Mon | Oct 21, 2019

Gordon Robinson | Peter P still has a fighting chance

Published:Sunday | September 29, 2019 | 12:17 AM

In the face of adverse circumstances, the PNP’s secretariat produced a high-quality conference last weekend.

Peter Bunting, architect of much of the adversity, did his best to ensure that conference was all about him, not the PNP. According to The Gleaner, General Secretary Julian Robinson, whose 2019 performance, despite harrowing challenges (pun intended), has been excellent, said, “Comrade Bunting was offered an opportunity to speak at the conference, but he declined.”

Bunting retorted, according to The Gleaner, that there was “pushback” from some Comrades. He was quoted: “Different people have different opinions, and I think it’s better that we wait until all are welcoming of the initiative rather than force it too quickly.”

Force WHAT? What “initiative”? That he address the 2019 conference? When would be the right time to accept that invitation? AFTER conference? C’mon, man! At least be strategic while munching your sour grapes.

He wasn’t Dunn: “There’s a process of reconciliation and healing after the campaign and you don’t want to push it too rapidly. It’s only been two weeks, and I think we need to allow the process to take a little more time. I wouldn’t want to be seen as to be trying to accelerate a process.”

Jesus H. Christ on a Japanese crutch! Peter Murcott, it’s your duty as an influential PNP team member to accelerate the reconciliation process so the PNP can present a unified face to the electorate. Surely Peter Murcott realises, despite constitutional limits, that a general election is likely imminent?

PUSHBACK

What could possibly prompt a committed team member to derail the PNP’s best opportunity to begin essential electoral marketing strategy? Peter Murcott’s statement means, having suddenly become extremely sensitive to “pushback” from Comrades, that he decided to skulk in the background rather than fight for PNP’s electoral chances. He wasn’t so “pushback” sensitive when he launched his intemperate, premature leadership challenge; or forced the PNP into an extended, bitter, divisive internecine war instead of accepting an early vote; or allowed surrogates to disseminate the most vitriolic, demeaning and destructive public allegations against Peter Phillips and many senior party ‘Comrades’. Why suddenly become so touchy regarding “pushback”?

What exactly was the content of the “pushback”? I doubt the PNP secretariat would’ve issued an invitation unsupported by most Comrades. Speculation as to dissatisfaction with his time slot and allotment abounded. Peter Murcott, please tell us whether this is true. Is it that “some Comrades” pushed back against any time slot or allotment change? If so, why didn’t Peter Murcott swallow his pride and do his bit as a team member to show a wider electorate that the healing process was well advanced? As a friend quipped, is it that he wants to eat his crow and have it, too?

RISE ABOVE EVERYTHING

It was amusing to hear/read Peter Murcott’s surrogates in social and traditional media finding fault with Phillips because of Peter Murcott’s refusal to concede a half an inch to the healing process. One particularly sycophantic commentator opined that Peter Phillips should “rise above everything” (LOL!) and, apparently, bow to all Peter Murcott’s demands. So, please help me with exactly when it’s considered appropriate that Peter Murcott, the original ‘Riser’, “rise above everything”, accept defeat, and fall in line for the PNP’s collective benefit?

His current attitude to his crushing electoral loss (after his campaign embarked upon an unopposed national media blitz and gleefully guaranteed 1,800 delegate votes) appears to be to try to convince us he won and behave as if he’s PNP president. So the true president having, in my opinion, done all he could to bring the challenger on board, has a simple choice going forward. I promise Peter Phillips that every delegate who voted on September 7 is a ‘diehearted’ Comrade who’ll vote PNP in any general election. Phillips’ task is to reach out to JLP and independent voters. Can he do so with a team torn by interminable strife? Or will the PNP have a better chance with malcontents outside the tent pissing in? Inside, they’ll be able to aim more accurately.

In my opinion, Peter Phillips delivered an excellent speech, especially in his announcement of a change in policy priority. Gleaner: “Phillips insisted the number one priority for a PNP administration under his leadership would be the transformation of Jamaica’s education system. This, he said, would include expanding university opportunities, ‘especially for the poorest’.”

 

He didn’t discard his previous number-one priority, namely, land, but I endorse the PNP’s promotion of education transformation to the top of the charts. Free, subsidised or affordable high-quality education for life (not to pass exams) must be THE long-term goal. Our children must graduate as qualified participants in Jamaica’s governance, family life, and whatever occupation suits special talents and potential.

Regarding education, I keep returning to the Old Ball and Chain’s ancestral home, Finland, owner of the world’s most ideal education system, home of Nokia, and state-supported healthcare despite a population of only five million. Finland’s high-school dropout rate is two per cent. BUT … .

Forty years ago, Finland was a poor country dependent on agriculture when its government (based on the Nordic model of democratic socialism) decided that Finland’s future was elsewhere (technology), and the way to get there was a brighter, more attuned workforce. The Finnish blueprint included:

- A tough national curriculum.

- Master’s degrees for ALL teachers.

- Up to three teachers per class (the third teacher works specifically with students who are struggling).

Every successful education system, like every profession, vocation, trade, or pastime, is grounded on two essentials, namely, language and logic (aka critical thinking). Students must be taught their native language (in Jamaica that would be Patwa), English, and at least one more language. Maths and science in the classroom, with mind sports like chess and bridge outside, are essential to inculcate clear, critical thinking (logic). Physical sports, music, and creative arts promote fitness, discipline, strategy, and self-esteem.

Finland’s collective national will to educate ALL students and its plan to succeed resulted in NO FAILING SCHOOLS in Finland. Classrooms have a relaxed atmosphere, and, vitally, continuity. Teachers stay with their students for as long as possible (many for several years). The average student speaks four languages, including English.

It took Finland a generation to do it. Now, Finland’s education is first in the world in maths and science. Finnish graduates are prepared to participate in all areas of life.

The PNP previously pretended to want education transformation. As government, instead of implementing announced transformation, the PNP took the transformational steps of cutting teachers’ benefits (while purchasing new SUVs for ministers) and reprimanding teachers for trying to upgrade their qualifications during school holidays. Hopefully, there’s more sincerity now.

From as far back as May 26, 2013 (‘Educating Ronnie on education’), I repeated a true story about Finnish education:

“... At Kirkkojarvi Comprehensive School in Espoo, ... west of Helsinki, ... Kari Louhivuori, a veteran teacher and the school’s principal, decided to try something extreme by Finnish standards. One of his sixth-grade students, a Kosovo-Albanian boy, had drifted far off the learning grid, resisting his teacher’s best efforts. The school’s team of special educators (including a social worker, nurse, and psychologist) convinced Louhivuori that laziness wasn’t to blame. So he decided to hold the boy back a year, a measure so rare in Finland, it’s practically obsolete ... .

‘I took Besart on that year as my private student,’ Louhivuori told me ... . When Besart wasn’t studying science, geography, and maths, he was parked next to Louhivuori’s desk at the front of his class ... , cracking open books from a tall stack, slowly reading one, then another, then devouring them by the dozens. By [year end], the son of Kosovo war refugees had conquered his adopted country’s vowel-rich language and arrived at the realisation that he could, in fact, LEARN.

Years later, a 20-year-old Besart showed up at Kirkkojarvi’s Christmas party with a bottle of cognac and a big grin.

‘You helped me,’ he told his former teacher. Besart had opened his own car-repair firm and a cleaning company. ‘No big fuss,’ Louhivuori told me. ‘This is what we do every day: prepare kids for life’.”

So far, Government’s education transformation path has been to transform GSAT’s name to PEP and to make CMU appear a corruption conduit. Maybe the PNP has finally found a viable election platform. Up to now, it seems to have been waiting for photos of ministers involved in corruption scandals, which the electorate might find as revolting as, for example, sex with a pig, to fall into their laps. THAT’s not happening and won’t work with the PNP’s corruption history.

If the PNP sticks to a message of total commitment to education transformation AND fields a team compatible with PNP philosophy, it’ll be at least competitive in the next election.

Peace and love.

 

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