Destroying the Thirst for the Wonderful

Erasmo Calzadilla

Cuban grade school kids.  Photo: Caridad
Cuban grade school kids. Photo: Caridad

It’s unnecessary to do any “educational work” with children for them to begin poking around at everything that surrounds them. Born within them is a natural way of marveling at everything that appears before them, but then school takes charge – gradually killing the marvelous thirst they’re endowed with (at least schools I’ve experienced and known).

This phenomenon is probably not exclusive to Cuba, and it’s even possible that we’re privileged with respect to the world in this sense, but we suffer from it too.

I’ve asked myself:  What’s the particular procedure employed in Cuba to blunt one’s intelligence and senses?  This could be the substance of a thick novel, though here I’m only seeking to comment on one chapter related to the teaching of social sciences.

I’d already spent several years as a teacher of subjects like philosophy, political economy, etc., when I discovered that the endpoint of all of them was nothing other than freedom.  I understood that everything involves full human happiness, and this was truly my second birth.

But this ray of light didn’t appear to me through the literature recommended in the official program edited by the Central Committee of the Party —no sir— but by diving into books that I myself got hold of.

It was the philosopher Fernando Savater —with his Política para Amador, a book dedicated to his son— who opened my eyes to the sense of politics and how to teach it so it opens a world, not closes ones.  I found out late, but I found out – so better late than never.

The problem then was that the profound but at the same time simple works of Savater had nothing to do with the scientific-like jargon they made me dump on students at the university.

Our daily life submerges us Cubans in an immature custom of respect, and the teachings of social science contribute splendidly to that.  Scientificity and theoretical complexity (in the best? of cases) are the refuge of educational programs in these teachings – programs aimed at avoiding the piquant and unavoidable issue of freedom, and the Marx during the stage of writing Capital is perfect for that endeavor.

Cuban university students end up internalizing (in the best? of cases) doublespeak about the law of value, the cycle of capital and the supposed laws of dialectics, but they are unaware of the inspiration that moved people to such reflections: the yearning for people to be free and happy in this life that is ours to live.

One thought on “Destroying the Thirst for the Wonderful

  • Erasmo, didn’t you know that “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose?” (Janis Joplin, “Me and Bobby McGee”) Happiness? Well, according to Jefferson we have a right to the pursuit of happiness. Whether we can ever catch her is another matter. Still, freedom and happiness sound like good starting points to me.

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