Ghana's Youth Against Gerontocracy, Religion, Critical Thinking!

Sat, 11 May 2013 Source: Lungu, Prof

"....If we believe in an all-powerful God,...we must then believe that God gave us this earth, and we must in turn believe that God gave us its laws of gravity, of chemistry, of physics...We must also believe that God gave us our human powers of intellect and reason...(to)...learn and understand earth's natural laws...", (Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat, Rhode Island, USA, 8 May 13).

Ghana has made a lot of strides 50-plus years after independence. Still, a lot of challenges, mainly leadership and our approach to discourse and critical analyses, do not serve us as good as they should.

A 4 May article on Ghanaweb by Mr. Osei-Poku, a student at University of Legon titled "Gerontocracy: the oppression the youth...", was remarkable in many ways. We believe that the topic is timely and deserves to be discussed to the maximum extent in all Ghanaian social, educational, legal, and political circles.

From our vantage point, we could effortlessly follow the issues related to "old-age privileges" in Ghana. However, it got a bit dicey when we arrived at the part about people with Ph.Ds and other academic degrees. As we understand it, the later is a "small" case of "meritocracy." It is related, but not quite the same as "gerontocracy," the way the later is "practiced" in Ghana.

Our uneasiness, if you want to call our slight frustration such, was unresolved when the author encouraged the youth not to "....throw away the opportunity of building on the wisdom and knowledge of our fathers which is the only way..."

Fair enough, sounds grea!

But caution, which foundation?

Actually, on this narrow subject, it is precisely "the wisdom and knowledge of our fathers" that is at bottom of Ghanaian-style gerontocracy and the marginalization of the youth. After all, who is the Ghanaian youth a stranger to the "obligation" to accord the highest degree of uncritical "respect" to elders, for their age alone?

In a culture where differences of opinion on even important matters are quickly transformed into harsh and "envious criticisms" of peers, teachers, professors, political leaders, and all manner of "elders", etc., who dare critique, (eh, challenge!), another, even respectfully, unless they're PHDs, "Pull-Him-Downers?

You see, there are important stylistic differences between criticism and critique! There is a difference between condemnation, fault-finding, and censure in the former; and persuasion, informed analysis, and team-affirming discourse in the latter. We think that this difference has never been found by, or are totally lost on, many a Ghanaian. We like the latter because critique presumes critical thinking, control of one's thoughts, belief in sound evidence, reason, and fairness.

Notably, we find that gerontocracy, in tandem with all manner of religion, abetted by a slight dose of "meritocracy" (particularly in our educational institutions and public halls), are at bottom of the lack of critical thinking skills on the part of many Ghanaians. Typically, the Ghanaian way is to quickly turn any thoughtful analysis into attack against another or God. In this case, the unequal negative impact on the lives of girls and women, silenced and continually exploited in sundry ways, is more profound.

We posit that a reflection of the inability of many to critique or take one is in part at bottom of the continued under-development of Ghana on all fundamental fronts (economic, social, political, technological, educational, etc.), notwithstanding the advantages of abundant natural resources and geography (location, climate, etc.).

For proof, spend a little of your time looking at comparative empirical data. Track anecdotal accounts on printed pages, on television and video. It is all in the rate of infant mortality, post-primary school educational attainment records, resources families allocate to funerals versus declining public investments in education, the numerous "Tree Schools" all government are incapable of inventorying, multitude of fatal crashes on roads and curable diseases many ascribe to super-natural forces (ghosts, evil spirits, etc.).

Try explaining the large number of scholars, among them lawyers and professors, unable to compose a simple paragraph without invoking religious incantations and in the end wasting our time.

Then there are the political leaders who frequently credit their positions to "the will of God", even as they operate as if the public purse is theirs alone.

In a Public Agenda-sourced article on Ghanaweb 8 May, a Dr K. Asamoah Gyadu of Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, bragged that, "....Pentecostal/Charismatic churches are influential because they provide the basic needs of the followers...'practical salvation... such as fertility, health, unemployment, travel, business, promotions and examinations are catered for by these churches and that keep increasing the number of the followers..."


Prayers, tithes, and perhaps hope?


Is that how Ghana will construct world class facilities and a better, healthier, and prosperous society for the youth from Bawku to Tamale, from Ejura to Accra, from Aflao/Keta to Axim/Half Assini, from Zabzugu to Bole?

We do not think so!

We are saying that a common denominator among all these ephemeral and anti-modern traits of Ghanaian private and public life is an acute lack of critical thinking skills expected of people as citizens in a modern nation-state. For us, that is very troubling for Ghana, 50-plus years after "independence".

Ghanaians live in a competitive, empirically-driven, knowledge-based, inter-dependent, global age. The fundamental question now is this: How best can Ghana's educational institutions inculcate in the youth those critical thinking skills essential for (1) quickly advancing the life-skills of girls and boys, (2) effectively promoting the independence of thriving local governments and communities, and (3) fundamentally sustaining the African society in Ghana, to include all those depletable natural resources and challenge of their ownership, use, and benefit?

That, to us, is the fundamental question for Ghana's "elders" (and youth)!.

Just thinking out loud!

So it goes!

Prof Lungu is Ghana-centered, Ghana-Proud. Prof Lungu is currently based in Washington DC, USA. Prof Lungu is brought to you courtesy www.GhanaHero.com © 10th May, 2013.

Columnist: Lungu, Prof