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Has public-school education moved on from 1948? Really?

Muriel Wade-Smith (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

“Racism is really a mental disorder. Manifestation of racial behaviour as a result of domination is the denial of reality, perceptual distortion, delusion of grandeur, phobias in the face of differences, and projecting blame (blaming the victim). Europeans had to lie to themselves about what Africa was and has been, and to keep that information going, one adapts to unreality. So when you see reality, it is necessary to deny it. So denial of reality would be to look at the population of Kemet (Ancient Egypt) and say it was a white population. That is a flat-out denial of what the facts say. It is not true that the white group is superior to anyone and to believe in that is a psychological distortion of reality.”— Asa G. Hilliard III, EdD

In the June 5 edition of The Royal Gazette, in an article entitled “Minister defends public-school system”, the minister, Diallo Rabain, stated: “One thing that I do want to make clear — the direct apples-to-apples comparison is just not possible at this time.”

Frankly, the comparison of the state of public education to private education goes far beyond even the comparison of apples to oranges. Our education woes, like all the other woes of people of African descent in Bermuda, are caused by racism.

Private schools — privileged, favoured, funded!

Public schools — demeaned, debased, destroyed!

Over the past several months, I have felt compelled to reread my dissertation. It was submitted to the Faculty of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Educational Leadership in 1978.

The dissertation was entitled A Survey to Identify and Prioritise Goals for the Bermudian Education System.

The following excerpt is taken from my dissertation:

Models for goal development

Various models, which include goal development as an essential component in the comprehensive planning process, were found in the literature.

The following models will be presented here:

1, The Delta Kappa Planning Model

2, Centre for the Study of Evaluation — Elementary School Evaluation Kit

3, Dallas Model

4, Fresno Planning Model. In 1916, the Commission on the Reorganisation of Secondary Education presented “The Seven Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education”, which they thought should constitute the main objectives of education. They were:

1, Health

2, Command of the Fundamental Processes

3, Worthy Home Membership

4, Vocation

5, Citizenship

6, Worthy use of Leisure Time

7, Ethical Character

In 1952, in an unpublished dissertation entitled History of Education in Bermuda, the late Kenneth Robinson, a Harvard graduate, stated: “From the outset, the system has been diversified both with respect to purpose and structure.”

Dr Robinson found it necessary to list minor special education objectives with which coloured Bermudians should be concerned.

In 1975, Yvonne Blackett, PhD, in an unpublished report dated May 1976, indicated that official documents in 1948 revealed implicit and explicit indications of the following:

• Philosophy of education: schools should be for the maintenance of the social, economic and political status quo

• Educational Principle 1948: that of social, economic and political dominance by white people

• Educational Objective 1948: to cultivate white children for hereditary leadership

• Educational Objective 1948: that government theoretically supported private schools

Why was Bermuda, a dot in the middle of the Atlantic, the only nation that injected its racial prejudices in establishing the goals of education for the children of this country?

I recall, with deep pain and embarrassment, the comments and discussions I had with my advisers and mentors during the defence of my dissertation.

One of my advisers looked at the organisational chart of the Bermudian educational system. At the top of the chart, on either side was the Department of Education, the Ministry of Education and the Board of Education. At the top of these two divisions were the Chief Education Officer and the Minister of Education. He said: “Muriel, this is the perfect arrangement for political interference.”

I did not fully understand what he meant at the time. Forty years later, I have a clearer understanding of what has taken place in the Bermuda education system with respect to political interference.

How about the use of such terms as the maintenance of the social, economic and political status quo?

Dominance of white people?

Cultivate white children for hereditary leadership?

What? Children of African descent were not to be cultivated for hereditary leadership?

Hereditary leadership, that means the leadership goes on and on to one group of people?

What? Children of African descent would not have a chance to become leaders?

The Government theoretically supported private schools. Is that why children of African descent were confined to such buildings as St Monica’s Mission, Evening Light, Bandroom Lane, St Augustine’s Church, Samaritan’s Hall, Ewing Street and other places?

How many education ministers have we had over the past 40 years? Doesn’t every Minister of Education come with their own agenda? What are their qualifications in education? Do they depend on the advice of the technical officers? Most times they come to the table laden with solutions to the problems in education.

Alas, do they ever consider what are the root causes of our educational woes? Was it the educational philosophy, Educational Principles and Educational Objectives of 1948 that determined the outcomes of educational in the public schools and the private schools in Bermuda.

With such destructive and demeaning denial of the existence of people of African descent, why wouldn’t the private schools be looked at in a more favourable light? That people of African descent have been able to achieve in spite of such insurmountable odds speaks to the ingenuity, the genius and the creativity of us as a people. The private schools have had a head start. It was preached and played out most effectively that white was right, white was superior and white was better.

In retrospect, when the Department of Education conjured these vicious goals designed for our detriment, I was 9. I was a student at the Central School, which was in its heyday. They won all the academic and athletic awards. They performed with an extremely high standard at the Eidsteddford, held for primary schools in singing, recitation and choral speaking.

There was no such thing as zoning then. Parents from as far away as St George’s and Somerset sent their children to Central because they knew the children were well prepared academically and socially to take their rightful place in society.

In 1978, when I returned to Bermuda as the island’s first internationally qualified curriculum co-ordinator, I was ignorant that these were the goals that were operating against me. Yes, the Bermuda Government’s philosophy of education, the principles upon which it stands, and the objectives which it contemplated in 1971 — as compared with the statement of 1948 — indicated significant changes in several respects. For instance:

• Philosophy of Education 1971: a liberal schooling, plus purposeful training, offers Bermudians a reasonable basis for a happy human relationship in our biracial society

• Philosophy of Education 1971: a liberal schooling, plus purposeful training, offers Bermudians the best guarantee of economic efficiency for current affluence and continued stability

• Educational Principles 1971: that of government support for a system in private and public schools

• Educational Principles 1971: that of a racially integrated society with safeguards for racial equality in social, economic and political activities

The Ministry of Education published a document on Educational Philosophy and Goals on May 13, 1978, of which I am very suspect and ask the following questions:

• Was the purpose of Educational Philosophy and Goals to involve educators, students, parents, the community and the board of education in assessing needs, assigning priorities and allocating resources as a part of the annual budgeting process?

• Did evaluation and needs assessment precede goal determination?

• There were changes in the goals provided in 1971 and 1978, but what were the changes in the policies, procedures and practices that would eradicate these prejudicial goals? Were they just superficial?

When you build a house, do you build it on a firm foundation? Twenty years down the road, when you need to change a few windows and doors, do you change the whole foundation to change the windows and doors? No. Just making cosmetic changes to the educational philosophy, objectives and goals in 1971 and 1978 did not alter the foundation.

Thus, the foundation of the Bermuda education system was built on the establishment of the educational philosophy, educational principles and education objectives of 1948. I declare that these goals have been firmly cemented and remain deeply entrenched as the present-day goals.

Dr Robinson knew about this prejudicial system. He discovered the goals of education while pursuing his doctorate at Harvard University. In retrospect, he was able to overcome the odds and leave us with the blueprint for a successful education system.

Somehow, the successors to Dr Robinson were not able to maintain the high standard of excellence, and that’s why we have had such a steady decline and a spiralling, downward trend in the quality of public education from 1978 until the present.

Do educators concern themselves about the goals of education? Aren’t we more involved in teaching children so that we can have successful outcomes?

How many people of African descent know that these were the goals of education for our children since 1948? Did the premiers, education ministers, permanent secretaries of education, education officers, principals, teachers, parents, businessmen, students and all stakeholders know about these goals designed against our children?

As we look around us, have we really changed the goals of education for the children in the public-school system? Isn’t the root cause of our educational woes racism?

How do we rectify this situation? We must demand African affirmative action.

Muriel Wade-Smith, PhD is an author and longtime educator