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What Constitutes an Educated Trini?

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 15, 2019


"The school curriculum is not delivering the quality individuals we need to build the nation."

—Paula-Mae Weekes, President of Trinidad and Tobago

A nation always needs a leader who is willing to call it as she sees it. Paula-Mae Weekes, T&T's president, is not afraid to play that role. Her latest intervention in the island's political and social discourse occurred on Tuesday when she offered her views on how badly our education system is doing in preparing our citizens for life in the republic.

President Weekes believes the education system has failed in its responsibility to our children and our leaders. She didn't call it a fraudulent system, but she left her listeners with that impression. The fact that she is an experienced judicial educator and was a fellow at the Commonwealth Juridical Educational Institute lent credence to her observations.

Her first criticism had to do with the many multi-degreed people in the island who she called "selfish, inconsiderate, greedy, uncaring and amoral…[They] lack the empathetic bonds necessary to make them valuable people." (Newsday, January 9). This characterization suggests that the acquisition of several degrees does not make one a better or more responsible person. It simply cultivates a desire to look out for oneself at the expense of others. A multi-certificated person may be skilled in the intricacy of a profession but that does not make her an educated person or a conscientious citizen.

The president qualified her statement by placing much of the blame on the educational system rather than on the individual who is a product of that system. She says: "The education system must be re-thought to have any chance of producing the individuals that we want and need to lead this country into the future....[The school curriculum] is not delivering the individuals we need to build this nation."

The president counterpoised this amorality and dishonesty amongst our multi-degreed citizens with a call to cultivate citizens who are generous (she might have said magnanimous), compassionate and patriotic. She warned the six students who won presidential academic medals and by extension those who are striving to be future winners to refrain from becoming "lazy and dishonest."

She expressed a major foreboding about our graduating students and citizens in general: "People who lament the 'state' of the society must remember society is a mirror reflecting the people's collective attitudes, practices and principles….Many students [and citizens] had a sense of entitlement and wanted maximum return for minimum effort."

The president recalled that a "dinosaur like herself remembered a primary school diet of patriotic songs and pledges." She said that "the old school methodology helped her and people to understand, where we are going, and where we wanted to go as a nation."

This ideological aspect of her education was the more pertinent aspect of her message. British colonialists and serious nations understand that apart from the content of a society's education, the ideology (a system of beliefs and practices) that informs it is the more relevant aspect of the process. It leaves an indelible impression on a citizen's mind and makes the information that is transmitted to the learner more meaningful.

An educated person is someone who acts in a purposeful manner in his society. He may possess abundant skills, but he may not be a considerate, honest, patriotic person. He may even be well paid for his skills, but as a Somali taxi driver in London informed me on Tuesday: "A man may make money, but money does not make the man." The Great Book puts it in an even more succinct manner: "A man shall not live by bread alone."

A good teacher should be well trained before he can be convinced about the importance of his profession to the spiritual development of his people. Our teachers should be acquainted with the various education reports that were produced along the way about our educational system. Without knowledge of the past a professional can make little sense of the present or even understand our future needs. He's like a blind man stumbling in the dark.

No student should go through our educational system without having knowledge of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and the Yoruba religions. This is where many of our citizens live: in their various religions. Instead of emphasizing "all of we are one" we should concentrate on what makes each of us who he is. Jayz reminded David Letterman in a recent interview: "The more I know about you, the more I can relate to you."

The role and rewards of companies are just as important in shaping the behavior of our children and professionals. Companies that keep on making millions in profits through devious means are not the best examples to our citizens. Perhaps our president can turn her attention to them in her next national address.

A degree may give someone a few mechanical skills, but it cannot make him a responsible, ethical, and conscientious human being. When our education system sets aside time each day to inculcate moral values in its students, our communication media devote more time outlining the content of desirable civic behavior, and our juridical, medical, political, educational and theological leaders act in a moral way, then we can say we are on the road to social and moral recovery.

In this context, T&T's support of Nicolas Madero's illegitimate presidency sends a disturbing and dangerous signal to our citizens at home and abroad. This, action, too, says a lot to the kind of citizens we create.

Professor Cudjoe's email address is He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.

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