ACADEMICS and activists believe it was overdue for local and regional history to be introduced to the school curriculum. They also agree it is time people had open discussions on societal issues in order that TT society can grow.
These and other topics were discussed over the weekend during the Bocas Lit Fest discussion on The Legacies of 1970 with writer, historian, and archaeologist Chike Pilgrim; artist, academic and activist, Amílcar Sanatan; and writer and activist, Attillah Springer who is also the daughter of poet, playwright and cultural activist, Eintou Pearl Springer.
The discussion was chaired by Sunity Maharaj, journalist and managing director of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies. Pilgrim believes it is time to formalise the “traditions” (uprisings and revolutions) of the 1930s, 1950s, 1970s, 1990s and include them to the history syllabus of the public education system. Discussions of race, class, gender and other issues have been happening in the Caribbean for hundreds of years so, he believes, they should be included in the school syllabus despite what side of the topic people are on.
“I don’t think that the youth should be grappling in a moment like this (the Black Lives Matter Movement) to find some kind of place within the tradition. We shouldn’t be re-creating the wheel.”
Maharaj agreed saying the public education system put everyone on an equal playing field as people go to the same place to learn the same thing. Society invests in the system – teachers, buildings, equipment, and more – so if it is flawed, it should be challenged.
She added that with online schooling due to covid19, the inequities of individual lives is now in the “pandemic classroom” with some not having access to working devices, distractions in the home, and other issues.
Springer argued that people no longer need the Ministry of Education to learn. While she hopes the State would understand the importance of teaching local histories “at some point,” she said people like themselves have the power to set up their own digital platforms to educate others.
However, Maharaj questioned self-education, especially on the internet because the network used algorithms. Therefore, if a person searched for one particular thing, suggestions for more information along the same line would be given. She is concerned that a person would learn only one aspect of a story, which would put them in a bubble and they may begin to believe everyone thought in that particular way.
Sanatan added that everyone may not have access to formal education so people should use their platforms to raise awareness around issues. He suggested those without access also read the newspapers, blogs, and extended Twitter posts, and that commentaries should have a public format and pamphlets should be distributed in public spaces.
Social media is another way to move ideas and connect to people. Springer agreed but said there is a lot of “noise” on social media so does not feel it is the best way to have those kinds of discussions. “You’re competing with people who have this hyper, fantastic idea of what Africa is, and what Pan-Africanism looks like and that is feeding into a very hyper-vigilant policing of people’s language.”
She also does not like the idea of people having conversations about issues because they are fashionable when they did not want to get involved previously.
Pilgrim disagreed. He said he jumped on bandwagons many times and it led him to gravitating to different issues. He said if open discussions were not constantly being had, and within society’s framework, there could be a disconnect with the people who were most affected by the issues. Another result could be people not knowing how to express themselves which could lead to violence.
Sanatan concurred that societal framework is important. He said context is necessary in any discussion and stressed that one can not take a discussion from one part of the world and wholly transplant it somewhere else.