Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Little Learning.

You possibly know the adage "A little learning is a dangerous thing". You may not know the rest of the phrase, which is "drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again." You may not even know that it was written by the great English 17th-18th century poet, Alexander Pope, at the ripe old age of 21, in "An Essay on Criticism" in 1709 (read the whole poem here).

It's a wonderful and unbelievably long poem, which I read long ago and well before I was 21. It contains many now familiar phrases, such as "To err is human, to forgive divine." and "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

I do not subscribe to the notion about a little learning, however. What made me think of the poem was two things. First, how "a little learning" had helped a couple rise through the morass of a racially divided society and find themselves standing atop its political pyramid, poised to be the next US President and First Lady. Second, and more parochially, it was bedtime with Miss Bliss. Last night, my teeny one, showed that this little learning business starts and then becomes quite a thirst if well encouraged. My five year old has many qualities that are identifiable as her parents' traits--quite normal for a child who lives with both parents. On of these traits is reading and, even though one of the "parental units" is often travelling, that does not stop a steady flow of influence washing over from parent to child--in this case, a love of reading. They also have special moments
such as Friday afternoons and the weekends to do other girlie stuff. The other parental unit has taken up the sword of the "pen", and writes a lot. So, now, Miss Bliss is all about reading and writing when she goes to bed.

Miss Bliss is trying hard to read. We now have bedtime taken up not by my reading her stories, but by her doing "homework". So, we are reading out letters and making the sounds, and practising letter patterns; last night we worked on "S", and tried to make the letters sit nicely between the lines. All of this brings back far away memories for a parent who already has a child now at university. I taught my first-born to read early, so that she could do so before going off to pre-kindergarten. It was recalling that why I woke in the middle of the night. I don't remember my first born giving up reading stories to learn how to write. Is my latest child having some kind of problem? Just joking ... Miss Bliss is about as balanced a child as I have seen for a while. I just spent part of the night wondering how different her future would be even from her sister's, her mother's or mine. That's no nightmare, so it's a set of good thoughts to disturb sleep.

We pride ourselves in the Caribbean in putting a large premium on education. We fight as hard as people in most developed countries to get our children into the "good schools", whether these are fee-paying or free. I had the great fortune of my parents leaving Jamaica for England, and not having to dig deep for school fees to help me get an education. Britain's educational system was at the time essentially free (i.e. paid for out of our taxes), even through university (where parents contributed depending on their incomes). I instinctively prefer it that education is not based on ability to pay, though I have had to accept that a lot of good education comes with a hefty price.

Education does not stop at school or university, and many of us continue to invest in ourselves or have investments made in us by our employers; that's how I came to learn Russian. So, when I woke last night and saw a message on my trading platform that read "EURUSD ожидание прорыва треугольника в 4 волне - 1.2700 вход в короткую позици" I was not totally nonplussed. That I could learn Russian, courtesy of my employer and relearn French on the same basis, also shows that sometimes the "hefty" price may just be additional hours spent working to make up for the time taken to learn. Whatever, and however, the price is paid, a good education seems to come at a lesser price than no, or bad, education.

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