Ousted: 1998 election heroine Jennifer Smith lost last night to the OBA’s Kenneth Bascome. Her successor as Education Minister faces big challenges ahead. *Photo by Alison Outerbridge
Ousted: 1998 election heroine Jennifer Smith lost last night to the OBA’s Kenneth Bascome. Her successor as Education Minister faces big challenges ahead. *Photo by Alison Outerbridge

TUESDAY, DEC. 18: Dear Bermuda,

At your earliest opportunity, please find your way to the nearest rest room and find a mirror.  Stand before it and take a long hard look. There you will find the source of Bermuda’s greatest problem. I know it seems like a cliché, but in my very strong opinion we have become our own worst enemy.  But don’t despair, because you are also looking at Bermuda’s best solution.

It would seem obvious at this stage that a certain type of politician has been inclined to exploit voters any way they can for their own self-interests.

But that certain type of politician has only got away with such skullduggery, because we allowed them to. Somehow we allowed ourselves to be seduced by party politics, and confused the success of a political party with the success of the country. At some point a line got crossed where some believed that the goal was simply to stay in power, as opposed to a goal of actually empowering Bermudians.

Complicating matters is the likelihood that Bermuda is faced with a failing economic model, and an increase in brazen violence that is probably a symptom of something going terribly wrong long before the trigger gets pulled. We therefore desperately need politicians who are going to put country first and do what needs to be done. But that will never happen if we so willingly accept whatever words fall out of a politician’s mouth.

Caution: Politicians aren’t the only ones we need to hold accountable if we are going to get ourselves back on the right track.  While it took the PLP far too long to commission a report on public education, our real concern — and a priority for the new OBA government —  should be what was found in the report:

Education crisis

The Bermuda School Certificate denotes graduation in the public school system. It is awarded in the fourth year of senior school (S4) based on the accumulation of 104 points across a range of courses. The level of 104 points, reduced in 2006 from 106 points required previously, is below the level of similar modular systems in the US. We understand that as of 29 September, 52% of ‘eligible seniors’ graduated in 2006, although other figures have also been reported in the press. The proportion of those graduating who enter senior secondary school is by implication much lower.

In multiple areas the Hopkins report demonstrated that our public school system is damaging students by setting such low standards.

But, based on the statement above, the Department of Education had to have known at least by 2006 that something was terribly wrong. Teachers also had to have known something was wrong the moment that BSSC point requirements were lowered. And, surely parents must have known given the very low graduation rates.

So even though our politicians have been misleading us with exam data, surely there was a mountain of alternative data that’s at least six years old now, that would’ve indicated that we have a crisis on our hands? We didn’t need so much bloodshed to accept that something was really wrong with our children, did we?

You can’t expect your society to strengthen unless you’re producing educated citizens. You can’t produce educated citizens unless you’re insisting upon excellent teaching. Merely insisting upon excellent teaching won’t be enough if unions continue to offer protection to poor teachers. And even if the union wasn’t an obstacle, the very best teachers still can’t be expected to produce great students if parents aren’t sending disciplined children to school with a hunger for knowledge. 

We have a new government, and it is up to us to hold them accountable for their behaviour. Were we all in denial for 14 years, and did we collectively failed to hold one another accountable? 

The change in government won’t mean much if the union’s only real concern is wages and benefits. It also won’t mean much if parents aren’t demanding greatness from both teachers and their own children. In other words, we have a co-dependency of sorts with politicians, teachers, unions and parents.

If we want a better Bermuda, we need to do much more than vote in a new government. We are going to have to demand more accountability from everyone, but starting with ourselves.  Succinctly, we must start practicing collective responsibility.

Feedback: bryanttrew.com