Thursday, November 26, 2009

Most Of My Kids Are Stupid...

"... so I teach them something wrong, because its easier."

That is *exactly* what a Bahamian grade one teacher at a Bahamian school (one of the expensive, private ones, too) told me today. I will grant her that too many Bahamian students come to school ill prepared, and do not possess the basic education that should be expected of kids upon entering grade one. That is the fault of their parents.

However, the attitude of a large number of our educators to settle for (below) mediocrity is not helping. It does not help these ill-prepared students to reach the next level. In fact, it reinforces an attitude that knowledge, that education is optional.

It is not! You are perpetuating the problems that are crippling our nation.

If you cannot be bothered to teach our children, then you are in the wrong profession. You tell me your family boasts a long line and tradition of proud educators. Would they be proud if they knew that you knowingly dumb down your students?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On Rehabilitation

Triggered by my last column, "Working Girl," my mind wandered towards a very Bahamian practise, and that is potential employers demanding that potential employees produce "character certificates" issued by the Criminal Records Office as a standard procedure in any job application process. While I thought about it, I began to feel uncomfortable, because surely the idea behind this is that the potential employer will reject any applicant who has a criminal record.

Now ask yourself - and answer truthfully. If you were a business owner, would you hire someone with a criminal record? Most of you, I dare predict, answered in the negative, probably for good reasons. I can see how a school principal would not hire a teacher with a record of sexual molestation of minors. I can see how a bank director might have doubts about hiring a teller with a history of theft. This is a short list of crimes and jobs that have some things in common, but it is still fundamentally flawed.

It is flawed, because it is on the applicant's "character certificate," which means the police KNOW about it, and, excluding the possibility of a completely screwed up system, probably brought the case to the justice system; and the justice system dealt with it, either fining the offender a monetary amount or sentencing them to do time. This, however, means that they paid their debt to society, and now deserve a chance to start over, go past "Go" and collect $200.

Though I will admit that I would feel more than just uncomfortable if my child's teacher was a known sex offender and paedophile, I could construct examples where the offense committed and the job in prospect have little to nothing in common. Yet I believe that many of us are denied these jobs, too, because they have a criminal records. Bahamian society, and especially the Bahamian labour market actively discriminates against persons with criminal records. And the law allows this to happen.

That, however, is exactly the point that I find the most problematic, because if our laws allow this kind of discrimination against persons who have been through our legal, judicial, and penal system, then our law admits that our penal system fails at rehabilitating criminals, which means our judicial system is flawed, because somebody should not be let out of prison unless they are rehabilitated. In short: Our laws state that our laws don't work.

Without trying to sound like I condone crime, but do tell me... What is a former criminal supposed to do if they are rejected by the labour market? Rehabilitation cannot be government's responsibility alone. It is too important to be left to government. Rehabilitation has got to be OUR responsibility, and that means giving people a second chance.

For this to happen, I believe, we need to engage in discourse about legal hiring practises in the Bahamas. Maybe it might be worth considering to ask out legislators to help the aim of rehabilitation by passing a bill prohibiting employers to ask for "character certificates" as part of the application process, even if some lines of work may have to be exempted from this rule.

Maybe there are other factors, too, preventing former convicts from reentering society that also need to be addressed. I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I claim to have the right to ask questions, and I believe it is our duty to enter into a debate, because I know that we cannot truthfully say that all is well in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas in the year 2009.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Working Girl

Today, I would like to share a story with you. I thought it was rather funny in a way, but I can imagine that some of you might choose a different adjective.

During my lunch hour, I went to the Criminal Records Office on Thompson Boulevard to pick up my "character certificate." (Thinking about it, I find that an amusing term, too. Do I not have a character without it?) I had requested it online months ago, and the RBPF's website tells you processing would take about two weeks, but it took a little longer. That was to be expected. What I had not expected was that it would take me about one hour in the Criminal Records Office to finally get that piece of paper, for which I paid $2.50, for which I did not get a receipt even after requesting one. If it had been a hamburger, it would have been free at this stage.

While I was waiting there, a rather "interesting" (from a male perspective, at least) lady who had been standing in line walked up to the window as it was her turn now. As she was waiting at the window for the person behind it, whom you could not see, because Bahamian government employees refuse to show their faces to the public and therefore tint their windows to the extreme, her cell phone rang.

She took the call. She spoke rather loudly, and the entire waiting room could overhear her conversation. Surely, the police behind the window could, too.

Quickly, we learned that this was a business call - a potential new customer inquiring about services and rates. We very quickly learned about the lady's line of work, too, including services and prices. The latter I do not remember precisely for I was too surprised by the rest of her conversation.

The services she was offering - now remember, this was a loud cell phone conversation in a public office - included blow jobs, intercourse and anal... to one customer at a time or more than one... she could also offer the same services as a team with a colleague. Et cetera.

I found this rather amusing, because as far as I know, prostitution is illegal in the Bahamas, and she was standing inside the Criminal Records Office obviously applying for or picking up a "character certificate." Don't get me wrong now, personally, I think prostitution ought to be decriminalised, because you cannot root it out, and by decriminalising it you should at least be able to control some aspects of it, such as forced prostitution and human trafficking.

I also found it funny, because this lady was apparently comfortable enough in her own skin to have this conversation publicly, even though some of the jaws of those in the waiting area dropped. Audibly.

However, what I found most amusing about the entire episode was the reaction of the - uniformed - police standing by the door, who, when she left, asked her for her phone number. :D