By Erasmo Calzadilla
Recently-looking through the textbook of a young friend who’s in the second grade-I found this gem, among other precious jewels.
Message to the Pioneers*
If you study and are disciplined, in the future you will be able to be the people we need:
Vanguard workersThe best teachers
In short, we want good workers.
We are waiting for you.
Think and responded to:
What must the pioneers do to fulfill what is expected from them by the nation?
I suddenly jumped up and jotted down these lines.
The first thing that struck me in that text was the question of anonymity. It seems that a very serious demand is being made on these little kids, a demand that someone determined they could make on someone else’s children without first asking their parents. Moreover, this demand is being made without stating who is speaking in this manner.
I suppose that the effect that the author wants to achieve is that children, after reading these words, will think all adults are united in a single voice and thus feel even more fear of not doing what they’re asked.
The intention of that short oration-and many others like it that are so plentiful in children’s schoolbooks in Cuba-appear designed to put the bug into their tiny heads that social responsibility weighs on them, and that the eyes of the Other are on them, watchful that certain expectations are fulfilled.
Although the request that they turn out to be good athletes, engineers, artists, etc. seems benign, it plants in children the readiness to fulfill the desire of the Other, well before they’ve had time to mature their own desires.
What’s most terrible is not the demand itself, but all its weight that is implicit.
Surreptitiously, work is done to adapt children to the idea of duty toward a powerful Other, someone who is in the position to demand they do this or that. However, I firmly believe that the sense of debt to society, like all the other feelings, should be born of an act of freedom, free of demands. Otherwise, it will generate people tied to their guilt, like some religious tie them to sin, but they are never truly free people.
I think that children should be educated so that they learn how to protect themselves as children and that a demand is made of somebody who has participated in a pact and not done their part. And the fact is that they still haven’t made any pact with that mysterious and anonymous Other.
I believe that before making such demands on children, we should first ask them to forgive us for having brought them into this life without having been asked, and then we should ask them what they expect from us.
*Pioneers: A Cuban organization for elementary school children