In response to the latest episode of a Jamaican (you know who…) embarassing himself and the rest of us by confusing nationalist sentiment with informed political discourse, Thomas Glave posted his statement at Calabash on the queer Caribbean listserv:

Dear C-FLAG Listserv community,

Yesterday (May 23, 2008), in Jamaica, at the Calabash Literary Festival in Treasure Beach, where I still am, I read selections from my new, just barely published edited anthology Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles; in fact, this reading opened the Calabash weekend. However, given Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s recent antigay remarks on the BBC-TV show “Hard Talk,” about which there has been much discussion in the local Jamaican press, I felt that I could not read from *this* book in particular, *in* Jamaica, without expressing my unhappiness over Mr Golding’s remarks. Because I’m not certain if the J’can press will carry any coverage of what I said, here are my remarks, addressed to the large Calabash audience, that preceded my reading. The response – at least from what I could tell – was overwhelmingly positive, even eliciting applause before I barely finished a few sentences:

“I want to say a special thanks to the Calabash organisers – Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes, and Justine Henzell – for inviting me back to Calabash, this being my second reading at the festival, and for their unceasing generosity to, and support of, writers from around the world. And so, mindful of that generosity and kindness, my conscience will not permit me to begin reading from this book in particular before I say that as a gay man of Jamaican background I am appalled and outraged by the Prime Minister’s having said only three days ago on BBC-TV that homosexuals will not have any place in his Cabinet and, implicitly, by extension, in Jamaica. I guess this means that there will never be any room in Mr Golding’s Cabinet for me and for the many, many other men and women in Jamaica who are homosexual. And so I now feel moved to say directly to Mr Golding that it is exactly this kind of bigotry and narrow-mindedness that Jamaica does not need any more of, and that you, Mr Golding, should be ashamed of yourself for providing such an example of how not to lead Jamaica into the future. And so, Mr Golding, think about how much you are not helping Jamaica the next time you decide to stand up and say that only some Jamaicans – heterosexuals, in this case – have the right to live in their country as full citizens with full human rights, while others – homosexuals – do not. That is not democracy. That is not humane leadership. That is simply the stupidity and cruelty of bigotry.”

I then read excerpts from the work of 4 contributors in the book: Makeda Silvera ( Jamaica ), Reinaldo Arenas ( Cuba ), Helen Klonaris ( Bahamas ), and my own, and finished by saying, “Not just one love, Jamaica . Many loves.”

I felt terrified, to say the least, to make this statement before the reading; never have I felt so vulnerable, so exposed, and, before I walked up onto the stage, alone. But feeling embraced by the warm reception, I left the stage feeling more than ever that the title of Our Caribbean indeed speaks a truth: that this is, and will continue to be, through struggle, our Caribbean.

In solidarity, Thomas Glave

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I am starting to think we Jamaicans are some of the laziest rassclaat people ever!!  Ok, so that’s obviously not true, but I am so, so, soooo sick and tired of the attitude that dis yah govament must do, think and be everything for us. 

I humbly submit that we as citizens need to show leadership on the issues that ail us.  And there is clearly lots of that kind of leadership, although not nearly enough. Politicians are just that; they don’t know squat, except how to move money around and rubberstamp policies.  That’s not leadership; yes, they can be useful to us, but its we who have to show the way and get them to notice and provide  support where necessary.

How did I get onto this topic? Well, its been bubbling all along. The education debates is just one impetus.  And there’s the everpresent wailing about what to do about ” crime and violence.” And often they are linked, as in the response of this blogger.

So here’s my off the cuff retort:

The real obstacles to making any kind of progress in Jamaica are reflected in the blogger’s response as well as the comments. We can see the same thinking in practically every letter to the editor.

1. The profound cynicism that nothing can be done, and blaming the problem on some other entity – the government, the people, NGOs – instead of us taking responsibility for working on any given issue in order to tackle the problem.

2. The inability to recognize that what we say, blog and yell has implications beyond us. Among the many things that Jamaicans have yet to understand and take serious is the notion of personal accountability.  If you say it, you must be willing to take responsibility for the implications of what you say.  That means, if you want something to happen, you have the responsibility for doing something to make it happen.  I could ask the blogger what are YOU doing to get more political attention to the educational needs of children living in poverty-stricken communities? In fact, for all who are rounin’ up dem mout bout dis and dat, maybe we need to start asking – insisting even – them to translate those attitudes and ideas into action.

3. The “either or” approach, based on absence of knowledge about how problems emerge and how they can be addressed.

No social problem can be addressed only by the government, and certainly not one as inept and morally bankrupt as ours.  Furthermore, no social problem can be addressed without addressing the SOCIAL ie. how we relate to each other, and how we see ourselves in relation to the broader society. That “relate” term is broad and very complicated; its not just about “I” or “you”. So, dismissing the role of the arts & humanities in everyday life and the role of youth-based organized activities in combatting criminality is truly the dumbest, most-uninformed thing I have heard in a long time. Seriously.  It is also has destructive implications, given how little interest and awareness there is about the role of the arts & humanities in our society.   Anybody who has thought for a second since the beginning of time knows that remaking social relationships is critical in any effort at social change.  Thinking and seeing ourselves differently – through the art, music, film, conscious conversations and interactions – allows us to radically reshape who we are.   The ability to create beauty and to recognize and build our common humanity around beauty is a worthwhile and even essential goal, when we are surrounded by only ugly things – violence, bloodshed, discrimination, decay, decline, etc. etc. 

You don’t need to go far for evidence about the effects of being involved in organized activities.   Just talk to individual youth who are involved in group activities vs. those who are not.   Just their ability to reflect on themselves and to make use of their time is different.   

What do you think these so-called Christian and religious fanatics that we live with are trying to do with their various rules to make us pray more, and to make every activity – even sex! – a religious one?  They are able to convince many that “morality” (by which they mean Christianity) is the answer to regulating all social relationships;  from homosexuality, to adolescent sexuality to criminality (kill, scorn and exclude all o’ dem while we wait fi God fi come fi ‘im wurl’); that answer comes from a particular definition of what a”good society” looks like and how it should unfold.   Since so many of us accept that rigid, conservative, one-dimensional, unsubstantiated thinking, we are clueless about how we can participate in social change in other ways in our own communities.   I certainly disagree with that approach for all kinds of reasons found elsewhere on this blog.  But I find it especially dangerous in Jamaica because there is little else to counter it, and little evidence of us creating new ways of thinking to counter such reactionary ways of thinking and acting. 

In fact, the blogger’s noting – and tacitly endorsing – that middle and elite Jamaicans would find the notion of investing in the education of poor kids as ridiculous, is evidence of exactly what we need to change.   What exactly is laughable about denying thousands of children access to education and social mobility?  Who can answer that question seriously and still expect that their humanity is intact and not been compromised in some fundamental way?  There’s lots of evidence right yah so to show that the scoffing and laughter are wrong in principle, substance and effect.  One small and important starting point is to gather that evidence of the children who, having been given opportunities often denied to their peers, have changed their lives.  Oh, right, no money no inna dat. Oh right, dem deh people nuh worth it.  I’m sure you can fill in the reasons why you, or noone else that you know should do anything of worth beyond yourself.  

Maybe you can start by thinking about all the reasons why you SHOULD work to create more opportunities for youth – inner-city, rural, urban, homeless, institutionalized populations — choose which category you want to work with.  Create beauty so

We as a society have serious limitations in understanding what “opportunity” is; we are constantly encouraged to focus on individual and highly subjective attributes of “ambition”, “faith in God” and “hard work”. Hence, we can blame children for not “paying attention” or going to school, or not “taking advantage”, as long as we don’t have to look at what our institutions are asking them to pay attention to, or to recognize the obstacles that institutions put in their way. I want to hear one of dem beauty contestants and government scholarship awardees actually thank the sources of their success: institutions that, because of who their parents are (where they work, who they know, etc.) were given privilege access that was denied to other people.

By the way, that’s the point that was being made in the letter to which the blogger was responding. That is, privileged persons in Jamaica are regularly rewarded for their existing privilege; those without access are shut out because they don’t have access. “Ghetto people” can testify to this; but so can all the employers who refuse to hire people from a particular address. But he didn’t even notice that. We don’t just need “funds” to be set aside; we also need individuals who are going to work to make sure that more children from poverty-stricken neighborhoods get recognition for what they are achieving; and we need more individuals who see the need to build institutions that will focus on investing in the achievement of our children.

But I also know why someone would dismiss the arts etc. : that’s because our knowledge about how governments and societies work and what they can do is limited to THIS one. And limited to a particularly ahistorical notion of this society. Indeed, our knowledge about what makes a “good society” is limited to what we have been told here. We don’t read, we don’t investigate, we don’t know, not even what we have been doing all along, and can do better.

In fact, organized activities – whether based on sports, theatre, poetry, visual arts, trades, etc. – and the brilliant combination of these – are the hallmark of a vibrant democratic society. As such, creating new opportunities for such organized activities to thrive are tried and true strategies EVERYWHERE in the world where governments and citizens have come together and made serious interventions, in the lives young and old people.

Creating beauty is an important and vital part of our lives.  Creating opportunities for that beauty to be expressed, appreciated and to feed us is essential work if our humanity is to remain intact.  Its not that religious institutions in Jamaica can’t support this notion that the arts, etc. are important.  It’s that they don’t choose to.  And so, many of our youth in church don’t know how to express themselves in positive, affirming and community-minded ways any more than the generic youth who doesn’t participate in church.   They can be just as violent in their language and ways of being as the non-churched kids.  What is also true is that the one in church probably thinks they are “better” than the other, and are going to be rewarded for that affilation in the way that the other is not.  And art gets called “world-ian” and “pointless”, while reciting biblical scripture and dancing dinky minnie on stage somehow becomes the measure of our cultural consciousness.

Our kind of thinking — that government must provide the ideas and the money — is not thinking at all (its also funny how this notion of a centrally controlled society resembles the spectre of communism that many of us purport to hate…) It is merely repeating what someone has already said and that someone is coming from a perspective that was never examined. It is not based on any evidence but on using a medium – the blog, the letters to the editor, the call-in stations – to spout off and claim authority on an issue that everyone seems to be an authority on these days. It is based on laziness and a refusal to take responsibility for the society that we are living off like parasites, rather than putting anything back into it.

Political will is important, but so is civic action. If political will does not exist, its our job as citizens to help create it.  Its also our jobs as citizens to do the things that we believe need to be done, and that are important for our wellbeing.

It seems to me that we are constantly looking to the wrong sources for expertise and vision. Governments can demonstrate the latter through its political will – the commitment to do something and to follow it through — when they choose to. But politicians don’t have expertise, and they certainly can’t polish that vision and make it real in all its possible manifestations.

That expertise is located elswehere, and if our government officials are not smart or savvy or interested enough to look for that expertise, or cannot inspire us to offer it up free of charge, or who only can create corrupt partnerships with equally greedy citizens, then we who have that expertise and an ounce of integrity ought not sit down and wait for permission or for the gov’t to ask us.

That ability to dream, create and make things and build relationships that would not otherwise be thought possible — that’s OUR job, as individuals, as collectives.    WE need to do the work.

That means we don’t sit down and wait for GOVERNMENT to do public education on anything! Many of us are flocking into broadcasting, graphic design etc. but why? So we can become part of the “entertainment industry” or “tourism industry” and become famous in this small place and make money for ourselves and to promote all kinds of crap that is actually bad for us.

It is our narrow thinking — focused only on our individual selves and thinking that each of us is an expert — that is killing us.  Not just governmental corruption but our complacence and complicity: our inability to vision and to work to bring that vision to fruition.

We simply can’t see the forest because we are focused only on the one deggeh deggeh tree in our own backyard where we planted our navel string. It’s time to see both.

So, Justice McCalla has ruled and ended the term of the ne-er-do-well Darryl (son of Douglas) Vaz and brought the terms of others under question. And yet, the consternation and handwringing continues. 

What does this mean really? Well, exactly what she said. If you have sworn allegiance to another state, you cannot hold national office. She didn’t make it up you know. What’s so difficult to understand? There is nothing that says someone who has both Jamaican and other citizenship cannot return to Jamaica to participate in national affairs. Said person simply can’t hold national office, even if you managed to slide by and behind the rules and mounted an otherwise illegitimate campaign for office. Well, Sharon Hay-Webster and other seem to think their case is an exception.   And no, I don’t care what the US says or doesn’t say about dual citizenship.  This is not the U.S., this is Jamaica. And although we love to act like the 52nd state, we are not.   So, yes, pay attention to what the constitution says.

If you are mounting a campaign of dissent against a legal statute that you believe to be stupid, then do so in an intelligent and savvy fashion. I can get with that.  Just be ready to mount the other defense in the public as well.  I most certainly don’t follow every law, nor do I wish to.  I think many of our laws are problematic and downright unjust, and when I have a choice, I make it clear that I am not going to obey the ones that apply.  And I don’t plan to accept the consequences either.  That’s the point of registering one’s opposition I believe.  But these politicians ought not to act like they didn’t know they were violating the law, or like they have the right to flaunt the law just because they and their cronies don’t feel like it should apply to them, and they ought not to asked to think about the implications of what they are doing.   [Hear that, Darryl? For once in your life, start acting like you are accountable to someone else besides your clan].

Danville Walker did the ethically appropriate thing: he stepped down.  He will continue doing good work and making valuable contributions to public life in many other ways. He’s not the heir apparent or don man of electoral reform in Jamaica.  End of story.

But, we haven’t left it there. No. For many, this ruling is an affront == to who again?  Yes. All those hardworking Jamaicans who went overseas and who were encouraged to become citizens, and who still send dem money come back.  Apparently, they have been disenfranchised.  I didn’t get the memo, but apparently we have sent them a message that we want their money but don’t want to hear what they have to say, and certainly won’t elect them to represent us.   Over the wailing and gnashing of teeth, I hear that we have conned them into thinking that they of the “diaspora” were more important than they thought they were.

What the fuck, is what I say.  All o’ dis chatter and crisis talk is just exhausting.   Was there some kind of promise made that if you go abroad, and work and get education and send back money, you can come back and get elected to national office anytime you want?  Mi neva know seh a so it go.  Yes, somehow we continue to believe that we are more valuable and worthy only when we can leave the country and go elsewhere and then come back.  But, I really did not realize that becoming an elected politician was part of the deal.  And you see all wha’ dem politrickians do when dem get inna office? Look like seh me shoudda did lef long time an’ come back; I woulda get likkle a’ di Kern-els too!

One columnist asks, why aren’t Jamaican immigrants abroad more pissed off and mobilizing against this ruling?  Probably because “they” are a heterogeneous group that does not have a common agenda much less agree on who gets to be a member; moreover, “they ” who are probably busy working and doing things that are far more important than, say, participating in politicized debate within a fractious political system that is desperately in need of reform? I don’t know.   The only glimmer of good that comes out of all of this?  We actually have some evidence that a member of judiciary does take her job seriously and interprets the law as it applies to this situation.

Frankly, I don’t see what the problem is here.  Folks in politics who are brandishing their two passports are not doing so because they give a damn about the bigger implications.   Some o’ dem rass get ketch now, yes! They do so because dual citizenship serves them individually, and gives them access to resources that allows them to maintain a kind of social power and currency in Jamaica that they wouldn’t have otherwise.  The house and land that they purchase abroad, the access to pensions, Medicare, Medicaid, business opportunities, scholarships, student loans, etc. that they milk and mine as needed to maintain their social status, while carefully skirting the racism and anti-foreigner sentiments abroad that are bound to tell them they are not such hot stuff.   That’s what its about, mi’dear. They take the “go an’ come” higglering lifestyle to a whole other level, yes?

Now, I might be wrong, but I don’t see how this whole political drama affects how things actually work in Jamaica.  The legal fact of being “jamaican” does not get us much of anything in our country — well, maybe a discount at the tourist resorts and NHT loans, but not much more.  If you know of something else, you should definitely tell me.   We don’t vote for those bumbling fools because they are Jamaican.   We take their Jamaicanness for granted.  We elect them because they proffer verbiage and promises that we can get down with for the moment, and we accept that they are because of how they look, how they speak, and that since they’ve been around for a while, we can accept that they are “one of us” (again, whatever that means). The evidence of being Jamaican is resolved, not at the passport level, but at the semantic level, and only becomes a personal or political issue at key moments like now, when the JLP is fighting for legitimacy and the PNP is just fighting period.  At the end of the day, neither party cares about the longterm implications of the constitutional clause.  All they care about is numbers — how many of their side gets to stay in, how many on the other side gets kicked out — and revenge — which side can screw the other side even more.  And we all got dragged along for the ride.  Steeeuuupppssss!!

Notice I haven’t had an Obamarama entry in a while? Well, it will be a while before you see another one.
I saw this article in the Washington Post. I stopped to ponder why Obama campaign has been downplaying this aspect of the work of building support for him. Hearing about these racist attitudes probably embarasses many white people; poor things, how could they not know… And for sure, the campaign probably doesn’t want to emphasize any opposition to Obama at this point. This is one that is certain to feed a whole nedder media frenzy. Enough of those I say.
For those white folks who are still uncommitted, many are wondering whether they are doing the US a disservice by voting for Obama; after all, what reasonable hardworking, law-abiding American [read white] wants to upset the applecart and participate in doing something that would assuage their guilt but create social unrest?

I have been busy working on a couple of posts — many in draft form still; I’m a bit of a perfectionist you see — but since yesterday, I haven’t been able to write much. I decided to take a moment to say something about the latest episode of public executions, slated to become a new pastime.

Yes, that’s exactly what they were – just because the state was not the main sponsor of the events, doesn’t mean the effect is not the same: terrorizing the citizens and forcing us to conform to our current circumstances, and even start to defend those very acts of terror, as long as they are not used against the more worthy among us.

As I have listened to people talk about what happened – what they saw, think, thought, heard etc. – I have gone over in my head so many times about why the same gaps or omissions are present in everybody’s story.

Nowhere is there a recognition, awareness, a sense, a wish, of what people could have done in that moment.

Always taken for granted is that the show has begun, and that it must go on; it cannot be interrupted, we have been blessed with front seats after all. All that we can and should do is sit/stand and watch, oooh and aaah with mouths agape, hide our faces at the right moment as if we are watching a slasher movie, and take care that none of the spillage messes up our pretty clothes and shoes or stops us in our path, on our way, to what — surely not our own moral deaths.

From the editorial from today’s Gleaner, I excerpted the following:

[…] Sushania Young and how she died:

in Half-Way Tree;

at mid-morning;

on a bright Monday;

in the presence of scores, perhaps hundreds, of people […]

In the heart of a busy plaza, a man with whom she was apparently having a conversation pulled a gun and pointed it towards her.

She ran.

He fired.

She ran.

She fell.

He came over her.

He fired.

Into her head.

He escaped[…]

Reads like a poem doesn’t it?

Each beat also records a moment of time. There’s the pause that is full of possibility. An invitation to disturb the rhythm. To change the outcome of the whole event. And nobody took advantage of it. They were too busy looking. But not seeing. Not seeing how their looking is creating the perfect conditions for the spectacle that is unfolding before their eyes. He chose the location. He chose the time. He chose the mode of execution. He chose the vantage points from which we would see, point, gape. All we had to do was show up and bear witness. Allow him to exit stage left. Past cars that otherwise act as weapons against us. But not this time. Police enter stage right. We don’t know his name. But we know her name. We know all about her. She was young and nice and ambitious. Not a streggeh. Do we know where that cellphone is? What number she dialed? What her relationship to that man was? Any other threats on her life? Would we have let him get away if we knew he was a battyman? These things don’t matter I suppose. She dead an gone now, yes?

As I write this, the “lynching festivals” in early 1910-20s US are coming to mind.

Meanwhile, all attention has been focused on the new Minister of National Security, who is supposed to bring an end to “crime and violence.” Whatever. But when I looked at the list of recommendations coming from the roadmap report, as they call it, I am still asking how any of those could have prevented or even speak to the public execution of Sushania and the others who have been picked off over the last few months.

Where does this roadmap point to how we as citizens can see ourselves as responsible for, and already empowered to make a more just and less criminal-prone society possible, if we wanted to? Where is the pandering and appealing to our collective will to work together to make a different kind of society? I think I am answering my own question. There will be no such appeal. There will only be the paternalistic approach where we are left in the dark, told that it is not our business to ask, and where we are expected to sit and wait while the good men and women of the Ministry do what is right by us. Maybe.

It is clear that many of us are already empowered: with the easy access to firearms; with the knowledge that our fellow citizens are cowards and love the spectacle of seeing and gossiping about blood and brains on our city’s sidewalks more than we love the feeling of having thwarted another senseless death; with the overblown confidence that such things would never happen to “people like us”; with a sophisticated knowledge about how to enact all kinds of criminal transactions – from blackmarket DVDs to unlimited cellphone use, to importing computers for our businesses, to getting bank loans we don’t qualify for, to the line of coke we snorted at the party last weekend…etc. etc. etc.

But to what end?

To whose end?

Are we really so content, so adjusted to the runnings of this blood sport that we can wrinkle our noses, kiss our teeth, step over the dead bodies, and keep on going? And then what happens when it’s our turn to be fodder for the headlines, beauty parlours and rum bar sessions? What then?

Same old same old.

Festival anyone?

Who feels it knows it.
A popular adage.
Experience is the precursor to knowledge.
Experience is the essence of knowledge.
Experience defines the limits of knowledge.

So, yet another “Silver Pen” award is given by the Gleaner to someone offering insight into the obstacles to achieving the elusive “law and order” society that we so dearly want. This time, its a teacher who argues that
teachers are left to fend for themselves in the classroom cum battleground, and to “deal with it” when children are unruly, misbehaving and downright hostile to the enterprise of education; after all, the kids come from shitty homes and communities so what else should we expect? We’ve heard this all before, so no surprises here.

Beyond the highly emotional repetition of what is fast becoming a truism – its the children’s fault — I can see why she got the Silver Pen; the poor thing is drowning in the ocean of chaos and mismanagement, and feels like bricks have been tied to her ankles. At the very least, the award works as an acknowledgement of what her and other teachers are dealing with, even if there’s not a drink of freshwater nor a lifeboat available in sight.

I returned to the original letter, and realized that it is one that I had put off responding to. Too much going on there, I said then. I still say that. But, just to offer another viewpoint besides this whole “you can’t know if you are not in my shoes”:

My first thought: Ms. Moore’s shoes are ill-fitting. Based on all that has been shared in the letter, she needs to leave the profession. Pronto. Either that, or change her thinking and approach immediately. If she can’t figure out how to do her job to the best of her ability within the constraints placed on her, and not expect to be thanked and lauded by all and sundry, then she needs to leave. Nobody will fault her for that. If I was that frustrated and hated my job and felt unsupported and mistreated, I would not be sticking around for long, I can assure you.

In the recent article, Ms. Moore tells the Gleaner that “since corporal punishment has been removed or is seen [??] as illegal, it’s like the teachers have lost power. Removing this as a means of discipline, not abuse, is as if you are removing the motivation, because of I know if I do X and I’m going to be scolded for it, then I’m not going to want to do it.” Teachers have had enough, and according to Miss Moore, want permission to do more than “deal with” the bad treatment meted out to them. They want permission to beat our children, when they do not humbly or dutifully comply with the teachers’ wishes.

Can you imagine what would happen if, with all the anger and pent-up frustration that she clearly has, she felt free to beat her students? Lord have his mercy on these children.

However, if one looks more closely at the sources of frustration that Ms. Moore describes and which have caused teachers to “have enough”, as she says, you also see some very familiar signs that tell us that its not all the students’ fault, and certainly not in her classroom:

There’s the obvious failure in the training that she received as a teacher, which does not help her to deal with the conditions that she is facing everyday. Apparently, to be a “teacher” is to TELL the students what to do, and they must dutifully comply, ie. LEARN. Why on earth would you be telling students “don’t use indecent language in public” if you are not also providing some context for a discussion about what is “decent”, ïndecent”, etc. and some kind of reward for following through on what was agreed?

She says: “you give them homework and there is nobody home with them to assist them”

Ah, how is this new? It’s the job of the teacher to come up with something else to make the learning possible. Lesson plans need to be based on what you can accomplish. Sometimes you need to get rid of the lesson plans. Yes, I know what the Ministry says and all that. Drastic situations call for drastic measures. Maybe Ms. Moore shouldn’t give homework during the week. Maybe teachers should organize homework sessions that children can go to. Maybe teachers should try doing a buddy system for homework. Maybe Ms. Moore should do a little research on this issue – I know, she doesn’t like surveys or whatever — to find out how teachers elsewhere deal with this.

Ms. Moore says “the fact that you don’t have parents taking an active part, calling to find out the development and the progress of their children.”

So, again, how is this new news? Ms. Moore hasn’t been paying attention to what’s going on in the country and in the urban communities of the US, Canada and Britain I see. Again, one’s ability to teach is not being supported by the environment; but that doesn’t mean you don’t do your job as a teacher. You redefine it to make it work within the constraints; there’s what you have control over, and what you don’t. But you don’t stop being an advocate for your students because you don’t like the conditions under which you are teach. Nor should you assume that just because you tell a student something that it is going to stick and radically transform them. If you are not going to take the work of being an educator seriously — and noone said it was going to be a bed of roses, if someone told you that, they lied to you — then get out, change jobs, schools, whatever.

She says: “Not only are teachers expected to facilitate learning, but they have the responsibility of instilling discipline, conducting regular assessment of students’ performance, writing regular plans, keeping and updating records, tending to their needs (this includes support financially, emotion-ally and otherwise) and being role models for tomorrow’s people. Needless to say, there are many other roles.”

You see, this is how I know she did not receive proper training, and is also profoundly inexperienced and clueless about what the work of education is about. And this is where her experience should count for something; she didn’t do her homework before she took the job and now she’s finding out what its really like.

Then there’s her inflexibility and lack of innovation. When, as she argues, you are faced with 35-60 students everyday, I would think that one would want to – by virtue of sheer willpower and desire to survive – figure out a way to deal with a condition that is not going to change anytime soon. In other words, she would need to adopt the appropriate PEDAGOGICAL tools to manage a large classroom while making some learning possible. Despising the students and their families is not enough, sorry.

Then there’s the absolute disregard for the humanity of students. Apparently, being respectful and pleasant towards students is not a requirement; its conditional. If they don’t do what you want, and behave how you want, you belittle their backgrounds and dismiss them as hopeless curs. Yes, Ms. Moore definitely has a successful career ahead of her in Jamaica’s public schools.

So, Ms. Moore, if you think the kids are hellbent on sliding into delinquency and criminality with the aid of their absent parents, and you treat them as if that’s the only outcome possible, and then you set up a school environment that’s a model jail with teachers and principals as wardens and corrections officers, well, I don’t know what you expect except what we’re getting.

Then, there’s her difficulty getting a handle around the concept of “discipline”. I can see why most of our students lack creativity and the ability to think critically; the teachers don’t have it, and they beat it out of our kids.

In our western-trained minds, discipline – learning how to act in accordance with rules and regulations – is always paired with punishment – methods of correction and otherwise penalizing one for failing to comply and act accordingly. I don’t think Ms. Moore is up to reading Foucault, Bourdieu or Freire yet, or she would probably have a very different attitude about the notion of power, her relationship with her students and the work of education. But she doesn’t need to read those lofty tomes. She really just needs to think, just a little bit, about what she’s doing and what outcomes she’s getting vs. what she/rest of the society thinks is desirable.

It bears repeating that telling today’s students that they must behave and comply with the rules of the school and the classroom is pointless and a very useful exercise in how to frustrate yourself to the point of homicide. Contrary to what most of our teachers and parents think and practice, it is much more meaningful – in the short and longterm – to get students to ask Why? What’s that about? What does it make possible that other strategies can’t? What do I get from doing it this way? What don’t I get from doing it this way? etc. etc. It is also more useful to have rewards that are meaningful to them. These children probably get beaten all the time. How does being beaten by a teacher do anything different? Its the same shaming, the same system of punishment and degradation that is being visited on them. And when they get a chance, they will fling rockstone pon yuh car and fire shot after you the same way they would in other situations.

Classroom education of poor and working class students in Jamaica is a strange exercise in disrespect of those students, and is merely an extension of how the rest of the society views them. So, Ms. Moore, don’t be so put off that they cuss and carry on the same way that they might outside the classroom. Do you act any differently towards them than any one else does? What kind of classroom environment do you cultivate?

If the teachers and principals are too busy complaining and running for cover and not taking charge of the schools in ways that make education priority and possible, not much will change. I have yet to hear a principal or teacher articulate an analysis or offer policy solutions that do not rely on the state and on turning the schools into prisons.

In fact, I have yet to hear a principal or teacher speak in a way that is intelligible and reflects their status as educators! Beyond saying that one is a teacher, I can’t see how the perspectives offered tell us anything about what unique skills and viewpoints that teachers offer. Frankly, it is impossible to distinguish between the armchair musings of an ordinary citizen writing a letter to the editor and what our principals and teachers offer to the public in the way of analysis of school policies and education practices. Maybe our educators who want change should take some time out to think, and talk, and strategize. The unreflexive bitchfest that happens in the newspapers is just ridiculous and getting us nowhere.

I am pretty unapologetic about advocating for children and for better educational experiences for them. While recognizing the ridiculous conditions under which this work is being done – where our political leaders play dutty football with our kids’ futures; our parents, along with the majority of our institutions and citizens have taken a hands-off approach and completely checked out – I still see that where there’s a will, there’s a way. And while there’s no political will, educators need to develop and sustain their own will. Without that, we are all as good as dead. Sitting down and waiting for a government handout and decision is not enough. Nor is wailing and crying out of selfish motives. What about the teachers? you say.

Yes, what ABOUT the teachers? we say. What do you need to have in order to make our schools work? What is your vision? If you can’t get past the “law and order” and “gimme gimme” approaches to articulate something more lofty and yet more meaningful in this time, then nobody is really going to give a shit about your problems at work. So far, teachers are making it pretty easy for folks to dismiss them: we all have hard lives, Jamaica is fast becoming a pit latrine; deal with it.

But if the more progressive ones among our teachers can start – quietly even! – doing some thinking and strategizing work, freeing up themselves from the JTA, trying out a ting or two in their classrooms, and building support for what they are doing through partnerships and innovative programs, then we’re behind them. But teachers have to lead. Yes, you, YOU teachers, do have to lead. And right now, they still haven’t figured out that part of their role is to offer leadership. They’re too busy saluting and begging the Minister for favours. It would be really nice, uplifting even, if teachers began to show the students – and the rest of us — that they really do know what it means to be educators. Maybe our students and parents and everybody else might start paying attention to such responsible, ethical leadership.

Ok, so I was just reading this article online. Since the self-appointed Bishop did not tell us what the seven laws were — maybe its a trade secret or something — maybe unnu can tell me what you think they are? Cause I have no idea. Maybe is because ah not a man, so I guess I wouldn’t know…