Faux pas cum folly vs the facts

In Jonathan Swift’s highly instructive classic Gulliver’s Travels, Lemuel Gulliver travels to Bainibari and finds a people pursuing certain causes without the requisite thought. Though their academic search was supposedly scientific, Gulliver was hard-pressed to find reason behind their attempt to extract sunbeams from cucumbers, or their efforts to uncover political intrigue by sifting through the excrement of would-be conspirators.

Of course, if this descent into folly had only affected the practitioners, then all would have been well. But the intellectual buffoons of Bainibarbi and their misguided pursuits had served to undermine the society.

On his fourth trip Gulliver travels to the land of the Houyhnhnms where he encounters deformed, seemingly savage creatures somewhat resembling himself. He rejects these so-called yahoos as too hideous to be associated with, and instead befriends a race of talking horses who rule the island. But they subsequently reject Gulliver as a yahoo himself and expels him from their midst.

Much has been deciphered from this satirical masterpiece, whether it be related to government and governance, exposing the foibles of human nature or demonstrating how easily the sublime can retrogress to the ridiculous.

Though we find it easy to fight the temptation, some with less responsibility would suggest that perhaps what is needed to put out the flame burning among the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, the Barbados Union of Teachers and the Minister of Education is for Gulliver to stand strategically over them and occasion relief. Quite frankly, what is transpiring following developments at Ellerslie involving a child and teacher fits smugly into Lilliput, Bainibari, Houyhnhnm or Brobdingnag. And it has been made so –– not by flying horses –– but by yahoos on both sides of the divide.

Teachers should always be respected by their charges and in an ideal world they would be. But this is not an ideal world.

Schoolchildren ought to be obedient and dutiful at all times, but the imperfections of us yahoos render this impossible. So adult teachers must start with this premise: the good, the bad and the ugly await them in most, if not all schools.

Because we live in an ordered society where we expect Lilliputians, Bainibarians, Houyhnhnms, Brobdingnagians, et al. to interact, to have differences, to usurp authority and to abuse each other, laws are put in place to ensure processes serve all and sundry equitably. To deviate from same is more than likely to occasion further chaos than what one is trying to remedy.

We have seen the development of a situation where confrontation seems to be a synonym for union representation. And this should not be so. We acknowledge that when teachers are in the right, the union, by its very existence, must render effective representation. We are also keenly aware that when teachers are wrong, the union, by its very existence, must render effective representation. But sober heads should always prevail in both circumstances.

It is wrong for any union to prescribe punishment for anyone before due process has taken place. We have had cases before the courts of Barbados where teachers have faced criminal charges, inclusive of sexual assault of children, and not once had any teachers’ union called for the expulsion of that specific adult teacher from the service.

But adult union leaders, supposedly possessed of sober thought and reason, would call for the expulsion of a child before a determination of the indiscretion committed has been made within the dictates of rules and regulations governing such situations.

And, rather than correct or pull back from that faux pas, it appears adults who should know better proceed to exacerbate a situation where deciding which side of the egg to break is not as difficult as some might make it seem.
And how do they do this? By threats and intimidation in scenarios that have not escalated to an extent where such are required. When one hangs the convict by the neck until he is dead, there is no need to imprison him afterwards.

We have seen both the Barbados Union of Teachers and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union adopt this strategy of calling out teachers to update them on union matters during school hours. Never are these meetings held on a Saturday or Sunday –– the latter day perhaps reserved for their earnest prayer and displays of Christian charity in churches across the island.

Now we have the spectre of primary school children being the likely victims of possible teacher meetings that will coincide with the Common Entrance Examination next week Tuesday. We presume that teachers are parents too and expect common sense to prevail in this situation. Sometimes agitation can become so intoxicating that purpose plays second fiddle to the frenzy. No one wants to be a rebel without a cause.

The fact of the matter is that the offending Ellerslie pupil is not the enemy, nor is her teacher. Minister of Education Ronald Jones is also not the enemy. But in an atmosphere of perpetual confrontation, normally sensible human beings might actually attempt to extract sunbeams from cucumbers.

It is under such ridiculous circumstances that images of Gulliver relieving his bladder over this flaming folly become quite palatable.

5 Responses to Faux pas cum folly vs the facts

  1. Tony Webster April 28, 2016 at 3:56 am

    Dear Ed., I’m confused. I just read of the Min. Of Agriculture and Lack of Water’s sojourn to the UAE, and his soon-to-come UAE Plan 2.0. Please clarify if today’s piece was writ before the goodly Doctor of Everything’s return home, or are you are far more prescient than we realize?
    Could you help me pick a Lotto? Please?
    BTW…I’m searching my library for a dusty copy of “Gulliver”…just to re-charge those lithium things upstairs. Have you naught mercy?

  2. Donna Harewood April 28, 2016 at 9:46 am

    What?!!! Teachers before the courts for sexual assault?!!! I guess if the child had been obedient the deeds could have been done quietly and never come to light! Bad student! Bad, bad student!

    Very good take on things. Good editorial.

  3. David Gibbs April 28, 2016 at 10:20 am

    I think that the BSTU and BUT simply must acknowledge that their initial responses were not well though out out and that perhaps i the heat and excitement of the moment (Ellerslie) their they were not as sober in their assessment and recommendations as the circumstances warranted. Both Heads of these unions often come ever as being easily excitable personalities who are given the inflammatory language characterized by ultimatums, threats, criticisms and public pronouncement. They seem to lack the skill of being able to deescalate a charged situation. For his part Minister Ronald Jones has a particularly hyper tone (and robust vocabulary) which also is not the most helpful. I felt that his very initial comments on the Ellerslie situation while technically correct (yes it is a fact that both students and teachers have rights and must be both given a hearing) lacked the savvy which the situation required. It lacked sufficient empathy for the challenges of teachers and it lacked sufficient firmness that violence against teachers is reprehensible. He could have done this even while stating that there can be no immediate expulsion since an investigation must be done). So here is my way forward: 1. As a sign of good faith BUT publicly called of the protest action/ultimatums and focus on the proposed planning meeting with Minister Jones 2. Minister Jones commit to meeting with the BUT immediately after the Common Entrance Exams (say by Friday morning) 3. Minister Jones commit to a full meeting with the teachers within two weeks of the initial BUT meeting 3. Minister Jones and BUT issue a joint statement at the end of the meeting confirming their commitment to the welfare of both teachers and students, their abhorrence of violence at forms at schools and their commitment to working together towards these objectives. 4. Firm up the recently announced committee on violence by placing representatives from both BUT and BSTU on it 5. Minister Jones and Chief Education Officer should visit and speak to the Ellerslie teacher and offer their encouragement (Not as PR stunt . No media). 6. Depending on the findings of the investigations the child must be provided with whatever assistance and/or reprimand be it sustained psychological help, counselling, expulsion or disciplinary action etc). There must be good balance of punitive discipline and rehabilitation. 6. BSTU must commit to being guided by the findings of the investigation and refrain from publicly demanding this or that action. 7. Government must construct a special school for students who are disruptive and indiscipline . 8. Specal legislation should be considered o look at student-on-teacher violence and parent-on-teacher-violence. Suspension (which really amounts to transferring from one school to another) may not be enough. There should be provisos for incarceration at GIS and community service. Personally I think Minister Jones is a good minister. He seems fully engaged in his Ministry. His commitment and successes to universal early childhood education is laudable. The proposed STEM curriculum as part of the early childhood education is a pioneering effort. ( I feel however that the overwhelming emphasis at early childhood should be on the inculcation of strong values, morals and character development). His commitment to broadening the sixth form schools, broadening the range of studies at Erdiston, broadening the number of scholarships as well as the subject areas eligible for scholarships to include sports and the arts. He has, with a tight budget, expanded and upgraded a number of secondary schools (Lodge, Darrell Jordan etc) and built the Blackman-Gollop. His failing is that he often fails to engage the most appropriate narrative in responding to a given situation. Thus he often “wins the battle (i.e may be technically correct) but loses the war (of public confidence)”. Overall all sides must recommit to undertaking the shared responsibilities of our education system .

    • Wayne Dread April 28, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      I think this comment highlighted with it’s recommendations puts the editorial at the back of the class, however it was the editorial that generated the comment, inasmuch as the demand for expulsion generated the interests or lack of as exhibited by the ministry of education, Mary’s call was proactive citing the fact that the BUT.more so than the BSTU are the main bargaining unit at this institution and the meetings were called by it’s president

  4. Wasman April 28, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    All being said and done if a man accused of murdering his girlfriend got bail and still awaits his time in court to prove his innocence how can a sensible Union without due process expects an education ministry to expell a child with that process being exhausted. And then leaders of some of these same unions are now looking to run for active office may God help us all.


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