Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Voices From Outside: Living In The Diaspora

We often use words without knowing their origin. The word Diaspora comes from the Greek word, “diaspeirein” which means to scatter or spread out.  Jamaica currently has a population of 2.8 million people and there are some estimates which indicate that another 3 million Jamaicans live in the Diaspora. Jamaicans have always being a migratory set of people. Recently, I reached out to three colleagues living in the Diaspora to hear from them their views on migration, and whether or not they would re-settle in Jamaica.    
My colleague Errol Douglas hails from the community of Thompson Town in the parish of Clarendon. Errol who is married describes himself as mature, outgoing, adventurous, educated and a family man who loves Jamaica. He sees himself as a global citizen and an economic refugee living in the United States of America.  His primary education was at Thompson Town Primary and St. Thomas Moore Preparatory schools. He passed his Common Entrance Examination and attended Clarendon College.  Errol migrated at age 22, having completed tertiary level studies at the MICO Teachers’ College as well as one year of studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. Errol reminisces about his early years fondly.  He said his childhood freedom of immersing in the Jamaican country life and enjoying nature was remarkable.  His fondest memory, “…was spending time with his grand-parents, visiting the farm, riding a donkey across the river and observing the pristine beauty of the Jamaican agrarian life.” Additionally, he recalls the many riverside picnics, soirees and cook outs with his friends while immersing in the natural beauty and exquisite cuisine of the Jamaican countryside. He added that life in Jamaica was “beautiful, blessed”. He recalls that, “I enjoyed all the comforts and cultural exposure with the love and security of a middle class family of supportive parents, siblings and extended family.” Unlike most Jamaicans who experience some form of culture shock when they migrate, however, Errol did not fall into that category. “I used to visit the USA often as a child and teenager. My visits were given to me as a reward for doing well in school.” Errol is currently a teacher in New Jersey. He holds Master degrees in Education Administration and Supervision and another in Special Education.  As it relates to returning to Jamaica, Errol says he would without a doubt.  He hopes to do so within 10 years. He has invested in the land of birth in the tourism sector and visits Jamaica 2 to 3 times per year.  Is he concerned about the high levels of crime and violence in Jamaica?  “Extremely concerned I think of it every day and bemoan my paradise as being lost. I am still positively, prayerfully, hopeful though.” When asked the question, to what extent do you think the government is working to persuade Jamaicans overseas to return home, Errol equivocally says, “zero extent.” Errol is 56 years old.
Delroy Dunkley shared his experiences as a Jamaican living in the Diaspora.  Delroy holds a PhD in Education Reform: Curriculum Assessment Pedagogy from the Institute of Education in London, England. He grew up in Black River in the parish of St. Elizabeth. He is clearly not embarrassed to speak about his humble beginnings.  He was raised by a single mother in a 1 bedroom house along with four other siblings. He describes himself as friendly and sociable. I can attest to this personality trait of his as I met Delroy while we were first year students at MICO in 1990.  He is very adamant about maintaining his friendships and makes the effort to remain in contact with friends and family despite having studied, and currently living, in the United Kingdom.  Delroy says he grew up poor but after teacher training at MICO Teachers College his life changed for the better.  He attended Black River Primary and High Schools, and the University of the West Indies while in Jamaica.  ” Delroy’s entire life clearly is a testimony of his personal philosophy which is “I believe passionately in education to change one’s life.” He plans to return to Jamaica in 9 years to develop his real estate holdings which he plans to expand into a recreational facility.  What does he miss about living in Jamaica, Delroy says, the vibes, the people, the food, the drink, you name it.  Like most other Jamaicans he is very concerned about the high levels of crime.  He says the government is doing their best to reduce the high crime rate. “I think the government and people must come together to support the reduction of crime especially murders.” Delroy will be 46 years old in August. Despite the high cost to travel back and forth from England, Delroy tries to return home at least twice yearly. He is a big fan of soca music and usually one of his visits home is scheduled around carnival.  Delroy has a philanthropic side to him.  A few years ago Delroy and his cousins Sandra and Tamesia established a Go Fund Page which has raised donations to assist the Black River Primary School. Delroy and his cousins have spearheaded the painting of the Black River Primary School as well as putting on a Christmas Treat. He is currently seeking funds to purchase a printer and a computer for the school.  
Kurt Hickling shared part of his experience living in the Diaspora. Kurt migrated at 30. He describes himself as a quiet, courteous level-headed guy with a passion for justice. I like debating political and social issues with other enthused people.  I believe in being professional about my work and I believe in trying to bring quality to my work. Kurt was born in St. Andrew at University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in 1976. He attended Bridgeport Infant, then Independence City All Age, Calabar High and Bethlehem Moravian College.   Kurt is the eldest of three boys for his mother and comes from a poor background. He added that his mother although married provided mostly for her children as her husband was abusive and a drunk. My mom instilled the importance of reading and being educated. When asked whether he experienced a culture shock when he migrated to the United States of America, he replied,”The culture wasn't shocking at all. Being previously close to US culture through cable TV,  I was able to fit in almost immediately.  In response to the question what is your fondest memory of living in Jamaica he responded, “being able to travel on public transportation and having encounters with locals who were hilariously funny and friendly”.  Are there any comparisons with living in Jamaica and where you currently? His response was, “I feel much safer where I live now than my dwelling in Jamaica. I remembered hearing gunshots almost 3 times a week in Jamaica but I have heard a couple gunshots here in the US”. Kurt still has some family in Jamaica. “I do have a few cousins left on the island and they keep in touch social media in terms of WhatsApp and Facebook.”  How often do you visit Jamaica? “Not very often.” I returned twice in the 11 years since I left.  Do you plan to resettle in Jamaica? If yes, how far advanced are those plans? “I will never retire in Jamaica because of the criminality and the wanton disregard for the rule of law.” To what extent are you concerned about Jamaica’s high crime rate?  Kurt was clear about Jamaica’s crime image. I am very concerned about Jamaica’s crime rate. “I've never felt safe living there or when I visit.” Would you encourage other Jamaicans living overseas to return home? “No, I would not.”  To what extent do you think the government is working to persuade Jamaicans overseas to consider returning home? “I’ve heard radio discussions on the topic and I've heard of a few incentives being offered to returning residents.  Other than that I haven't seen much else.”  Kurt taught for 2 years at the primary level before migrating for better economic prospects 
The stories of Errol, Kurt and Delroy while different represent to a great extent the stories of the thousands of Jamaicans who have left our shores.  The number one push factor for migrating continues to be one grounded in economics. Humans have an unquenchable desire to improve their social status and that of their family.  The country’s inability to tap into the wealth, skills set and talents of the almost 3 million Jamaicans who live in the Diaspora should be an area of concern.  According to a presenter at the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference held at the Jamaica Conference Center in July of 2017, the value of the Diaspora to the Jamaican economy is approximately 16% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2014 remittances to Jamaica amounted to US$ 1.92 billion.  In order to move the country forward we obviously need to listen from the voices outside and work harder in harnessing the economic and intellectual abilities of those Jamaicans living in the Disapora. 
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.


Sunday, 1 July 2018

Purposeless Principalship

In 1987, Michael Jackson released the album BAD. One of most popular songs on the album which eventually went to number 1 is “Man In The Mirror.”
“I ‘m starting with the man in the mirror
I ‘m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”
The lyrics of Jackson’s song speak to the core philosophy of what leadership is ultimately about. Each leader regardless of where he or she falls in the scheme of things should engage in and embrace a process of self-evaluation.  Self-assessment is critical for all educators, more so for those who aspire to become school leaders. If one is desirous of being a competent, capable and effective leader then this process of examining the self is essential. This means the leader in question must muster the courage and fortitude to realize when he/she has become ineffective and then take the necessary corrective measures to become a purpose driven leader.  I am particularly fond of this quote by William Arthur Ward in which he says” leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation. “I think many who are school leaders are unfamiliar with this quote since they oftentimes engage in the reverse of the quote. Leadership by intimidation is rather pervasive and speaks to a weak and insecure personality.  Is it fair to say that as a society we face a crisis of leadership in our schools? The creation of the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) is an admission of this fact.  A principal is held at a higher standard and rightly so based on the principle of to whom much is given much is required. One can imagine that the task of leadership, particularly principalship is enormous. However, there are some principals who should not have been.  There are some principals whose ethics are questionable and whose moral compass has been defective long before they occupy the principal’s office. Anyone who assumes the position of principalship must be fit and proper in carrying out this very important task. The term fit and proper not only addresses the physiology being but also speaks to the emotional intelligence of the individual.  Disturbingly, there are some principals who are not respected either by their staff, the student body or the wider society.  It bares thought once you have compromised your principles you lose respect in the sight of those whom you lead.  Once your subordinates lose respect for you it cannot be redeemed. As a result the school community will suffer and the school you lead will attract negative labels which no amount of public education can counter. The public perception of a school often becomes the public’s reality.  The emergence of a school effectiveness culture has provided growing evidence that schools can, and do, make a difference to academic outcomes and ultimately the life chances of students.  It cannot be overemphasized that teachers and school leaders are the change agents of change in any society.  Policy makers must therefore do all that is necessary to put in places school leaders which are progressive and are strong in ethical principles. I am a firm believer that ineffective principalship continues to be the biggest threat to the Ministry of Education principle of “Every Child Can Learn, Every Child Must Learn.” Sadly, instead of getting rid of such ineffective principalship there are those who seek to embolden and enable such weak leaders.  On the other hand, there are many good principals.  I dare say such principals should be celebrated and lauded for the work they do.  A good principal is one who welcomes constructive criticism and work towards building a sense of community. An effective principal is one who is fair and balanced in how situations are dealt with whether this occurs with students and or with staff.  Unfortunately, not all principals are blessed with the skills of fairness and good judgment. These traits cannot be learnt at any institution, they are inborn characteristics. Our students deserve better and wherever we find instances of purposeless principalship we should call it out for what it is.  The time to reject vindictive, spiteful and ghetto principalship is now.  It is easy to identify this backward and negative type of principalship, sometimes all it takes is a walk across a school grounds. Perhaps the time is now for you to ask yourself what type of principalship currently exists at your child’s school or your place of work. As the academic year comes to an end you should grade yourself regarding the type of principalship style you practice? Are you satisfied being in the category of purposeless principalship or are you an effective principal?  In the final analysis failure to hold principals accountable will weaken and undermine school standards. In the words of Becky Brodin, leadership is not wielding authority, it is empowering people.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

From Regurgitation To Critical Thinking: Moving Towards PEP

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”- Albert Einstein
For many years educators along with other stakeholders in the education system have debated the disconnect which exists between the skills set of our education system and the practical needs of the wider society.  Many in the society, especially parents are dissatisfied with student outcomes at both the primary and secondary levels. However, the major concern seems to have focused specifically around the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) which is the current exit examination done at the primary level.  Since its implementation in 1999 the GSAT has been used to place students in high schools. It can be argued that the education system for the most part has been unresponsive to the fast changing technological world in which we live. However, in 2016 there was a revision of the curriculum at both the primary and secondary levels. The National Standards Curriculum which incorporates the 5 E’s of learning was introduced. The pillars of the National Standards Curriculum are Engagement, Exploration, Elaboration, Explanation and Evaluation. The National Standards Curriculum is learner centred and developed around the theory of Constructivism.
Constructivism is a learning theory which suggests that human construct knowledge and meaning from their experiences.  Constructivism is a philosophy of learning grounded in the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in.  One of the main principles of Constructivism is that the purpose for learning is for an individual to construct his or her own meaning, not only to memorize the correct answer and regurgitate someone else’s meaning. Under the constructivism approach to learning educators focus on making connections between facts and fostering new understanding in students. Students are encouraged to analyze, interpret and predict information.  As a result assessment becomes part of the learning process so that students play a more significant role in judging their own progress. It is important to note that Vygotsky’s social development theory is one of the foundations of constructivism.   
The Primary Exit Profile which will replace the Grade Six Achievement Test in 2019 is a series of evaluations which students will sit starting in grade 4. In grade 4, students will be assessed in Mathematics and Language Arts. In grade 5, students will be required to do performance task in Mathematics, Language Arts, Social Studies and Science. In the final year of primary education, grade 6 students will sit performance task in the areas of Mathematics and Language Arts. Instead of having their future being decided over two days as was done under GSAT, students will be assessed over three years. This more humane and practical move is clearly intended to remove the stress and apprehension which was associated with the Grade Six Achievement Test GSAT.  The society needs to scaffold the emotional intelligence as well as the mental fortitude of our students. A national assessment over a three year period as against a two day period of assessment will undoubtedly produce positive benefits for our students in these regards. 
A student in grade 6 will do a school-based assignment or Performance Task in December, an Abilities Test in February and the Curriculum-Based Test in April.  As the acronym suggests PEP will be used to generate an academic profile of each student.  The PEP will assess students’ knowledge in addition to placing focus on evaluating students’ demonstration of the twenty first century skills of critical thinking and communication.  According to the World Economic Forum, students need to be empowered with social abilities such as, coordinating with others and persuasion, as well as complex problem-solving skills as essential in the knowledge-based workplace.
Engendering Entrepreneurship in the Education System
In fact in an age of artificial intelligence the society should be moving towards entrepreneurial education as a means of providing solutions to some of our problems. However, in Jamaica there is still a stigma regarding entrepreneurship as some parents and even educators hold on to the belief that students who gravitate towards this area are not among the brightest. This is backward mindset which has no place in the twenty first century. The positive impact of the teaching of creativity has real life solutions such as contributing to new markets and new jobs especially for the youth population.  We need to seize the opportunities which present themselves to engender entrepreneurship education in our education system.  The World Economic Forum listed the top ten skills by 2020, these are; complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgment and decision-making, service orientation, negotiation and cognitive flexibility. The society must ensure that all our children are exposed to these critical skills set. Change is often resisted and as such there are those who will and are resisting the move towards the Primary Exit Profile (PEP). We need to give the Primary Exit Profile a chance to work. Is there a need for more public education to engage stakeholders regarding the way forward with PEP?  Yes, there is an urgent need to continue the conversation regarding the Primary Exit Profile assessment.  The conversation surrounding the Primary Exit Profile also needs to incorporate parents who home school their children.  I am almost certain that a significant number of these parents have not been trained in the National Standards Curriculum and as such those students who are being homeschooled for whatever the reason may find themselves at a disadvantage. 
Oversight and Integrity  
There is also a genuine concern about the integrity of some teachers in the profession.   The performance tasks or school-based assignments will be administered by teachers. The sad truth is some teachers as well as school leaders have questionable ethical standards.  There are some parents who have the economic means to offer monetary gifts to teachers who will in return give the students higher grades.  As a result a system of accountability must be built into the Primary Exit Profile regarding the administration of the test.  For example, will the Education Ministry reserve the right to randomly check the grading of Performance Tasks at any given school? How do we ensure that some of our students are not disadvantaged in terms of teaching quality? Have all our teachers even those who work in independent (preparatory) schools trained in the National Standards Curriculum? If no, what will happen to those teachers? How will those teachers be assigned in the schools? How can parents be assured that their child’s teacher is exposed to the National Standards Curriculum?  The Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) has outgrown its usefulness. Our students should not be educated as if they are robots. Our students need to be challenged with higher order questions which the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) will definitely provide.  We need to cultivate a culture of critical thinking in order to attain sustainable development.  
Fourth Industrial Revolution
As a society the responsibility is ours to prepare our students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution some might ask?  According to the World Economic Forum the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be described as the advent of “cyber-physical systems” involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines. The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies, for example, genome editing and new forms of machine intelligence.  In other words the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the merging of the real world with the technological world.  This is already happening; as we now have robots and software working side by side with humans. The blurring of technology into every aspect of our lives and existence has become the norm. There is no turning back, we either embrace this new revolution or we will be left behind. We need to move away from the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) which clearly does not prepare our students adequately for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  It is foolhardy to think you can repeat the same things over and over and get a different answer.  The world has moved towards an activity-based, student -centred, exploratory teaching and learning approach. In order to prepare our students for their future we must equip them with the requisite competencies and skills necessary for them to compete on the global scale. Educators will agree that education is inherently interdisciplinary and as such we need to adjust our teaching strategies to meet the needs of our students. In the words of Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#GSAT #PEP #education #schooling #constructivism #curriculum #fourthindustrialrevolution. #automation #technology

Sunday, 10 June 2018

The Intersection of Music And Sexual Identity: A Cultural Expression of Bodies

“Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.”- Plato
A few weeks ago I went to my barber as per usual for my weekly grooming.  While I was being attended to my barber, whom I have known for over 15 years, he engaged me in a discussion on music. For those of you who are not aware, the barbershop is a safe space for many men. Many males are viewed as experts in the barbershop on various fields from sex, to motor vehicles, and of course sports.   The testosterone filled space of the barbershop competes freely with the cut hair of various textures and colours which oftentimes litters the floor.   The topic of choice between my barber and I was rooted in the literary arts of music. Music is an area of our cultural upbringing which we cannot escape. Music defines us at every phase in our lives. The sound of music speaks to our sexual identity as we use our bodies to translate meanings and messages whether unintentionally or purposefully to an audience. Music accompanies the human spirit at births, deaths, weddings, or any social gathering.  Many will agree that music and the pervasive impact has been the protector of our souls for many centuries.  The barbershop discussion examined dancehall music in the era of Vybz Kartel and Lieutenant Stitchie.   There are those who will argue that it is unfair to compare both artistes.  Lieutenant Stitchie ruled the dancehall arena in the 1980’s into the mid and later part of the 1990’s while his counterpart Kartel who despite being incarcerated continues to influence and shape music from beyond his cell.  The impact Kartel has on the musical landscape cannot be underestimated and is perhaps captured in a single comment a grade ten student said to me some years ago, “Sir if only Kartel could touch me”, needless to say I was speechless for a moment, perhaps even longer. The impact of Kartel is manifested across the dancehall arena at various levels; for example, the establishment of his Gaza empire, as well as the cult-like movement especially among the sub group 12 to 35 years in which the deejay’s persona has taken on the qualities almost of that of a deity. Kartel’s influence is more pronounced due to the proliferation of social media platforms the extent to which was unavailable during Stitchie’s time as the self-styled “governor” of the dancehall.  The age cohort 40 years and older would be more familiar with Stitchie’s work and as such it should come as no surprise that there is a age divide with regards to how the population rate both artistes.
Lyrics Fi Kill
What makes for a good lyricist?  In defining lyrics one has to examine the arrangement of words and the usage of words in the compilation of the song.  Additionally, one has to assess the content contained in the songs in defining lyrics.  My barber firmly believes that Stitchie is the better lyricist.  “Stitche is more creative” this according to “Brandon”, my barber.  Lyrics are the words to a song. The creator of the lyrics or lyricist usually has a clear and straight forward meaning attached, however, sometimes it is very difficult to decipher the meaning of the lyrics. There are some entertainers who are extremely good in hiding the meaning or message in their song. It bares thought that the niche market is the ultimate indicator of the best lyricist category.  In some instances the audience will have a preference to hear the denotative meaning while on the contrary the audience may prefer the connotative meaning.   It is difficult to judge the repertoire of both artistes especially if you are not a faithful follower of dancehall of which I am not.  A colleague of mine who is a teacher of English weighed in on the better lyricist debate. Better is going to be determined by one’s value system she said. “What you hope to find in messages in music, want your children to hear, what speaks to your situation and motivates you. If I struggle with anger and believe in revenge, getting even or doing what is necessary, fearless, then it would be Kartel. If I lean towards humour, hope, glorifying the Creator then it’s Stitchie.” My colleague who I refer to as Anna, added “Kartel has a greater measure of the lyrics; gift-children’s behavior, romance, social issues, problems associated with masculinity and such the like but Stitchie she posits has done far better with humour about human conditions and behavior. Anna argues that the need to ascribe glory to a Sovereign Being is the reason she chooses Stitichie because of the things she value.  She concluded that Kartel received a more diversified portion of talent that Stitchie.
One of Kartel’s signature songs in which he shows his knack for using literary devices is “Straight Jeans” “ Straight jeans and fitted ina white T shirt we did it, we rock dem shades to the limit.  uptown, uptown, same so we dweet, we dweet ah Portmore”.
Perhaps now is an appropriate place to juxtapose Stitchie’s “Prescription. “ gimmi gimmi young gal, fling it up and gimmi gal, gimme mi gal, gimme di thing di docta orda, fling it up and gimmi mi gal, fi cool mi tempa. …look inna mi eyes how dem get pale, nurse mi body like a nightingale…and the nurse start look inna mi face what kinda a swelling dat below yuh waist, touch di spot and she ask if it hurt, oh yes nurse and she start work.”. Stitchie’s witty creativity and humorous character are evidently on display in this selection. The deejay was clearly confident at riding any rhythm as he ruled the dancehall with his string of hit songs such as “Wear Yuh Size” and “Natty Dread” at the pinnacle of his career.   Stitchie’s contribution to the overall development of music, more so dancehall music cannot be overlooked. In fact Stitchie was one of the first deejays to sign with a major recording label. In 1988 the deejay signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records and produced his first of three albums for the recording company. Stitchie was often referred to as the king of fast style in dancehall. In an interview Stitchie revealed that he developed the “mad, mad, mad, mad” style in order to secure a particular signature and trademark uniqueness to his style.  Stitchie began his career as a dancehall deejay and then converted to Christianity in the later part of the 1990’s. The deejay now sings gospel reggae after successfully transitioned genres.
Another colleague, who I will call Brenda said, “I detest his content but that does not take away from the fact that they are cleverly written.” Brenda is clearly referring to Kartel with her comments.  A third colleague Antonio said, “because of the time difference, I believe comparing them is difficult. However, looking at their impact on the industry, hands down Kartel is ahead. Also, Kartel’s use of metaphors is better than most. In Stitchie’s favour, his ability to keep it clean and even, his switching from one genre to the next and making strong impacts in both.” He added that Kartel uses lots of metaphors, alliteration, simile and personification like a poet.  In so doing fans of Kartel can be divided into two groups, those who are able to appreciate his high-flown language and lyrical content as opposed to those who are just caught up in the rhythm and idolization of the artiste. On the other hand Lieutenant Stitchie’s lyrics can be appreciated by all since it is more down to earth and easily understood.  Antonio made mention of two of Kartel’s songs “Dumpa Truck” and “Straight Jeans and Fitted” as examples of Kartel’s masterful play on figurative language.  Stitchie came to prominence at the time when the geo-politics environment was different both locally as well as on the international scene. The internet was not as heavily trafficked; cellular phones were not as pervasive as they are now. Human trafficking and lotto scamming were not issues of concern. 
Music and Sexual Identity
There is a powerful association between music and one’s sexual identity. Music has the power to influence behavioural patterns. As human beings we can become aroused by listening to selective songs. Our bodies as sexual beings can involuntarily move to the rhythm of songs almost to the point of embarrassment once the drum beat meets the ancestral chords of our core being. Our mood can change in a moment from happy to somber given the music selection being played.   In fact all genres of music have this powerful and addictive drug like effect in which we can easily lose or find ourselves.  We need to ask the question, what is music?   According to Eduard Hanslick, the celebrated Austrian music critic, music is a complex amalgam of melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre and silence in a particular (intended) structure.  Jacques Attali, a French economist defines music as a sonoric event between noise and silence.  We see events and arrive at definitions through the lens of our socialization and cultural upbringing. What one person consider as music and give high marks may fall short on the spectrum of how your colleague appreciates this artistic form of expression. It can be argued that Kartel’s lyrics are rooted in a hyper-masculine strand of masculinity and manhood in which the objectification of women and phallocentrism are celebrated.  Some musicologists will agree that the state of dancehall music is rather toxic. In fact dancehall, which is an offshoot of #Reggae, has been toxic for quite some time.  The dancehall space provides men with a platform in which to re-define their masculinity and give otherwise marginalized voices a loud voice.  Dancehall is often associated with lewdness; as well as the glorification of the gun. Deejays tend to overuse popular rhythms which often become annoying after a while. Reggae, unlike its cousin dancehall is better known for consciousness and positive social commentary lyrics of which Bob Marley is generally acknowledged as the king.
We now live in an era of social advocacy in which movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have changed the gender relations conversation forever.  We will agree that greatness is time bound and with each generation they will have indicators by which greatness is defined. We must judge greatness in the context of the cultural space. There is not much academic value in appraising greatness outside of a defined context. In the final analysis music is a universal language and a cultural form of expression by which the human spirit is watered.  In the words of Aristotle, music directly represents the passions of the soul. If one listens to the wrong kind of music, he will become the wrong kind of person.   
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#Reggae #dancehall #masculinity #manhood #sexualidentity #music #culture #phallocentrism #feminism #misogyny #gender #MeToo #TimesUp #BobMarley #testosterone


Monday, 4 June 2018

The Impact Of Heat On Teaching And Learning

The notion that an extension of the academic year will improve student outcomes has always found favour with successive governments. This extension premise of the school year is groundless both in research and in common sense and some might argue is only discussed to appease parents many of whom already believe teachers benefit from too much holidays.  The supporters of this extension of the school year are misguided and are unacquainted with current research.  However, there is now empirical evidence which clearly debunk the reasoning for an extension of the academic year. Notwithstanding the emerging research one’s common sense should dictate that in an era of climate change and global warming when temperatures continue to increase undoubtedly this will negatively impact both students learning outcome as well as how teachers are able to impart knowledge.   According to research from Harvard University, in years with hotter weather students are more likely to perform less favourably in examinations. Obviously, there is an association between higher temperatures and lower student outcomes. We are all well aware of how hot it becomes especially in July and August. The majority of classrooms in Jamaican schools are not air-conditioned, in fact some are poorly ventilated and there are many instances where not even a fan is present.  Jamaica relative position in the world is located at 18 degrees north and 77 degrees west.  The heat is unbearable. These less than favourably conditions make any teaching and learning experience most miserable during the summer months.  Researchers from Harvard, The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Georgia State University have produced the first clear evidence that when temperatures go up, school performance decrease.  The study published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research found that students were more likely to have lower scores in years with high temperatures and better results in cooler years.  The study “Heat and Learning” suggested that hotter weather made it more difficult to study in lessons in school and to concentrate on homework out of school.  Interestingly, researchers calculated that for every 0.55C increase in average temperature over the year, there was a 1 per cent fall in learning.  The US based research analyzed test scores of 10 million secondary school students over 13 years and concluded that hot weather negatively impacted students’ learning.  Many of us are now familiar with the term global warming. Global warming is describes a gradual increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and its oceans.  Climate change and global warming are not myths. The international community of mankind continues to experience these environmental impacts daily so much so that in 2015 a historic event took place in an attempt to curtail the impact of climate change.     
The Paris Agreement
On December 12, 2015 a historic agreement to combat climate change was signed in Paris, France by 195 countries including Jamaica.  The Paris Agreement sees signatory countries working towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future. The foundation of the Paris Agreement is to keep a global temperature this century below 2 degrees Celsius as well as to encourage efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.   It is important to note that the Paris Agreement and the outcomes of the UN Climate Conference address five critical pillars.  These are Mitigation which seeks to reduce emission to achieve the temperature goal. The establishment of a transparency system and global stock is the second pillar. The third support seeks to strengthen the abilities of countries to deal with climate impacts. The fourth pillar seeks to strengthen the ability of states to recover from climate impacts. The fifth supports addresses finance for nations to build clean and resilient futures.   
Local Reality
Our students are exhausted by the end of June. Students by that time would have sat both internal and external examinations having studied all year.  It bares thought what value would be added to the life of the student by having school going beyond the historical and traditional close of the academic year?  In the absence of not having any local research regarding the impact of heat disruption on the performance of students we should look at the available external research to guide our policies.  However, it would be useful for our local researchers to conduct a study on the impact of heat on teaching and learning.  In Jamaica the academic usually ends in the first week of July but there are those who are working overtime to have this extended until the end of July.  We need to reject an extension of the school year merely to add more days. What will be achieved in practical terms for such an extension? Many parents as well as educators will argue that our students have enough stress to maneuver during the school year and therefore they do not need another layer. There are more pressing issues to address in our education system, the lack of accountability of our school administrators, the large class sizes and the inadequate space for students with special needs are just a few.  While this might not be news to everyone the public ought to aware that teachers are on call during the summer holidays.  In fact the Jamaica Teaching Council usually has a number of courses on offer during the summer break for teachers.  There are professional courses and workshops which many teachers attend during the summer. Additionally, some teachers also are markers for local and regional examinations.  We need to take heed of the research which clearly tells us that the summer is not ideal to be testing students since students are more likely to receive lower exam scores as the years become hotter.  We should not fix that which is not broken, instead we ought to look at the cracks in the system and address those.  In the words of Aristotle, it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#ParisAgreement #climatechange #globalwarming #environment #education #learning #heat

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Chasing Inclusiveness Amidst Discrimination

“Too often, customary practices and discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, race, religion, social status, or class are the root sources of pervasive inequality in many countries.”- Said Musa
Political campaigns are often brutish, fierce and personal.  In some jurisdictions political campaigns can get downright nasty. Some will argue that there is no depth to which those who seek political power will descend. However, in a bygone era there was a spirit of decency and fair play where one’s family and one’s sexual orientation were off limits on the election campaign trail.  On the eve of the elections in Barbados, the current political campaigning has reached fever pitch. Barbados, like all democracies elect their leaders through the holding of national elections. The population of this Caribbean island is just over 285,000. Barbados is located in the Lesser Antilles.  Barbadians go to the polls on Thursday, May 24, 2018 to elect their next government.  Last week the Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told his supporters that if his party, the Democratic Labour Party is re-elected he would remove Barbados from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate court. Stuart cited disrespect from the Trinidad based Caribbean Court of Justice as the main reason.  The Caribbean Court of Justice CCJ was established on February 14, 2001 and serves as the regional tribunal of the Caribbean. However, since its inception a number of islands in the Caribbean have refused to sign off on the CCJ as their final appellate court. The spirit of regionalism and indeed the Caribbean Court of Justice is clearly on life support as this proposed Caribbean institution of justice has not taken off as it was intended.
Equally disturbing news also comes from Barbados over the comments of Michael Carrington a member of the ruling party. Mr Carrington, Queen’s Counsel and former Speaker of the House of Assembly reportedly called on Mia Mottley, leader of the Barbados Labour Party to declare publicly if she was gay or not. According to the Barbados Today newspaper Mr Carrington questioned  the sexual orientation of Mia Mottley by stating that if she is gay she should come out and say so and let the people of Barbados know what they are getting if she were to be elected Prime Minister.  As Barbadians decide who will lead their country for the next five years we need to look deeper at the issues raised on the campaign trail and ask ourselves whether or not is it fair and reasonable to demand from our political representatives that they declare their sexual orientation.  The issue of sexual orientation is much larger than Barbados and the issue needs to be interrogated not solely for those who wish to enter representational politics but in terms of work relations.  In fact the matter should be examined in other Caribbean islands as well as on the international scene.  It bares thought should the sexual identity of an individual be a requirement for that person to serve at the highest level in one’s country?  Undoubtedly, Barbados is on the verge of history, we could see the island elect its first female Prime Minister or Bajans could re-elect the government of Freundel Stuart. The electorate is more mature than we give them credit for.  Do you think the electorate is more concerned about issues such as, the quality of their living standard, national security, access to affordable health care and growth in the economy?  Barbados has entered a slippery slope regarding their political culture and socialization. It is rather dangerous and discriminatory for any State to single out and target any one group in society. We need to watch the outcome of the Barbados elections very carefully. What will be next? Will the State look less favorably on those who are disabled, left-handed, or those who are Albinos from political representation? We should resist the move towards an age of suppression which invariably denies people who are viewed as being different their human rights. The way forward must be inclusive. The progressive agenda calls for an era of gender inclusiveness, diversity, respect for human rights and openness.  No one should be denied the right to political representation on the basis on gender, religion, sexual orientation, social class, and or ethnicity. In as much as we reject racism, ageism and sexism we should also eliminate discrimination of all forms which aims at stripping away one’s human dignity.  In the words of Bernie Sanders, election days come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the one per cent- a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice- that struggles continues.”         
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
#culture #politics #sexualorientation #gender #humanrights #discrimination #CARICOM #CaribbeanCourtOfJustice #sexism #Barbados #Albino #disabled #diversity #inclusion

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Private Education, Legislation And Parental Choice

Private education is usually one of the most sought after services in any society; however, the legislation which governs private education differs according to country.  In Denmark, a country of 5.7 million people private education has a long tradition and this service comes with a substantial government subsidy.  The first “free school” private independent school for children was founded in 1852. These schools were established to serve rural population. In Denmark, all children must receive nine years education; however, parents have the choice where the child is educated. The choice for Danes regarding education is either publicly provided municipal primary and lower secondary school, in a private school or at home. It is estimated that about 13% of all children at basic school level attend private schools. In 2006, approximately, 91,000 children attend 491 private schools, while 690, 000 students attended the municipal school.   Private schools in Denmark are classified into the following: small independent schools in rural districts, large independent schools in urban districts, religions or congregational schools, progressive free schools, schools with a particular educational aim, German minority schools or immigrant schools.  It is fascinating that private schools receive a grant per student per year for their operational expenditures which in principle matches the public expenditures in the municipal schools.  It is important to note that grants vary depending on the size of the school, the age distribution of the students and the location of the school.  Interestingly, students with learning disabilities or other special needs are given special grants. There are also building grants to cover rent, maintenance.  In order to be classified as a private school such an institution must not be owned by a private individual or run for profit.   Additionally, such schools must be a self-governing institution with a Board of Governors responsible to the Ministry of Education, guided by rules regulating the use of any assets in case of liquidation. Across continents we visit Canada to examine how private education is governed.
Canada is the largest country in North America. The country has a population of 36 million people.  There are ten provinces in Canada, these are: Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan. There are also three territories, these are; Northwest, Nunavat and Yukon. All education is overseen by the federal government but the onus is on provincial governments to govern funding and academic regulations which vary from province to province. Whether a school is public or private it must meet stringent requirements of federal or provincial regulation. The majority of privately funded schools in Canada are religious-based. Private schools are accredited by bodies such as the Canadian Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Canadian Association of Montessori Administrators (CCMA). Private schools in Ontario and Nova Scotia whether they are operated as business or non-profit organizations do not receive any financial support from the government, however, five other provinces do. British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec five funds to eligible independent schools based on criteria such as hiring certified teachers and following the provincial curriculum. In Canada, there is a difference between private and independent schools. Private schools are usually for profits institutions. Independent schools are usually not for profit and are governed by a Board which is separate from the school’s administrator.  It is estimated that there are over 2,000 independent schools in Canada.  Our last stop on this journey takes us to Jamaica.  
Jamaica’s population is currently 2.8 million people.  Jamaica has had a history of private education.  At the primary level parents with the economic means usually send their children to preparatory schools where school fees range from $40,000 to over $100,000 per term. In the past the ability and means to send one’s child to preparatory school is usually an indicator of social class as well as economic standing. However, this has changed over the years since those parents whose wealth is of recent origin might not necessarily have the social pedigree as old wealth class.  According to the Education Act 1965, independent schools means any school at which education is provided for twenty or more students between the ages of eight years and nineteen, not being a public educational institution. The Independent Schools Regulations, 1973 addresses in more detailed the framework which guides private education.  Jamaica, unlike Denmark allows for individuals to own private schools.  Part 11 of The Independent Schools Regulations 1973 sub-section 5 states, “Every application for registration by a proprietor of an independent school shall be made in writing addressed to the Registrar of Independent Schools, Ministry of Education, National Heroes Circle, Kingston, or such address as the Minister may notify in the Gazette, and shall contain the particulars specified in the Schedule and shall accompanied by, a simple sketch or diagram of the school premises;  simple floor plan of the buildings; a copy of the school’s prospectus; particulars of the fees for tuition in respect of each course; particulars of boarding fees (if any) for each age group of grade; and such other information as the Committee may from time to time require for the purpose of these Regulations.”  Section 26 of the Education Act 1965 provides for a Committee of Independent Schools.  The duties of the Independent Schools Committee include consideration for applications for registration of independent schools, as well as, to deal with representations made to the Committee in respect of notices of complaint served.  
Social Indicators
The life expectancy in Canada is 82 years while the country's GDP is $52, 218. The GDP in Denmark is $46,000 and the life expectancy is 79.4 years. Jamaica’s GDP is $9,000 US and the life expectancy in Jamaica is 73.6 years. The homicide rate per 100,000 in Canada is 1.68 while in Jamaica it is 43.21.  It can be argued that parents all over desire the best education for their children.  Education is a business and the cost of providing education whether publicly funded or private continues to increase. Ultimately, the parent has the responsibility to select the best option for their child's education. In the words of Mahtab Narsimhan, a good education is the greatest gift you can give yourself or anyone else.  
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in
development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.