How I write – George Cassar
by Marie Benoit
The question of “How I write” immediately primes me to point out that the only things I write about are those of a factual nature. In fact, all my publications have dealt with social, historical and cultural issues; matters which are entrenched in real life and deal with real life situations which can be somehow verified or compared.
Besides being an educationalist, I have always considered myself a social scientist, a historical sociologist; and the subject matter I have researched, written about, and taught, along the years from when I first graduated B.A. (Educ.), has revolved around issues of heritage, education, and sociological and historical themes. During my years of research and preparation for my M.Ed. and Ph.D., I continued to investigate, and focus upon, socio-historical matters and pedagogical issues.
Yet, I am also – or should I say, primarily – a person of the people. I believe that what I write should be understood by all those who read it. I use straight forward language, simple enough for the majority to understand, yet without discarding technical jargon when this needs to be included. The first two works published concerned workbooks for secondary school students. These were followed by the first book based on documentary evidence. I was commissioned to research a case study of the Mosta Primary School from primary sources on the occasion of the 100th anniversary from the foundation of this school. It was entitled Ġrajja ta’ Skola: L-Iskola Primarja tal-Mosta fis-Sekli Dsatax u Għoxrin, (1999). One needs to point out here that when, in 1986, I went to live at Mosta I became an integral part of this community. I became entwined in the social fabric of this kind and generous location. I progressively joined the various groups, clubs and organisations. I cherish and am very grateful for the opportunity these organisations gave me to do research on the various aspects of my adopted community. I came to know it inside out. I must say that all these are in some way or other reflected in the various books and articles I have produced about my home town Mosta. The culmination of this is probably Il-Mosta, il-Mostin u r-Rotunda Tagħhom matul iż-Żminijiet (2007). This book, commissioned by the Mosta local council on the occasion of the 400th anniversary from when Mosta became a parish, gave me the chance to revise and update the seminal work done by Emanuel Benjamin Vella in 1930.
I have also had the opportunity to carry out a micro study about the Mosta Scout Group. I researched the life and times of this organisation writing its annals on the occasion of its 90th anniversary in the book Onwards Mosta: The life and times of the Mosta Scout Group 1916-2008 (2009). All the time my work called for precise detail and analysis which required constant loyalty to the records being consulted. There is no place for fantasy or fiction in this type of writing, not only because the social sciences require as much but also as many a time what I write can be verified and checked by the same people who lived and made the events and circumstances that have now become the story, the narrative of the book.
Of great importance is the attention to detail which makes what I write a point of reference for others. The many papers, articles and chapters which I have published in academic journals and edited books have always tried to follow the same rigid principles required by academic rigour. My latest book is an attestation to this standard as the story of the Malta Union of Teachers unfolds in the 500 pages which trace its 90 years of existence as the oldest extant trade union in Malta. Thus Inside the Malta Union of Teachers 1919-2009: Ninety years of active trade unionism and professional development (2009) follows the creed of loyalty towards the facts without losing sight of the ethics of research that ought to direct the social scientist while “prying” into the lives, thoughts and actions of individuals and groups in an effort to bring forth their activities, deeds and accomplishments.
For me writing is a serious business where the factual element cannot be meddled with and interpretation – where this is required – follows the same rigorous structure of academic writing that one expects to find in works built on document sources and painstakingly researched data.