Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Gordon Robinson | ‘Mi wi’ cut yu wid a domino!’

Published:Tuesday | December 3, 2019 | 12:35 AM

Dominoes with the Dunce as a partner can be stressful.

Nobody suffered more than his brother cum domino genius, Dessie. Not that the Dunce was a bad player. It was just that he preferred mischief to thought. The sibling tension highlighted that personalities vary even between brothers.

The family (Mom, Dad, and four sons) was of modest means but good academic genes. None of the sons received large (or any) allocations of ‘pocket money’. Dessie compensated by hustling, including at betting shops and around domino tables. The Dunce preferred what Bajans would call ‘mekking sport’ and used his unlimited charm and on-the-ground acumen to seek largesse. He’d proudly announce that his occupation was “walking foot and kicking stone”.

So they were brothers but as different as wind and fire (the Dunce was ‘wind’ ever since, it was alleged, he fell from a tree as a child and landed on his head). Whenever they played as partners, a fight was odds-on. The level of Dessie’s reaction to the Dunce’s play depended on the measure of its incomprehensibility and effect on Dessie’s profit/loss account. His Level III response (when threat to livelihood and common sense was at missile launch capability and the Dunce’s explanation was “if a macca, mek it jook yu!”) was, “Do dat wan more time an’ mi wi’ cut yu wid a domino!”

He didn’t mean it literally. I’ve never seen Dessie actually throw a domino at the Dunce, although he threatened to do it many times. It was a manner of speech understood by both speaker and listener. It was meant to emphasise the seriousness of the infringement.

My mind harkened back to the brothers’ complicated relationship when I watched a video excerpt of an obviously stressed-out teacher repeatedly (in different ways) promising a wayward student, “Mi will kill yu inna here…” while admonishing him generally for disrespect. I’m certain those threats weren’t literally meant but were intemperately used by the teacher to gain respect through shock and awe.

NO EXCUSE

There’s nothing acceptable about that teacher’s behaviour. Highly educated and properly trained professional persons know that to gain respect, they must give respect. But public-affairs commentators have, as usual, travelled the easy road to likes, retweets, and widespread popularity by vilifying the teacher or blaming the daily stresses of teaching in today’s violent society.

But there’s a more important message that we ignore at Jamaica’s peril. The message is that since both political parties (as PNP/JLP party leaders’ addresses to 2019 conferences featured) propose education as priority policy for national development, a way MUST be found to engender a safer, more conducive educational environment where respect for educators is paramount. Educators who don’t know how to respect students can’t demand respect. Threats beget threats, NOT respect.

The process isn’t helped by empty promises to create ‘Schools of Excellence’. That’s another facile election promise like ‘5 in 4’; ‘vote JLP and you’ll sleep with your windows open’, or the now infamous ‘revenue-neutral 1.5’!

The long road to making ALL schools purveyors of excellence begins with training teachers for excellence and ends with vastly improved working conditions for those educators. Any successful education policy must focus on teachers. Buildings can’t educate anyone. Students can’t self-educate.

Mico, with entry requirements amounting to an open invitation for mediocrity, needs overhauling or scrapping. Teachers should obtain master’s degrees in the subject they’re to teach and tertiary degrees in education. Qualified teachers should be the highest-paid public servants, with substantial benefits (including pensions). Until then, discussions of salary/pension increases for MPs,who collectively landed us in this illiterate mess, are misconceived.

No classroom like the one in the viral video should be manned by a single teacher. A teacher trained in behavioural psychology should’ve been available to deal with that recalcitrant student, while the main teacher continued her class.

Education isn’t a vote-catcher. It’s the sine qua non of nation-building.

Peace and love!

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com