Tue | Mar 28, 2023

Lascelve Graham | Sports given importance for wrong reason

Published:Tuesday | January 31, 2023 | 12:07 AM
This 2019 photo shows an aerial shot during the final day of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.
This 2019 photo shows an aerial shot during the final day of the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.
Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham
Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham
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“O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason!” a quote by Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar, a play by William Shakespeare. It may be more appropriate for Jamaica to say that men have lost their reason, integrity, their testicular fortitude, and their yearning to stand and do the right thing.

How long will it take for our leadership to understand, and act on the understanding, that if our country is going to move forward in a significant way, make a paradigm shift in our status, improve our standing in the world, then education/socialisation must be very highly valued, paramount, priority number one? This seems simple enough to be understood without needing the brain of a rocket scientist. There are a number of countries that are examples of this. Why then isn’t this the case in Jamaica? Why aren’t our politicians and leaders in education acting, behaving in ways that contribute to the above outcome? Whatever the reason, our priorities are skewed if we should be acting in the best interest of the great majority of our citizens.

Last year, the World Athletics Championships took place in Eugene, Oregon. Jamaica’s athletes did very well. Congratulations to them. In fact, the president of the IAAF, Lord Sebastian Coe, praised Jamaican schools for producing world-class athletes, and encouraged them to continue doing so!

Is that supposed to be the function, the mission of specialised public educational institutions?

It was also most noticeable that dark-skinned/black persons were over represented and dominant at these championships. Imagine, Britain, USA, France, Germany, Italy and Kazakhstan, etc, represented at the front by blacks! It was a similar situation in the recently concluded football World Cup in Qatar. This is so because having the fastest runners in the world, or the best footballers, does nothing to change the power relationships/structure in the world.

Dark-skinned people were always given more freedom in sports and entertainment. In fact, the white racist stereotype of dark-skinned people portrays them, among other things, as being very athletic, and as minstrels.

DIFFERENT MATTER

Education is a different matter, because this has a significant and almost immediate bearing on the power equation of the world. Yet in Jamaica, a country in which the overwhelming majority of the populace is dark-skinned, we are using our poorly resourced educational institutions as sports academies and clubs. The win-at-all-costs approach to sports, in too many of our schools, has seen the development of the scandalous practice of our schools going outside of Jamaica, as far as Africa I am told, to recruit talent for sports purposes, while Jamaican children cry out for quality educational opportunities!

Here, many of our public secondary schools recruit youngsters based on their sports ability, and although this is public knowledge, those involved still have the gall, the audacity to say they don’t recruit, that the children come to them and because these children have so much love for the school, they take them in. It just so happens that they are talented in sports. However, our politicians and leaders in education, at other times, do a big song and dance about corruption, scamming and anancyism in Jamaica.

Of course, at the same time there are large numbers of poor people’s children with tremendous talent and potential in mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, biology, languages and other academic, technical and vocational subjects. They are perforce shut out by the school, because it has limited space, or, for some other reason, have fallen through the cracks. Coming from the depths of the ghetto, they have made tremendous sacrifice, studied hard in an attempt to get into the school, based on the declared academic protocol so to do. Bear in mind that our specialised educational institutions (schools) are there to facilitate the development of our children in the academic, technical and vocational areas, while using sports and other extracurricular, co-curricular activities in a secondary but important role as socialising tools.

While all of this is happening, our prime minister keeps lamenting the lack of skilled workers in Jamaica and the need to import same. Once again, because of weak leadership and contorted thinking, we end up with a situation akin to the tail wagging the dog! Sports being given much more importance and prominence in our schools for the wrong reason.

OUT OF CONTROL

Jamaica is riddled with crime and violence, indiscipline and crudity is rife; so many of our children are out of control. This is the time to have all hands on deck with respect to inculcating the values, attitudes, behaviours, the pro-social mindset required by our society. This is the time for our agents of socialisation, especially our schools, to buckle down and focus intensely on the education and socialisation of our youth. However, what are our specialised educational/socialising institutions doing? They are heavily focused on winning at all costs in sports.

So, instead of sports being used as an inclusive, socialising tool for the benefit of all the students who legitimately qualify to be at a particular school, it is used almost exclusively for the highly talented, who are brought in, by any means necessary, from local and foreign sources to represent the school.

The crooked thinking of our leadership cannot fathom that the expectation is that all our children will be adult citizens. That it is more efficient and effective for the society if our specialised public educational/socialising institutions focus on their core tasks; and leave the intense competition, professionalisation in sports to sports academies and clubs. Our leadership fails to make the connection between the family, education/socialisation system, crime and violence, metal detectors and police. They refuse to see (and act accordingly) that if the family and the education/socialisation system are dysfunctional, then crime and violence will always be problematic in Jamaica. You can lead a horse (jackass) to water, but you can’t make him drink! There is none so blind as he who will not see!

Dr. Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham is a former captain of Jamaica’s senior football team. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.