Thursday, January 21, 2010

A "culturally relevant" education

I give credit to the man who used the term- Professor Aggrey Brown, former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education and Director of my school, CARIMAC (Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication) at the UWI, Mona campus.

I give credit to a man who for the first time in my education allowed me to think on my own and question. Before him, I was told to regurgitate. "So and so said, so it is." But he taught me the most important lesson of my life. It was in a single word. A single question. "Why?"

Nothing "is." Nothing lies in a vacuum. There are causes, effects, paradigms, frameworks, worldviews, objectives, environments, contexts, agendas. Who is talking? Now what's behind who is taking?

Therefore communication was inextricably tied to all disciplines. Especially history, economics, sociology, politics, business, psychology, ethics. A communicator is thirsty for knowledge and is not afraid to research and find out new things. To ask questions. A good communicator can communicate any subject matter stemming from any discipline, even if not his/her own. He also stressed that to understand current events, we cannot do so without understanding context. In the midst of that context, you will find history.

History is not separate from the current. History, in many ways defines the current. Are we not the sum total of our past experiences?

Therefore, to understand where we are now as Caribbean nation states, as countries developing in the world, and to understand those said to be developed, we have to know how we all came to be so.

Another important lesson learned is that there is never one side to a story.

Our West Indian history, before the establishment of the UWI was written by those in the UK, who had their own paradigm altogether. Men like Carlyle who said black slaves imported from Africa were lazy on the sugar plantations (that captialized the Industrial Revolution in Europe) because they would eat and fall asleep under pumpkin trees. I don't know about you but I have never seen a pumpkin grow on trees. Furthermore, we were taught the histories of other places with neglect of our own because of the direct link into a well of bitterness that could ensue among people now enlightened that their former colonizers had really raped and exploited them and let them go when they no longer suited them.

It's a political argument. But history, like current affairs, is highly political. It is always about power. The lack of it, or the want of it. Who has it, who uses it wisely, who abuses, and who is victimized by it.

I hold no grudge. I just don't want us to believe that Haiti is just the dumbest place on earth. Haiti has had a past of serious exploitation. They are the blue people in Avatar, as are we who have faced enslavement and colonization, only we got out a little better than Haiti. The lovely wooden homes in the Southern USA, and all of the lovely architectural wooden details in the homes in Savannah Georgia, originate in the trees of Haiti. I learned about the history of Haiti in High School and at University. It is indeed a sad history. But such is the history of colonization. Unfortunately unlike the Moors in Italy, it is still too recent for us.

Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, India, Africa and other countries have hell to pay for having the gumption to stand up to others more powerful. Jamaica has buckled for individual political gain and also aid from the US. Don't even forget the dumping of the dirty industries in our countries - industries that would evoke outcry in their own countries - utilizing child labour, expelling harmful toxic emissions maiming and slowly killing generations, burying toxic waste where people live, etc.

It is a nasty chain of events that has led us all to this day. But you know what is even sadder?

The Jews are allowed to speak of the holocaust but "slavery"and "colonization" from dispossessed blacks makes everyone uncomfortable. Why? Why can't we get reparation for the grave genocide that we suffered at the hands of those who were out to make a buck and build their own wealth who now police the rest of the world and cry foul on such behaviour?

Do you know what Haiti could do with that money? It is outlined in the articles below. Do you know what Jamaica could do with that money? End poverty, educate our people and put social systems in place so that our uneducated, disenfranchised youth don't feel like crime is the only way to get ahead.

These modern day embargoes on Haiti and Cuba are inhumane. How dare Castro to speak irreverently of US policy, right? Is communism still a "threat" in the west? Was it ever really? Who says capitalism is not the threat and not communism? Under capitalism, individual wealth has soared highest among the wealthy while the poorest have gotten poorer and the gap widens between rich and poor. There is no real "middle class". And who says that one man is more entitled that the other? I guess some people are really more equal than some. George Orwell was on to something. Capitalism is not a humane political agenda any more than a communist dictatorship. Both are too extreme. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

But what can we say of Cuba? Cuba has the highest literacy rate in the world. 97%. Where does the US fall in that?
Cubans have learned to be creative and to recycle because times have been hard since the Bay of Pigs.
Cubans are good sportsmen and women.
Cubans have highly developed arts education and preservation.
Cubans still help their richer neighbours by schooling them, providing free health care, building sports complexes and schools for them etc.

Colonization and invasion is wrong. It is wrong for one man to be more right than another and to forcefully wield his power on a sovereign state will disregard for the laws of the land. I do not believe in war.

Why can't we all just get along?


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