When I, as Chief Education Officer, recommended to the Minister of Health Education and Welfare, in 1983, that culture be classified as a subject and be added to a Ministerial portfolio, the driving force behind my conviction was the need to examine, and understand the roles of the norms beliefs, and values which guide our daily behaviour, actions, and decisions. The recommendation was accepted, culture was added to the Department of Education which was renamed the Department of Education and Culture. The responsibility for integrating this subject in the public service and the community was added to my responsibilities and with the help of the Jamaican consultant, Mr. Neville Dawes, the seeds were planted in the ready soil and germination began. I recommended that a post of Cultural Officer be created and following that I chose Mrs Eileen Parsons as the first appointed Cultural Officer in May 1984. At that time, I had seen a rejection of who we were in exchange for"anything above Round Rock"- outside norms, beliefs, and values foreign and unrelated to the aspirations and travails of our forebears. The stories which expressed their norms, values, beliefs, and customs in which our culture is rooted needed new life for our survival as a unique people with a destiny as a people, which we could showcase and be proud of. In order to do this we had to keep the culture of the Territory alive, growing and adjusting to the chanes within the individual and corporate lives. For instance we continue to examine and draw cultural sustenance from the "rugged individualism" which enabled our forebears to
survive in times of scarcity and plenty, peace and war, disaster and safety, health and illness, good government and bad government, rainy days and and dry days.
Today we are engaged in rethinking and reshaping the societal norms, beliefs, values and customs in which our lives are rooted, which have been tried and stood the tests of time, with the pride and predjudices of self. All of a sudden those norms values, beliefs and customs are old fashioned and need to be replaced by and with the new geniuses of the age ignoring their roots. People of my generation were taught "by the sweat of your brow you shall eat."That meant you should work to earn yor keep. That is being reshaped and re-thought as"earn your keep without sweat and eat by hook or crook." The work ethic of the Territory today has undergone many attitudinal and operational changes, many of which are destroying our young people. As we used to say "they have a plaster for every sore" but the sad thing is the sores are spreading and the plasters are becoming more and more ineffective. If we look back carefully and prayerfully, we will see that the value of an honest day's work for an honest day's pay produced men and women of character who were not victims but who stood up and fought the COI's of the day with dignity and pride. Their moral backbone- the inner strength of their belief in right and wrong enabled them to make difficult decisions with integrity, justness, and probity. We can emulate the good that they bequeathed us and stand tall and firm in the rumbling, tumbling, shaking and falling that we are witnessing in our society today. That is or should be the essence of cultural celebrations. What kind of culture do we want our children and grand children to live in? "We need to strain our coffee with the old time strainer."
We have a better educated population therefore if our collective educational achiements are worth their salt we should be able to exceed the cultural achievements of our forebears. We can all strive to achieve a culture of excellence in our relationships with God, humankind, church, and state. Let us rethink and reshape our cultural celebrations to address the intangible as well as the tangible characteristics of today's culture.
- Dr. Charles H. Wheatley