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Youth The Future

Image of Bud Slabbaert
Image of Bud Slabbaert
By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

‘YOUTH are the future’. Since you may not fit in that category any more, just give it a positive nod with your head and stop reading; no future for you. Everyone loves to use that phrase because it makes one sound noble and wise. Having used that saying is also clearing someone’s conscience. After it is said, one feels relieved to move on with the important oneself in life. Just think for a moment of your own childhood, assuming you once were a child and that you do have a memory. If you claim to not have that memory, I wonder in what stage of dementia you are and must alert those around you that such only becomes worse.

Remember when you were four and those aunts, uncles and friends of your parents asked you: “What would you like to be when you grow up, cutie?” Me, personally, I wanted to be a band leader, an architect, and later an astronomer and no one called me a cutie until I was eighteen which had nothing to do with late childhood development. The most common answers by children are “engineer, pilot, doctor, fire fighter, nurse”. High hopes. How much of it becomes reality? Why not? Because it is taken as a joke and not seriously.

The other day, a five-year old told me that she wanted to become an astronomer and her specific interest was the planet ‘Uranus’. Imagine at age five; some people age 50 don’t even know the difference between a planet and a star. Some individuals are surprised to hear that they are not the centre of the universe. Generally, kids will get a smile and a “isn’t she cute?” What most people ignore is that there is a thinking process going on in the child’s mind influenced by observations. Intelligence by my definition is the ability to create independent thinking processes. Should that be encouraged? What impresses a child now is something that a future career may be built on. It also holds the characteristics of talent, passion, dedication, and eventually success in life. Becoming an astronomer on Saint Lucia, are you kidding?

A mind is a terrible thing to lose. Take this astronomer example. I always like the issues that stand out and show contrast. There may be more children on the island who are inspired by the universe and celestial discoveries. Why not get them together and be enthused? A simple Smithsonian telescope costs about US$ 35. Learning material is plentiful available for free on the internet for youngsters of all ages. In our part of the world it is dark fairly early, so they don’t have to stay up late. If their passion is guided and fulfilled, these kids have the potential of acquiring an academic degree ahead of their peers. Okay, well, then send them to college in the USA or UK to study. That can be done. And then? Well, there is nothing to do for them on Saint Lucia anymore. So, they become banned because they were outstanding. It is terrible if one becomes too overqualified to return home.

Ground-based observatories with telescopes are located far from major centres of population, to avoid the effects of light pollution. The ideal locations for observatories are sites that have dark skies, a large percentage of clear nights per year, dry air, and located at high elevations. Is there a location on Saint Lucia that fits that description?

Tourism is the major industry on Saint Lucia. Everyone wishes for astronomical development of tourism because it determines whether you will have a dry biscuit or a juicy steak on your dinner plate. I admit the expression astronomical is exaggerated. But what about Astronomy Tourism? Yes, tourism for star gazers. It is done on the Canary Islands, Hawaii, in Chile and South Africa but not in the Caribbean. Can you imagine the catch line “Saint Lucia invites you for a gaze at the wonders of celestial bodies”? Oh, you are more into wedding tourism? Well, why not send the newlyweds to the observatory and have an entertaining ‘star reader’ tell them what’s in the stars and let the stars smile down on them? Did you ever make a wish when you saw a ‘falling star’? Nothing more romantic than observing one on a wedding night and making the ultimate wish.

Carlos Corco was a 12-year-old boy in Chile when he began to observe the stars with a small telescope. He has never stopped doing so since then. Now, from Monday through Saturday he receives groups of tourists and astronomy buffs who come to Cerro Mayu. He guides them to observe the cosmos from the best skies in the southern hemisphere. Did you know that comets are often discovered by amateur astronomers? Astronomy is obviously one of the oldest scientific activities. I’m an Aquarius, what are you, a Virgin or a Scorpion? That is Astrology, yet based on astronomic observations at a time when not even glasses for the shortsighted existed.

Children are not less intelligent than adults, they simply think differently. Early childhood is a period of physical growth, but also a time of remarkable mental development. Cognitive abilities associated with memory, reasoning, problem-solving and thinking continue to emerge throughout childhood. Children are like ‘little scientists’ actively trying to make sense of the world rather than simply soaking up information passively. That process is remarkably slowed down by later standardized education. “We have to invest in education.” What does that mean? A standardized education programme that provides the answers for the most common questions and give them a useful skill to make money with? It is my contention that a significant investment should be made in development of talent, motivation and passion.

If one mentions the two words ‘youth’ and ‘psychology’, people immediately start thinking of therapy and counselling. Oh, those psychologists are just a bunch of shrinks trying to convince you that they know more about you than you do yourself. You may not be aware of it, but you do have a psyche and even your pet has a psyche. The word psyche stands for human mind, conscious and sub conscious. As for your pet cat, you know already that it has a mind of its own. Did you know that Psyche was a beautiful girl who was visited each night in the dark by Cupid, who told her she must not try to see him. This was written in the 2nd century AD by Apuleius in his novel ‘Metamorphoses’. Never underestimate the Romans and Greeks of the antiques. In Greek, psyche means ‘soul’ or ‘breath of life’. Next time we meet and you would insist that you don’t have a psyche, I’ll give you the Greek description of what you may be missing.

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