There it was again. This time tucked away in the middle of an excellent story [Bermuda Sun – 08 Jun – p7]. Topping the story was a big picture of three fine young men. Each dressed in a tuxedo. Each with a confident look on his face. Each was black.
But you’d expect that. After all, they were the winners in a scholarship scheme run by Alpha Phi Alpha. Alpha Phi Alpha is a ‘black’ fraternity born out of the black American experience. So I would have been surprised – pleasantly surprised – if all or even one of the young men had been white. After all, in an era of racial equality, that would have been perfectly correct and entirely fair.
But they were young black men who had just been awarded scholarships. The scholarships were awarded not because they were exceptionally bright academics [often referred to as ‘nerds’], nor were the awards coming because they were impoverished students from poor families.
The awards were for academic worth combined with clear evidence of personal striving in non-academic pursuits. Between them, the three young men received a total of $10,000 towards their further education.
The story underneath the picture was filled with hundred of words telling how the young men had performed as musicians, mentors for younger students, Candy Stripers, and sportsmen.
Hidden amongst those fine words were some nasty little facts.
“This year’s scholarships…started six months ago when organizers asked five secondary schools to each nominate a star pupil.”
That was the first fact.
“Only three students completed the program…”
“Mr Williams, who attends Warwick Academy…..Mr Woods… who attends Saltus Grammar School…. Mr Manders…who graduates from the Bermuda Institute”.
The third, damning, fact.
There are only three other secondary schools. Mount St Agnes Academy. The Berkeley Institute. Cedarbridge Academy. At least two of these must have been “asked…to nominate a …pupil.” One of these three was not asked.
Three questions. First. Why were Alpha Phi Alpha so selective? Second. Why didn’t all the schools who were asked to participate ensure that their students completed the process?
Third. Is it right, in 2005, even given Bermuda’s bad racial past, to exclude young men of another race from competing? Is Bermuda’s current racial balance so badly askew that exceptional racial ‘tipping’ is still so necessary, so easily permissible, and seemingly so acceptable?
There’s another issue. This time with the public education system. Why was there no participation – I stress participation – by young men from the public educating system? Why? What’s not working?
If Cedarbridge can garner seven good results in the open competition of the Maths Olympiad, why couldn’t they get just one young man to at least stay the course in this local Alpha Phi Alpha process?
Could it be that the Principals and faculties at Cedarbridge and Berkeley don’t want to identify young men as ‘star pupils’. Maybe they want to bring all their young men along at exactly the same level and pace. If that is what they are trying to do, they are trying to do exactly the opposite of what nature always does.
Across humankind, there are always differences in people. Some people are brighter – others not so bright. Some work hard – some not so hard. Some can run fast – some can’t. Differences in human ability and capability always exist. These differences are ineradicable and are a key part of the reality of humankind in all its sameness and all its diversity.
The purpose of education is to give each individual all the tools that he [she] can use in order to allow herself [himself] to develop to his [her] maximum. Each individual must be her [his] own ‘star’.
That neither Berkeley nor Cedarbridge had one young man complete Alpha Phi Alpha’s process is sad and wrong. It is also unfair to each one of the hundreds of young men in those two institutions.
Under-prepared, under-educated, testosterone-filled young men who pass out of the public system are simply ticking time bombs. The ticking time bombs already released into this community as under-prepared, under-educated, testosterone-filled young men who can not readily fit into Bermuda’s complex society, are now blowing up all around this community.
Like the ticking or explosion of a time bomb, the situation and result inadvertently shown in this story should concentrate our national attention.