Ushering us into this weekend was a war of perspectives between Mr. Kofi Bentil, Vice President of Imani Ghana on the one hand, and an author of basic school science books in Ghana, Mr. J. A Quarm on the other.
While the author depicts in one of his books that the function of the human head is for carrying load, Mr. Kofi Bentil fumes at this and insists it is wrong. The latter holds that the function of the head is for thinking. He further contends that; “the head is not for carrying loads, we do that because we do not have the wherewithal to handle things better.”
However Mr. Quarm disagrees with this position and asserts that; “Science is investigating and interpretation of events which occur in our natural physical environment. Here we are dealing with real facts; we are dealing with what the child is seeing and not an abstract. Thinking is an abstract so in this context what are we going to use as an object to represent the function of the head?”
Who is wrong or Right?
Who is wrong or Right?
While many are tempted to uphold one perspective over the other, I believe doing so will mean a narrow appreciation of the functions of the human body parts. Seeing that the issue at hand is one of human physiology, it is important to understand how science defines it and how the two perspectives above agree with or contradict this definition.
Fundamentally, Human Physiology is the science of the mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions of normal humans or human tissues or organs. From the preceding definition, it is clear that while Mr. Bentil insists on the use of the biochemical function of the human brain (which is contained in the cranium) as the function of the head; Mr. Quarm rather illustrated the Mechanical /Physical use of the human head in our socio-cultural setting.
A Pedagogical Dilemma
When asked some of the physical activities that the human head could be used for, the answers may range from carrying load ( i.e. in the Ghanaian setting as indicated by Mr. Quarm); heading a ball in a game of soccer, nodding by way of response in non-verbal communication, among other physical functions. However, the morphological (structural) design of the human head enables it to house the sensory organs of sight, taste, smell, the brain (for thinking), among others. As such, the question that arises is; which of these categories of function should take precedence over the other when teaching pupils at such very basic levels? I think the preceding question should be the crux of the debate, rather than condemning one party as wrong while upholding the other – in a black or white manner. Sound arguments must be made for why the biochemical function of the brain contained in the cranium of the head should take precedence over the head’s physical function of conveying load, nodding etc; when teaching children at such levels. This should be a matter of debate over the method and practice of teaching, rather than a simple right or wrong interpretation.
Ergonomics vs. Socio-Cultural Practices
While Mr. Bentil appears to fault Mr. Quarm on his approach to creating this teaching material, I believe the crux of his concern is directed more at discouraging the socio-cultural practice of conveying goods on our heads in Ghana. The practice results in more fatigue and is not safe for the worker.
In that respect, we must begin to consider the debate of how we can convey goods in our various socioeconomic endeavours by means that are more efficient but have no serious cost implications for the deprived citizen struggling to make a living. The discussion can be extended to look at other such practices which we can modify or discard totally and adopt in their place more efficient and safer means.
In the final analysis of the matter, it is a clear case of a Policy Specialist who believes socio-cultural change should be instituted through our teaching methods from the basic level. Hence he holds strongly that the ergonomically unsound practice of carrying loads on the head should not be cited in our text books. Mr. Quarm on the other hand depicts in his book a clear physical use of the human head in our society; which he holds as consistent with the current teaching and learning methods. So, rather than condemning one party in favour of the other, we must begin the constructive debate on how to consciously evolve our teaching and learning methods and materials to reflect the desirable socio-cultural practices we seek, while at the same time discouraging the unsafe ones. This issue brings to the fore the need for proper debate on Human-Factors Engineering with respect to our socioeconomic activities and the need to imbue pupils with preferred socio-cultural perspectives from the basic level . This I believe is a better bet than outright condemnations, which engender nothing but strife, while the real reasoning of both parties are left to peter out in the hot air.