Simply Thinking Thoughts
In my thinking thoughts I considered the currentinteractionsbetweenEducation Minister Werner and the Legislature, the overnight metamorphosis of Minister Werner’s widely contested reform constructs from a so-called proposal to a Government of Liberia GOL mandate, the subsequent intervention of the GOL through its tough talking Information Minister Lewis Brown, and the consequential letters from President Sirleaf to the House of Representatives.
Considering the trend of events which has escalated to summoning the President, it appears like a duel between education politics and education policy that can be compared to Julius Caesar’s decision to “Cross the River Rubicon” in defiance of Roman Law has ensued; whether it will be a “win-win,” “lose-lose’ or “win-lose,” only time will tell.
Meaning of the Die is Cast toCross the Rubicon
In simple terms, “Casting the die to cross the Rubicon” means to take a decision to do something forbidden or to step beyond some bounds set, and be prepared to face the consequences, like Julius Caesar in 59 BC.
For example if your father told you not to attend your school’s gala day after you have fully prepared as the band leader or else you get thrown out of his house, and you thought about the consequences, and decided to go anyhow, the die is cast, you have crossed the Rubicon.
You see, Julius Caesar, born with unbridled political ambition and unsurpassed oratory skills, manipulated his way to the position of consul of Rome in 59 BC.,and later became governor.According to the story, General Caesar’s popularity with the people soared, presenting a threat to the power of the Senate. Accordingly, the Senate called upon Caesar to resign his command and disband his army or risk being declared an “Enemy of the State”. The decision Caesar had to make was to either acquiesce to the Senate’s command or move southward to confront the Senate and plunge the Roman Republic into a bloody civil war.
Now, an ancient Roman law forbade any general from moving southward which meant crossing the Roman Legionary Rubicon River and entering Italy proper with a standing army. To do so was treason.
When Caesar arrived at the river with his men, he hesitated to cross for that would bring war.Anyhow, Caesar snatched a trumpet from one of his followers and ran to the Rubicon soundingthepiercing
“Advance!” blast and crossed to the other side. Caesar cried out, ‘Let us go where the omens of the Gods and the crimes of our enemies summon us! THE DIE IS NOW CAST! We will defy the Senate and cross the Rubicon River, come what may!
The apparent stand-off between the GOL and the House of Representatives over whether the closure of schools is proposal or mandate by GOL can be metaphorically relatedto the “Crossing the
Rubicon” story as it has taken on a more political posture instead of a debate over a policy to ensure quality pedagogy and stratified andragogy.
Initially when Education Minister Werner was summoned, it was with much humility that he denied ever speaking of “study class” although he admitted halting the WAEC and averred that his actions were “proposals” awaiting approval.It was to those ends that the House of Representatives ordered him, and he apparently agreed, to retract the WAEC letter, and conduct a media conference to retract his statements, whether made or not.
Amazingly, no sooner had Werner agreed to comply than Information Minister Lewis Brown hit the air waves to declare the so-called proposal as“mandate” from GOL, hence, baffling the whole nation on whether this act was a form of defiance or a result of close door “head hanging”
Consequently, the whole situation has become politicized to the point that President Sirleaf, Information Minister Brown, and Education Minister Werner have been summoned to appear before the House of Representatives.This is now going to be purely politics over education instead of education policy.
Unfortunately, Education Policy though not totally divorced of politics, is procedural, based on professional savvy,sharp administrative acumen, and spurred by quality pedagogy instead of “points scoring” as is appearing to be the case in the current melee between “the Honourables” and “The Honorables”
From my perspectives as a seasoned education policy professional,Minister Werner made painstaking attemptsto explain to the honorable House that his actions were in line with regular policy promulgation procedure. Before a policy is approved and implementedit must first go into the forum. It is the consultation with stake holders including, parents, students, and donors; it is like a vision that needs to be shared, understood and approved before being rolled out. In the forum, the policy is articulatedfor support, refinement, or augmentation if possible.
From the forum, the policy then goes to the arena, in this case theHouse of Representatives where it is debated contested and approved, and sent to the President for signing and implementation; the process which has led to the current budget hearings at the Legislature is a clear example of how policies are promulgated.
Traditional Authority to Summon
Summoning of presidential appointees by the Legislature is commonplace tradition and not new to the cabinet. Before Minister Brown’s fearless declaration, there may have been moments of hesitation among cabinet members before they determined that the House lacked authority to summon Minister Werner.Unfortunately, otherpresidential appointees overtime have been summoned;Ministers Gewnigale, Etmonia Tarpeh, and Amara Konneh were summoned several times; Werner as CSA boss was summoned and the list goes on.
The point at which the Executive Branch resolved that the House dos not possess summoning power anymore, and the move to re-name proposal as mandate, and refusal to retract the “proposal” to the disappointment of the Representatives was where it crossed the Rubicon and waged war on a group always perched for such interactions.
In the “Die isCast” story, Julius Caesar did not retreat, but fought on tooth and nail until he vanquished his foes and took the helmof authority of the Roman Empire.While Hon. Lewis Brown’s declaration was an act of crossing the Rubicon, President Sirleaf’s ameliorating “win-win” letter to the House is the prudent retreat.
Inmy view, when thePresident wrote that consultations were ongoing to ensure all stakeholders are on par with the decision, this was a retreat. In her letter, she prudently assured the Honorable House that the policy proposal was after all, not a mandate as Lewis Brown had fearlessly declared, and as a matter of fact it has been returned to the forum to be debated before bringing it back to the arena, the House of Representatives, as should have been the case. I wonder if George Werner and Lewis Brown ever anticipate such a prudent “win-win” retreat letter before they chose to cross theRubicon.
Hon. Lewis Brown and Werner should never forget that in warfare, each time a commander orders a retreat from engagement, there is casualty; foot soldiers are left behind enemy lines, enemy and friendly bullets hit the backs of retreating soldiers, and stampede over one another to get to safety are common casualties.
To these ends, as the nation remains “all ears” to hear the President’s response to the House’s summon, we only pray the education pursuits of Liberian children not be further threatened.
The book of Thessalonians clearly advises, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of Godin Christ Jesus concerning you” We may never know that the situation which we are considering bad luck could be one God has designed to vindicate and protect our country you from evil, favoritism, and vices of this world.
Now to Him who is able to present us faultless before the throne of the only wise God; to him be glory, majesty and dominion in Jesus name. Amen.
About the author
The Rivercess Man, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson is a triple Ivy League product, and a Jesuit protégé; Mr. Jackson is a Yale University Mathematics Curriculum Fellow, and a University of Pennsylvania Physics Curriculum Fellow. Mr. Jackson holds a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and a Master of Education with Secondary Mathematics concentration from Saint Joseph’s University. Mr. Jackson is a candidate for the Doctor of Education degree.
Blonkanjay Jackson (The Mwalimu-Koh) was recently removed from the position of Assistant Minister for Teacher Education, having diligently served the Government of Liberia for two years.