Lascelve Graham: Reckless Speid, Oral ‘Tracings’
Two articles appeared in The Gleaner recently in response to the minister of education's pronouncements regarding the transfer of students for sports purposes by our high schools. 'Leave student transfers to schools' (March 2, 2015) was written by Owen Speid, a school principal, and 'Student-athlete discrimination' by sports analyst Oral Tracey (March 3, 2015).
Mr Speid needs to be advised that student transfers have been left to schools for decades, and this is what has led us to our current situation of abuse. ISSA, the organisation of principals and other educators that should monitor and regulate matters like this, has once again fumbled the ball and abdicated its responsibility by doing the usual - nothing.
In fact, it is widely held that some of the most rabid abusers of the system are executives of ISSA. Self-regulation by the schools having failed, the minister has been forced to act, since he has overall responsibility for what takes place in our schools. Although the minister's action is very subdued, it is a step in the right direction, and I only hope he will be able to sustain his focus on this problem until it is solved.
According to Mr Speid, "I believe parents must continue to have a say in where they want their children to go and develop themselves socially, academically and otherwise." Where in his pronouncements has the minister said otherwise?
Mr Speid rushes on: "I am bemused by the seeming plot to discourage, if not eliminate, student transfers, as this is sometimes the only hope for some of our students to go out and experience a good life in a school where there are efficient systems to promote their growth and development - be it in sports, academics or, generally, social living. I feel it for any parent or child who is so denied."
Speid does seem bemused and confused, indeed! Aren't other poor, disadvantaged children of the inner cities who have no interest in sports but who have qualified themselves for their preferred schools, through tremendous sacrifice, deserving of this good life, growth and development of which Mr Speid speaks?
Why should they be denied while others, oftentimes unqualified, be moved up an academic scale to displace them, based on a sports standard? Isn't this a double standard?
What more right to a good basic education does a boy or girl who can kick a football or run fast have over the poor, often traumatised inner-city youngsters mentioned above?
We have a declared system for assigning the limited places to students in our schools. The main factor for entry is based on competitive academic performance.
Let us cease polluting, contaminating and corrupting this protocol because it sends clear negative messages to our youngsters which are not in keeping with the pro-social values and attitudes our schools should be promoting.
As Mr Speid suggests, there is a scarcity of quality education in Jamaica. This means that everybody will not experience it, even while we work at speed to expand its reach. Hence we must be consistent in observing the declared entry criteria for our schools, especially the main one, since when we don't, there is a domino effect of negative consequences.
Mr Tracey simply believes that we should discriminate against other poor students and that student athletes should be facilitated, come what may. He believes that since many students who are not participants in sports don't pass one subject at CSEC level, student athletes should not be discriminated against and should be allowed to do the same. This, of course, is in keeping with his earlier statement on TVJ to the effect that as long as Jamaican athletes keep winning, he does not want to know if they are taking drugs.
Hence, his fallacious conclusion that those calling for a strengthening of JADCO were against Jamaican athletes. As a commentator noted, comedy has its place, but it is surely not in a serious discussion involving the future of our young citizens.
An OECD study published in December 2014 indicated a statistically significant relationship between economic inequality and a country's growth. The greater the inequality, the more adversely it affects growth. Jamaica is highly ranked among the countries showing great inequality
The OECD research also showed a direct relationship between the undervaluing of formal education by poor people (sentiments like sportsmen, entertainers and others make a lot of money without being educated, therefore, education is not vital or critical) and inequality.
FOCUSING ON EDUCATION
The spotlight, emphasis and focus we place on sports in our schools help to reinforce the de-emphasis and devaluation of formal education in our society. Schools are our vehicles for delivering formal education. It is, therefore, prudent, that every activity associated with school, including extra-curricular/co-curricular ones such as sports, contribute as strongly as possible to the education and ethical socialisation of our youth. Education must be the story Jamaica tells about itself if we are to emerge from the economic quagmire in which we wallow. Education must be priority number one, two and three, and in our schools, also priority number four. Our schools are not sports academies or the developmental arms of our sports associations, and we must stop using them as such. We need to organise youth sports differently.
Since we are so gung-ho about sports, let us organise youth sports as do other countries, so we may have a win-win situation. Let us develop sports institutions that cater to youth development. Let us find creative ways to deal with youth sports so that there is no conflict of interest between the education of our youth and sports.
The negative spinoffs from recruiting for sports up to high school level, where our schools should be fully focused on delivering a basic education to our young citizens, by far outweigh the perceived benefits. We must stop this mindless win-at-all-cost practice now!