THE word ‘change’ was used to good effect in the campaign for the presidency of the U.S. in 2008. It galvanized the American voter to avenge the Bush years of blundering, and the injustice of the U.S. Supreme Court, in Bush’s run for the White House. ‘Change’ has been adopted by others in far off places pursuing the leadership of their various organizations – and countries. The United Workers Party (UWP) in Saint Lucia has adopted the ‘change’ mantra, adding ‘is coming,’ for emphasis.
What is this change of which people speak? Does it mean different things to different people including those who use words loosely and improperly? If so, to what can such behaviour be ascribed? Is it to culture or is it to a lack of understanding? What explains the extravagance with words in describing simple, often simplistic irrelevancies which are immune to change? Is such verbosity linked to an inability or a reluctance to ask relevant questions or is there something else at work, such as culture?
Perhaps to accept without questioning is deeply rooted in culture. Trust and obey seems printed on the DNA of some. This seems to add a scientific dimension to our reluctance to challenge ideas and to dig deeper for meaning, instead of blindly trusting – and following. A culture of easy accommodation and blind trust is a weakness in a world driven by research and verifiable information.
For my part the deeper purpose of change is achieved only through education. The purpose of education is to make a person understand and love themselves. It is to help people change into better human beings, perchance to find God within them. It also helps to reveal the unspeakable evil that lies within as it aims to fashion a new and sanctified person. Extreme good and extreme evil lives within all human beings. Education presents an opportunity to exercise either. The choice is left to the individual. Education is the cornerstone for change – whatever the change.
There was a time when Saint Lucians were told that ‘a little education is a bad thing.’ Examining the poverty and misery around, one soon became convinced that ignorance and illiteracy, and not a ‘little learning,’ was (and is) the real culprit.
Thankfully, that phrase has fallen out of use. Instead, we are slowly learning to emphasise a ‘little education’ and ‘more knowledge’ for positive change. In that process we learn to desist from blaming history for past failures. Our destinies have been in our hands long enough to afford greater self-awareness, self-reliance and self-confidence, and to use these to change into a new and better people.
The question: What is change and how does education fuel change, may well be the defining question of this and the next generation. We must seek to answer that question truthfully. In the process we need to scuttle blind allegiance to the status quo while learning to create a new world. The deeper meaning of change ought therefore to inform a new education syllabus. The change process ought to be a constant and positive companion. That comes from a lifetime of learning.
Should change be only for the few? Or should it aim at empowering and uplifting an entire society, a people, and a country?
Whatever the answer and wherever our discourse takes us, it seems pretty obvious that change means more than the simplistic shuffling of men and materials within a given organization, society or country. Ditto education! Change, like education, implies a meaningful imparting (and receiving) of ideas and their implementation to the individual and common good. Meaningful change may therefore be impossible without education, whatever the form of such education.
The word change will be thrown about more and more in the next few weeks and months as the “silly season” intensifies. For this reason citizens must determine to choose positive transformative change over ignorance and simple irrelevancies, if they wish to usher in positive social and economic advancement. The word change ought therefore to mean transformation for better. It ought also to become the watch word for this and the next generation and it should be driven by education.
Change therefore imports a quality of education in which every citizen understands that the immediate surroundings (the environment) in which a child is nurtured is more crucial to creating a more wholesome, law abiding citizen, than the house in which a child grows up. Education should aim to spread that message and to make people want to change. Unsanitary, noisy communities, littered with garbage and loveless ignorance are worse than leaky broken houses in a clean environment.
What in our present situation is the preferred road to economic sustainability and progress and how should we prepare the citizen for it? The imparting of correct information can help answer that question. But can education change people who do not wish to be changed? What can be done about people who simply want to be left alone? Can a national constitution force feed people information they disdain?
History is a good teacher. It points to the power of the written word. Those who first learned to read and write ruled. They still do today. Reading and writing are considered basic keys to education; so does numeracy. These offer a means to empowerment even in the face of examples which point to survival in their absence. It is generally accepted that reading is the best platform for education – and change.
Education has never been known to plunge anyone (or any country), into poverty or misery. We sometimes discover to our chagrin that there is more hidden behind a friendly hug and ready handshake, than meets the eye. Vagabonds and their defective characters can earn academic qualifications and use these to deceive the ignorant. Some have chosen to exploit education to satisfy their inward hunger and greed and to pursue evil over good.
Those who formulate education policy (for change), and the professionals hired to implement such policy, ought to view education (and change) through the same prism. Too often change has come to mean moving from one situation into another will little or no discernible difference. Such simplistic ideas of change can sometimes lead to a ‘falling from the frying pan into the fire.’ It has happened!
If we have learned anything it is that change must mean more than cosmetic trivialities. It requires more education, more discussion and more questioning if it is to eradicate poverty, hunger, ignorance and disease. Change is both essential and necessary if Saint Lucia is to move forward with confidence and dignity in pursuit of a better life for all its citizens.
Next week (part two): A new education syllabus for meaningful change.