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This too is best

By Terry Joseph
November 25, 2005

The old adage: "Cockroach should stay out of fowl business" echoed last week when Lloyd Best was being celebrated by his intellectual peers going into encomia about achievements and utterances of this great son of the soil.

An urge to contribute, already rendered impertinent by the tally of such fine minds, was pre-empted by pervading euphoria over the Soca Warriors victory at Bahrain but the shouting having subsided somewhat, it would be negligent of me to not salute Mr Best, an essential thinker of our time.

Amidst the outpouring of reverential harpings on his brightness, what struck me as odd was the complete absence of any reference to his passion for pan and resulting theory on its potential as incubator for a new society; undeniably indigenous by any appraisal and therefore redefining our concept of independence.

Contrarily, the intervening week hosted some unflattering observations on "the Carnival mentality," aligning it with social negatives, rubbishing the very vehicle Mr Best proposes as transport to a new dawn. In what history may yet conclude is his most brilliant flash, Mr Best developed a concept that reverses the rush to put pan in schools, suggesting instead we consider "School in Pan."

Submitted to the (then) Ministry of Human Development, Youth and Culture in July 2001, Mr Best's proposal enjoyed the fleeting fanfare accorded such documents before being sentenced to the pending tray where, presumably, it remains awaiting a report from some nebulous body.

Self-described as "a project for national reconstruction," School in Pan seeks "to bring together community, school, industry, business and work, combining them with popular art and entertainment, all in one context." Instead of hankering to physically position the instrument in classrooms, offering students fundamentals of music theory and practice, the panyard, Mr Best argued, can play a much more effective role in social and economic development.

The proposal posits that we "capitalise on the pan yard in its natural role as centre of excellence, pool of knowledge, pole of innovation, magnet of mobilisation and network of organisation and integration. The aim," it said, "is to create a context friendly to learning and living, fertile for entrepreneurship, business, production and work.

It continued: "The panyard is an admirable vehicle for bringing together in fertile communion school, education and industry. If properly set up and put together, it might well be the place where each of these activities would render the others most productive, something the school famously fails to do now, for well known reasons of history and at great cost by way of un-enchantment, especially among adolescent males."

Recent hubbub over statistics regarding the comparative failure of young males at secondary and tertiary educational institutions already concedes his rationale for targeting this group or other similar silos of social interest and, on the evidence, some revolutionary idea remains critical to the design of a device distinctly different from current approaches aimed at reversing such trends.

Given that backdrop, the proposal's relevance is clearly extant even if, at the least, it merely provides a pivot around which fresh thought might be spun, in the hope of vanquishing the wide range of social, economic and political problems reigning in lieu.

"School in Pan is therefore not about Carnival or Panorama," the proposal further asserts. "It is not even chiefly about steelband or panyard. It means to piggyback on art and entertainment to galvanise the great multitude of our people into productive activity and precipitate them into business in a way that would effectively employ the resources of school and pan to transform graduates into viable and confident individuals, while also permitting the nation as a whole to pay its way in the world."

Anyone familiar with the panyard environment knows that, for five or six weeks each year, it already provides a slew of subliminal messages regarding social embrace, training, discipline, mentoring, team effort, racial harmony, pride in presentation of the finished product and gratification in achievement- a work ethic rarely found elsewhere in such configuration.

"The obvious trigger is Panorama but that festival would need to be redefined to provide appropriate incentives," Mr Best said, describing a structure in which the band's rendition, however scintillating, would form only a part of reward consideration, with its success at transforming the panyard into a hive of productive and artistic community-based activity during the rest of the year factored into the championship; a concept of such brilliance it deserves a sustained roll on the snare at every mention.

But alas, not a drum was heard -anywhere.

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