“Education” Part Three – Bermudianisation & Private Education

NB – This continues the ongoing transcription of a 2002 ‘Manifesto for a Democratic Socialist Bermuda’, which I wrote for the purpose of initiating discussion about organising a democratic socialist (DS) Party in Bermuda. I am reproducing it here for it’s historical interest, it’s role in the genesis of this blog itself, and for the purpose of stimulating discussion in the future.

Part Three

Education is a powerful tool of the State, and has been used by the current economic system to maintain the status quo in the past. In Bermuda in particular, during the peak of workers ‘consciousness’ or ‘activity’ (which here is synonymous with the Black Power movement) in the 1970s, the ruling classes identified education as a useful tool to prevent further threats to the status quo. While the workers movement was defeated (the reasons are many, and a careful analysis of this period will be dealt with at a later date), steps were taken to reduce the threat of the next workers generation through the closure of the Technical School (seen as a hotbed for workers consciousness raising) and by sabotaging the public education system.

This sabotage was achieved brilliantly, with the ruling classes being able to ‘kill two birds with one stone.’ An important demand of the workers movement had been the replacemnt of White British (or, rather, foreign) teachers (then seen as a tool of imperialism; as an imperialist insult to the majority Black population of the public system) with qualified Bermudians (or nationalities less directly linked to White power-structures, with the ultimate aim of future ‘Bermudianisation.’

On this demand the ruling powers (the then UBP Government) gave in, and promptly saw the virtual Bermudianisation of the teaching workforce. This was, and remains, an important victory for the Bermudian people, but must also, unfortunately, be seen as a Phyrric one for the working class as a whole, as the new Bermudian teaching workforce was, more often than not, inadequately trained and/or experienced. The DS does not mean to belittle the abilities and achievements of these teachers – they performed admirably and in the best interests of the students as best as they could. It must, however, be admitted today that the level of education (at least among the blue-collar workers, which are largely graduates of the public system) is relatively far below that o their predecessors in the 1960s/1970s.

While there are obviously additional factors, largely external to the formal education system (breakdown of extended family structures, increased working hours, etc.), the DS holds that the rapid Bermudianisation process involved in the education system had a role to play in this phenomena.

This has benefited the bosses immensely, taking the proverbial ground from beneath the feet of the then radical movement, and simultaneously reducing the capacity of the workers movement to articulate and organise itself oppositionally to the power-structure. Further consequences of this sabotage has been, amongst others, increased criminal activity (primarily drugs-based) that further weakens the working class through division, inactivity and criminal blacklistings, as well as strengthened police repression. Despite this initial success though, this policy has negative consequences for the bosses class too, namely the reduced productive capacity of the working class, leading to an over-reliance on expatriate workers, which leads to consequences in terms of increased social friction and economic leakages (wages leaking out of the local economy).

Even though the Bermudianised teaching force today has progressed greatly, the repercussions of this incident (along with accelerated external factors) will remain for some time, and be echoed in at least the next generation of workers (if not amplified).

The DS fully advocates Bermudianisation, but at the same time calls for the standardisation of teaching qualifications (including a period of apprenticeship) along with (under the current system) the subsidisation of training at recognised ‘quality’ teaching colleges (Queens in Kingston, Ontario, University of the West Indies, etc.).

Furthermore, the DS recognises that certain socio-economic conditions of the working class negatively affect the development (both educationally and behaviour-wise) and that while our belief in these problems only truly being resolved under democratic socialism, the DS advocates (as a question of tactics) various reforms in this sector.

These include, but are not limited to, quality day-care availability, a full study of the causes and treatments of such problems as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), Autism and Dyslexia (in its various forms), quality nutritional diets and extracurricular activities for students.

It should be obvious that the DS opposes private education, as it not only formalises but also perpetuates, the present socio-economic inequalities of the present system. The DS does however recognise that, largely due to their ‘insulation’ from the sabotage of the public education system, the current superiority of the private system relative to the public system in Bermuda. Within the current system the DS calls for a comparative analysis of the two modes of education, as well as investigations into alternative educational models (such as that proposed, albeit embyronically, by Vygotsky, and it’s descendant in the Montessori model).

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