We’ve finally had the courage to take an honest look at our public education system. The next step is to make an equally honest attempt to fix it. Already though, tired old excuses and explanations are trotting out. Already, the little signs of backing off and toning down are weaseling through.
Until the courageous public presentation of the Hopkins Report, Bermuda’s public education system was like a person dressed in a nice velvet jacket. Under that jacket, a sporty shirt and expensive silk tie; but on that person’s face were the grimaces of pain and suffering.
We’ve stripped off that velvet jacket representing years of concealment. In ripping off the still concealing shirt and nicely matching tie, we found a bandage. We’ve cut through that bandage and discovered flesh and an ugly stinking sore.
Now, only now – in 2007 – can we finally see what we really need to deal with. What we have to deal with is not pretty. We cannot fix this big ugly oozing sore of a public education system without the patient undergoing some pain and without the patient hearing and having to deal with some harsh – and perhaps unpleasant – truths.
It’s clear that there are – that there has to be – that there has been – significant under-performance by teachers and senior administrators and managers. It’s clear that some schools – and thus some principal/teacher/student combinations – are working. It’s equally clear – unpleasantly clear – painfully clear – that there are some principal/teacher/student combinations that are failing.
Education’s successes, as well as its failures, are the result of human efforts. Both success and failure must be clearly and publicly identified. There is no death-dealing harm in identifying failure. In the real world – and Bermuda’s public education system operates in the real world – failure shows through anyhow.
If we lack sufficient honesty to publicly identify, then we take the first – the very first – step in putting the ripped shirt back on. After that we’ll start looking for the matching tie…next the velvet jacket. Then we’ll be right back where we were last time; only, we’ll be one giant step closer to the day when Bermuda’s still expanding under-educated and badly-educated horde reaches critical mass and we get a big-bang national social explosion.
With the bandage of years of lies, concealment, and obfuscation now cut away, the public system has to drag itself to a school year end that’s now a mere thirty-three days away. There will be no – there can be no – turnaround in these thirty-three days. We’ll lose half of this year’s worth of boys and girls. We’ll dump yet one more tranche of our own Bermudian flesh-and-blood on to the already too-big junk heap that’s been the only monument – so far – built by our failing public system.
Now, above all else, we need to stay as honest as we’ve just started. Now, we need to identify success. Identify failure. Reinforce and reward success. Cut out and eliminate failure. Now, we need to do what any good doctor would do for any patient. We will be wrong – nationally and fatally wrong – if we attempt to fix this stinking mess without clearly identifying what we’re fixing and why. How we’re fixing it and what kind of results we’re looking for.
By September 2007 when the new school-year starts, we’ll be talking about pumping in the antibiotic of money; we’ll probably be adding the pills of foreign ‘axperts’; and we’ll certainly be applying the painkillers of sweet words from administrators and managers.
But the ultimate test will be the result. The first evidence that the whole process will succeed will show in the degree of honesty and openness that will be applied. Going forward, the chances of real success in fixing this twenty year-old problem will be in direct proportion to the degree of openness. More openness, more chance of success. Less openness, greater likelihood of yet one more failure.
Like all those Bermudians who’ve run away from public education; like all those Bermudians who’ve been damaged by its consistently poor results; I’m tired of the whole stinking mess. I’m tired of the trotted-out excuses. I’m tired of the tired explanations. I’m tired! I make this promise. If this initiative doesn’t work out, I will find an Obeah man. I’ll ask him to call all up his Obeah spirits, and all the world’s evil ghosts, ghouls, and goblins. I’ll tell him to put a hex on the Minister and all his mates. I promise!