Redesign and republish the text

Dear Editor,

I have great admiration for these Guyanese who speak out at this very critical moment in the formation of a national identity. Money will make available a great many opportunities to define identity in terms of social, economic, political innovation or development. So, congratulations to those risking communication in this unstable scenario.

Elected leaders on both sides must be keenly aware of their need for a critical process that verifies what they present as valid public opinion. Before sharing congratulations on both sides for what is presented as innovative or ahead of what has been achieved before, performance indicators are needed for what deserves congratulations.

I want to use as an example the letter in yesterday’s Stabroek News from Ryhaan Shah about the Atlantic Reader Book One. I see the long list of people credited with producing or advising on this publication. I wonder if it’s “the emperor’s new clothes”. One person likes the way it looks, another sees it as an innovation, another wants the authors to feel appreciated and all agree to make it a beautiful piece of work. The Minister of Education approves it.

The authors of this Reader are to be commended for their commitment to education. Endorsers, because there was no or a deficient critical process, threw writers under the bus. They are now exposed to ridicule for producing a learning instrument which is seriously deficient according to at least one person who, by his writing, is intelligent and educated. She made a critical assessment. I wonder why no one else has detected the potential objections to this instrument of instruction for young minds.

I object to Ms. Shah’s description of Mashramani as a display of “vulgarity”. There is much to admire in the artistry of the costumes, in the local music and in the exuberance of the party. A critical assessment given to students will help them to reject what is degrading and nurture and participate in what is uplifting. Critical consciousness is crucial to the future of Guyana so teach it in primary school and beyond. If this is not done, Guyana will have its identity defined by those who do not know how painstaking the process of defining an identity must be.

Critical doesn’t mean bad, just like negative doesn’t mean bad. This new publication was a wonderful opportunity to instill national pride in children. Please continue the critical analysis initiated by Mrs. Shah. Re-evaluate the book. Examine the validity of his opinions. And rename the book, please. What about ‘Guyana Reader’ if that name isn’t already taken?

I suspect it’s too much praise to call the production team “progressive literacy experts.” The multicultural context of any teaching aid that seeks to form an opinion in the minds of children must be carefully represented or it will produce offense. and distrust, as this reader did. I would hesitate to call anyone a “progressive literacy expert” unless I can prove it. Has this opinion been proven by the endorsement of the Atlantic Reader?

However, the writers must forgive their advisers and anyone else who went into kudos mode. Recall the book. At the expense of the authorities, redesign and republish the text. It will be a winning book. The idea was brilliant. Guyana needs adventurous but cautious writers who have great respect for the wonderful mixed identity of a great country.

Unless the peoples of Guyana hold together in a blended and harmonious identity, the country will be lost as Guyana opens its borders to many nations of the world. Anything that undermines national identity should be treated as dangerous. Thank you Ms. Shah for ringing the alarm!

So I say!

Gabriella Rodriguez

About Raymond A. Bentley

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