Men, not robots
There are two noteworthy criticisms which need to be made of our way of life. They are important not only for personal intellectual progression but also for national development. One is that we are not promoting intellectual curiosity but rather we are cultivating human robots. The other is that we are not emphasizing the primacy of moral rectitude.
Today, more than ever, we have professionals in every sphere of life. No one will doubt the value of having people who are qualified for particular tasks. In the past, we have had midwives who had no training, magistrates who had never studied law, quack doctors who prescribed medicines, teachers whose greatest merit was their devotion and their sense of duty in the practice of their profession, farmers who just followed the practices of their ancestors. Today, the only persons who are untrained are our politicians and political leaders.
Yet, if we read the signs of the times, if we are awake to all that is happening in our country, we are not reaping the fruits of what professional skills would lead us to expect. We are producing many university graduates, and, indeed, we have been promised that within a few years, there will be a university graduate in every home in the Commonwealth of Dominica. In principle, this is to be applauded. But where does all this lead us? Where is our sense of purpose? What sources of inspiration do we have? How do we fire the imagination of our youth? Who will instil in them a depth of enthusiasm?
It is most revealing to know how much knowledge some of our barely literate people had in the past? At a time when knowledge brought little remuneration, at a time when training was very limited and possibilities for human development were few, it is astonishing how much knowledge some of our head-teachers, and even people like Emmanuel Christopher Loblack, had of history and of human life. It is also remarkable how much native wisdom these people were able to share with others.
We have developed a national culture which prepares people for production but not for living. We endeavour to train people to enhance productivity without teaching them to pursue life in all its fullness. The fullness of life lies in developing our human faculties, our intelligence, our ability to absorb all that is good and loving, all that promotes human flourishing.
In this country, there is a gross lack of intellectual curiosity. We need to promote knowledge for knowledge's sake rather than merely knowledge that improves our professional skills. What is lacking basically is integral human development. We are creating robots. We are not developing the whole person in all aspects of life. We are not assisting young persons in making sense of the mysteries of life.
The role of education is not merely to prepare people for human activity, as laudable as this may be. We, human beings, have been blessed by God with intelligence. This needs to be developed. The various disciplines which were taught in the past were related to the need to develop the intellect. This tradition had immense value.
The secondary school should provide students with a general education. All students, of whatever inclination, should be involved in it. Specialization should not take place in Form 3, but only after this general education. This means that every student would have some knowledge of several subjects. For example, a student who goes on to study medicine or law should have some knowledge of literature and history. This is not the case under the present system in our high schools.
There is also very little emphasis on character development. In fact, this seems to be absent from the whole system. Some of our educators could hardly pass the test of moral rectitude. How then do we promote a value system, which is of absolute necessity for harmonious, upright living in society?
We need to develop a literary culture. Literary experience is fundamental to mental and emotional development. We miss much because of a lack of cultivation of heart and mind. Much that is in our environment passes us by. We need to acquire a sensitivity of perception. We need to recognize the beauty of the earth, of the people we encounter and of all that surrounds us. In this regard, one of the books which could be used in our schools is 'How Beautiful The Valley' by Archbishop Robert Rivas, O.P., of Castries, St. Lucia. How many Caribbean educators have heard of it?
Literature is all about life, life in all its ramifications. Perhaps one of the best things that we can do is to praise God for life in all its fullness. Our God is a God of life and wherever life is, God is glorified. That is why to promote life is such a noble thing. Because God is life, to do all that is possible to maintain life and to facilitate its growth is the most wonderful thing we can do here on this earth.
One of the most revealing signs of the times is the manner in which we relate to one another. These days, there are expressions which were once part of our culture but have completely disappeared. No one says, "Please" anymore. "Thank you" has disappeared from our vocabulary. "I wish to apologize", "I am sorry", have gone with the wind. What our culture urgently needs is a huge dose of humanization.