Children are also damaged by inappropriate teaching

Cassandra's Candid Corner
Stabroek News
October 22, 2000

Lately, the newspapers have been carrying the sentiments of the Minister of Education relative to the abuse of children in our schools. I know personally the feeling of abhorrence which the Minister experiences whenever he is confronted with reports of brutality. But the automatic question is: Wuh yuh doin' 'bout it? Have any teachers been fired? If so, how many and what for? Have any of these people been hauled before the courts?

Child abuse in schools is nothing new. In fact, in the days gone by, the cruelty in the classroom was so rampant and so severe that laws had to be passed in order to assuage the damage. The Minister himself has alluded to his memories of pain and malevolence meted out by those in whose care children are left. But sterile, unused laws in a book can't reduce the sadism unless they are implemented. Of course, this is easier said than done, not least, because many parents themselves like the brutality and are themselves incompassionate at home.

When I investigated this issue some years ago, some of the parents who advocated corporal punishment, irrespective of the intensity, actually were prepared to give the teachers the physical tools to carry out the physical hurt. It is as if Massa day ent done. Just as how Massa needed to beat and insult our forefathers to get a job done, so too we feel that only if we brutalise and psychologically damage our children, will they learn and stay on the straight and narrow. Well I got news for those with this opinion: No child can learn in an atmosphere of terror and confidence erosion. No ifs, no buts, end of story.

While my ire is still up, I'd like to carry these thoughts a bit further. Damage to our children comes not only from the prevalent physical and mental abuse. Damage is done by inappropriate teaching methodologies. A classic example of this is in the discipline of mathematics. How many children and adults can recall happy experiences in the mathematics classroom, especially when it comes to Mental Arithmetic (if that is at all a subject to which our children are exposed in our schools)? To this day, children are taught multiplication tables by rote. It is the "bright" child who can regurgitate immediately that 13x9is 117. The child that mentally computes 13x9 and gets the answer at a slower rate (if he or she is at all allowed to use this method) is assumed to be slow and labelled mathematically ungifted. Unfortunately, this separation between "bright" and "slow" persists throughout school and the "slower" students slip through the cracks, becoming increasingly anxious and fearful of mathematics and lacking in self confidence.

Yet I can tell you with assurance that mathematics can be pleasure instead of pain, and the basic principles can be mastered, if teachers are patient and compassionate and allow the pupils time to develop thinking and problem solving strategies, rather than learning tables by rote. Maths in the classroom should and can be fun. And let's dispel the myth that it takes special genetically based genius or natural attribute to understand and appreciate mathematics. It does not.

The same argument goes for the teaching of science and technology. A few weeks ago, Dr Kenneth King, recognising the inadequacy in the imparting of knowledge in the fields of science and technology, called for Guyana and the Caribbean to discard obsolete and inappropriate teaching methodologies. I agree. Too many students are "turned off" science at school because, early in the game, they receive a batteration at the hands of unskilled teachers who cannot breathe life into the subject matter in order to make it exciting. I dare say that the same logic obtains for all the other disciplines - history, literature, languages, etc.

Let me leave you with some fun today. The items were garnered from press reports, and I swear I did not steal them from Jay Leno (Yes, I watch him too with his Hapsburg prognathic mandible mamaguying politicians)

* SN of October 1 showed a picture of dejected looking vendors loitering on Regent Street where their stalls once stood. The Caption: Vendors at a lost!

* A report last Wednesday informed us that an inmate at the Georgetown Prison was bludgeoned and stabbed to death at the hands of another inmate. The latter was taken into custody to help the police in their investigations. Hey people, the stabber was already in custody. That's when the stabbery tek place. How much more custody yuh gun tek he in?

* Then Mark Harper is lamenting that Guyana was unlucky not to progress further in the Red Stripe Bowl. No Mark, it had nothing to do with luck; it had to do with mathematics and the inability to understand and react to the Duckworth/Lewis system.

* One report educated us that President Jagdeo stated at the World Food Day celebration that the government was not going to close any sugar estate. President Jagdeo's words were placed in inverted commas as direct quotes. But President Jagdeo didn't attend that function!! Furthermore, we were informed that Pandit Persaud recapped on the performance of the agriculture sector. Minister Persaud gave no such speech on that day. He read the absent President's speech.

* And not so long ago this classic: Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers.

Have a pleasant week. Happy Divali, or is it Deepowali or Deepavalli or Depauli or just plain Pagli.

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