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A return to values and attitudes

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, July 06, 2018

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OH dear, oh dear! How many of us from one end of the island to another were surprised recently to hear a call for the return of the Values and Attitudes Programme which was launched in the 1990s? Retired Prime Minister P J Patterson made the plea last weekend, as reported in this publication on Monday.

In 1994 there was a feeling at the time that many of us had lost our way. There were calls also for a return to decency and law and order. In the 90s, then Prime Minister Patterson proposed a “national strategy and programme of action to promote attitudinal change and social renewal”.

Wiser heads were brought together and a report recommended that the Government of the day should:

• institute social programmes to teach discipline, good manners and respect for self and country;

• sharpen communication skills;

• establish peer counselling groups to emphasise the positive use of role models, and mentoring programmes; as well as

• develop mediation skills by using peaceful conflict resolution.

This vision of a better Jamaica was rooted in the convictions of Patterson, who found his place on the Mona Campus of The University of the West Indies. He was one of those who passed up a flight to study in Mother England and chose, instead, to prove the Mona motif that the “sun also rose in the West”. The choice to study at the local university “proclaimed the value of the Caribbean” when some saw little need for unity with those around us.

Many years after his days on campus, Patterson found that Jamaican politics was not easy at all. Despite the best intentions, the Values and Attitudes Programme did not gain the traction which had been hoped for and, in time, it became a political football. It was fashionable to laugh it off and, despite the views that the society needed a push in the direction of positivity, the programme eventually came to an end.

Very little was heard of the concept until a relaunch in 2003. Once again we were facing calls for civics to be returned to schools and a need for boosting national pride. The values and attitudes idea was approached with fresh hopes. It was intended that public education on values and attitudes, and especially on parenting skills, were to be included in the school curriculum and the wider society. This would have included teacher-training workshops in values and attitudes education. It was also suggested that parent education programmes be conducted to train parents how to teach children respect for life and property, good manners, and to develop good work ethic.

Time went by again, and in 2012 the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Investment and Commerce launched the Jamaica Re-socialisation Programme (JRP) at The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. News reports stated that the JRP was designed to be a high-priority strategic intervention programme aimed at transforming the values and attitudes of the entire population with a special focus on students.

In 2016, Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid echoed similar sentiments with a promise to roll out a campaign to “promote good role models for children in school and the community, appoint values and attitude champions in schools and other organisations, involve parents, and engage the public using traditional and new media”. I am not sure what happened with that campaign or the JRP. Looking back at the efforts, some have asked the question: Why would we shirk from positive moments?

In his speech to the Rotary Club of Lucea, on Saturday night, Patterson pointed out that if we really want to see this change we must realise that it can't be a task for Government alone, and that it must involve the support of the people. It shouldn't matter which side of the fence the call comes from, we often say that things must change, and so we ask: Will we get moving and do the work?

Symbols and imagery

One idea which seeks to lift up our spirits is the practice of creating monuments and statues to those who have brought us honour. Focus has been placed on the athletes who have made the world respect us, but should they be the only persons celebrated in this way? There are many others who have made outstanding strides, shouldn't they also be recognised?

In 1996 focus was placed on how through cultural preservation and conservation we could improve our sense of self. Leading personalities were brought together to share talent and thought by way of a committee which looked at the value of national symbols and the response of the society. The committee pointed out that: “Unless the Jamaican people have a sense of belonging they are not likely to invest the hard work, the effort, the sacrifice, and the disciplined sustained application which a self-reliant, vibrant productive economy, and a viable democratic policy, demand.”

We are still working towards these goals. When we treat our symbols and institutions carelessly, and with little regard, we weaken the foundation on which we will build our future.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@yahoo.com.

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