remote teaching

Unidentified Navajo artist, Chief's Blanket, 1865–70. (hit The Met)


The teaching act in the era of its technical reproducibility

“[The new tablet] lets you teach from anywhere. You can sync classroom screens, use the S Pen to keep track of ideas, and stay organized with Notes to assess individual student progress in real time and customize activities based on student success. Let the [new tablet] work and teach students to think outside the books" (Advertisement).

“The current historical significance of the students and the university, the form of their existence in the present, deserves, therefore, to be described as an image of a higher and metaphysical moment in history. […] While several conditions are still missing for this, it only remains to free the future from its present disfigured form, through an act of knowledge” (Walter Benjamin, “Student Life”).

listening place

As a university professor for almost two decades now, I realize that students' perspectives and expectations have changed a lot. And currently, for a long time now, they want, in general and as a priority, to be part of society, of the market, to have a job, registered work, purchasing power, own car, start a family, private school for their children, private pension plan. health and pay bills. I fear that, for this very reason, when they hear how society has been, they understand that it is a recommendation for adaptation, much more than criticism.

When they read a text or listen to an exposition in which the author writes or says that the current university attaches more importance to research than to teaching, he can understand that it is, therefore, a matter of assimilating guidance as a factor of academic success. This is because, as Paulo Arantes explained, at present the utopian energies are practically exhausted. Decisive care therefore has to consider at the same time the content of what is said, to whom and how it is said. Having made this consideration about the place of listening, which is as important as the place of speaking, I would like to move on to the development of the text.

reasons for refusal

Since 2011, I have been a philosophy professor in a science teacher training course at a public university. I have also participated in a school research group since 2018 and I would like to tell you a little about my experiences on these two fronts of activities as a way of offering a less abstract ballast as a contribution to the discussion that the theme of “remote teaching” requires. In the sense of what Alcir Pécora (2015) refers to as Aristotle's recommendation that, "for greater effect on the public, it is always convenient that the misfortune is made present with traces of the body affected by it".

This semester, 7 subjects are offered to freshman male and female students, subdivided between science and mathematics professors, on the one hand, and humanities professors, on the other. The weekly workload of a student in the first semester is, more or less, 30h, that is, 6h/day between classes and studies. The course has 200 places per entry, on average, with 4 calls. That is, we have students coming to the course until April, with classes starting in February. In the humanities disciplines, we had classes of 1h30, for each of the 4 classes, of 50 students each, which represented 6h of class, in general, offered on the same day, afternoon and evening. There were 18 meetings (18 weeks) during the school semester. This is in the old so-called normal conditions.

On March 16, all face-to-face university activities were suspended by official determinations. In May, opinion no. 5 of the National Council of Education (CNE), of 1st. de Junho made vague recommendations regarding replacing face-to-face activities with non-face-to-face ones, which allowed universities, at first, to proceed as they found most convenient. However, and to the surprise of the university wing more concerned with pedagogical and social issues, the interpretations of the official document were, gradually, more and more rigid as the deliberations passed to the local instances of the university.

For example, the possibility of examination and decision by each professor on whether or not to offer the subject he or she coordinates was annulled; by internal determination, the contents of the face-to-face disciplines had to be maintained, even with all the restrictions in working conditions; the teaching plans changed to meet the remote modality were filled in so as to just “copy and paste” the teaching plans originally proposed for the classes. It was merely a protocol measure, since in the discussions between professors it was already known that it would be impossible to offer the disciplines as if nothing was happening.

This university, as well as others across the country, had already hired Google for communication, data storage and work planning services. Institutional email, for example, is offered and managed completely by Google. With the isolation, I discovered that the service also allows the use of virtual rooms, with the possibility of recording meetings and storing them on Google drive, other of these so-called “tools”. Each student is offered the institutional e-mail and, therefore, has access to activities linked to these virtual work platforms. There is also, as support, Google Classroom and Moodle, as complements to control the delivery of activities, communication with students, file of documents and circulation of information. We also use so-called social networks (Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube).

All of this requires good devices (computers, cell phones and tablets), stable internet connections, convenient private physical spaces (without turmoil, noise or interruptions), good sense of organizing information and studies, preparing for meetings and carrying out tasks. In other words, almost everything that students at a popular university installed on the outskirts of a large metropolis do not have, either because of the dramatic social conditions in which they live, or because a good part of their study habits and customs are developed precisely with guidance, monitoring and exercises. during academic life.

This also requires teachers with dexterity in handling these “tools” and with material conditions to transform what they did in classes, in orientations and in the various face-to-face activities into content transmitted over the internet. Which also happens with the speed and ease imagined. Evidently, I discount enthusiasts and vainglorious “educational technologies” who were already experimenting with the contents of the disciplines they coordinate.

Furthermore, we also do not have access to libraries, and even though there is a growing e-book market, the scope is still very restricted. We began to improvise on all fronts, as a way of reconciling official determinations, educational needs and social expectations.

I had two meetings via videoconference with my students. Of the 200, nearly 150 showed up on the first day, 80 on the second week, and 50 on the third. Therefore, from the outset, many were gradually excluded, for various reasons, for which there are still no plans for an active search. There will be eleven weeks of meetings in total, with one for closing the concepts of fulfilled or not fulfilled and, due to the progress, the prognosis is that fewer and fewer students will attend. Google Meet meetings are not mandatory and must be recorded and made available to students. Even if, eventually, no students show up for the meeting, the teacher should record the content of the activity and make it available to everyone.

There is a field of research that is strange to me and advocates the “gamification” of education, at various levels. And, in each area of ​​academic knowledge, there are specialists and enthusiasts of this modality. Spreading the false image that the resource represents something advanced in terms of education. But, I ask, what do you mean by that? I suppose, as the name implies, transforming teaching into videogame management, supposedly with educational content. This goes well with what has been called the uberization of teaching work, adapting in any case the personal conditions of teachers to produce and sell content to platform managers and consumers eager for educational products.

The student movement is practically over, only part of the democratic-institutional veneer remains, a significant part of the youth watches the proposal of “gamification” fascinated; unions are tottering and lost between a protocol role, a lack of resources and persistent affiliation campaigns; teachers are almost exclusively concerned with their Lattes and the productivity that allows for career advancement and promotion. Depoliticization is broad, general and unrestricted.

In an effort to reconstruct some of the main experiences of the complex teaching-learning system in which children and young people of school and university age participate, when regularly and officially enrolled in public schools and universities, and able to attend them in person, I list the following possibilities that are offered.

I propose here to remember – because we all go through similar school situations in one way or another – of what is perhaps, in general, part of the experiences of a child or young person from the moment they leave home to go to school and during the time spent there.

Let us remember that the impact of going to school as a routine for students goes far beyond the issue of transmitting formal knowledge. When leaving the family environment to experience other places and social roles at school or even on the way, opportunities to encourage learning are offered in a variety of ways. Commuting to school, especially when on foot or by public transport, makes it possible to exercise orientation, offering the student an expanded notion of the neighborhood or the city, in addition to demanding special attention and self-care.

The geographic experience involves physical, psychic, toponymic and, over time, also historical experiences, because knowing where we are, where we live, and where we need to go involves a range of distinctions, knowledge, information and preparations that they are part both of the needs that everyday demands, and of the psychomotor development of the child and the young person. When the school triggers these demands, the crossing becomes included in the educational process.

Arriving at school requires that children and young people fit into a series of conditions, both material and behavioral, such as being attentive to the use and preservation of school materials, clothes, shoes, cleanliness, but equally and concomitantly to schedules, school protocols and the intersubjective relationships that allow developing, beyond family motives and demands, attention, zeal, memory and concentration on the events of school life. As a decisive additional measure, it is important to be spared, by time at school, from immediate personal and social needs. It is a known crucial factor that children and young people get used to the suspension of domestic and social concerns during their studies at school.

The fact of being able to prove, on several levels, the effects of the diversity of relationships, friendships, family backgrounds, attitudes in living together, skills, talents, religious customs, food preferences, tastes offers fruitful opportunities for the awareness of the importance of mutual respect for freedom of choice, variety of options, observance of limits, cultivation of social sensitivity and solidarity essential for civilized and harmonious community life.

From this regulated cohabitation at school, the child and the young person begin to master and develop their own feelings, sensations and emotions in progress as an indispensable requirement for development. It is also in the school experience that they better consolidate their awareness of their own individuality precisely because they have in the variety that school coexistence provides important terms of comparison, where they find affinities, sympathies, affections, but also experience estrangement, conflict and surprise. The presence in the school community allows an integral experience, in which body and spirit are dynamically engaged in the active response and participation in the situations experienced.

On the other hand, the discursive and behavioral modulation that the professor adopts based on the students' reactions, reception and bodily dispositions is fundamental to guarantee better results in the proposal of activities, that is, to guarantee attention, interest and involvement.

In contrast, what they contradictorily call “remote teaching” (because there is, in fact, no teaching without presence), the following factors prevent us from considering these proposals as “solutions” to the challenges that social isolation has brought us.

Home and school cannot be confused for the benefit of the teaching-learning process, because the educational process demands a special type of concentration for which children and young people need, initially, constant exercise and conditioning, time, patience and suppression of distraction requests and reasons. And the family environment is dispersive due to its dynamics and nature. The process in which the school participates takes on a special dimension, like a greenhouse plant, reserved for discovery and the possible awakening of interest, therefore, although safe, children and young people should not be at school as they would be used to in domestic environments. .

Regarding the functioning of technological devices for “remote teaching”, we know that they depend on a multitude of factors whose complex operation ends up becoming the main focus of attention of young people and children. That is, an instance is established that disputes and wins the educational proposals in the requirement of involvement, willingness and even the interest of students. The temporality of virtual activities obeys a different pace than that required for face-to-face educational experiences. See, for example, the increased discomfort in relation to moments of silence, waiting, the duration of virtual meetings and the accelerated exposure and understanding time. The relationship is not established primarily between people, but initially stands out that of user and device, and then that of the spectator with the television image on the screens.[I], in these cases, different expectations and involvements are established than when there is no operation of devices, cameras, filming and transmissions.

With this, education and the exercise of civility are downgraded, if not annulled, in distance transmission, and the possibilities and even needs of, for example, learning to deal with the unknown, in the midst of the community, are reduced to a minimum. with one's own feelings, doubts, hesitations and personal sensations. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle does not offer the body the chances to participate in learning that are combined with sensitivity, imagination and intelligence. There is an inflation of appeals of a visual, private and passive nature, the rules of conduct are colonized by the operating rules of devices, accesses and networks, the type of concentration becomes predominantly fluctuating and of short duration forged by the habit of television and all materialities that are not immediately technological tend to lose legitimacy because they demand another type of availability, temporality, involvement and domain. In summary, the technological experience tends to be solitary, private, solipsistic and exclusive.

With this kind of turnaround in educational conditions, what can teachers and professors do in front of a screen, with intermittent access and participation, sometimes hidden and through a television-type transmission, without reach and even less coverage? Almost nothing, perhaps exchanging information, proposals for activities as a hobby, occupational therapy as a distraction from social concerns and immediate domestic and work tasks.

These formulations in a synthetic state hide subtleties and necessary deepening of each dimension of the experience involved in the educational process, but they can allow, I think, to glimpse a field of development of reflections that can explain more and better the serious problems concealed by the official determinations and institutional practices of the “remote teaching”.

  The value of face-to-face education

Teachers do not “teach” classes. Not like someone who gives an object or says goodbye to someone. In addition to elaborating a speech, with full knowledge of the facts, around a subject studied and organized to enunciate before a specific and interested public, we, in the best part in which the class takes place, promote more subtractions than offerings, more we take from what we give.

I explain. Subtraction of everyday randomness and dispersion, participation in the game of agreed automatisms; subtraction of expressive, reflexive disarticulation and impulsive adherence to immediate demands, of desires colonized by market appeals. The time and space of the class are different in nature from all others. Class time, when it occurs, is the time to invite reflection, slow examination and gradual discovery. The classroom space is the conditioning factor that modulates expectations, appeases exasperations, concentrates attention and stimulates intelligence.

The type of encounter that the class provides, when it is carried out well, is of an ancient order, related to pleasant conversation, polite and orderly encounters, sometimes even sermons. It is not rare that we need to be removed from the present in order to understand certain features of the present itself through the historical perspective of tradition. As an active present in the heart of the past, the class offers, at the moment of its realization, a passage to the most important meeting that an intelligence in formation could aspire to: the one with the experience of tradition.

Teaching and learning essentially depend on the encounter that the school or university makes possible, because, far beyond the contents, teaching and learning are only possible thanks to the experience of sociability, the postures, affections and gestures of the people involved, the rules of civility, the theatricality itself and resulting from conviviality and proximity, welcoming, institutionality and solidarity, routes and crossings, spaces of permanence and fraternization, the experience of shared otherness, the decorum that social, school life and university education makes it decant in the spirit in formation, in skills in development, in the participation in the processes of knowledge, in the awareness of the social responsibility of the professional future, in the fight for respect and for the guarantees that human rights defend.

As we can see, comparatively, the so-called “remote teaching” is a contradiction in terms, a formula that reveals fundamental setbacks, because there is neither teaching nor “distance” learning, although there may be, at most, the exchange of information. This is the falsification that technocratic formulas pretend to pass off as “advance” or “progress” or “solution”. We could compare the misunderstanding involved, for example, with the hypothetical interested attempt to convince people that getting to know a country could be reduced to seeing a series of images or videos of typical places in that country or listening to some stories of those who claim to have traveled there . Well, nothing more false. We don't just learn with our eyes, but much more through active participation in the complexity of a network of experiences in a broad sense that interact and that only the physical presence of each one allows to establish.

If, on the one hand, the emergency measures in an attempt to mitigate the damage that social isolation entails feed the “solutionist” fury (Morozov, 2020) of the technological market and voracious in “data extraction” and hysterical voluntarism on duty (always anxious for official commands, for orders from superiors), on the other hand, contrary to the vaunted justifications, they end up deepening exclusion, discrimination and social injustices, annihilating opportunities for reflection and democratically considered definitions about what would in fact be a priority, supportive and educational to do in the face of challenges.

We know that students make a great affective, social and intellectual investment when they go to school or university. The public space crosses students and is crossed by their desires, interests and dispositions. When the student enters the classroom, sees that he can legitimately occupy a place, participate in the university system of knowledge, be individualized by the teacher's attention and be officially named by academic documents, he feels invested with rights, responsibilities, feelings , sensations and thoughts that make all the difference as enthusiasm and participation in the training process.

Students are the most important representation of the future that the university or school can have. This means that, in the constitution of the dynamics of the public space, educational work is organized around the zeal and preparation necessary for youth for the future of society. Teachers, we study and plan our subjects and even our bodies for this founding meeting of a delicate, complex and, at times, fragile work of presenting tradition to young people and, concomitantly, of introducing students to tradition. Temporalities, materialities, and institutional and institutional spaces are catalysts for the consolidation of this work. Hence, the automatized accelerations of electronic gadgets are harmful to diversity, rhythm, assimilation, silences, gazes, concentration that are essential for teaching and learning.

If training could be replaced by information, television news could replace studies, journalistic texts could replace books, the countless videos available on the internet could replace classes, laboratory filming could replace the laboratories themselves, tutorials could replace guidance of professors and technicians, the Google search engine could replace research work, automatic translators replace the study of languages, in short, images could replace travel and, who knows, even relationships between people would become a matter of software .

A class always takes place on a concrete and geographically established territory, a type of setting, as they say in theatre, cinema and psychoanalysis, occupied by the presence of professors and students, knowledge and interests, domains and affections, plots and rules. Training means, therefore, an experience fundamentally between people, whether in the institutional form that schools and universities provide, or in the social form of personal, professional, sentimental, cultural relationships, etc. But not virtual, because even if the images seem to show the opposite, the relationship is established with a device, therefore, an object, and, in the end, with a commodity.

The class is the basic unit of the teaching act, and the classroom is the ground, between the public and the private, on which the understanding, thought and expression of multiple ideas transits is done, above all, by speech and by listening, but duly framed by institutional materiality, seasoned with enthusiasm and joy for study, knowledge, teaching and learning.

The context in which classes become a fruitful opportunity requires those involved to observe a code of conduct, without which the paths are not offered, because they do not even seem to exist. Each teacher, when he prepares and presents his classes, does so in a unique way, because he is dependent on the conditions of the here and now of each meeting, and, when he is successful, also in an authentic, creative and fruitful way.

The so-called Special Home Activities (ADEs) are not classes, as the name, nature and regulation confirm. They are prostheses where there should be face-to-face meetings. Therefore, we cannot expect them to duly fulfill what only presence and materiality could constitute. We will not “go back to school”, as some boast, we will not “retake courses”, as others think and say, we are going to, at most, do something unprecedented, for which we are neither prepared, nor equipped, nor prevented, under the guardianship of large technology companies whose scope is exclusively to sell data.

And what is the reason? To comply exclusively with official bureaucratic determinations of calendars and market pressures. Just it. There are no pedagogical arguments to support the decision, we are hostages of exclusively technocratic commands. For the powers that be, it is not convenient to dispel the illusion that “we will go back to school”, even less that the expected “normality” is being re-established. Some will find the justification they are eagerly looking for to feel that they are working, that they are fulfilling the responsibilities that positions, functions and salaries oblige, others will simply do what most people do and, aware and calm with the fact that there have always been excluded people, will sleep the rest of their lives. sleep of the righteous.

The progressive disassociation between the bureaucratic promises established in the teaching plans and the implementation practices will be the first shock of finding the difficulties in the development of the ADEs. Patents as perception in eventual evaluations, but duly shelved in institutional “transparency”. The organization of studies will be more than ever the exclusive responsibility of students. Videos are forms that modify the apprehension of contents, because the medium is above all the message, who will be able to approach them with the necessary critical and technical domain to distinguish the peculiarities? The multiplication of technical concerns will reduce the availability of professors and students in the necessary attention with the various information fronts that the ADEs bring and demand. But as long as they are present virtually (!) and the new ADE system is running at full speed, all is well and moving forward in fulfilling the public and political responsibilities that the current university has redefined for everyone.

This does not mean that there were no problems with face-to-face classes. And the always frenetic pace that the pandemic has now suspended could be the opportunity to reassess and restructure procedures, needs and possibilities. However, the central councils waived this, due to management commitments. For example, the guarantee of material and pedagogical conditions for all students to adequately pursue their studies never accompanied the welcome expansion of federal universities, the expansion of access to education that Reuni produced. Without being able to eat properly, travel to the university, find facilities and spaces for reception and coexistence, study and research, the right to education is not fulfilled. And, when the issue is dealt with in a purely technical way, the responsibility is transferred to students and families.

The need for social isolation aggravated old problems generated in the social, school and university dynamics. The suspension of activities and the academic emergency rhythm could be a rare opportunity for us to rethink the challenges that the contemporary university faces and which institutional horizons could be prioritized in the social responsibility it has. But the history of negligence leaves no illusions and this process of implementing the ADEs at any price reinforces the profound mismatch between university management and social demands.

All of this flows catastrophically into society. Projected and expected failure of public health care and social assistance agencies, increased violence in social retail, mass extermination and incarceration, degradation of public space, the public dimension is now seen as a place of risk, in short, a destructive effect on waterfall. Which leaves open the opportunity for the parasitic appearance of the so-called privatist “technological solutionism”.

A large part of the information system at public universities goes through Google, institutional e-mail, storage drives, transmission, recording and activity management software, course files, etc., in addition to statistics reports and achievement data by technological means that the institution practices. Since the beginning of this approximation, all the messages and manifestations of the university's management were of celebration and enthusiasm, as if the university had finally reached the technological apex of the present.

As Prof. Evgeny Morozov (2020), on the “gratuity” of Google services:

Wouldn't it be great if one day, faced with the statement that Google's mission is to 'organize the world's information and make it accessible and useful for everyone' [as the company's mission is said to be], we could read between the lines and understand what its true meaning, ie 'monetize all the world's information and make it universally inaccessible and profitable? (MOROZOV, 2020)

Data on some of the impacts of the adoption of remote teaching at the university, the technology department cites the “more than 77 thousand hours that the approximately 1.700 users dedicated to the 2.379 meetings computed so far, in 240 virtual rooms, revealing an increase of 110% in this demand. Among the most used services are virtual graduations and defenses of theses and dissertations; as well as issuing digital certificates for graduation and extension.” (Minutes of the University Council, 10/06/20)

These are expressive numbers that could not escape the attention and interest of data extraction technology companies.

On June 4, 2020, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies proposed that the resumption of the first semester of 2020 take place remotely, with the revision of the curriculum of the courses to restart on June 22. The expectation and the institutional discourse were in the sense that the issues of student permanence and digital inclusion, as well as teacher training, would already be resolved. Since, in the management's view, the solution to the problem appears to be purely informational, technical, it would only take 15 days to “solve” (sic) issues such as student permanence, digital inclusion and teacher training.

According to Morozov,

“[…] there is a neutralization of the critical vocabulary and the debate does not get to be installed because it is considered “empty and innocuous”, since problems are defined in terms of questions, from the outset, 'digital' instead of 'political' and 'economic', from the beginning the debate is conducted in terms favorable to technology companies.” Therefore, “we are expected to accept that Google is the best and only possible way to use email [and remote learning tools], and that Facebook is the best and only possible way for us to connect with each other. , through social networks.” […] “What else could explain the health problems if not your personal deficiencies? Certainly not the power of the food companies or the class distinctions or the countless political and economic injustices.” (MOROZOV, 2020)

The political dimension is, therefore, reduced to the individual use of applications on sophisticated devices that embody the ideal of efficiency, status and innovation. The privileged consumer status of users surpasses that of citizens with rights, and applications offer solutions before it is possible, for example, the value of demonstrations in public areas and squares. The result is the progressive annihilation of the political imagination, replaced by the ideological hypnosis of screens and the (false) well-being of offers and updates of the moment. No software, however, no matter how much AI it contains, is capable of considering poverty, racism, violence and other social injustices as problems originated by the same system that makes these same technological 'advances' possible.

According to Frederico Bertoni (2020), the stages of this process of deepening dismantling and accelerated privatization in public education are:

"Phase 1: the emergency: the university activates remote teaching in record time as the only alternative for all cases;

2 phase: The crisis: In the next academic year, if the virus allows it, many schools and universities will adopt a mixed mode [blended] with the justification of compensating for the inevitable drop in enrollments and offering conditions for those who cannot or do not have the means for face-to-face teaching.

3 phase: the business: the system, benefiting from the flexibility of the market and implemented by the forced experience of these months of isolation, finds favorable conditions to transform itself into the “perfect business”: infrastructure, technical competence, mentality prepared by use, teachers “reproducible” at will; Interested investors and IT service providers; students who pay the fee, but do not demand classrooms, structures and do not incur additional management costs.”

In essence, the teaching act, we can say inspired by Benjamin (1993), has always been reproducible, but in the sense of being emulated, and the project of reproducing it is part of the achievements of education. What teachers do, in the exercise of their work, can always be imitated by students and disciples, in studies, research and, later, in intellectual and professional practice. In contrast, the current technical reproducibility represents a new process. Now, for the first time, the so-called physical body of professors, students and disciples, and concrete institutions, are released from formative propaedeutic experiences and responsibilities, which, as in cinema, have come to be restricted exclusively to the eye. With the internet, countless applications and the transformation of cell phones into pocket computers (typewriter, camera, film camera, film playback device, voice recorder, television, radio and telephone), technical reproduction has reached a new level. of dissemination that can transform everything into its images, subjecting it to profound modifications, such as conquering and colonizing for exclusively commercial purposes, for example, a place between procedures and practices that were previously exclusively educational.

The perspectives of education in general and of the classroom in particular, whether at school or at university, during the pandemic and in the post-pandemic scenario depend directly on our possibilities to deepen the diagnosis of the present, to urgently practice what Gramsci called “responsibility history” and revalue the place of humanity in the face of technology. If what I say here makes any sense, it is necessary to recognize that “we have a great past ahead of us”, as Millôr Fernandes wrote. I don't see any chance of modifying this disastrous dynamic without starting by re-politicizing the discussions, asking, for example, for whose benefit official decisions are taken, about the limits between adhering to and rejecting the determinations that deepen this regrettable reality and the results ethics to which our proposals for criticism or mere obedience to the rules of the game can lead. For whose elaborations and responses we must necessarily refuse the anxiety of the emergency time in vogue.

residual hope

The necessary opposition, however, does not pass through the effort, which is also useless, to only criticize the ideology and interests in vogue, trying to point out inconsistencies and contradictions in their own terms. With lay Utopian energies so low, residual hope survives, if it can be said that much, only by intellectual determination to hold out in resistance, partly out of principle, partly out of responsibility, partly out of pride, partly out of habit, studying , debating, intervening, even if the defeat is repeated daily. A work of Sisyphus. Believing in the process that resistance establishes, remaining engaged in what it triggers, being guided by specific and eventual successes, guarding against the traps of schematisms, critically examining the conformations that call the present, thinking many times before giving in to voluntarisms , staying true to the principles in which people are always more important than things and procedures.

Like every crisis, this one now produces, among countless aggravations and disorientations and, for that very reason, calls for firmness regarding principles, which for us are non-negotiable, beacons from which to consider the proportion of challenges and the necessary strength for confrontations and proposals. I highlight what seems to me to be one of the foundations of these principles: A conception of a university that is public, free, of quality, for all and socially responsible.

To guard against the adherenceist and solutionist voluntarism that has become the second nature of civil service at the university, the alarmism of apocalyptics can offer fertile alternatives to better dimension the problems. Any criticism of the present has to be at the same time a dispassionate diagnosis, as much as possible.

Therefore, it is important to ponder many times before making a judgment and, even more, before deciding what to propose and do, especially in relation to official data and constraints and media information and emergencies. Because, we know, it matters much more, in the humanities, as Alcir Pécora (2015) said and wrote, “not solving anything and, rather, creating new problems and, preferably, ones that bother forever”.

Staying well informed is one of those responsibilities and needs that the crisis deepens, which means, checking the legitimacy of sources, distrusting vocabularies, confronting and examining perspectives, comparatively considering experiences in other countries, and even in other political and historical circumstances . And socialize and debate without respite.

Distinguishing the tasks and responsibilities of public and personal life (a reformulation based on the famous Kantian distinction between public and private use of reason) is crucial. As the school and the university invade the home, it is necessary, more than ever, a counter-offensive to establish limits, which apply, even and perhaps more fruitfully, to the elaborations of thought.

As a consequence, it is convenient, in the exercise of the public function of thought, to examine what kind of society is presupposed and advocated in the formulation of proposals. In the sense of canceling what Bertoni (2020) calls “total mobilization”, imposed by the current circumstances. The effect on the private function tends to be liberating.

Regarding historical responsibility, it is important to intervene both in university collegiate bodies and in broader discussion forums on common educational problems among so-called peers, and never neglect the political positions of peers.

It is important to remember that, as professors, we work primarily with the students in mind. Therefore, welcoming, guiding and accompanying are among the attributions that give meaning and direction to our other professional functions. For this reason, our effort is decisively important today in order to guarantee the validity of properly intellectual and university practices, of meeting, even if virtual, with students to re-establish institutional and solidary bonds, to revive the feeling of participation in academic life and, who knows , thereby mitigating losses and combating personal and social suffering. More than the modern idea of ​​autonomy, contemporary solidarity and social sensitivity matter.

If not for us, there will always be commercial, opportunistic and privatist alternatives on duty, through which students (but not only) are quickly converted into consumers of products and services in the global education market. Therefore, it is advisable, if possible, to be at the forefront of welcoming students.

Permanently guard against the physiological (always also pathological) assimilation of institutional processes and dynamics, and, simultaneously, by neutralizing the siren song of official power dispute projects. Historically, the vitality and strength of political-social movements of protest, contestation and refusal have directly depended on this essential zeal.

To conclude, I translate the final stretch of Bertoni’s text (2020): “Here we are in full utopia: resisting with absolute intransigence every constraint or speculation in defense of an idea of ​​a public university (and school), open, generalist, well common and essential, not only a place for transmitting knowledge, but an essential instrument of social equality [and justice], in letter and spirit. And if we are not successful in facing it collectively, because the interests in the field are too strong and the positions too heterogeneous, that each one can, at least, resist for himself, refuse to do remote teaching [teledidactics] and be able to say out loud: not in my name”.

In some way, I think, the seeds of new utopias could find some fertile soil in us and, I confess a little embarrassed, an optimism bordering on delirium, sprout, albeit discreetly, from these measures, precautions and proposals, and, for me, that's what seems to remain a residual hope for the moment.

*Denilson Cordeiro He is a professor at the Department of Philosophy at Unifesp.



Benjamin, Walter. “The work of art in the age of its technical reproducibility”. In: Magic and technique, art and politics. Selected Works 1. Trad. Sergio Paulo Rouanet. Sao Paulo: Ed. Brasiliense, 1993.

Bertoni, Frederick. Insegnare (et vivere) there time of the virus. Bologna: Ed. Semi/Nottetempo, 2020.

Morozov, Evgeny. Big Tech: The Rise of Data and the Death of Politics. Trans. Claudio Marcondes, Sao Paulo: Ed. Ubu, 2018

Pécora, Alcir. “Letters and humanities after the crisis”. Anpoll Magazine, n. 38, pp. 41-54, Florianópolis, Jan./Jun./2015.

Xavier, Ismail. “Melodrama, or the seduction of negotiated morals”. New Studies Cebrap Magazine, no. 57, July 2000.


[I] In this regard, I suggest the excellent article by Ismail Xavier, “Melodrama, or the seduction of negotiated morality”. New Studies Cebrap Magazine, n. 57, July 2000. In which, through melodrama treated as a concept, the author discusses the effect of “simplifications of someone who does not support ambiguities or the load of irony contained in social experience, someone who demands protection or needs a fantasy of innocence in the face of any bad result.” (pp. 81-2).

See this link for all articles