What Constitutes an Educated Trini?

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 15, 2019


“The school curriculum is not delivering the quality individuals we need to build the nation.”

—Paula-Mae Weekes, President of Trinidad and Tobago

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeA nation always needs a leader who is willing to call it as she sees it. Paula-Mae Weekes, T&T’s president, is not afraid to play that role. Her latest intervention in the island’s political and social discourse occurred on Tuesday when she offered her views on how badly our education system is doing in preparing our citizens for life in the republic.

President Weekes believes the education system has failed in its responsibility to our children and our leaders. She didn’t call it a fraudulent system, but she left her listeners with that impression. The fact that she is an experienced judicial educator and was a fellow at the Commonwealth Juridical Educational Institute lent credence to her observations.

Her first criticism had to do with the many multi-degreed people in the island who she called “selfish, inconsiderate, greedy, uncaring and amoral…[They] lack the empathetic bonds necessary to make them valuable people.” (Newsday, January 9).
This characterization suggests that the acquisition of several degrees does not make one a better or more responsible person. It simply cultivates a desire to look out for oneself at the expense of others. A multi-certificated person may be skilled in the intricacy of a profession but that does not make her an educated person or a conscientious citizen.

The president qualified her statement by placing much of the blame on the educational system rather than on the individual who is a product of that system. She says: “The education system must be re-thought to have any chance of producing the individuals that we want and need to lead this country into the future….[The school curriculum] is not delivering the individuals we need to build this nation. ”

The president counterpoised this amorality and dishonesty amongst our multi-degreed citizens with a call to cultivate citizens who are generous (she might have said magnanimous), compassionate and patriotic. She warned the six students who won presidential academic medals and by extension those who are striving to be future winners to refrain from becoming “lazy and dishonest.”

She expressed a major foreboding about our graduating students and citizens in general: “People who lament the ‘state’ of the society must remember society is a mirror reflecting the people’s collective attitudes, practices and principles….Many students [and citizens] had a sense of entitlement and wanted maximum return for minimum effort.”

The president recalled that a “dinosaur like herself remembered a primary school diet of patriotic songs and pledges.” She said that “the old school methodology helped her and people to understand, where we are going, and where we wanted to go as a nation.”

This ideological aspect of her education was the more pertinent aspect of her message. British colonialists and serious nations understand that apart from the content of a society’s education, the ideology (a system of beliefs and practices) that informs it is the more relevant aspect of the process. It leaves an indelible impression on a citizen’s mind and makes the information that is transmitted to the learner more meaningful.

An educated person is someone who acts in a purposeful manner in his society. He may possess abundant skills, but he may not be a considerate, honest, patriotic person. He may even be well paid for his skills, but as a Somali taxi driver in London informed me on Tuesday: “A man may make money, but money does not make the man.” The Great Book puts it in an even more succinct manner: “A man shall not live by bread alone.”

A good teacher should be well trained before he can be convinced about the importance of his profession to the spiritual development of his people. Our teachers should be acquainted with the various education reports that were produced along the way about our educational system. Without knowledge of the past a professional can make little sense of the present or even understand our future needs. He’s like a blind man stumbling in the dark.

No student should go through our educational system without having knowledge of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and the Yoruba religions. This is where many of our citizens live: in their various religions. Instead of emphasizing “all of we are one” we should concentrate on what makes each of us who he is. Jayz reminded David Letterman in a recent interview: “The more I know about you, the more I can relate to you.”

The role and rewards of companies are just as important in shaping the behavior of our children and professionals. Companies that keep on making millions in profits through devious means are not the best examples to our citizens. Perhaps our president can turn her attention to them in her next national address.

A degree may give someone a few mechanical skills, but it cannot make him a responsible, ethical, and conscientious human being. When our education system sets aside time each day to inculcate moral values in its students, our communication media devote more time outlining the content of desirable civic behavior, and our juridical, medical, political, educational and theological leaders act in a moral way, then we can say we are on the road to social and moral recovery.

In this context, T&T’s support of Nicolas Madero’s illegitimate presidency sends a disturbing and dangerous signal to our citizens at home and abroad. This, action, too, says a lot to the kind of citizens we create.

9 thoughts on “What Constitutes an Educated Trini?”

  1. Selwyn Cudjoe writes a colum about education and the need to inculcate moral values in our students, and yet the closing paragraph of his article shows how willing he is to bend truth for political purposes. He speaks of “T&T’s support of Nicolas Madero’s illegitimate presidency”. It’s like a Trumpian misinformation. Where does he get “T&T’s support for Nicolas Madero”? And if he wants to write an article on Madero’s illegitimate presidency don’t sneak it in the last line, write a complete article so we can see the reasoning behind it, why it is an “illegitimate presidency”. Why support Trump in this matter, and if you are speaking about morality and foreign policy, why the silence over Brazil’s Bolsanaro?
    It shows the kind of political opportunism that Cudjoe is becoming know for. Why write an article on the need for morality in education and then close with that comment. Obviously the whole article was being used just to interject that comment. It is a typical smartman move. The smartman foreign policy is showing up now quite frequently in the Express. Let analyse that foreign policy position, here sneaked in by Cudjoe. The UNC/Express/Cudjoe smartman (or smartwoman) foreign policy is so obviously tainted by its attempt to dupe people that it is laughable. They are talking about foreign policy in general but concerned about one country – Venezuela. So although the Express lays out what it says is the basis of T&T and the Caribbean’s foreign policy – Non-alignment, it contradicts this by claiming that in some way we are not sufficiently aligned. It never explicitly says who we should be aligned with but it implies that we should be aligned with opposition forces and the US against Russia. Even while in America, the intelligence apparatus there is questioning if Trump works for Putin, here the UNC/Express wants us to align ourselves with one side, with Trump. My humble advice is to take a good look at what happened to Syria and stay out of that commess. Remember the Kurds. Stick to being Non-aligned, it has served us well over the years. The Caribbean, in general, can boast of being truly democratic, let’s continue to let our democratic values and history speak for us and not wander foolishly into places where the political history is different (and dangerous) just because the UNC/Express/Cudjoe want to play political games.

    1. “British colonialists and serious nations understand that apart from the content of a society’s education, the ideology (a system of beliefs and practices) that informs it is the more relevant aspect of the process.” Selwyn Cudjoe. But here we are talking about education, and in particular higher education. Higher education is about thinking critically, examining things rationally, questioning our pre-suppositions, it cannot be about indoctrination, about imbuing an ideology wholeheartedly; that would be indoctrination not education. President Paula-Mae Weekes’ comments about education are not about ideology, they are about inculcation of values that are meaningful and human, self-evident truths. It’s those “self-evident truths” that the US Declaration of Independence also based its ideas on; it is not about ideology. The educated person should think critically about information; is it factual or propaganda? Is it true? He or she should not believe, without critically assessing it, any information about the world that is presented to him or her. Is the news we are presented with factual or is it propaganda? The educated person should think critically about the moral foundations of any ideology. Is the neoliberal capitalism of Paul Ryan more moral than the democratic socialism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Is a system that leads to a few people becoming vastly wealthy while the rest of society lives hand to mouth more morally justifiable than a system where the wealth created in the society is more evenly shared? Is the political situation in Honduras any morally better than that in Venezuela? What about Haiti? What about Brazil? I am just asking the questions, the educated person must come up with the answers and justify them rationally. To commit to an ideology is to accept a system of presuppositions and to accept readymade answers. That of course is all right and perhaps inescapable but it does not satisfy the quest for truth that the educated man must serve. As Socrates put it a long time ago, wisdom consists of knowing that you don’t know. So we have to stick with, and with a measure of epistemological humility, those “self-evident” truths that President Paula-Mae Weekes may have been alluding to, as it applies to us in our everydayness as human beings. Not ideology, which of course we can commit to, but only after we acknowledge that it is only, at best, a halfway house to truth.

  2. Not knowing is what constitutes an Educated Trini. Statements by both the lady President and Mr Cujoe , shows how inept some of us are . Can you imagine Colonial concepts are still being used in this day ? after 50+ yrs of political Trash talking ,the Educational system have remained the same, the lady Pres came through this very same Educational or Mis-Educational system . Todays,Political statements says that no Student should go through early school age without knowing the different belief systems, wasn’t early Trinidad Education Christian ? the Morals of Hinduism and Yaruoba never got close to the blackboard , we all know the reason . Colonial/Trini education is all about controlling the Mind , some believe having a Bs , new day seventh standard school certificate or a PHD , which is a “permanent head disease” piece of paper makes he/she that exemplary individual.Teachers can never educate , but can put in the hands , some of the tools needed for that educational life journey . if one should use our Sister Island Jamaica as a bench mark , Trinidad comes across as very Mis-educated , The twin state nation is highly polarized in all of its societal arms , is that Education ? Some sit in their high towers and make callus statements just to hear themselves talk . Dr Cujoe , do you agree that Trinidad’ society reflects any collective attitudes , principles and practices ? the Lady President , coming out of the Judiciary was in a position to do some good , hundreds of young black and indian young men and women were , and are still being destroyed by the system under her watch, when ever we point a finger at some one or thing, theres four pointing in return , every one must , and should educate his/her self individually , it definitely have to start within . Dr Cujoe , you are totally wrong with your anti Madero statement , as a professor, i thought that you would have been the one to give us an analytical view on the Venezuela crisis and who or what created it , but no, you came across as an American lackey , making your pitch for the empire . This is morally disingenuous, but then again, some Trini’ go to their final place of torment , believing that He/She is Educated .

  3. An educated person is someone whose level of enlightenment is such that they are able to serve humanity. Education when rightly constructed should create thinkers, entrepreneurs, developers, engineers,workers, lawyer, teachers, doctors etc.

    To build a nation and to grow the economy requires a solid well rounded educated class of citizens.

  4. The reaction of the Education Minister to the President’s comments proves without any doubt that our situation is hopeless.
    This Education Minister responded to the President’s call for education reform by confidently exclaiming that, in the future, his department intends to stress literacy, numeracy and, would you believe, Penmanship!
    Does he really understand the educational challenges of the future?

  5. A chronic problem exists in the education system in Trinidad and Tobago. I am not afraid to say I was schooled in Trinidad many years ago as a youth. This was over 30 years ago. Sadly, when I read articles like this, it is an indictment of a failed system. I am an instructor today, and I see the need for earnest dialogue on the state of Education in Trinidad and Tobago, by educators and the public, rather than a debate on new articles about the state of education! This is the next step. This is desperately needed if the nation is to first pull its boot straps up, and dust itself off from the debris of chaos, incompetence, and failure, and move into a dynamic sphere of learning. President Weeks’ recognizes the symptoms of this problem many times over, but it must be addressed and dealt with more adequately.

    1. It is a failed system because it caters to approximately top 20% of traditional learners like you who excel in rote learning situations and later, because of your foreign training and experience, excel in any type of learning situation. Discipline, character building, civic responsibility and morality were probably lessons learned at home.

      The education system is failing the majority of “different learners” who require a more holistic and comprehensive approach.

  6. When a university graduate cannot tell the time on looking at an analogue clock but can do so on a digital one then you definitely know there is a problem, even worse when trying to interpret military time. The acquisition of a number of letters behind your name does not really say that you are highly educated. The true meaning is when you can use the training and skill sets developed during training and apply it to problem solving in your place of employment. For the academics in a learned environment is to keep an update in developments in your field of endeavour. How many doctors sill have the approach that a red sweet drink can help you in some ills? Like the above – time waiteth for no man.

    The President who is supposedly to be neutral in her comments is well within her rights to identify a problem as she sees it especially when it impacts on our watchwords of discipline, production and tolerance.

    Despite the laid back attitude of some Trinis it is amazing that some of them when working in a different environment (first world) are literally miles ahead of some of their counterparts. The question begs why can’t the same happen here? Some of the bloggers tend do go back into history to explain but all of us came through the same route including the President of our Republic. The answer is simple. Stop copy-catting what is taking place in developed countries and develop the much needed curriculum for our growth and development. I really do not wish to go back to Biotechnology implementation at the defunct Caroni (1975) Ltd. Sadly, had the restructuring into separate cost centres and parallel to that the diversification both agricultural and industrial took place, this company would not only have been the bread basket for the nation but the entire Caribbean.

    How can you honour the watch word of discipline when you have to talk about measures of praedial larceny?

    Cudos to you Madam President and a speedy recovery to our Commissioner of Police in fulfilling their respective duties at best.

  7. It is never too late to make changes to expand and improve our understanding of existence. Education is at the foundation of all human interaction. From a mother’s milk, her cuddling embrace, lullabies, language development, numeracy, family, social, cultural and religious mores, each individual begins to experience the journey of life. Thus, mothers are traditionally our first educators. As we move into formal education systems, public or private, those in authority control most of what we learn and define our measures of success through their grading and assessment systems. In order to prepare a nation for effective and efficient nation building, education should be tailored to meet economic and social development needs. Food and nutrition science, health and wellness, exercise and recreation, broad, yet targeted curricula all can play a role in producing the technicians and workers for successful nation building. However, no amount of academic and technical skills will lead to true development without a foundation in virtue (right from wrong) which is what the president may have been referring to as she highlighted her own teaching experience at the law school. Everyday brings a new opportunity to learn, serve and improve. #VISION2050

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