Dr Gibson recorded spontaneous talk of the people

Stabroek News

November 18, 2003

Related Links: Letters on 'Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana' death
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Dear Editor,

In 1954, a curriculum earthquake took place at Queen's College - most pupils changed principally from learning notes; (learning from books) to practical investigation in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology laboratories. Pupils were urged to learn the power of nature and how to handle the environment. Students enjoyed it. Natural Science became alive during "double periods". Seeing how 'sunlight made food' printed an indelible memory in our young minds.

In 1961, Kean Gibson arrived in London, UK as a nine year old. The primary and secondary schools she attended introduced her to the "discovery method of learning". On her return to Guyana in 1966 she became disoriented. The method of learning used by the secondary schools in Guyana was "rote learning". The discovery method of learning did not re-enter Kean Gibson's life until about 1974 when she met Dr. John Rickford and Dr. Ian Robertson who were then lecturers in linguistics at the University of Guyana. With them, she relearned to record spontaneous talk -"observations" - in the field, and then return to UG for analysis and inference. She enjoyed the discovery method of education.

In 1971, I began lecturing in natural science at the Government Technical Institute, Georgetown, and was alarmed that nearly all my students (some had passed an "O" level subject either in physics, chemistry, or Biology) had never done a practical investigation.

The secondary schools were delivering natural science education via blackboard learning instead of discovery learning. Students in these schools were learning about science instead of learning science.

I mention the above 1954 to 1974 scenario because so many critics of Dr. Gibson's book, The cycle of racial oppression in Guyana said that they were "disappointed by her method, her conclusions and her tone" (Kampta Karan, SN 10.28.2003). And you echoed similar criticism in your editorial: "Dr. Gibson's book" (Stabroek News, 11.6.2003).

Your editorial stated, "In Dr. Gibson's booklet there is no evidence of research based on hundreds of interviews, a survey of all the relevant literature, and a careful weighing of all conflicting opinion."

However, academics and researchers acknowledge that there are different ways to do research. Some use questionnaires, and interviews with direct questions, which produce directed or blinkered answers. Dr. Gibson used a recorder to record spontaneous talk of the populace -"observation". She then analysed what she recorded before she made an inference.

Stabroek News also mentioned in its editorial that, "the PPP has been accepted historically as a Marxist party." By whom? Not me. In Cultural Pluralism and National Politics in British Guiana Professor Leo Despres showed that the PPP mouthed Marxist phraseology but encouraged caste. Why should Stabroek News write that Dr. Gibson "should have sought interviews with senior PPP spokesmen for their reaction to her theories?" Clarence F Ellis wrote in his recent letter to you that Dr. Cheddi Jagan and Mrs. Jagan "were shouting 'left' but practicing 'right."

Dr. Gibson's research findings are published. Her findings include: (1) the PPP used caste - colour-coded racism - to achieve power; (2) the caste system is all about greed; (3) Manu wrote the earliest law book of Hinduism; (4) the Brahmins (priestly caste) are teaching caste in Guyana to oppress other people of dark/black colour; (5) Hinduism justifies ideas of selfishness (6) the PPP/C is using caste to legitimise the oppression of Africans in Guyana; (7) caste has a relationship to moral qualities - good and evil. Dr Gibson published her book using research methodology that is standard for linguists.

That Dr. Gibson has taken the intellectual lead cannot be denied. If her research findings are inaccurate then other intellectuals should indicate where the inaccuracies lie.

Let's see: did the operation of the caste system put Moses Nagamootoo on the outside?

Yours faithfully,

Ras Tom Dalgety