Sat | Dec 3, 2022

Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham | Education/socialisation is priority number one: not policing, not sports

Published:Wednesday | November 23, 2022 | 12:06 AM
Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham
Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham
Oftentimes we hear of sports being used to lessen tension between communities, being used to promote peace.
Oftentimes we hear of sports being used to lessen tension between communities, being used to promote peace.
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Recently, a senator disclosed that only 17 per cent of the national security budget has been spent this fiscal year. Are we serious about improving the crime situation? Are we serious about education/socialisation?

I am dismayed at how many of our schools, particularly our boys’ schools, have warped, skewed, distorted, corrupted the role of sports, so that it is no longer inclusive but exclusive to icons from wherever they can be found, hence diminishing its efficiency and efficacy as an educational/socialisation resource. School sports has been professionalised!

When our specialised educational institutions (up to high school level) overemphasise sports, as symbolised by the recruiting of sports talent, it sends many negative signals to our children and to the society at large. These include the elevation, the enhancing of the value, importance of sports in the scheme of things and the diminution of education/socialisation in the eyes of our children and the society.

Many children of poor people – some from the depths of the ghetto – have sacrificed heroically in their struggle against tremendous odds, to legitimately get into a school offering better-quality education and facilities. However, they find themselves locked out of opportunities and benefits that are their right and which they have earned and so richly deserve. This is because of the win-at-all-costs approach to sports in school and the concomitant recruiting for sports purposes by schools.

Oftentimes we hear of sports being used to lessen tension between communities, being used to promote peace. In that case, winning is not the primary objective. Playing the game in the right spirit is. Hence, one would not go outside the communities to bring in icons of the sport, in an attempt to win. This would totally defeat the purpose of the activity. So should it be with our schools! There is no space in this scenario for the win-at-all-costs mentality.

In an educational context, extracurricular activities, including sports (educational-sports), can be transformational forces, very powerful teaching, socialising tools. Sports, a microcosm of life, has the potential to be particularly potent in this regard since it presents many teachable moments. What is critical in this circumstance is not whether one wins or loses but that one plays the game and how one plays the game. What is vital is process, not outcome.

In the above setting, sports is inclusive, with all students who legitimately qualify to be at a given school being encouraged to participate, whether icon or nerd, since we have different talents, different intelligences, learn differently, all will be adult citizens, and all citizens can benefit from the lessons of sports.

DENIED OPPORTUNITY

Currently, in a number of schools such students are crowded out, denied the opportunity to develop and represent their school because their places are taken by sports recruits, the great majority of whom could not gain entry using the normal, transparent, declared, entry requirements.

It is common knowledge that in a number of cases, the eleven representatives of a football team have been recruits. In a recent video, the coach of a winning track and field team declared that nearly 70 per cent of the team was recruited!

The education/socialisation of our populace is the only way out of the quagmire of problems in which we find ourselves. For example, our crime rate is among the highest in the world.

A lack of education and an overabundance of antisocial values and attitudes play major roles in the above ranking. Hence, education/socialisation must be paramount, must be priority number one. It must therefore be pursued relentlessly, unswervingly and consistently, especially by our specialised educational institutions, from early childhood up to the high school level (basic education), and they must be seen clearly to be so doing. All we need is the will to do it.

At this time in Jamaica, the education/socialisation stakes are very high so the school in the short to medium term must take its role as surrogate parent seriously, and act accordingly. It must be fully focused on the education and socialisation of our youth, and not be distracted by things like winning at sports.

Marcus Garvey said intelligence rules the world and ignorance bears the burden. To what end of that spectrum is recruiting for sports purposes by our schools taking us?

Is it in Jamaica’s best interest that wealthy, powerful, privileged public schools tribally and selfishly help themselves to sports talent, while ostensibly, apparently helping a few individuals, rather than helping the multitude, the weaker schools, both psychologically and economically, by allowing that talent to continue its growth at the poorer school a la Usain Bolt and many others?

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

Our leaders in education often mouth the adage “all children can learn, all children must learn”. Is this only said for PR purposes? The only way this can be realised is by doing all we can to raise the level of the poorer, weaker schools, which, unfortunately, are by far the greatest number.

1. When our wealthier, more established schools poach sports talent from the newer, weaker, poorer schools, is it helping to do the above?

2. Is it something positive, when those same stars can bring glory/success/recognition/status to these weaker schools?

3. Is it helping to strengthen, to build these weaker schools when everything good is associated with the wealthier schools?

4. The recruiters say winning helps schools get funding. Aren’t the poorer schools much more in need of such funding? Is taking away their sports stars not taking away funding and making their progress more difficult?

5. Is it not frustrating their coaches, who cry out regularly, as they watch the talent they discovered, nurtured and developed, callously lured away from them?

6. Will it help to make talented, able students more willing to go to that impoverished school?

7. Is it helping to level the proverbial playing field?

Remember, our traditional schools, who benefit the most from this practice, have had many decades – some centuries – of unfettered development and have therefore produced alumni of high status and wealth from whom they benefit greatly. The newer, weaker, poorer schools don’t have those resources and are further impoverished and weakened by having their outstanding human resources unfairly taken from them.

How much longer will our leaders keep us in this race to the bottom? How much longer will we continue in the thick of thin things? How much longer will our leaders in education continue to support, strengthen this apartheid education system?

Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham is a former captain of the Jamaica senior football team. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com