-called ‘mental’ and ‘manual’ work, and to develop a society of universal, comprehensively educated, culturally advanced and supremely versatile citizens who are not only equipped to carry out a wide variety of social assignments, but are also poised to face any change in economic production, and to compete at the highest international levels”.
But let us return to this issue of values and education. Values do not help us to navigate our way through life unless they become our own – a part of our mental make-up. This therefore means that they must be more than mere formulae or dogmatic assertions; rather, we must think and feel with them! And for education to give us any of this, it must be centred on great works of history, classic novels, penetrating poetry, towering and educating philosophies, timeless ethics and spiritual wisdom.
As far as the PEP is concerned, therefore, there is definitely a place in our educational system for Shakespeare’s plays, George Lamming’s novels, Bach’s classical canon, Kamau Brathwaite’s poetry and Bob Marley’s world music.  
• The PEP column represents the views of the People’s Empowerment Party.