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:
- The formation of values and civic education
- Schools, teachers and their professional performance
- Preliminary and permanent training for educators
- Scientific education and its current challenges
- Information and Communication Technologies in education
- Education quality assessment studies
- Environmental education for sustainable development and disaster prevention
- Culture, education and society
- Physical education, sports and health in educational institutions
- Comprehensive education for children and teens
- Management of the teaching and learning processes
- Vocational, work-related and professional education in response to social demands
- The contribution of the sciences to the development of educational practices
- The integration of school, the family and the community
- Literacy and education for the young and adults
- The thought of Jose Marti and Fidel Castro in Cuba’s educational achievements
- 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.
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