The Age of Innocence

Osmel Almaguer 

HAVANA TIMES, March 16 — The first class that I had with my students was focused on me getting to know them and visa versa. I was interested in learning about why they were attending that particular school, and I was especially curious about their plans for the future.

My students are in their first year of mid-level accounting studies at the Lazaro Peña Polytechnic Institute.

In an informal oral survey, I discovered that approximately fifty of my almost one hundred students are aiming to continue in that field. Only two or three showed any interest in pursuing university studies.

About a fifth of them admit that their attendance in school is due to family pressure or other factors, like the police.

Many of them want to become administrators, cooks, accountants, etc., in the tourism industry, while some showed an interest in living in the United States.

Like those who were considering a future at the university, there were some other exceptions; these were students who mentioned aspirations that were completely outside of the context they’re now pursuing, like the young woman who hopes to become a model.

The great majority of my students are from the Guanabacoa municipality, famous for the resistance it put up to the English invasion in 1762. Today’s descendants of those early settlers aren’t so opposed to other types of invasions, such as cultural and ideological ones.

They live in a marginal world where the laws of the street govern their relationships, where pragmatism imposed by needs determines their actions, and where spirituality is intimately confined to reggaeton and whatever’s in fashion.

Their parents are only interested in their studies when they have to show up at the school demanding that teachers explain why their kid flunked the year. It’s easy to see that these parents belong to the same environment as their children and are governed by the same laws.

The older teachers still naively try to change the lives of those students with the old methods, ones that worked when people possessed a sense of shame and a simple scolding was source of embarrassment. Such techniques no longer work.

All of us who have been written into this plot — the students, parents and the teachers — have been somewhat innocent. So, now, let’s try and discover the culprits.