Math terrified me. My friendly teacher once told the class that my frequent mistakes were okay; because it is by making mistakes that we learn. A cruel classmate set the room on fire with laughter when he remarked that, if so, I should be a math whiz by then. It’s actually quite funny, but it wasn’t fun for a 14-year-old kid, who learned more arithmetic in Spanish and writing class than math. So it would be surprising to my high school classmates that I love digital data so much.
Several investigations and reports over the past few weeks have given us food for thought. The first is that of a team from the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) led by Paul Bourne, its acting director of institutional research. Number two, of course, is that of the renowned Don Anderson. At the end of a previous report which showed that more than 70% of Jamaicans believed that the reintroduction of the death penalty would create a chilling effect and thus lead to a reduction in crime, apparently homicides, a higher number in the following report was opposed to the decriminalization of sodomy.
As important as it may be to some of my colleagues, this debate will have to be put on the back burner for now, as there is a crisis in the core segment that replicates the next generation; not just sexual minorities. Far more important is the fact that, as most of us in the behavioral sciences have warned, the socio-psychological impact of COVID-19 is now being felt, as adjustments during the pandemic have been detrimental to social relationships and could end up destroying many households.
Far from the myths about female-headed families and marginality, the reality is that nearly 10% of households are simply women living alone. As my esteemed friend and colleague, Professor Errol Miller, warned 30 years ago, men were in danger. With over 30% of places in Jamaican universities and colleges held by women, it was already clear that they would become more empowered in terms of status and funding faster than their male counterparts.
VEHICLE FOR UPWARD MOBILITY
Education is arguably the best vehicle for upward social mobility and lifts many families out of the clutches of poverty, although the current status of teachers’ conditions may seem contrary to this premise. In small, intimate spaces, status change can be a major issue. People with expanded minds and new perspectives sometimes have to make special efforts to let the outside in. Thus, the new doctor with his jargon proper to the discipline must understand that his less learned friends, with whom he used to cook chicken and eat butter cookies, are not his inferiors, even if they could the hype and call him ‘Doc’.
Undoubtedly, some “get rich and change”. They do this either simply by cutting ties, or by going to work, or in other places of secondary socialization, where they associate with their new “peers”. With the pandemic, this avenue and this vent have been closed. In the context of a 2021 Inter-American Development Bank study that found a 10.3% increase in Jamaican domestic violence since COVID-19, research by Bourne’s team noted that in areas rural, educated women were overrepresented among victims. Some 53.7% of women, both physically and emotionally abused by their partners, are among those 70% of students who continued their education after high school.
There’s nothing counterintuitive about the NCU team data. It makes perfect sense. Undoubtedly, we could choose to use sociological and psychological theories to explain this. However, on the ground, the reality is that even without the social distancing and confinement associated with COVID-19, the upward mobility of a partner can create tension. Given our cultural norms that men are “ministers of the spirit,” it is much more difficult for men to depend on others, including their teachers, to help them through their studies. In fact, among the just under 10% of women living in one-person households, or the 18% of female-headed households with no male residence, no less than half of them have partners. male, who provide some support.
Certainly, our socialization as men unfortunately makes us feel that the marriage license or the common law contract is a title deed, just like a car or a house. Now, at best, a relationship between a person who helps another to become ascension is at best a relationship of usufruct. A human cannot possess another. Slavery was abolished in 1838.
As my other former student and colleague Georgia Rose from the University of the West Indies, Montego Bay Campus, pointed out last week, COVID-19 has caused and continues to cause a myriad of social pathologies.
In a society where our men have been emasculated since slavery, taught poor intimacy skills, and have fragile masculinity, we need to pay close attention to how we raise our boys.
So you see why we need experienced teachers in the classroom.
Dr. Orville Taylor is chair of the sociology department at the University of the West Indies, radio show host, and author of “Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets.” Send your comments to [email protected] and [email protected]