The Kid that Doesn’t Study Isn’t a Good Revolutionary

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s 2015 Pedagogy Symposium – a yearly gathering that lays bare the sorry state of our educational system – has just come to an end. The great problem facing this system isn’t a lack of resources or teachers but the complete absence of an emancipatory program.

Cuba’s free, public education is probably the best offered by a Third World country. It would be an admirable feat indeed if the sector’s higher-ups didn’t devote so much energy to castrating the imagination of students in order to adapt them to the demands of a dictatorship. The self-preservation instinct leads them to do that. To them, libertarian education is tantamount to suicide.

The list of issues addressed in the Pedagogy Symposium this year affords us a clear sense of where the shots were aimed at this time around:

  1. The formation of values and civic education
  2. Schools, teachers and their professional performance
  3. Preliminary and permanent training for educators
  4. libro1Scientific education and its current challenges
  5. Information and Communication Technologies in education
  6. Education quality assessment studies
  7. Environmental education for sustainable development and disaster prevention
  8. Culture, education and society
  9. Physical education, sports and health in educational institutions
  10. Comprehensive education for children and teens
  11. Management of the teaching and learning processes
  12. Vocational, work-related and professional education in response to social demands
  13. The contribution of the sciences to the development of educational practices
  14. The integration of school, the family and the community
  15. Literacy and education for the young and adults
  16. The thought of Jose Marti and Fidel Castro in Cuba’s educational achievements
  17. Latin American educational schools

The issue of freedom (how to achieve it and conserve it, what responsibilities it entails, who threatens it here and now), an unavoidable issue for any education that calls itself humanist, was conspicuously absent at the symposium.

Let us have a look at the main issues that went unaddressed:

Teaching people how to organize and defend themselves against the abuses of an all-powerful State.

Teaching workers the tools in record-breaking time so that they will not be so vulnerable in the capitalist world.

Using education to combat growing male chauvinism and discrimination towards unconventional forms of sexuality.

The role the school is playing in the treatment and reproduction of racism.

Tackling, through education, the crisis that techno-productivist civilization is facing and its environmental consequences.

Teaching people to deal with transgenic and other dangerous biotechnology products which the country’s leadership has decided to manufacture or market.

Using education to address the aging of the population and the spread of cancer.

Rescuing critical, libertarian and emancipatory thought from the abyss.

Addressing spirituality in education so that alienating and intolerant religious movements do not fill the void.

Teaching the people to educate themselves.

The most serious problems facing Cuban society today were not addressed at Cuba’s 2015 Pedagogy Symposium (held at the magnificent Havana Convention Center using public funds).

What couldn’t be left untouched, not under any circumstances, was the issue of values, the word used in Cuba to describe a highly bureaucratic, middle class pedantry that flutters about lofty and abstract principles.

What couldn’t be left untouched was the issue of science and new information technologies (stand-ins for freedom in modern totalitarian societies), and, of course, an entire segment devoted to the “thought” of Fidel Castro, that deep thinker.

To conclude, here are some photos of a first grade reading book used in Cuba. In it, we can appreciate how deliberately and zealously the country’s top ideologues work to hammer, I mean, instill positive values into the young at the earliest ages. If these things go in one ear and come out the other, it won’t be from a lack of trying.

Click on the thumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery. On your PC or laptop, you can use the directional arrows on the keyboard to move within the gallery. On cell phones use the keys on the screen.

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

2 thoughts on “The Kid that Doesn’t Study Isn’t a Good Revolutionary

  • When I lived in NYC in 1968 there was a sanitation strike that these photos remind me of. The strike ended and sanitation workers in NYC, after working six years earn over 65.000.00 a year. It took time but NYC is clean now and the workers are truly the best. Cuba will take time Erasmo so keep posting and complaining. Hopefully, those who left the Island years ago will assist in getting things back in shape and still maintain the independence you and many strive for.

  • Whether up here in the Evil Empire, or down there in sensual, socialist Cuba, most of these educational pow-wows are pretty dreary. Up here, the workshop titles are always full of the latest trite and trendy methods, materials and panaceas. In reality, there is no one road to the New Jerusalem. With my students, in addition to my mesmerizing lectures (zzzz), I often use YouTube and Vimeo selections with my students, creative channels such as “The School of Life” with their little 10 and 12 minute intros to philosophers, for example. For a unit on the U.S. post-war period, I had my students view “Atomic Cafe,” “Dynamite Chicken” and “WR: Mysteries of the Organism.” Finally, the pages of the books you include are quite a trip! They are better than the “Dick and Jane” readers I grew up on. (I actually bought some repros of these a few years back, and the “Dick,” “Jane,” “Spot” and “Sally” magnets included now adorn my refrigerator.

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