Tue | May 30, 2023

Cramming facts like an ugly stepsister

Published:Thursday | January 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Prince Myers, assistant manager of NCB St James branch, interacting with CSEC/CXC Principles of Accounts and Principles of Business students at Holland High School last year. - file

The Editor, Sir:

I am scarcely bedazzled by R. Howard Thompson's attempt in this publication on January 26, to revive Ruel Reid's piece of Sunday last. Call it proof or call it evidence, one cannot use particular experiences and sanely ask the Jamaican people to accept general conclusions thereof as being sound. That is balderdash!

Howard Thompson himself repeats the unfortunate error again when he too uses his specific observations to extrapolate general conclusions. Yes, there may be literate persons who fail CXC and pass GCE, and there may also be functionally illiterate persons who pass CXC and fail GCE, but I need data before I can determine if what Thompson and Reid see, are consistent with the facts, and there is no such data. Moreover, what I see as a teacher is vastly different from what others may claim to see.

Gentlemen, I am still left with a nagging question: if the CXC and CAPE, for example, are such vibrant and competent indicators of literacy, why do so many freshmen students at the UWI require remedial English? Does the Jamaican public know how many of these students there are and the cost of the remediation resulting from the failures at CXC and CAPE? I am sure UWI's new students all passed CAPE and CXC English to get in.

My position is simple: the best thing we can do to assist our students and our country now is to begin to address a mindset that bases decisions on flawed methods of thinking. We do not need research to be cooked or incompetently or disingenuously interpreted to make the waters even muddier. A student once told me that she was taught to find the facts to suit her position. I responded that she was behaving like an ugly stepsister cramming her foot into a glass slipper that would not fit her. We all know how that story ended.

Empirical evidence

To conclude, opinions are wonderful for newspaper articles, but social policy must be constructed empirically, on hard facts and concrete data, which we must demand from our government, independent experts and those from the 'education commercial'. This latter group seems hell-bent on prolonging life in school rather than in necessarily expanding the quality of output. It is not all about money guys; the future of our nation is at stake here.

I am willing to accept that perhaps we can and should do both things. But, clearly, change must begin with modelling appropriate methods of thinking. Vision 2030 asks that of all Jamaicans, including our thinkers. How about it, gentlemen?

I am, etc.,