Teacher's Day 2020

Image: Ricardo Kobayaski
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Teacher's Day 2020

By REMY J. FONTANA*

Restlessness around an ephemeris!

“Teachers open the door, but you must enter on your own” (Chinese Proverb on Learning).

An ephemeris: date to commemorate something, exalt someone, their birth or the day of their death, some of their notable accomplishments; celebrate some event, highlight something. Celebrate, celebrate, honor. In times gone by, it marked an inflection in the calendar in which a relevant fact, a great conquest, a notable event deserved to be included in the glorious annals of a people, in the historical records of a nation, in the heraldry of a State, usually as a result of adventurous performance or extraordinary of the noted barons who from the beaches of a certain latitude, through seas never sailed before, passed even beyond Taprobana.

Well, this was back in the days when things and their meanings maintained greater semantic compatibility, some congruent correlation. No more. Now we have days to celebrate anything and everything and then some, a commemorative calendar from A to Z, for all tastes and palates. The menu is not only wide and varied, it doesn't need to have anything extraordinary to spice it up and, more importantly, it is available in retail chains and even wholesale, for distribution and immediate consumption.

One more dimension of human-social action, one more expression of the culture of peoples appropriated by the merchandising, captured by the logic of making money for a few, while the many others can well be comforted by the fanfares and the waving of colorful flags under the aegis of which the day of the father, mother, little child, uncle or aunt is celebrated , the little dog, the friend, the dentist, the saint of the day, the battle of Itararé; polenta or sauerkraut day, feijoada, …

In times that we auspiciously imagined prevailing, we could salute this widespread celebration for everything and everyone as another democratizing advance. Now, finally, we could all be honored with a day just for you; everyone and everything would be worthy of encomiums, praises, applause, ovations. Well, if such egalitarianism were the prevailing principle granting recognition and intrinsic dignity to all, regardless of functions or conditions, we would certainly have a civilizing advance, this one worthy of being celebrated. However, the structures that frame us and the processes that determine our possibilities for living well, in a reasonably “balanced” society, go far beyond such desired parameters.

Having said these caveats, as a professor, I claim the right to celebrate for my own sake, including my teaching colleagues, the 15th of October, “Teacher's Day”, on which, by vocation, profession, or curse of some ministers, we are honored.

Teacher, students, schools, curricula, classrooms, teaching methods, assessments. Local contexts, public policies, government situations, culture, ideologies.

I list here some dimensions that circumscribe the life and work of a teacher. Disregarding the set of these aspects in which the teaching activity is situated, considering it isolated, as an attribute of singular individuals with a supposed intrinsic and noble function is to subscribe to an abstraction, which as such can both cover an illustrated and dignified practice, as well as its reverse , a castrating, alienating, manipulative obscurantism that violates personalities and reproduces structures of inequality.

Faced with a situation in which education, research, science, knowledge and culture, their practices, organizations and institutions in our country are under the strong impact of a clique in power that confronts the terms, processes, traditions in which those are exercised according to consecrated parameters, certainly in constant creative and imaginative transformation, in the wake of the secular accumulation for enlightenment, autonomy, illustration and emancipation, it is up to us to confront such developments with the resource of criticism and with the political disposition of a “ enough".

Against such governmental neglect, against such obscurantist orientations, against such disqualified protagonists in ministerial management, against such obtuseness and violence that they intend to implant the military way and discipline in schools, against a preposterous ideological program that is harmful to the intelligences in training that presents itself as a “School without a party”, against all this pre-enlightenment and proto-fascist turmoil we must mobilize energies and establish commitments around an imperative, “resistance”.

Resistance against a proposal that is not meant to make the youth advance, but which is meant to stop their progress; it is not to form its spirit but rather to adapt it to a regressive order, to conform it to anachronistic values; it is not to release creative energies by stimulating innovations and experiments, but to discipline them, level them to alienating, obtuse conformity.

Resist the barracks in schools, resist the lack of love for science and culture, resist the imprisonment of intelligences, resist the enclosure of thought, resist imbecility, mediocrity, the crude instrumentalization of knowledge, resist hypocritical moralistic hygiene, resist rogue patriotism , resisting the shortening of horizons, framing the future, resisting hopelessness, resisting, resisting, resisting to affirm life, freedom, dignity, a world to discover, an existence to flourish.

It is to be hoped that not only youth, but larger and growing contingencies will respond to these pressures with solid commitments and renewed impetus for freedom and autonomy.

The world we want, the society we want and the happy existence we want need to be based on parameters other than the exploitation of work, the culture of induced fear, the fetish of security with which they intend to frame and limit the prospects of life, especially that of young people. These first need encouragement to face the challenges of their education, attention to their talents, respect for their limitations and difficulties, to be treated as individuals not as automatons, uncritical recipients of sterile content that has nothing to do with their desires, their projects, your abilities and inclinations.

Qualified and responsible, critical and interested teachers, who can only be constituted as such in a democratic social and institutional environment, respectful of rights and freedoms, are the necessary agents for the education of young people according to these assumptions. It is precisely these assumptions that are now under the threatening heel of clumsy authoritarianism and caricatured characters, but none the less dangerous for that.

In a scenario like this, of threats to education, of affront to the rights of teachers who, more than ever, are treated as poor devils, there is no place for a routine celebration, an empty rhetorical exaltation of their noble function; rather, it is up to denunciation and struggle, resistance and mobilization not only limited to their condition and the circumstances surrounding their activity, but also those that refer to society as a whole, demanding the active solidarity of all, given that all are hostages of this sinister moment, of overcoming which we all depend to reinstall prospects for life and society in which it is worth living.

It is worth noting that when considering the more general aspects that affect the virtualities of education, this, contrary to a certain common sense, does not ensure, by itself, virtuous destinies for individuals, or for society. There are libertarian and conformist educations, universalist and humanist education, specialized or instrumental, education for life and education for the market. As we have sadly seen in our country in recent years, some of the most disastrous, most irresponsible, most damaging, most affronting to rights and freedoms political choices were made by social strata with higher education, with more advanced formal education. This privileged condition, in terms of knowledge, does not necessarily correspond with an adequate conscience in terms of current historical processes, being perhaps more in tune with the lines of Bob Marley,

Building church and university, wooh, yeah!
Deceiving the people continually, yeah!
Me say them graduatin' thieves and murderers
Look out now they suckin' the blood of the sufferers 

Education and its agents, practices and institutions are therefore not in a vacuum, they do not have an intrinsic, essentialist nature. They are embedded in, and are part of, a model of society that defines its parameters. It is these that now, an occasional regressive political domain intends to modify, through an obscurantist inflection.

If they are successful, the schools will cease to be a promising educational system, which, if it is already on bad terms, will be broken for good; it will become an institution detested by students, compromising their education, imprisoning them in the grips of mediocrity, making their future bleak. If the dismantling and attack on universities continues, it will probably be vindicated for our own consumption the claim that Bernard Shaw made for the case of the United Kingdom, A fool's brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. The damage will not only be personal, but society as a whole.

Once again we are summoned - those who do not allow themselves to be attracted by misleading myths and farcical proposals, corrupted by demagogic appeals, nor let themselves be intimidated by the rabid teeth shown by the reaction -, to engage in a political struggle without truces and concessions to safeguard freedoms and promote rights in a polis back to its foundations, in a civitas worthy of its members, in a republic aligned with its citizens.

From Paideia to Montaigne, from Rousseau to Raul Pompeia, from Bernard Shaw to Maurício Tragtenberg, from Stefan Zweig to Pierre Bourdieu, from Maria Montessori to Emilia Ferreiro, from Ingmar Bergman to Rubem Alves, from Robert Musil to Paulo Freire, from Bertrand Russell to Florestan Fernandes, to randomly cite some notable thinkers, did not lack criticism, questioning, irony or denunciation of pedagogical approaches, teaching methods, outdated, decrepit, anachronistic educational institutions.

Education is not just a task for educators, even less for families or institutions; it certainly goes through that, but it is not reduced to privileged agents or bureaucratized apparatuses. Learning takes place through various channels, through multiple interactions, through the interlocution of various protagonists. If at some point in the educational process there is a terminal point, sanctioned by a certificate or diploma, the fact is that one never stops learning, there is always something unknown that one is challenged to unravel, a modified reality that demands to be understood, an ignorance that needs to be overcome, if we want or are forced by the circumstances of life or work to remain on the surface of the turbulent sea of ​​existence.

It is certainly necessary to correlate education, learning and training with the socio-structural requirements to make society work, but this does not have to happen in a cognitive straitjacket that ratifies the separation of knowledges, nor that unequally distributes access to knowledge. knowledge, or grant privileges to some while devaluing others solely because of the different areas of study in which they delved and which give them different professional perspectives.

Education, its need, its promises and potential whether to confer specific skills, form personalities, give meaning to existence making it fuller, or to delineate extended social configurations is, therefore, a task for society. As a result, we will only have an education that does justice to what it proposes if we have a society whose structures, practices and processes point to the growing realization of participationist, libertarian and emancipatory spheres.

It is true that education itself, as a specific practice, has been pointed out as one of the presuppositions of such possibilities, but it is also true that it cannot be given an idealized role, which often serves to displace the understanding of other structures, both those that impede such developments, as well as those that favor them.

The irony, with calamitous consequences, is that from the much-publicized essentiality of personal education and its universal extension via the educational system in modernity, education has been in practice its formulation, implementation and financing as public policies and as a socio-professional valuation of its agent principal, the teacher, a relegated area, a second-class instance that only maintains itself, or maintains minimum parameters, due to the selflessness of its immediate protagonists.

There is no doubt that we are, under the government of the former captain with fascist tendencies and his militant and incredibly obtuse ministers of education, in a terrible moment of depreciation of science, of disqualification of knowledge, of attacks on the university, of infamous slander of professors, of lurid teaching propositions.

That this digging deep into the well of obscurantism has broken its perforating instruments by the resistance of the enlightened, the non-conformists, those who, by denying, with the impetus of their struggles, the validity and progression of barbarism, affirm the possibility of a new dawn, that is there's a good celebratory agenda for this pandemic year's teacher's day and, incidentally, for all the other days of this and the coming years.

*Remy J. Fontana, sociologist, is a retired professor at the Department of Sociology and Political Science at UFSC

 

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