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Educator returns from Cuba with respect for its schools

March 14, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

The director of Pupil Services and Drug Education for Berkeley County, W.Va., Schools recently returned from Cuba, where he says he gained a new perspective on how different cultures deal with trouble in their schools.

Taylor Perry said he learned that Cuba's educators don't have the same problems as the United States in their school system because of the great respect the culture places on education.

Perry attended the ninth annual Scientific Seminar on the Quality of Education from Feb. 11-15 in Havana and Matanzas, Cuba.

This was the fourth year he has attended the conference, which drew 48 educators from across North America.

The conference included presentations on topics such as cross-cultural experiences, reacting to terrorist attacks, as well as art, culture and technology.

At the seminar, Perry presented an abstract paper on "Responding to Crisis in the School System."

"I have been in the school system for 22 years," Perry said. "Instances of students in trouble, calling in bomb threats, bullying, suspended, expulsion for substance abuse or bringing weapons to school, harassing teachers and not attending school are increasing rather than decreasing."

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"We are building more jails and juvenile detention centers than schools," he said.

His mission in the small island nation was to conduct a comparative study to discover if Cuba's school system faces the same problems as many schools in the United States.

To his surprise, he found a culture that respects education.

"They don't zap their hands off or throw them in a dungeon like we think. They teach them (children) at an early age that it's not acceptable" to misbehave in school, Perry said.

Teachers are highly respected, people consider attending school a privilege and to intentionally miss school is seen as a disgrace upon one's family, he said.

"Once we get parents to realize the importance of school we will see an improvement in schools," Perry said. "For students to excel, parents must take education seriously."

He said he plans to address the Berkeley County Board of Education with the ideas he brought back from Cuba, including the importance of uniforms and of structuring education around the strengths of students rather than expecting them to excel in all subjects.

In Cuba, "the people are proud of the students in school. They always say they are our future," Perry said.

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