Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Editorial | Dr Lambert and critical thinking

Published:Tuesday | October 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM

It is perhaps true that Jamaicans are not given to critical thinking, so they readily imbibe the populist spiels of politicians and others who hold power. On that matter, we defer to Clement Lambert, a lecturer at the School of Education at the University of the West Indies, at Mona.

"...We have to be persons who can process what is being said, but I don't think successive governments have done enough to promote media literacy and information literacy," Dr Lambert told a forum hosted by this newspaper last week.

Our concern is that Dr Lambert's solution seems to be the Jamaican default: look to the government for the solution. In that regard, Dr Lambert may well have opened himself to accusations of precisely what he complained about: a deficit of critical thinking. Or, perhaps more accurately, he has a responsibility to address the question of what he and people like him are doing about the problem.

Dr Lambert teaches at the English-speaking Caribbean's foremost academic institution, which is expected to be an environment of intellectual ferment and a bastion of critical thinking. But, more critically, he is assigned to an agency of that institution that trains teachers and education researchers. They, in turn, help shape the teachers and students of Jamaica's classrooms.

On the face of it, it is difficult to blame politicians, parsons, educators, journalists and business leaders for manipulating the citizenry because of its inability to think critically without an implied criticism of the academies of learning and training, whose graduates were deficient in these skills, had failed to pass them on, or had not engaged the society in a manner and at the level where the critical questioning of ideas is common.

To be fair to Dr Lambert, his intervention in this matter provided an opening for an ongoing public engagement, outside the narrow confines of academia, by the agency of which he is a member, to discuss the problems he has identified and its contribution to their soulutions.

Remembering Gordon Wells 

Functions such as that held at Kings House yesterday to formally confer this year's recipients with their national honours are important. For, as part of the larger week of activities celebrating Jamaica's heritage, it reminds that for good or bad, the country isn't an instant construct. It rests on the efforts and deeds of many who went before.

In others words, National Heroes Week is as much about the future as it is about history, and of the two as a continuum. Recognising those who laid the foundation of today's Jamaica is paying homage, absorbing the lessons of our predecessors, and avoiding their mistakes.

It is in this context that this newspaper notes the passing of one Jamaica's finest diplomats and public servants, Gordon Wells, and the fact that his death earlier this month, aged 86, was without official observance by institutions of government, its agencies, or political organisations. But for a statement by former Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, the same thing occurred on the recent death of another outstanding public servant, Herbert Walker.

A memorial service was held for Mr Wells last Friday.

Mr Wells, a man of deep integrity who held the national honour of Commander of the Order of Distinction, was Jamaica's second contractor general, serving between 1991 and 1998. He joined the Jamaican civil service in 1956 after studying in Canada, where he was a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve.

He later served in several overseas missions, including at the United Nations in New York, the Jamaican embassy in Washington, and as high commissioner in Trinidad and Tobago. Mr Wells also held the post of executive director of Jamaica National Export Corporation, the forerunner to JAMPRO, and between the 1970s and 1980s was permanent secretary in the ministry of External Affairs, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Ministry of the Public Service.

The likes of Gordon Wells ought to be examples for today's public servants, who have ceded too much of their authority to encroaching politicians.