Jeff_Cumberbatch

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – The Blackboard Jungle II

Joshua Y. Edwards: They don’t even know their multiplication tables.

Jim Murdock: Of course not. All they can multiply is themselves.

Joshua Y. Edwards: Well, how will they ever graduate?

Jim Murdock: Graduate? They just get to be 18. Then they throw them out to make room for more of the same kind. –Dialogue between teachers in the film “Blackboard Jungle” [1955]

The average Barbadian might be forgiven for thinking that the contemporary local classroom has indeed been transformed into a variety of a blackboard jungle befitting the 1955 film of the same name. What other conclusion may be drawn after hearing the words of Ms Mary-Anne Redman, president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union [BSTU] who recounted incidents of drug abuse, ineffective methods of discipline and an increasing prevalence of student misconduct in the nation’s schools?

Then, by midweek, the sister union of the BSTU, the BUT, had publicly “declared war” on the Minister and Ministry of Education, although most observers remain puzzled as to the “casus belli”. Ostensibly, it was alleged to be the failure/refusal of the Minister to meet with the Union, although his parliamentary secretary has refuted this assertion, citing occasions of no fewer than, as he termed it, “several times in the last few months”.

If this is not denied, it may be a case of the union falling victim to a condition that seems to afflict most Barbadians -that of needing to resort to the very highest official only in an organization in order to have a problem resolved. The bus service in your area is not running to schedule? Call Brass Tacks to have the minister himself come on air to explain this anomaly. Industrial dispute? Only the Prime Minister himself can settle this.

In my brief tenure as Chairman at the Fair Trading Commission, I have received written complaints on matters that would be far more quickly and more effectively resolved by the highly competent staff of the Commission than by myself. I imagine that the Minister himself must have been similarly approached. Thus, carrying its complaints to the Education Officers in the Ministry will not appease the union; no less prominent an individual than the minister himself will do. This “Referral to the Big Chief” tradition may be culturally ingrained.

It may also be, though, that industrial warfare by the BUT had commenced much earlier than on its official announcement this week. For example, the BUT has decided to hold meetings of its membership during school hours, and has challenged the Ministry’s right to record the absence from duty of some teachers, presumably for the purpose of assessing their entitlement to salary. While the ILO jurisprudence on freedom of association for trades union purposes does allow for access by a workers’ organization to its constituent members as part of its right to collective bargaining under Convention No. 98, it also holds that this “should not impair the efficient operation of the undertaking concerned”. It is at least arguable that a union meeting on a school day does serve to impair the efficient operation of the school system.

At the same time, it has also been held that a teacher’s salary does not accrue minute-by-minute, but rather day-by-day, so that there should be no official docking of salary unless the teacher is absent for the entire day or, at least, a substantial part of it.

More nettlesome, however, is the recent declaration by the BUT of its intention to institute a work-to-rule strategy through its members, whereby teachers will be on the job from 8:45am to 3pm only. While such action, I imagine, would be in strict accordance with their contractual obligations, this is also commonly regarded legally as a form of industrial action and a breach of contract if done with an improper motive.

Moreover, this strategy increases the potential for liability of the school authorities for any injury caused to a pupil that could have been avoided had there been adequate supervision. That a duty of care is owed to pupils who are known to arrive early or to leave late is scarcely in dispute, and the performance of this duty is traditionally delegated to the teaching staff. Nonetheless, it remains fundamentally the responsibility of the school itself and, if in the absence of performance of this function, reasonably avoidable injury result should to a child, the school would be held liable.

It does not end there. The minister himself, in a thinly veiled reference to the teaching fraternity/sorority, yesterday declared that in his opinion, flogging is not discipline, but amounts to a criminal assault on the child victim for which the perpetrator “should be taken before the courts and jailed if found guilty…”

As a matter of law, while Mr Jones’ premise that flogging constitutes an assault or strictly speaking, a battery, on the victim, is correct, there also exists the defence at common law of reasonable chastisement. In addition, this form of punishment is also permitted by statute in Barbados; so long as certain stipulated individuals carry it out.

Not that Barbados has any moral right to urge censorship of the practice at this stage. At the last Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council in 2015, Barbados is listed among those states that rejected recommendations to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, joining such paragons of human rights observance as Albania, Brunei, Somalia, Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia. We like it so!

See http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/assets/pdfs/tb-upr-analyses/UPR%20analysis%20global, %20all%20states.pdf

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27 Comments on “The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – The Blackboard Jungle II”

  1. Caswell Franklyn May 8, 2016 at 6:47 AM #

    I wrote the following on Facebook in response to a comment and I think it is applicable here:

    Jerome, You seem not to understand what Jones is trying to do. You should recall his statement about cracking heads and shooting people. All he is trying to do here is to create a gentler kinder Jones in the eyes of the public, but I think that he is going to find it ever more difficult if he continues talking. Nobody seems to like him so whenever he speaks, people always take away the negative aspect of his speech. In this case, he happens to be partly right. The Education Act gives principals and some senior teachers with the permission of the principal the right to flog. Teachers outside that narrow band who flog children would be in breach of the law and would have literally assaulted those children, which is a crime.

    Like

  2. Well Well & Consequences May 8, 2016 at 7:01 AM #

    Glad to see it’s coming back to bite them all, when they are well aware there are laws and legislations governing their actions, but they take delight and psychotic pleasure in conveniently ignore them when it’s to demoralize, demean and dehumanize children.

    Now they all look like asses.

    Same narrow-minded, small-minded, petty things the leaders and civil servants do to the adult population on a daily basis.

    Like

  3. David May 8, 2016 at 7:16 AM #

    @Jeff

    In my brief tenure as Chairman at the Fair Trading Commission, I have received written complaints on matters that would be far more quickly and more effectively resolved by the highly competent staff of the Commission than by myself. I imagine that the Minister himself must have been similarly approached. Thus, carrying its complaints to the Education Officers in the Ministry will not appease the union; no less prominent an individual than the minister himself will do. This “Referral to the Big Chief” tradition may be culturally ingrained.

    A challenge to the above point. Suspect a request from you will get a priority response based on the position you hold and the relationship you have with the FTC staff. Requests from members of the general public will be prioritized behind yours (not that you approve)as well as the consequence of volume.

    Like

  4. Exclaimer May 8, 2016 at 7:38 AM #

    Jeff,

    I believe that we need to re-evaluate the purpose of schooling our young children and young adults.

    At present we school our children for a period between ten to fifth teen years? A society is considered fortunate if it raises a generation who are 100% literate and numerate. It is what we in Barbados take pride in. We have a near 100% literacy rate in our country but what purpose has it served? I would argue that it has served none; on the contrary, it has made us a more foolish people.

    We set the bar extremely low. We all know that there are good and bad schools. It is a fact that a high-achieving pupil studying at a bad school will always be at a disadvantage in terms of life opportunities when pitted against a low-achieving pupil at good school with a privileged background. Has it not always been thus?

    What point does it serve investing ten plus years on young children if we as a society have no interest in creating a future of hope for these youngsters? What are the alternatives to this obsolete education system that we have endured over such a long period?

    The field of education is political. The interest of the pupils is but secondary.

    Here is an old film classic, shot in London, featuring Sidney Poitier: To Sir, with Love.

    http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=To+Sir%2c+with+Love&&view=detail&mid=CFBEEE7B3AD47D4E69A7CFBEEE7B3AD47D4E69A7&rvsmid=CFBEEE7B3AD47D4E69A7CFBEEE7B3AD47D4E69A7&fsscr=0&FORM=VDFSRV

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  5. ac May 8, 2016 at 7:45 AM #

    There is a little bit of overreach on the issue of discipline where there should be a difference between abuse and flogging In principle although the actions seem similar there must be substantial evidence of a carried out action that is attributable that has caused harm or damage to an individual in reference to flogging
    Calling for jail time attributed to flogging is an extreme form of punishment and in itself is disproportionately unfair.Preferably as a society dialogouge on the issue should be tempered through language of intelligent conversation , Reactionary tones and methods does nothing but cause further discord and annoyances given reasons to recede

    Like

  6. Observing May 8, 2016 at 7:49 AM #

    @Jeff
    The week was worth the wait. Another fine piece. My quick comments.

    People resort to the head honcho because of a belief that the underlings are too biased or too incompetent. Sometimes the head honcho has to stand firm and kick it back down the line. Like um or lump um.

    The leadership of the BUT is misguided, misinformed and mostly misled. I hope they heed your advice on legal liability in the event of injury, the ability to dock “part or a portion of a day’s pay” and the absolute absurdity and possible illegality (depending on circumstance) of “work to rule” in a teaching environment. Imho the whole executive should resign and call fresh elections, let the teachers determine their own mandate rather than this confused mess.

    Where Jones’ comments are concerned we must always remember…..politician first, anything else after!

    The circus continues!!!

    Just observing

    Like

  7. Sargeant May 8, 2016 at 8:30 AM #

    I am also perplexed as to the “casus belli”, If the leadership of that Union can’t provide a coherent reason for its stance they should be turfed at the next General election, they are conveying the impression that the donkey is driving the cart. How can the students they are supposed to lead look up to them?

    Ah Corporal punishment! Why do we cling to this remnant from the days of Massa? Who will pop that boil on the nation’s ass? Next time they burn “Mr. Harding” the symbolic rods should be part of the pyre.

    Like

  8. David May 8, 2016 at 8:44 AM #

    @Sargeant and Observing

    There is a role for leaders;simple one, they must lead.

    Like

  9. TheGazer May 8, 2016 at 8:57 AM #

    Sadly, whilst a crook may be able to act as honest man for a period of time a honest man cannot play the part of a crook for any length of time. It is not my intent to cast aspersions on a whole group of people so let me transition from what Jeff was describing to the general situation.

    There are several reasons why folks might bypass the underlings and go the big chief. Despite their titles or positions, these underlings may (1) have to route the matter to the big chief anyway so that time spent in dickering with the underlings may only prolong solving the problem; (2) it is known that decisions made by the underlings are subject to a review by the big boss and those decisions can be reversed or nullified; (3) this may not be applicable in this situation, but why grease the whole chain of command when you can just pay the general (4) or is it that everybody knows somebody and the proof of this is by skipping over the underlings and going to the top.

    Quite often people actions are according to how they acted in the past or according to what others tell them is the way to conduct business. Back to the situation at hand – perhaps there may be a need to remind the public of what the processes are; reality and perception may be quite different.

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  10. TheGazer May 8, 2016 at 8:59 AM #

    Whilst a crook may be able to act as honest man for a period of time, a honest man cannot play the part of a crook for any length of time.

    This may not be a bad thing, hence the removal of “sadly’

    Like

  11. millertheanunnaki May 8, 2016 at 9:29 AM #

    @ Jeff:
    “Not that Barbados has any moral right to urge censorship of the practice at this stage. At the last Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council in 2015, Barbados is listed among those states that rejected recommendations to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, joining such paragons of human rights observance as Albania, Brunei, Somalia, Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia. We like it so!”

    How does that “we like it so” position square with the same Barbados ratifying the Convention of the Rights of the Child” which specifically opposes corporal punishment?

    Isn’t the provision of the Education Act which permits corporal punishment against the intent of the Constitution in respect of cruel and inhuman(e) treatment of citizens?

    How come it is ok to ‘beat unruly schoolchildren’ as the law provides but the same law cannot be enforced where people found guilty of murder and a sentenced to death?
    Why this contradiction of enforcement?

    Like

  12. Well Well & Consequences May 8, 2016 at 9:34 AM #

    Not enforcing anything positive, particularly laws and legislation, has seen them arrive at that place.

    Like

  13. Jeff Cumberbatch May 8, 2016 at 9:39 AM #

    @David at 7:16 am,- I agree that that is the perception at least. Dr Attlee Brathwaite’s phone must probably ring off the hook daily then.

    @ Exclaimer at 7:38am -Thanks for the link. The basic. purpose of education is generally to create a more democratically participative citizen.You will note that it is often bemoaned by David and Bush Tea that our education system is failing even at this elemental level.

    @Observing at 7:49am -Thanks for your kind comments. Recall that the current leadership of the BUT was democratically elected and that there must be provision in its Constitution for a no-confidence motion, perhaps they too “like it so”.

    @ BU, Do we have a crisis of leadership at all levels?

    @ Gazer at 8:57am- Might it not be all owed to the political system we have where the Prime Minister, the man at the top, is seen, and constitutionally, rightly so, as the cappo di tutti cappi and thus every organization is perceived to be identicallly configured?

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  14. Jeff Cumberbatch May 8, 2016 at 9:48 AM #

    Miller, Our entire convention-ratification record and reasoning could form the subject of a major PhD thesis!

    The provision for corporal punishment does not necessarily conflict with the Constitution since it may be assumed that such punishment would be “reasonable” with respect to its nature, instrument of infliction and justification.

    As to the execution of the death penalty and some the barriers thereto, please read the current BU thread, The Death Penalty: Politics and Practicability

    Like

  15. millertheanunnaki May 8, 2016 at 10:20 AM #

    @ Jeff Cumberbatch May 8, 2016 at 9:48 AM
    “The provision for corporal punishment does not necessarily conflict with the Constitution since it may be assumed that such punishment would be “reasonable” with respect to its nature, instrument of infliction and justification.”

    And who is going to make that judgment of reasonableness? The principal, the parent or some mandarin at the MoE?

    Suppose the student feels the principal at the time of infliction of the corporal punishment was being unreasonably sadistic and retaliates by giving the principal a kick in the cojones or a cuff in her left mammary gland. What would the child be charged with? ABH or GBH?

    Why not amend the Act and remove any uncertainty or grey areas of the opportunity of principals to be sadistic or students to be violent as a form of interpreted self-defence?

    Barbados has not benefited from corporal punishment in schools. Unlike Singapore it does not score highly on the international league table of education achievement. Neither do the local crime statistics nor civic responsibilities manifest it benefits.

    Like

  16. Jeff Cumberbatch May 8, 2016 at 10:42 AM #

    The child would be charged and found guilty unless he or she can justify the assault on the principal.

    The determination of whether a constitutional right has been infringed is a matter for the High Court.

    (1) Subject to the provisions of subsection (6), if any person
    alleges that any of the provisions of sections 12 to 23 has been, is being or is likely to be contravened in relation to him (or, in the case of a person who is detained, if any other person alleges such a contravention in relation to the detained person), then, without prejudice to any other action with respect to the same matter which is lawfully available, that person (or that other person) may apply to the High Court for redress.

    I am at one with you on your recommendations for amendment!

    Like

  17. Hants May 8, 2016 at 12:06 PM #

    THE WORLD KNOWS.

    http://www.corpun.com/09archive/bbs00910.htm#21712

    Like

  18. de pedantic Dribbler May 8, 2016 at 12:26 PM #

    @Gazer and @Jeff…

    I was taken with point 3 &4 of Gazer post and then I saw your @Jeff’s comment re “the cappo di tutti cappi” and my original thought was reinforced.

    However I do not see it a function of the political system but of our societal system. None of us want to “… grease the whole chain of command when you can just pay the general”. And as we live daily it’s not what you know but who you know so ” everybody knows somebody and the proof of this is by skipping over the underlings and going to the top”.

    On the lighter side – or should that be on the darker side – as I boy I enjoyed the fantasy of a Mack Bolan novel and the Mafia. But as a man I realized that those news reports coming out of NY about “il cappo di tutti capp” Johh Gotti were quite real.

    He had these massive Fourth of July parties where he paid a a fete for 3000 or more people in his NY Queens neighborhood He was absolutely beloved. Going straight to the top to get a problem solved actually meant that someone could end up very dead.

    Poof, there went my fantasy!

    Like

  19. TheGazer May 8, 2016 at 2:13 PM #

    Hants link pointed to two old articles that I wish to provide comments on.

    “Lashes in school are nothing new. But I don’t feel it should have appeared in the paper,” the outspoken preacher said.”
    My comment: They want to beat your children, but they want to do it in secret. It is somewhat amusing that regardless of the topic being discussed, there is always someone who want to keep it out of the papers. If they want to touch your children. let them do so in public.

    “We’ve allowed it to get as it is. I see nothing wrong with corporal punishment,” he said, adding he never had to flog either of his daughters when they were growing up.”
    My comment: Everybody wants to hit your child, but will then state that they did not hit their own. What gives? Your spawn are demons and theirs are angel. If you are not hitting your own child then don’t you dare hit or advocate hitting someone else children.

    Like

  20. TheGazer May 8, 2016 at 2:19 PM #

    Hants link pointed to two old articles that I wish to provide comments on.

    “Lashes in school are nothing new. But I don’t feel it should have appeared in the paper,” the outspoken preacher said.”
    My comment: They want to beat your children, but they want to do so in secret, without the public knowing. It is somewhat amusing that regardless of the topic being discussed, there is always someone who want to keep it out of the papers. If they want to touch your children, then let them do so in public. If they are not shame of what they are doing, then let the whole world know

    “We’ve allowed it to get as it is. I see nothing wrong with corporal punishment,” he said, adding he never had to flog either of his daughters when they were growing up.”
    My comment: Everybody wants to hit your child, but will then state that they did not hit their own. What gives? Your spawn are demons and theirs are angel. If you are not hitting your own child then don’t you dare hit or advocate hitting someone else’s child.

    Like

  21. David May 8, 2016 at 7:24 PM #

    The reference to minister Jones’ comment about flogging should be assessed against the observation that he must be aware that his utterance conflicts with the current law. To focus on whether there should be flogging or not is to distract from the core issue. Ignoramuses are lose in the government.

    Like

  22. ac May 8, 2016 at 9:16 PM #

    not going to quibble as to whether discipline by flogging is a preferable form of punishment ,,However i would be wrong not to worry about most or many parenting skills administrated in this modern day society, a society where for the better part parents have become more accommodating to their jobs having little or no time for the job of full time parenting
    it would not be far fetched to reason that many of today’s parents are performing at a higher level of stress and therefore are at a high risk of becoming less tolerant and patient resulting in an over reaction by the method of flogging while discipline their children which can lead to child abuse
    Some of the ministers comments although harsh and abrasive sent a message to those who would dare take advantage of a child who cannot defend itself from the horrible scars and punishment left behind from flogging
    He was also right to demand from an educated society the need to find a smarter gentler and kinder ways when interacting with our nations children ,as he further pointed there was no need for children to be hollered into learning as it retards their mental capacity induced by fear

    Like

  23. Artax May 8, 2016 at 9:51 PM #

    ac May 8, 2016 at 7:45 AM #

    “Calling for jail time attributed to flogging is an extreme form of punishment and in itself is disproportionately unfair. Preferably as a society dialogue on the issue should be tempered through language of intelligent conversation, Reactionary tones and methods does nothing but cause further discord and annoyances given reasons to recede.”

    ac May 8, 2016 at 9:16 PM #

    “Some of the minister’s comments although harsh and abrasive sent a message to those who would dare take advantage of a child who cannot defend itself from the horrible scars and punishment left behind from flogging.
    He was also right to demand from an educated society the need to find a smarter gentler and kinder ways when interacting with our nation’s children, as he further pointed there was no need for children to be hollered into learning as it retards their mental capacity induced by fear…”

    @ ac

    Yard-fowlism at its very best.

    Were you reprimanded by Jones or any other DLP member after they read your 7:45AM comments?

    Were you asked to rewrite those comments in favour of Jones, as you did with the 9:16PM post, lest the DLP “put you out to pasture?”

    Like

  24. ac May 8, 2016 at 9:54 PM #

    lol you so crazy

    Like

  25. balance May 9, 2016 at 3:30 AM #

    “ac May 8, 2016 at 9:54 PM #

    lol you so crazy”
    is that feeble defence your only defence to your obvious flip flop to which they are many. You need to stop and think before you rush headlong like a raging bull in defence of the indefensible.

    Like

  26. ac May 9, 2016 at 5:38 AM #

    balanced i gave a fair and balance perspective of the ministers comments ,yes in the early comment i did make clear that in the discourse of engagement there should be unnecessary language of confrontation,
    the second comment clearly spoke within the context of discipline wherby i agree with the methods presented in the minister comment so what is so wrong with that
    the problem with blp operatives they are very harsh abrasive and judgmental having suspicions and forming conclusions to support their own political views about individuals who does not agree with them
    the statement by the minister if one is objective cast ridicule and forward solutions whether one agrees or not is entirely up to them
    i make no apologies for what i have said in both comments which btw are truthful in both criticism and support of the ministers comments

    Like

  27. Alvin Cummins May 14, 2016 at 11:06 AM #

    @Artax and Miller,
    The operative words in the Minister’s statement are”…and found guilty…”
    I keep telling you folk, we live in a society guided by laws and the rule of law. No one despite allegations made, can be punished any way, until, and unless, they have been tried in a court of law and found guilty.

    Like

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