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Give thanks to Jah!


Peter Wickham

Give thanks to Jah!

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“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26
There would be few reading who are not familiar with my intense opposition to Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination, and it would therefore not be surprising that I would wish to reflect on the traditional circus that takes place around this time each year.On this occasion the traditional issues are supplanted by a most provocative trend that has the inclination to expose yet anothernegative trait of this system with whichwe have a longstanding love affair.
On this occasion, six out of the top ten achievers attended private schools andcuriously the top two achievers attended Christian private schools. Naturally I wouldwant to congratulate these schools, their students and parents for this achievement and note the obvious “take always” from a simplistic analysis of the data.  
The first and most obvious is that privateschools appear to be dominating the exam.This is not surprising since educators have consistently argued that there is a directcorrelation between socio-economic statusand academic achievement.
Private schools are out of the reach of the average parent and as such, those schools have become neat little enclaves of excellence.The students attending them would invariably have a better “shot” at getting good results.
The Ministry of Education has not done amore detailed analysis of the average scoresof public versus private. However, it is highly likely that this analysis would demonstrate that private schools perform better (overall). Their growing popularity is therefore not surprising since parents understand the extent to which these schools can enhance their children’schances and would opt for them with good reason.
The other “take away” is that schools with a religious slant appear also to have an advantage since the top achievers are from Christian schools and one of the top ten from an Islamic academy. This perception is further enhanced by Brianna Williams’ identification of herself as a “prayer warrior” and her statement that her achievement was at least partially influenced by prayer.
I am also advised that either she or one of her colleagues went on to state that it is their intention to eventually disprove the theory of evolution, which has been a consistent preoccupation of the Christian right. Such sentiments should perhaps not be over-analyzed since these are, after all, children. We however we need to appreciate that such statements are an honest reflection of what these children have been taught by their parents and teachers.
We therefore understand that a private education is preferred over a public one and moreover, that a Christian (or Islamic)education is preferred over a secular one;and the best possible education is private Christian (or Islamic).  
If I were a parent therefore, I wouldbe well advised to send my children to a private Christian or Islamic school,and since I was once a Christian,I could more easily re-convert(or pretend so to do) for the sake of my children. This is a more recent trend in our educational circles, but those among us who are familiar with theTrinidad and Tobago “prestige schools”model can speak of thousands of Hinduand Muslim parents who have temporarilyconverted to Christianity so that their children could gain admission to CIC or QRC or Fatima.Such conversions had nothing to do with their parents’ religious orientation, but were related to a desire to ensure that their children had the best possible opportunities.  
A superficial analysis could easily also imply that an education grounded in Christianity issuperior to one grounded in Islam or Hinduism. Similarly, here in Barbados, I am now to believe that a private primary education grounded in Christianity (or Islam) is superior to a secular education funded by the state.
Thankfully there will be those among uswho can see beyond the superficial and speak to the fundamental sociological issues that thesetypes of analyses highlight, and the extent to which our society appears determined to marginalize the underprivileged in the first instance and worse yet, the underprivileged non-believer.
Curiously, in the early 1900s, the German sociologist Max Webber spoke to this sinister trend in his book: The Protestant EthicAnd The Spirit of Capitalism. Were he alive today, he would be surprised to learn that 100-plus years later, these principles are still alive and well.
•Peter W. Wickham([email protected])is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).

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