CALIFORNIA, United States – There’s an island in the Lesser Antilles that the head of one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Southern California, US, thinks very highly of.
In fact, Woodbury University President David Steele-Figueredo thinks the US can learn a lot from it.
“While Barbados may not be perfect in every sense of the word, maybe we can learn a lesson or two from its excellent educational system, its history of compassion and humanity, and the longevity of the people on this little island.” That is how the Venezuelan-born Dr. Steele-Figueredo concludes an article in the Huffington Post in which he highlighted his own experience in Barbados’ education system as a student of the Lodge School, and what he observed of its people in his time on the island.
Barbados was one of several countries in which he lived outside of Venezuela, the others being Trinidad, England, Japan, Belgium and Spain. “The key difference between little Barbados and the US is tolerance and respect between black and white. And what has been the secret recipe? I would argue it is education,” he wrote.
“According to a 2014 study by the US Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults, or 14 per cent of the population, cannot read. Shockingly, 21 per cent of adults in the US read below a fifth grade level, and 19 per cent of high school graduates cannot read at all. By comparison, a recent report by the Commonwealth Network states, ‘There is virtually no illiteracy among people age 15-24’ in Barbados. Thus, the fundamental question: How can we have a truly working democracy in the US when many people cannot read, have not assimilated the lessons of world history, and cannot think critically and unemotionally about social and moral issues like racial hatred?” Dr. Steele-Figueredo questioned.
He pointed out that another lesson that could be learned from Barbados is “celebration of life.”
The university president pointed out that while the key to the island’s stability has been an educated populace with a strong black middle class and representative government, Barbadians have inherited the centuries-old African love of music and dance.
“Add that the first rum was supposedly distilled in Barbados in the 17th century and it’s easy to understand the popular belief that, on the island, life is always a party. Perhaps by coincidence, together with Japan it has the world’s highest per capita occurrence of centenarians. But there is also drive, strength and hope, summarised by the almost tri-century Lodge School motto: ‘Possunt Quia Posse Videntur: They can because they think they can.’”