From scrupulous observations, it is no argument to counter the urge for patriotism in the Liberian society. Both the electronic and print media continue to flex intellectual muscles on discourse or talk shows about the inclination of many Liberians of badmouthing and castigating the country. In the belief windows or minds of the radio talk show host and guests, this attitude has always been described as unpatriotic. Certainly, this concern suggests or speaks clearly about the problems with patriotism in Liberia.
Recently, I listened to the Patrick Honnah regular bumper show on the ELBC radio 99.9. Featuring Rev. Foley Emmet Karpeh and another Liberian writer, the show not only frowned on the pessimistic or unpatriotic attitude of many Liberians, but endeavored to proffer practical approaches or remedies to the problems of patriotism in Liberia. Citing the Ghanaian society as a model of patriotism, the studio discussants referenced the lack of one common dialect or vernacular as a unifier and perhaps a catalyst for what sociologists would called the “We Feeling” or the “We consciousness” Interestingly, Rev. Karpeh recounted one of his experiences in Ghana that exemplified patriotic attitude or consciousness. According to him, about two Ghanaians went for him to the airport. While on the vehicle enroute to his accommodation, they were speaking the popular local Twi language. He voiced out his uncomforted feeling. One of the Ghanaians who happen to be the driver apologized and told him that they were talking about their problem of electricity in Ghana. He further explained that it would have been an embarrassment or perhaps shameful to discuss their problem in the presence of a stranger. In other words, one could argue or infer that the Ghanaians were very conscious about the image of their society had they discuss the problem in English.
Though being taught in Liberian schools, the discussants re-emphasized the need to re-enforce the syllables for the subject civic as one of the practical remedies. By this assertion, you can possibly infer that this suggested approach may not work well for this present generation above grade school (Elementary –senior High) ages.
Admittedly, the discussants as evidenced by all of the callers’ supportive comments and views did well to dissect the issues.
Premised on the assumption that we as mortal are limited that could justify the reasons why the discussants never thought or cover all of the problems with patriotism in Liberia, this write-up or article seeks to expose another problem that worth consideration or debate.
Arguably, one of the ways in which the spirit of patriotism can be instilled in members of the society is through the teaching of history. The history of every society not only focuses on the past and present. It influences the sense of pride, belonging as well as direction. Moreover, it utilizes the pasts that have important lessons for the present and the future. More importantly, it records legacy that has an important bearing on the lives of society member. The patriotic assertion that also illustrates a sense of pride by Ghanaians “Ghana is the best” that Liberians often referenced doubtlessly derived from the history of Ghana taught in schools.
In our Liberian society, it worth saying that there is something fundamentally wrong about how is history taught in grade schools (Elementary and Senior High schools). This problem is historic. Take for instance; in our schools curricula the syllables for history emphasize Ghana Empire, Songhay (Mali) Empire, Oyo Empire, European history etc. Less emphasis has been placed on Liberian history. In support of this claim, before the civil war, foreign teachers were teaching history in high schools. I have a vivid memory of one Mr. Youku Luke from Kenya or Somalia that taught me history in D.Twe Memorial High school probably around 1994/96. There was nothing about the history of Liberia. All of the lesson contents were European history such as Industrial Revolution, World War I & II etc. Maybe you could argue that it was what the syllable says by then. About this claim, there are few fundamental questions to be asked.
The first is; in Ghana, Mali or Nigeria, etc. do they teach the history of Liberia just as we do here? It is part of their history syllables? To answer this question, you will want to be empirical. In absence of empirical evidence, it is inconvincible that Ghana considered by Ghanaians as the best teach Liberia history in their grade schools. Even if it is taught, to what extend is another question. As for Nigeria, it is also questionable seriously. Mali that is Francophone, it is also questionable as well.
The second question is; though the history of Ghana, Nigeria, Mali empires and European history are good or relevant just as the history of Liberia. But to what extent the histories of these counties taught in our schools influence our children sense of pride, belonging for Liberia as their common patrimony? To what extent teaching Ghana, Mali, Oyo, World War I & II, Industrial Revolution, etc. are able to transmit patriotic consciousness from generation to generation?
This is not any way to imply elimination from our history curriculum if they exist. What is important is to devote more time on the history of Liberia in the class home. On the other hand, it justifies elimination from our history syllables if Liberia history is not taught in Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, European grade schools. In other words, what should we promote their history when ours has nothing to do with instilling or transmitting patriotic consciousness in their societies?
The third question is; in Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and Europe, do foreigners teach history? In absence of empirical evidence, it worth saying big “No” by virtue of the fact that it is through the teaching of history patriotism can be transmitted from generation to generation in society. In the case of Liberia, our system in past allowed foreigners to teach history in our schools. How possible for foreigners that have no allegiance, sense of pride or belonging of a society to inculcate patriotic values or consciousness through the teaching of history into our grade school going population? Tell us, we would desire the answer.
On the authority of valid research, we learned that history relates the story of cooperative actions of a large number of men and women in their quest for a better life that to a large extent influence or bring a sense of pride. Inarguably, a sense of pride can be equated to patriotism derived from history. It is part of the cultural embodiment of any society. I am sure that in the history of Liberia, the culture of cooperative actions of our ancestors prior to the arrival of the settlers for better life exists. In the history of Ghana often referenced, the quest for better life mainly during the Asante Empire reflects cooperative action by ancestor that children learned in schools as legacy. Can we in Liberia revisit our history so that our lesson contents or syllables can reflect the culture of cooperative action as a legacy that will influence our children sense of pride? Ponder about it.
It is never late to think about experimenting the crux of the argument brought forth in this article. We have a promising generation who are grade school going age. The history of Liberia has so much to offer when it comes to instilling patriotic consciousness in our promising generation or children. Let us as educators, policy makers, technocrat in education, government and more importantly the Liberian society think about crux of this article. It our quest for instilling the spirit of patriotism in Liberians, this article may be of help in term of solution.
By Ambrues M. Nebo