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Cruz Bay
Tuesday, July 5, 2022


As a recent ‘came here', I found Michael Paiewonsky's description of the U.S. Virgin Island's social experiment to develop a middle class incredibly enlightening. More people need to understand the impact of the rapid population increase from the 60's-80's and the mind boggling technological advancement over the last 15 years. Few people understand the victimization of the ‘new slave labor' that was imported from the down islands. Interesting that the great experiment did not draw the native Virgin Islanders home again.
I do take exception with the generalities of the last section of Michael's otherwise enlightening piece. I have recently begun to teach many of those uneducated children who came here with their parents in the 60s and 70s. They are now in their late 30s and early 40s. Most of them had little more than a grammar school education before they left their native islands to come here for a ‘better life'.
Many of them have NOT studied for 25 years. BUT they have held jobs, raised children, built homes, and even developed businesses. They are God-fearing, upright, responsible citizens contributing to this community in many positive ways. In spite of their lack of education they take pride in the school accomplishments of their children. In spite of their inability to read above grade school level, they are knowledgeable about local issues and involved in their churches to make this a better community. In spite of great difficulties with numbers on paper, they can balance a budget and squeeze the last dime in ways that would give CEOs lessons.
Now that their families are grown, they come to me, hungry for the skills and knowledge that will allow them to develop to their fullest. Some of them have tried evening classes or Adult education courses only to be embarrassed and overwhelmed by the progress of younger persons with more recent education. They are still sensitive about all they don't know.
Over the years of ‘getting by' they have developed several interesting skills. They are whizzes at figuring out the meaning of words by the context (not always correctly), they are masters at intuitively surmising what people are saying rather than really knowing, and fantastic at faking their ability to do something. They listen closely to directions, nodding, responding positively and then they proceed to ‘do it their way' because they really didn't understand what was said. Without my extensive teaching experience, I might think they ‘had an attitude'.
I think we are still victimizing them, even with our best intentions. We put them on the defensive, we fail to understand what life is like for them, and we just keep throwing out the orders. When we don't understand their speech; why do we assume they can easily understand ours?
They are good people who want to learn, want to work, have great pride, would be valuable assets to any business. Employers don't know what they are missing and never will until we can find a way to ‘back up' and fill in the gaps we failed to teach them so many years ago

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