Self-esteem and skills to the core

It has become fashionable for politicians, commentators, and even some educators, to suggest ditching the pursuance of what they term academics in favour of the exploration of “certified” technical competence –– but only for a certain type of student. The kind they believe it would be energy-sapping and time-consuming to teach to comprehend, reason and communicate effectively.

The kind they hold to have no brains for books.

Grant you, extreme study in impractical abstractions and inexact sciences may not be food for the average brain, but in presenting the “alternative” –– and, at best, demystifying academia –– we must take great care we do not throw out the concept of core knowledge and learning. As we have had good cause to state before, we must all be properly trained in usage of English and constantly practise its applications.

It was thus most refreshing to hear politician and educator Senator Harry Husbands encouraging fellow educators to refocus on the core elements of the discipline, art and science of teaching. The Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education was moved to so advise teachers at the launch on Friday of the Future Star Student Planner –– a vehicle to inspire reading and writing –– at Bay Primary School.

The student planner, Senator Husbands averred, was a way of retrieving some focus on the essential skills of reading and writing –– forming legible letters by hand as much as conjuring up imageries for a readable composition.

Admitted the senator: “We know from our own experience as teachers that one of the major areas of weakness, not only at the Common Entrance, but at the CXC, and at the university, is students’ inability to write properly. And I mean not only handwriting, but composition or essay writing.”

Kudos to Senator Husbands!

No matter what career, a child may dream of or pursue, competent communication is key, and this is only possible through adequate skills in reading and writing. One need not be able to quote Shakespeare verbatim or to recite all of George Lamming’s In The Castle Of My Skin, but a healthy appreciation and study of their work will do a brain a good and foster analytical thinking.

The detractors are likely to proffer that the core skills of reading and writing –– as were the highlights of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when nigh every school leaver’s goal was to exit proficient in writing, reading and comprehension and grounded in mental and written arithmetic –– are old hat. The tragedy is many of the newfangled theories of teaching these days do not empower students, other than to have their say on how they feel about the world, their friends and themselves.

Experiment, if we may. But let us never set aside these core practices like dictation and reading aloud towards the target of articulation and correct pronunciation.

The cause of Senator Husbands’s lament about the weakness of even university students in composition and essay writing today is the glossing over or circumvention of the core skills by educators themselves over time. The hard truth is some educators are themselves victims of said deficiency. And therein lies the rub.

There indeed was a time when graduate school students, equally educated, chose their jobs by passion, personal preference, association or calling, their work ranging from teacher to clerk, to technician, to carpenter, to joiner to mechanic, to seaman, to farmer, to artist, to musician. And it was the ability to read and write well that inspired, unified and fired their self-esteem.

To allow those core steps towards intelligible advancement to become overgrown by rhetorical balderdash and obfuscation will do no good for the intellect of our young. And in the face of the overwhelming high technology slang that now permeates the social media and our ordinary daily communicating devices, we do need too to get down to some remedial work.

Senator Husbands, by his own admission, is not unmindful of the damage being done further to the core skills we speak of by the Twitter talk, Facebook fan connection and the abominably  truncated cellphone texting styles. It is no secret that a fallout of our youth’s obsession with –– nigh addiction to –– the social media and the continual cellphone texting is the destruction of the English language and its spelling, and consequent “deterioration of not only handwriting, but as well . . . composition and essay writing”.

Senator Husbands believes the Future Star Student Planner he launched on Friday would do a far better job in opening up “areas of . . . students’ brains that would assist them in all other aspects of their school life”.

We submit that a school is good to the extent that its dreams, hopes and achievements are valued and celebrated; that staff are caring enough to encourage and inspire positive and sound students’ self-esteem.

And, being able to read and write well is at the core of it all!


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