On Tuesday, I exposed the lack of reason contained in January 26’s Sunday Gleaner editorial supporting conclusions drawn from a flawed police sponsored survey to the effect that some schools create criminals.

That editorial was bad enough.  In the same edition of the Gleaner, Booklist Boyne delivered absurdity’s pin-up disguised as a newspaper column.  From the outset, he produced this most imbecilic premise: “What’s all this fuss from school principals about their schools being ‘maligned’ because a research report shows that some criminals come from predominantly non-traditional high schools?

How pathetic is this?  Let me count the ways.  First off, NOBODY “comes from” any school.  We ALL “come from” one creator, God.  We travel here via the magic of conception followed by nine months of adjustment to shake off the jet lag.  If you don’t want to go so deeply into philosophy, most persons answer the question “Where do you come from?” geographically.  I “come from” St Andrew.  My father came from Westmoreland.  Our characters are shaped at home (where we “come from”) whether we’ve resident parents or not.  Eventually we attend school where we’re supposed to be educated for life but where any violent nature we may have learned at home is never curbed because of fear of being reported to the Ministry or of reprisal from relatives of a violence-prone child.

Schools build character from the foundation laid at home by presenting specific challenges to students.  Schools don’t form character.  Criminals don’t “come from” schools.  Criminals come from home; attend schools; and usually leave before the school has had an opportunity to make a significant impact.

Casting aside any pretence at “civil debate” in a lengthy section abusing JTA President Mark Nicely for defending the schools singled out, Booklist delivers himself of the following:

What the dickens is Nicely denying? What all of us already know anecdotally? We all knew that poverty breeds crime and that most blue-collar criminals come from inner-city communities and schools nearest those communities. Duh!

Duh, indeed.  Sounding very much like Archie’s friend Moose but not as bright, Booklist actually wrote “poverty breeds crime” as if it was a trite statement of incontrovertible fact.  In reality, it’s a shameful, elitist, ignorant non-sequitur with which members of the upper crust console themselves from the ivory towers of their profligate lives without a minute to spare on those less fortunate.

Poverty breeds crime about as often as Everald Warmington makes sense.  Dudus was born into a wealthy family.  He attended Ardenne.  He learned criminality was the way to continue building the family dynasty at home NOT at Ardenne.  Booklist lambasts school principals for critiquing his masters’ propaganda without reading the report as if he knows who read it and who didn’t.  But if reading the report results in the type of thinking exposed by Booklist’s January 26 calamity (“On School Prison link – Principals in Denial”) then congratulations to Mr Nicely if in fact he didn’t read it.

As a poverty-stricken son of a teacher man (not “preacherman”), I knew from early in life that, if I didn’t study my books and pass with flying colours, my schooling would abruptly end.  So I eschewed the parties, church socials and general gallivanting on the road and did my homework instead.  Consequently, I won a “Government Scholarship” at the Common Entrance exam while many others formed the fool; failed Common Entrance; and depended on Mummy or Daddy to place them in high school somehow.  My special scholarship also paid for books and gave me weekly pocket money.  Then the great Michael Manley recognised the path to growth for a poor country lay in the development of its human capital and announced Free Education.

So, with the assistance of my own hard work and flashes of brilliant government policy, I started in poverty but never once considered turning to crime until I read such dastardly drivel from a self-styled “intellectual” like Booklist Boyne about poverty breeding crime.  He has insulted every single Jamaican (and there are thousands) who’ve pulled themselves out of poverty by grim determination and hard work and made something of their lives.

In my April, 2013 column on crime reduction, I advocated for a complete revamp of the education system.  This survey is being used to try to limit that need to ordering police intervention in certain named schools.  It’s being used to shift the responsibility for crime reduction from government to some schools.  This is utterly shameful.  In April 2013, I asked for a new curriculum to be developed based on polls done of students and teachers in school NOT of hardened criminals who learned their criminal trade outside of schools.  I lamented the levels of violence in our schools and advocated PALS plus compulsory subjects like music, chess and bridge to help students acquire dispute resolution skills.  Finally, I advocated for the presence of police liaisons in ALL schools so that a natural trust of the police could be developed over time.  Additional forces could be added as required by situational concerns in any school.  I DID NOT support the targeting of specific schools because many current inmates once spent time there.

While I was at a non-traditional secondary school, a classmate of mine, a mischievous chap from a very wealthy family, felt he didn’t have to do any academic work.  He was regularly expelled.  After each expulsion, he would visit the Headmaster. “Ian” the headmaster would say (name changed to protect the guilty) “I’ve tried my best with you.  I can’t manage you anymore.  Maybe another school will be able to get you to fulfil your potential.” 

Ian replied “I understand sir.  I’m not here to quarrel. I only want to arrange a mutually convenient day and time for my father’s workmen to come for his water cooler that he donated to the school last term.”  Ian was re-instated and went on to become a very successful professional thanks to the out-of-the-box methods of teaching used at that fine Institution.  Ian came to school with an attitude and left with an education.  He wasn’t a dropout.

So, don’t write hogwash about poverty breeding crime (“Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of God” Luke 6:20) or schools creating criminals.  Criminals breed criminals and violence begets violence.  Persons socialized in taking advantage of the weak may become criminals whether poor or rich and regardless of school attended.

Booklist, in full defence of the defenceless mode: “The JTA president, according to an Observer report, talked about the socio-economic environment from which those students come, the need for social intervention in those communities, etc. Indeed. BUT THAT’S IRRELEVANT [my emphasis]. The study nowhere makes the point that it’s the schools themselves which are producing criminals. The study doesn’t locate the problem in the schools. The study simply says that’s where we can find and intercept those most likely to commit crimes. Commonsensical.

Surely you jest, Booklist?  Commonsensical? More like common crap.  Community intervention irrelevant?  Really?  Seriously?  How desperate are you to suck up to whatever the government of the day says?

If the study wasn’t saying that these schools produced criminals WHY WERE THE SCHOOLS NAMED?  If the study wasn’t for the purpose of locating the problem, WHY WAS IT DONE AT ALL?  What did it conclude according to Booklist?  You show me, Booklist, if you can, where in that study definitively identified places other than schools are highlighted as where criminality is bred.  Where do you say the study located the problem?    

You present yourself to the public as an independent and competent analyst.  Your responsibility to your readers is to refrain from inanities like “The study simply says that’s where we can find and intercept those most likely to commit crimes” without quoting from the study to support that smoke and mirrors trick.  Since almost everyone attends school at one time or another, nobody needs a study to tell anybody that “we can find and intercept those most likely to commit crimes” in schools which is a world apart from concluding they were made into criminals by the school.  We can find almost EVERYBODY in school.  Somebody, most likely to do something, will surely be found in school.

If I took what the study said literally, I wouldn’t be finding and intercepting anybody in schools since, according to the study, most criminals are dropouts. We don’t need any study to tell us that ALL schools need violence avoidance interventions.  It’s time Government mans up and accepts its responsibilities including crime reduction.  Leave our schools out of it.

Peace and Love

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