So I’m line waiting to pay my phone bill when two elderly, middle-class gentlemen join the queue and begin to chat.
Fellow #1: So how are you? You good?
Fellow #2: Good, man.
#1: You keeping healthy? Exercising?
#2: I getting plenty exercise dealing with the illiterates in this country. (Proceeds to refer to specific government agencies that are not providing him with his preferred level of service).
The conversation meanders somewhat, turning to politics, the state of the country and eventually, statistics that were apparently released (I say “apparently” because I have not seen these statistics myself) on the poor academic performance of secondary school students. (It was a long line).
#2: Do you know that X percent of students are failing Maths and English? Maths and English! (He repeats himself for emphasis). The two most important subjects there are. (Then, somewhat derogatively…) Not Art, not History, not Cooking! This is why this country will never go anywhere.
Uh-huh. So the solution to Trinidad and Tobago’s downward spiral is to create a society of people who excel in Maths and English. As a people we apparently don’t need a creative outlet (tell that to the thousands who play Carnival every year); we have no need for history because we already know where we’re heading (nowhere fast) and we can survive by eating our very carefully pronounced words. It’s not that I don’t recognise the importance of those two subjects in daily life, but I do not accept that everyone must excel academically in order to add value as a citizen. Is there no room for the artist? The musician? The chef? The welder? The craftsman? The farmer?
I was just about to say to Gentleman #2 that this kind of limited thinking does much more to contribute to our lack of direction as a society than an insufficient grasp of Maths and English – but being an average mathematician, I quickly worked out the equation in my mind:
New perspective + Ignorance = Waste of Time.
And being an English speaker, when the cashier said, “Next!”, I proceeded to move forward and pay my bill.