I was slightly amused to see in the RG today that Senator Marc Bean has felt it necessary to apologise for his comments last week where he criticised the continuing failures to reform our public education system.
I actually was quite impressed by Senator Bean’s initial comments where he acknowledged that while the PLP inherited a largely dysfunctional system in 1998 a lot more should have – and could have – been done to correct the problem since. Instead we’ve largely seen more of the same failed policies, a merry-go-round of Education Ministers and various consultants and a lot of haphazard action.
I am not an educator. I do not even know where to begin to start addressing the many problems that face our educational system, many of which extend beyond simply school buildings and curriculum problems. Any solution to our public education failings needs to be multi-faceted and tackle such various issues as drugs, gangs, overcrowding, mass consumerism and the structural racism that still blights our island home. These issues will not be solved overnight (not by a longshot) or even all at the same time. Some initial work has already begun in addressing many of these issues, although more could have and should have been done by now as well.
What I do know though is that I agree with Senator Bean’s original statements that the PLP’s educational policies since 1998 are failing, just as the previous governments policies were failing. Indeed, one of the big issues (along with percieved cronyism and general abuse of political power) that helped bring the PLP to power in 1998 was a desire to see our education system fixed. Senator Bean should not have been admonished by his Party colleauges. In saying that the PLP should have done more since 1998 and that it deserves a triple F grade for its work so far he was only saying what is plain to most Bermudians, and has been plain for some years now.
I don’t doubt that a lot of hard work by some good people has been done to reform our public education system. That’s fine. I commend them. Much more work needs to be done though before we can safely give our efforts on education a passing grade. Less energy should have been devoted by the PLP in bringing Senator Bean to a partial about turn and apologies for stating the truth and more energy should have been devoted to addressing the points that his original comments raised.
I admit I am slightly disappointed in Senator Bean’s apparent about turn in the face of PLP criticism. While Mr. Bean can be controversial in some of his politics I generally have an impression of him being an confident and independent thinker, a rarity in our current political crop. With a frontbench composed largely of individuals who give the impression at times of being more interested in their ministerial positions (and attendant perks) and beholden to whomever seems most likely to ensure their Cabinet positions (increasingly Ms. Cox it would appear), and a backbench who are happy to rebel but cowardly in their actions, largely resorting to anomynous interviews with the media rather than building a grassroots internal opposition, I welcome Mr. Bean’s independent inputs.
In doing so he brought that increasingly elusive quality of credibility to politics. I may not agree with him on everything (although I actually agree with him on quite a few issues), but he certainly comes across as genuine in his statements. His about turn is, in truth, not a complete about face, but it does reflect badly on him (and opens him up to criticism of capitulating under pressure) and it does not reflect well on his colleauges who, it would seem, reacted particularly negatively to his comments.
Senator Bean would have done better to elabourate on the failings of current policy, and in so doing spur on the increasingly stagnant reforms; and the PLP would have been better publicly defending their record and recognising that more needs to be done than has been done so far.