Thu | Jan 21, 2021

Why we don’t read

Published:Sunday | August 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM


Only two of Jamaica's prime ministers felt capable of writing a book, and they did. As a rule, our leaders in every sphere read comparable little. That lack of reading has cost us dearly.

One leader who took his country "from Third World to First" said in a 700-page book in 2000, "I almost never make the same mistake twice, and I tried to learn from the mistakes others had made. I discovered early in office that there were few problems confronting me in government that other governments had not met and solved. So I made a practice of finding out who else had met with the problem we faced, how they had tackled it, and how successful they had been." The leader, of course, is Lee Kuan Yew, who made Singapore the wonder of the world.

Another leader said, in another 7,000-page book, something we are not capable of learning. "We have discovered," he said, "that there is an inverse relation between knowledge, culture and crime; for example, the greater the knowledge, culture and access to university education, the less crime." The leader was Fidel Castro, writing in 2006.

In 2006, a future leader wrote this in a 300-page book I bought in the only real bookstore outside of Kingston: "Our investment in education can't end with an improved elementary and secondary school system. In a knowledge-based economy where eight out of nine fastest-growing occupations this decade require scientific or technological skills, most workers are going to need some form of higher education to fill the jobs of the future." Barack Obama later became president of the United States.

Mandeville, where I bought the three books I quoted, hosts almost all of the colleges and universities in Jamaica, but the town cannot sustain a bookstore. Bookland closed its doors just over two months ago.


Mandeville, Manchester