Pitch on, principal

Newspaper Editorials are serious business: They are expected to deal with matters of public interest — substantial public interest. How in the name of all that is good and proper can we fit pitching marbles into an Editorial?

We can, because if the Commission of Enquiry into the management of the Alexandra School had been a slice of the United States presidential election, now in full swing, last week’s “discourse” on the pitching of marbles would have been viewed by the political spin doctors as a perfect diversion for one side.

It would have occupied the television news headlines and talk show hosts for at least two weeks and no doubt would have qualified for an opening skit on Saturday Night Live and an extended monologue by the titans of late night television.

We’re not that lucky in Barbados. When embattled Principal Jeff Broomes said he would from time to time pitch marbles with his junior school boys and got a not-so-favourable response from officials — in fact, what appeared, based on press reports, to be just short of a scolding — reaction from commentators lasted as long as a game of “killa”.

The hearings will end, the commission will issue its report and those who have the power will act accordingly; therefore there is no point in commenting on the evidence presented for or against the principal over the past month or so, but we will say without hesitation that we back him 100 per cent on the “pitching marbles” issue.

One of the reasons our society appears so fractured from time to time, and why so many of our young people believe the only place they can find comfort is on the block, is that too many of us project an approach that says “we are up there, you are down there”.

The teacher or principal who can dirty his knees in a game of marbles with his students is far more likely to win their trust and respect than the colleague who believes “they are down there and I am up here”. The teacher who on his way to class, and who without breaking a stride can take the basketball from his charges and score “a three-pointer” will get their respect because he does not project that “they are down there”.

The ability to curtail rebellion in youth often has little to do with the power of the office and much to do with the way the person of power is perceived — and this applies in and outside of the classroom and the school.

We would dare to go so far as to suggest that a principal or teacher pitching marbles with his students, in an age where every pronouncement about boys or men cast them as being in crisis, must count for much in the psychology of those boys.

Are boys who pitch marbles entitled now to believe that they are engaging in some “unclean” activity? What would have been the reaction had the principal said he sits under the bamboo trees and strums the guitar or plays his violin with the girls; or if the music teacher declares he/she sits on the steps outside the hall and blows a mean tune with the juniors?

Would we be ridiculous if we asked what would have been the reaction if the home economics teacher said she enjoyed making bakes with the girls?

What’s the problem with the principal pitching marbles with his boys? It might be worthwhile to recall some of the scenes from the movie Lean on Me in which veteran actor Morgan Freeman played the role of principal Joe Clark, trying to return order and scholastic achievement to a troubled school. He jumped rope with the girls and challenged the boys with their own pranks, winning respect but never once offering event a hint that he was not in charge!

By the way, Joe Clark was a real principal and Lean of Me was based on a true story.

So we say, pitch on, Mr. Broomes! If more principles pitched marbles with their students, literally and metaphorically, there is a good chance fewer boys would feel they are so far “down there” that they have no alternative but to hang out on the block with others who also believe they are “down there”.

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