School Is Not Synonymous with Education

Kabir Vega Castellanos*

From the documentary film. "La Educacion Prohibida"
From the documentary film. “La Educacion Prohibida”

HAVANA TIMES — I recently saw a documentary expressing opinions on education. But whose opinions were these? The teachers themselves.

I wish that many children and young people in Cuba could see it. It reminded me of all my old feelings, as I realized the objective cruelty of school.

I think the documentary is Argentinean, though in it are interviewed professionals from several Spanish-speaking countries. “Education Is Prohibited”(La Educación Prohibida) shows how education emerged, its evolution in different periods of history and what it has become.

One result: formerly 98 percent of children were interested in learning and would pick up a book to read at home, while today this figure is only 10 percent. One of the people interviewed said that when Monday’s come around, most children think: “What a shame. Now I have to go to school!”

From the documentary film "La Educación Prohibida".
From the documentary film “La Educación Prohibida”.

But what’s worse is that most teachers feel the same.

“School is not synonymous with education” said these teachers. I was most impressed when one teacher said: “Everyone talks about peace, but no one is educated for peace. Teaching is based on competition, and competition is the beginning of any war.”

It’s absolutely true that one has to compete all the time in school, and we’re always ignoring that we our individuals, people with different interests. I was quite surprised to learn that in countries considered “developed,” there’s also a great deal of dissatisfaction with the education.

The documentary explained that human beings learn naturally, out of need and curiosity, but that school ends up killing both qualities among students, who are forced to merely repeat and memorize for a passing grade, without the slightest interest in what they’re doing.

Other respondents said people only learn when they’re enjoying what they’re doing.

A Cuban student.
A Cuban student.

Everyone’s conclusion was that the real purpose of education isn’t to help us understand life and all the difficulties that lie ahead.

The goal of schools is to develop a docile and obedient citizen, to turn them into puppets of corporations and the state, additional widgets in a monstrous machine – in “socialist” as well as capitalist countries. Those aren’t schools, but factories.

At the end one teacher speaks with great emotion. You can see she can’t contain her tears. She said, “Love is all that a child needs, and that everything else, what they need for the world, comes on its own. However, a child who hasn’t received love is hardly capable of giving.”

The film is dedicated to “all children and young people who want to grow up in freedom.”

I guess we have a long way to go for thoughts like these to be taken into account in Cuba, but just the fact that there are people thinking and expressing these things and that we can now see them here (though not on TV) is already something hopeful.
(*) Kabir is a young Cuban who was not allowed to attend his senior high school because of his long hair.

2 thoughts on “School Is Not Synonymous with Education

  • I also saw that documentary a while back and can tell you that is utter crap. The documentary “exposed” the flaws of “traditional” education from the heavily biased POV of new age philosophies.

    As usual in these cases, the documentary is ridden with flawed logical reasoning, including the false dichotomy about the options and of course based on their own crap they discarded traditional education in favor of their crappy ideology.

    Love is NOT ALL what a child needs. A child needs instruction in the achievements of past generations in order to add something of value to society, because starting from scratch in every generation would have all of us still dwelling in caves. Denying the child access to the wealth of knowledge amassed by civilization is not a show of love, is paramount to child abuse and the surest way to ensure that he or she is going to grow at best as a mediocre human being, with a heavily disadvantage amongst its peers that is going to have direct consequences, like less work opportunities, and said opportunities in jobs with lower income and without any security whatsoever and in the long room is going to doom them to live poverty and ostracized from most of the society that won’t even bother to acknowledge their marginalized existence.

    That is not love, that is plain and simple child abuse and has to be dealt with as such. He have fought hard to grant all children a start in life with more or less equal opportunities, thats why civilized nations consider education an inherent child right and parents who denied said rights are in violation of the law and don’t deserve to raise them.

    Finally, I have a “secret” to the people that made the stupid documentary and some of the people in it: growing up has nothing to do with love, education, or even instruction (although all of it is of course highly desirable). To be considered a grown up, a kid only needs to master a single lesson: that ALL things you do or don’t do have consequences and you are responsible for those. Thats it.

  • It appears that the teachers expressing themselves here strongly base
    their pedagogical stance on a sociocultural, neo-Vygostskyan theory that is at
    the centre of pedagogical ‘innovation’ currently sought in many western, Anglophone educational models. It does not matter that it is not voiced – a theory has unique traits, which I here recognise.

    I have often pointed out how this philosophy is of socialist origins. I come from a country that hates itself for not being more ‘westernised’. I am talking about Italy. At the same time, Italian educational modes are subject of world-wide research and admiration for being underpinned in the very sociocultural theory that the Anglophone country I inhabit now aspires to diffuse in primary, secondary and higher education. I know it as it is the object of my current research in educational sciences and linguistics. I hope Cubans do not run the same risk: deploring its current good practice in envy of pastures greener.

    Whilst it is good to share and compare, it is often foolish to denigrate one’s own cultural underpinning – especially if it makes a teacher express him/herself as richly as we read here! And especially if we see it picked up and emulated all over the world…

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