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Education: cause and effect

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Education minister Diallo Rabain will be defined by the success or failure of the reform that he is overseeing (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

I do my PhD research in a shared office on campus and I very seldom see another face. And this is not good because the central task of an academic department is fostering a good research culture and stimulating interdisciplinary conversations.

The other day a woman waved at me through the glass wall. She came inside and introduced herself as the head of humanities. (This was, unfortunately, news to me.) We shook hands and she suggested that we get new furniture to encourage PhD students to use the office. I replied that that would not work because our research culture, Covid or not, was unwelcoming and did not encourage PhD students to participate. She was very nice, and is an accomplished academic, but I thought our interaction went some way towards explaining Bermuda’s problems with education — not to mention those in the wider world.

People think that little children like bright colours. But little children actually like love and affection — I don’t think it is different for adults.

Walker Zupp, a St Georgian, studied English language and creative writing at Lancaster University, where he remained for the Creative Writing Independent Study MA. He is in the midst of his PhD in Creative Writing at Exeter University

The Government thinks that bringing Bermuda’s school system into the 21st century will improve academic performance. But the only thing that improves test scores is love and affection. If they would only read The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late (Sowell, 2001) then they would quickly see that love and affection, or rather the lack of it, has hampered many a child’s early education — whether they enjoy calculus or the poetry of Langston Hughes. I have seen what the drug Ritalin does to people, and I agree with Sowell that prescribing Ritalin is a poor substitute for an intellectually demanding education. And closing schools that offer diverse academic cultures is a poor substitute for education reform.

Education reform is what is needed in a country where daily people struggle with the conflation of culture and race. There is no doubt that Bermuda was fuelled by racism in the past. But today, with an all-Black government, the situation of the country has changed.

I found an article on Expat Exchange that relays the experiences of expatriates in Bermuda. The line between prejudice and racism blurs when we talk about expatriates because many expatriates are not White. White expatriates may be inclined to say that Black Bermudians do not like them because they are White, but there are also those who say that they did not experience any “intense” form of racism. My view is that there can be no form of racism that is not intense. And I would be inclined to say that these were problems of prejudice spawned by poor education as opposed to the mutterings of deranged supporters of eugenics, who have a tendency to be well-educated.

One expatriate says that the resentment between Blacks and Whites can be “uncomfortable at times” and yet another paradoxically says that Bermudians are “quite diverse”; now this, and the observations that Bermudians “do not embrace their differences” and are “bigoted” towards homosexuals, points towards a society whose main problem is education because their views of the world manifest themselves in uninformed prejudice — not against ethnicity, necessarily, but various groups of people who may or may not share ethnic backgrounds with their detractors. A Bermudian homosexual employed by the Department of Works and Engineering will be lumped together with an expatriate homosexual who works in the reinsurance sector. Homosexuality, like political method, is something that transcends race and whoever dislikes a man or woman because they are gay, or relies on racial posturing to secure votes, is lacking education.

Yet we must remember that prejudice is innately human. The philosopher Aristotle was prejudiced against the nobility because his father was a court physician, and he was prejudiced against what he called “barbarians” because he disliked Persians, whose expansionist tendencies equalled those of the Ancient Greeks. The point is that even Aristotle, who for many was the wisest man who had ever lived, suffered the pangs of prejudice — and that it was this that eventually forced him into exile.

The long and short of it is that race does not exist. To say that there is such a thing as race is to endorse the racist, for the simple reason that if there is to be more than one race, then we must also assume than one is better than the other — that is dangerous logic.

I see myself as part of the human family that stands precariously on the shoulders of sinners and saints and scholars — and gang members. The variety of human experience is not defined by race, but by culture. The mistake is in thinking that having one culture is better than having three. It would be wrong to make the world conform to one culture, for the simple reason that “progress” in finance and spirituality would be frustrated by similarity.

We thankfully do not live in such a world and, as suggested by that expatriate we met earlier, societies depend upon cultural differences to stimulate new ideas. It is for this reason that Bermudian governments are stagnating because reliance upon old ideas and rhetoric can be traced to a prejudice only against other political cultures that transcend race.

With race out of the way, we can focus on things that matter. The hostility towards the Premier, David Burt, cannot be limited to St George’s. Neither can the Burt Administration’s disdain for the environment be limited to Bermuda — the pouring of raw sewage into waters around Sussex in England is the product of the same crude desire for short-term economic gain that saw a swath of nature reserve hacked away in Tucker’s Point, and the excavation of a cliff on Harrington Sound Road for a new property. What angers the public is not if individuals in either case followed protocol; it is that such things were allowed to happen at all. And that says more about government practice than it does about any gardeners or developers who were simply hired to provide a service.

There is no distinction between this government’s ambivalence towards the environment and its ambivalence towards children. Such ambivalence will produce human beings who do not want the responsibility of being citizens – and who focus on making money because they do not see the connection, or shared values, between business sectors and democratically audited laws that regulate them.

I look forward to the community violence retreat that will be hosted by Michael Weeks in September. It will accomplish nothing, just like every holier-than-thou doggy treat tossed to the public by this government. The gang violence is not a race problem but a cultural one — and once again, it is not one that can be fixed by “community-based” approaches but by education-driven solutions that take time.

Walker Zupp, a St Georgian, studied English language and creative writing at Lancaster University, where he remained for the Creative Writing Independent Study MA. He is in the midst of his PhD in Creative Writing at Exeter University


BBC News. 2022. “Sewage: Sussex beaches closed after wastewater discharge”.

Bell, J., 2022. “Burt could face challenger in October”.

Connolly, S., 2022. Weeks to host retreat on community violence.

Johnston-Barnes, O., 2022. “Nature reserve hacked back to clear way for ocean view”.

Lagan, S., 2022. “Shark Hole house owner and architect say all rules followed”.

Sowell, T., 2001. The Einstein Syndrome. New York: Basic Books.

Wood, J., 2022. 8 “Expats Talk About What It's Like Living in Bermuda”.

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Published August 24, 2022 at 7:52 am (Updated August 24, 2022 at 7:52 am)

Education: cause and effect

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