By Regina Cano
In my previous article I spoke of “cold ways of teaching,” concerning so-called Formal Education in Cuba. I did so comparing this to traditional family education, an institution that lost its momentum in the face of the new radically necessary order that came with the island’s revolution in 1959.
With this, the Cuban people concentrated on building a new society. While previously the accumulation of knowledge allowed changes to happen in a logical way, the new rules ruptured the patriarchal structure in the family, achieving consequences that could be noted in the behavior of the very youngest, those demanding a solution.
With this came the welcomed possibility of Cuban women beginning to make use of their rights to study, work, be satisfied with themselves, etc. It was such a rapid change that in a number of ways the family lost some of its stability.
Thus the setting in which children were protected, where they knew what was family unity, where they received their first lessons in interpersonal relationships and learned about respect – although this was taught mostly through fear of the father figure – all of this was left broken overnight, losing the customary order.
Women and men assumed responsibilities that didn’t allow them to spend a lot of time with their families; children and teens went to day-care centers and schools of formal instruction.
In the majority of homes the family members ceased having dinner together; girls stopped learning how to sew and embroider and didn’t take on those responsibilities that females were historically assigned.
Women continued to perform the household chores and shoulder the responsibilities for all of these. The new set of roles failed to achieve order; the search for combined solutions did not find its place and thus the family lost its compass, increasing tensions between couples and, consequently, breaking up marriages, which of course affected children.
I know that the modernity – and in other cases poverty, as well as globalization – have produced similar outcomes in other societies, but in our country we had few contacts with other countries during the1970’s and 80’s, except those of the former socialist bloc.
With all of this said, the change felt like a razorblade, forever affecting all interpersonal relationships for each individual and family (in all of its diverse forms) to the overall community, which included all Cubans within and outside the country.
Presently, ordinary Cubans don’t totally understand what has happened, but they perceive that a crisis in values exists among the last two generations. They also find an evident reference around which all fingers point: the crisis of the 1990s. This period of time (well-known among us as the “Special Period”) truly presented us with a great test – one which we didn’t pass.
Those last two generations benefited from the sacrifices of their parents so that their children could enjoy what we lacked and were difficult to obtain at that time: clothes, shoes and especially food, the essential component of survival. Although some people sacrificed even their health to benefit their children, these youth nonetheless ended up undernourished and their parents wound up suffering from nervous conditions.
The survival plan turned many people heartless, even with those who ceded their own food, which led to disregard and disrespect for those same individuals who risked their health and who found themselves in a unfavorable position due to their age or because they did not develop all the capacities to allow them a place on the new map.
Also during the 1970s and 80’s, a more spiritual and more sensitive generation was growing up, because the country of the future guaranteed everything for them. Today that spirituality doesn’t have a space in the material world of the new Cuba. But nor will a positive impact be made on the young generation with the cold ways of teaching used in the old textbook “Formal Education.” A new and necessary change will have to come by completely different paths.