Voice of: La Diablese



The Positives of Education.The Flip Side.


Cultural differences play a major role in how education is structured worldwide. Education has traditionally been the mastery of such disciplines as Mathematics, English Language, Sciences and basic Humanities. Education in Third World countries involves a more investigative and experimentative approach to learning, while considering the constantly changing environment. The structure of education in Trinidad and Tobago focuses not so much new age individualistic principles, but is more of an intrinsic effort to sustain the presence of good human life. With a curriculum that involves anything from Mathematics, to how to milk a cow or how to irrigate a hillside, their focus is to equip students with the right foundation in addition to teaching them an understanding and appreciation of their place in the universe and their connection to it.

One of the misconceptions about education is that it is possible to teach individuals how to "manage the earth" as put by David Orr, Chair of Environmental studies at Oberlin College, in his book "Earth In Mind". The concept that with research and technology anything can be fixed and or created shows some disregard for the universe and Mother Nature. The ignorance of our place in the universe, portrays a view not in keeping with a holistic mindset. The tradition of sustaining human life, through the most basic and instinctive means, such as planting the land, having our rivers and seas as important sources of food, meaning they should be protected, and preserving our air masses, have been discarded. The importance of these fundamentals has been replaced by words such as industrialization, infinite cash flow and power.

The modern university does not school on how to procure human life or simply life on the earth. The destruction and major decline of forests, tripled with water pollution and atmospheric deterioration are evidence of man’s ignorance. Students educated in Third World countries, that are either underdeveloped or developing, are given the type of education necessary to sustain life in their country. For instance in countries where agriculture and the farming of livestock account for large portions of their revenue, through local consumption and through export, it makes good sense to teach techniques not only to produce, but to combat the negatives. This kind of approach takes into consideration the effects of intense and frequent planting and reaping on the topsoil. In the curriculum of these countries like Trinidad, they have included areas of study that are designed to reduce the damage to the soil. If this is not done, in years to come the land will not yield any produce. It is important not only to be the masters of technology but also to be cautious, project the negatives and plan for them.

Different approaches to higher learning will yield different results. An approach that centers itself on the structuring of human desires, economics, politics and communities, will result in a population concerned with self and human preservation, long-term and short-term. This approach bears co-relation with a developing Third World country like Trinidad and Tobago. On the other hand the leading first world country, the United States, has not grasped that the worth of education must now be measured against standards of decency and human survival.

Funding and research in college curriculums worldwide are channeled into areas of study that promise the highest return. In a society so heavily driven by money, a college curriculum reflects areas of study that will be profitable for candidates. Institutions are evaluated on their adherence to what society wants. In other words these institutions are highly commercialized. The discovery of what chlorofluorocarbon (CFAs) would do to the stratospheric ozone may have been possible long before 1970. Are we becoming more ignorant of the thing we need to know to live well and sustainably on the earth? Or is it just that there are no systems set in place to allow for learning of this kind.

The masterminds of curriculums in every culture must be able to have insight and to project that insight in their approach to education. David Orr said, "True intelligence is long range and aims toward wholeness". "Despite all of our advances we still have nothing like the science of land health". The immeasurable success the United States has had economically and their outstanding performance technologically, has shaped the US curriculum. The US curriculum has lost sight of the importance of a whole education, one that encompasses every aspect of life and human existence, while considering the ecological, economic and social impact of these on the earth, the positives and the flip side. The emphasis on academics coupled with the disregard for the implications of new technologies and overpopulation and their direct effect on the environment have led to the production of people educated to ruin the world.



Coming Home?

One of the things my father never liked about me was my defiance.
"You will obey my rules" With fierce eyes and fists clenched.
"How dare you!" a look of disgust and confusion on my face.
I felt he had no right to.
I felt I didn’t have to.
"Go away," I’d say.
The way you’d put away an old, ugly picture—dusty, forgotten.
"Stay away from her too! She is over you".
A staggering gait.
He must have thought we would wait.
My father always told me that I was too strong-minded.


The New African. A Product of White America.


The slaves that came in the 17th century and before, brought with them images from a culture rich in religious symbolism and rituals. Upon reaching the Americas the Africans were made to disregard the images because they were forbidden. This marked the beginning of involuntary servitude of Africans, a condition that lasted for more than two hundred years. Africans provided unlimited labor and there was thought to be a moral justification for their importation. Slavery not only transplanted Africans from their homeland but also abruptly cut them off from their cultural roots such as language and social habits.

The advent of slavery effected significant changes in the way Africans and African Americans were portrayed by white artists and later by the African Americans themselves. Because these people were never allowed to keep their traditions and were forced to adapt to the society’s idea or white American idea of who and what they should be, the slaves who came were given a "slave identity". The African acceptance of this new identity was a grasp at finding a sense of belonging in a strange and frequently hostile environment.

African slaves, who were artisans in the new slave culture, were apprenticed to white craftsmen and were never encouraged in theories of individualism. The African was not being taught to be African and all that that entailed but quite the contrary. In fact the African was being bred as a product of white society, not as a people capable of forging their future even after the abolition of slavery. The lack of opportunity made Africans seek to express themselves creatively. There were two approaches to African expression at that time, one was the artist’s environment and experiences as factors in their creation of art and the other, eventually more popular, was the abandonment of African values for the substitution of European tastes. The fact that the quality of work was measured by its adherence to simulated European cultural traditions, African American artists generally avoided African American themes. Africa American artists in the mid-nineteenth century found themselves in a world inferior with their roots culturally discredited.

The black image in American art shows a history of how African culture digressed until it became almost unknown. Without an identity the Africans accepted this new identity, a slave identity and all that came with it. White American leaders in the visual arts have portrayed the African as a slave, freedman, servant or minstrel performer. After prolonged exposure and repetition of these images of Africans a concept formed that revealed how the majority of American society felt about their black neighbors. Artists created a visual record that reinforced many restrictive stereotypes of black identity. The slave identity fulfilled the European/white American idea of blacks as grotesque buffoons, servile menials, comic entertainers or just sub-human. These images supplied by American artists expressed an inability to comprehend a people whose appearance and behavior were judged to be different and thus inferior.

The new slave identity for decades to come would affect the way people thought of African Americans. The minstrel performers who suddenly developed in the first two decades of the 19th century exploited the status of blacks within plantation society. Performed by white men with black facial paint, minstrelsy relegated black people to dehumanizing roles in society. Skin the color of coals, ruby lips stretched around an exaggeration of a toothy grin all presented with mawkish behavior. Black people were defined as entertaining clowns, musically adept yet unskilled.

In a comparison between the images presented by white artists of African Americans and those presented by black artists, we see that in the latter there was similarity in terms of form, images and conceptual depiction of their own blackness. African artists portrayed a European stereotype of Africans and a European aesthetic in works of art. Black artists played into a European stereotype for many reasons. One reason is because Africans and African Americans after 1863 were still faced with discrimination and now a cultural dilemma. African American artists were excluded from academies, associations and teaching institutions. The condition of slavery made it impossible for the African American craftsman to express himself in a truly personal manner. The slave craftsman principal function was to produce works that satisfied European needs and tastes. The African was faced with trying to find a place for himself and his new "slave identity" in society, even after the abolition of slavery.

African American artists, who developed close ties with abolitionists and the entire movement, attracted a range of patronage and opportunity. Joshua Johnson was the first artist of African ancestry to gain public recognition for his work in portraiture. Johnson was listed as the former slave of a portrait painter in the West Indies. Professionally Johnson portrayed members of white aristocratic families. Because of the lightness of his skin’s color, he enjoyed a measure of freedom uncommon to most African Americans at that time. In a self-portrait we see that he paints himself in the same pose and style of dress and that suggested that he enjoyed privileges of gentry or he had a need to identify with that facet of society. This could be an attempt to gain acceptance or to sell his work to make his living.

Romanticism in Europe was greatly inspired by the Enlighteners of that time, who were the intellectual forefathers of both the artistic and industrial revolution. This inspiration could be compared to the way the abolitionist movement inspired the African artist with patronage. The African artist who no longer could relate to his visual cultural heritage was trained in the stylistics of classicism, and produced work that resembled the "white masters". The problem of finding employment became a burden to the free African American in the United States and the lack of opportunities prevented many from becoming trained artists. Survival became a driving force for the freed slave. Having discarded his culture and unsuccessfully trying to fit into a white culture the freed man lived by any means necessary. That sometimes meant selling out to the very concept of oppression.