Last week, two women in public life attracted my attention in deserving ways.
The first one, 37-year-old St Ann’s East MP Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, just emerged from a rowdy, name-calling election on October 10.
The second is 48-year-old US Appeal Court judge Ms Amy Coney Barrett, whom President Donald Trump nominated to the US Supreme Court, and now caught up in an increasingly bitter, divisive, million-dollar campaign towards November 3 elections.
Ms Gadsby-Dolly, previously Minister of Community Development, Culture and Arts, is now emerging as a passionate, dedicated-to-the-cause Minister of Education. We have been missing one for a long time.
Fashionable, quite articulate and energetic, the PhD-qualified seems to be fitting the mould day by day. (I lived some boyhood days in mango-infested St Ann’s East Quarry Road.) I publicly commended her when, a few days after the election, she published her phone numbers for easy access by constituents and other citizens. A continued pity that ministers have to execute the heavy demands of ministerial office, yet serve thousands of constituents who do not always understand ministerial pressures.
Dr Gadsby-Dolly’s shining moment came with her business-like budget speech last week. Obviously well read-up on the multitude of education policy reports, she seems to have captured the multi-sectoral partnerships required to help the system’s smooth sailing.
Frankly, this critical education system has suffered from so much that Dr Gadsby-Dolly will have to quickly buckle down with her technical team to achieve a great amount in the shortest possible time. Advice from Ms Hazel Manning will help.
In her budget speech, she listed about ten specific characteristics expected of today’s students – many of which were already articulated in the ministry’s Education Report (1968-83) but notably lapsed in fulfilment. Dr Gadsby-Dolly aims to correct that.
She should now obtain baseline measures and school-by-school benchmarks to make the system shine with credible progress and reputation. She outlined several troubling areas for policy review and priority. Among these are the SEA, curriculum, Concordat.
With a $8 billion budget, Parliament expects her to be scrutinised and accountable, an obligation carried out last week by UNC MP Dinesh Rambally. Intelligent and articulate as he is, the seeming shadow minister of education will be helped by the many education research and policy reports. As I saw last week, it will take much to pin down Minister Gadsby-Dolly.
Anyone here who listened to the 22-member US Senate Judiciary Committee questioning Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the US Supreme Court will naturally think of the different way in which we appoint our judges – High Court or Appeal Court. No public or parliamentary scrutiny. Even appointments to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) require no such scrutiny. Both local and CCJ judges are appointed by a Judicial and Legal Service Commission.
A Commonwealth handbook on judicial appointments asserts that while “judges should be independent, impartial, honest and competent,” the appointment process should have “clearly-defined and publicly-declared transparent criteria.”
Last week, the cable-television world witnessed what moved from media-seduced rhetoric to apparent harassment of Ms Barrett.
Of course, this is their constitutionally-cherished way to appoint judges. The Republican (majority) members were relatively gentle while the Democratic members (minority) sought to discredit Ms Barrett on tricky issues like white supremacy, racial justice, same-sex marriage, mixed marriages, abortion, the n-word, etc.
But the Catholic judge, knowingly self-empowered, took it with dignified posture – respectful and articulate.
"Are you against white supremacy?” one black Democratic senator asked her.
“Yes,” she curtly replied.
Again, she was tempted with this: “If you become a Supreme Court Judge, will you support President Trump’s wish to abolish the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare)?”
She carefully replied: “Senator, I have no agenda. Nobody spoke to me about that. I keep an open mind especially on matters that may appear before the Supreme Court.”
America’s polarised, but exceedingly transparent democracy was at noisy work.
Remarkably too, the media remained divided in the Trump vs Biden campaign with, for example, Fox television defiantly in Trump’s corner and NBC in Biden’s.
However, there is a sense of futility in all this. The Judicial Committee’s chairman insisted that his Republican majority will approve Trump’s nomination of Ms Barrett before the November 3 elections.
Whatever, Judge Barrett and Dr Gadsby-Dolly looked like "New Age" women.