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THE LOWDOWN: Love vs Licks

Richard Hoad, [email protected]

THE LOWDOWN: Love vs Licks

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LET’S CALL HIM “Four”. Four spent his first four years enjoying life to the max with unencumbered enthusiasm. Then adult humans sent him to school.

I could do a list of outstandingly successful people who had little or no schooling. Of many who were complete failures at school.

John Lennon’s school reports described him as “Certainly on the road to failure … hopeless … rather a clown in class … wasting other pupils’ time”. He failed all his GCE O-level exams, got into an art college through “intervention” and was thrown out before his final year.

Lennon is an example of the rebel that society always wants to crush. George Bernard Shaw tells us that “all progress depends on the unreasonable man” because the reasonable man accepts things as they are. We should beware of smothering rebels or “expressive individualists”, as a recent Nation editorial calls them. Otherwise we may as well have parliament consist of the two party leaders, each equipped with little robots that go “Aye” or “Nay” at their bidding.

But back to school. No doubt it is necessary to impart the basics. To show children how to manage information, to reason, to come to conclusions. But I seriously question the amount. Is it really necessary to cram them with so much useless junk? To learn two foreign languages all at once? To burden them with endless homework so that whole families find their weekend activities cramped? Are we surprised that so many opt out of the system?

That isn’t my focus today, however. We’re talking primary. Miss Phillips’ School. Three Miss Phils. Prayers lasted an hour. We sang hymns. We got to hold the flag on our birthday. Fudge and kisses on a Friday. Discipline was enforced through red Inattention Marks (deduct five); blue Conduct Marks (deduct ten). That was all. That was all that was needed.

A Harrison College contemporary had a similar experience: “When I was four I went to the Ursuline Convent kindergarten where I was treated with loving kindness by all and learned to read fluently… listened to stories read by Mother Mary Ignatius… all things were sunny, rewarding and bright”.

“Four” was keen to go to school, meet other children. He paraded his new uniform. He loved school. But not many weeks later he came home more subdued. “I got lashes today”, he told his mother. “What did you do?” “I don’t know”.

This has happened twice since. I see it going three ways. He may learn how to avoid lashes. He may turn beast and not care anymore. Or he may become scared to go to school. School phobia is a parent’s never-ending nightmare, punctuated by useless visits to psychiatrists and guidance counsellors.

A temporary teacher in a Government primary told me of the appalling use of lashes. Forget your book, whax! Get a sum wrong, whax! Take out the wrong crayon, whax!

Bright youths

I personally know bright youths who went through the school system but can’t read or write. They tell of beatings where sometimes another teacher would pass and say: “When you finish, lemme get piece off uh he”. Some just cut school. Not dyslexic; dyslicksic.

Morris Greenidge says Louis Lynch instructed his pupils by “persuasion or percussion”. The best teachers I recall had no problems whatsoever with discipline. They inspired. E.C. Queree comes to mind. Whatever academic success I achieved was due mainly to R.V. Goodridge and L.W. Wellington. Pleasing them meant everything to me and I pulled out all the stops.

I support flogging in schools as a last resort. But teachers need to reconsider. We who deal with animals know that a whip is most effective when you never have to use it. If you go for the goats in the field without a whip, they ignore you. We carry a twig but almost never touch them.

Licks can even be counter productive. If you gave my female donkey, Dusty, a single lash when she was on heat, she would stop dead, plant her hind legs apart, head down, mouth open and quap: “That’s the way, heehaw heehaw, I like it! Do it to me one more time!”

Actually, my best whip is proving to be a yellow plastic cricket bat with which I hit myself. It goes Thunk! the goats respond. Teachers could also try that.

Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email [email protected]