Teaching: A Priesthood

Por: Antonio López Sánchez

La Doctora en Ciencias Históricas, Mildred de la Torre Molina, profesora del Instituto Superior de Relaciones Internacionales Raúl Roa García, de La Habana e Investigadora Auxiliar del Instituto de Historia de Cuba, durante la segunda jornada del Décimo Encuentro Nacional de la Crónica Miguel Ángel de la Torre, actividad organizada por la Unión de Periodistas de Cuba (UPEC) en Cienfuegos, Cuba, el 12 de noviembre de 2015. ACN FOTO/Modesto GUTIÉRREZ CABO/sdl

Dr. Mildred of the Molina Tower is one of those wise people, able to lead us, effortlessly, through very complex ideas and at the same time explain them very clearly. Among other responsibilities, she is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations, a member of the Scientific Council of the Institute of History of Cuba and a member of the National Court of Scientific Degree. For his work he has received the National History Award. Add to these academic merits the gift of the word. From each of her answers comes out inevitable and the teacher is produced. Teaching, guiding, showing options, analyzing the environment, are natural acts, already incorporated, and traveling on top, or rather within, of each of your ideas.
Education, as the root that extends and touches various regions and strata of the functioning of society, was the main center of our dialogue. But other assessments, diagnoses and even solutions emerged throughout a fruitful conversation, in which we often prefer to ignore the questions and simply let the voice and ideas of our interview flow.


Cuban pedagogical tradition
In our country there is a strong pedagogical tradition, recognized internationally. We have had great thinkers, José Agustín Caballero, José de la Luz y Caballero, Félix Varela, José Antonio Saco, José Martí, Enrique José Varona… In the Republic we also had a whole list of thinkers, of good thinkers. However, this tradition is not sufficiently aware of in today’s Magisterium. As a culture, it’s not built-in.
The elementary principle of Joseph of Light and Knight states that an educating requires treatment according to his characteristics and conditions. There are methods and rules, we agree. In fact, didactics is an auxiliary science of pedagogy. There are specific methodologies and objectives that develop throughout the future, but there is also a culture, of a pedagogical nature, that feeds the teacher according to the times. That is something that must be progressively cemented. So one of the problems that exist is the absence of a strong pedagogical culture. The derivatives of improvisation, of the emergency, the transitoryness of some of the solutions with which they have faced the problems of today’s life, have led us to abandon the study of that tradition.
Historically, the existence of various educational institutions in Cuba is noteworthy. There is the School of Pedagogy at the University of Havana. There is the old Normal School of Teachers, whose dissolution personally I never understood and whose references were always excellent. Then comes the creation of pedagogical institutes. Those were strengths. However, the Normal School of Teachers and even the School of Pedagogy itself at the University, were always seen as a minor school, as a minor faculty. In closer decades it happened that you decided to be a teacher and entered the magisterium because you couldn’t reach another career. In the Pedagogical there were a wide number of options.
Our pedagogical tradition is not internalized in today’s masters. They are trained to teach, but do not have the necessary culture about that tradition. This lacerates the quality of teaching, at all levels, but fundamentally in primary and secondary schools.

A historical sketch
Our problems with education began with the challenges of masification. Literacy had to be achieved and achieved. Then came the battles for the sixth grade, for the ninth grade, and all that was achieved. At the time, it was necessary to fulfill the goal of each child having a teacher at school. Throughout this many-year process, which we have simplified in a nut words, there were many teachers who left the country. Then there were others who abandoned the exercise of the Magisterium, in search of better economic conditions and this caused to a large extent to go to improvisation. Improvised teachers had to be used to ensure that all children in Cuba had a teacher, which is commendable, but also has negative consequences.
That same massivity brings with it two elements. Masivity solves the topic that children are not on the street and are in school, with a teacher, as it should be. But it also requires a greater number of highly qualified teachers, because the technology, demands and scientific development of the contemporary world are getting higher. Therefore, where the child begins to drink from knowledge is with the teacher. The two struts of human formation are family and teacher.
At another time, foreign teaching methods were adopted and all were a real disaster. The sovietization of our teaching was somewhat deastrous. You examine the education magazine of the 1970s, and what was written on those pages was all based on the Soviet experience. At that time I worked as a university professor, right at the Pedagogical Institute and what I received from the Ministry of Education, as a methodological guide, was that magazine. Remember also the elimination of the history of Cuba as part of the teaching plan, as an independent subject, which was also a true hecatombe. The grandparents of our current children do not know history of Cuba. It was removed from taught programs as an independent subject. It became history of America, as Universal History, as Modern History and as Contemporary History. Then came a subject called History of the Cuban Revolution. Around the 1990s it is that History was again positioned as such.

Possible portrait of a teacher
My generation was fortunate to have as teachers Fernando Portuondo, Hortensia Pichardo, those great light, in high school and at the University. The teacher has to be the most educated person in the country, and the primary school teacher, especially since that is the one who will sow thought, ideas, the one who will create awareness and culture. That happens in several ways. One is for teaching, education, knowledge. Without knowledge there can be no culture. Another way is through habits, customs, traditions, the way and way of life, of course, thinking of culture as a universal and non-fragmented concept. This teacher has to be educated, because he is the one who educates students in values, customs, and knowledge. I do not want to be blunt and to be misunderstood, because we still have real examples of a magisterium as it should be and that we have to respect, but it is far from getting our master to be the educated man we need.

Critical mirror
Today there is an ethical problem, a lack of decency in general. We are idealists, we are considered anachronistic, out of time, out of place, to think this way. But I’m convinced, and I’m still convinced, that that’s the right thing to do, what’s necessary, the right thing to do. You have to be decent and not go the way that if you don’t give me a hundred bucks I don’t approve, and if you don’t, die. That’s aberrant, it’s a deformation of what the teacher should be, like any other professional who respects himself. When you care about teaching, then you get rid of all the vices. If teaching is a job, and you don’t assume it as the priesthood that really is and should be, it doesn’t make sense what you’re doing.
The ethical element has to integrate the teacher’s training. Not a repetitive formation, not repeating the deadly sins that you know by heart, but you don’t apply them, you don’t internalize them and you do everything you shouldn’t do. I have to live, I have to fight, very well, but if you’re a teacher, you do it at the risk of another human being’s life. Those actions go against you as a person and go against a child you’re deforming. Your example is that you care about a child, because you get paid to do it. You pour your moral deformations into someone else, you reproduce them in whom you must form.

Cultivate the soul
Our great thinkers insisted that knowledge should be cultivated, but also the soul of the master. The teacher must develop a spirituality according to the moments he lives and the future. It is to make it sensitive to the human problems of the student, of the family, of society as a whole. The child wants to know and asks the teacher, the mother, the father. The child must be taught ways not to impose roads on him.
This imposition has to do with the exercise of scholastic, with which our thinkers tried to break. From the moment you tell the child what to do, how he has to do it, where he has to go and how he has to go, you’re applying scholastic. Thus you exercise the continuous repetition of knowledge, but you do not give the child the tools to interpret, within his possibilities, the world before him; interpret that world, so that when it grows up it can change it, it can transform it.
Our critical thinking was born critical. I was looking to take over the world to change the rules of the game from the inside. This characterized Cuban thinking that is very different from the rest of Latin American thoughts. Here we think to change, to create, to form. That tradition must be in the master, whose goal is to form a new human being and not obtain a repetition of himself. The teacher must break his own mold and help the child create his own. If the mold is repeated, it is simple scholasticism and that has already been criticized since the late 18th century. The renewing character of teaching is far from being understood.

It is also necessary to ensure that the teacher has time to study, to read, to think. No one who is eight hours in a classroom, struggling with the problems of students, parents, with their own financial problems, has conditions to train someone. Let’s remember that the teacher has little time to self-care. He’s got to be on his feet for eight hours at a school. He arrives at his house deader than alive. She has to face the duties and stress of the domestic – not forgetting that many are women – and also face the pressures of the students, with all their problems, the pressure of the parents and the pressure of their own superiors.
On the other hand, the method that the important thing is to approve continues to be promoted. The important thing is the quantitative, not the qualitative. It’s vital to have a hundred percent promotion, what’s interesting is that the child promotes, not learns. The parent pays a reviewer for the child to promote, to pass grade, not to learn. Add to that the teacher is filled with gifts, bought, bribed, approved of the child, not to teach him. There is a commodization of teaching.
That’s where the vocation has to do with it. This is an attitude that is born with the person, which develops or does not develop, that forms or does not form, but is born with the human being. If there is no vocation, you are not worried that this human being in your care will form or not. What matters is the end-of-month money, the stimulus that parents give you. If you think like this and materialize, there is no interiorization of that pedagogical tradition we are talking about. There can’t be any results.

At the height of the example
The example as a teacher, as a human being, because I have a moral commitment to society, to the world, to young people, that is the most important thing. I have to be an example, I have to be a good human being, I have to be a cultured woman, an integrally effective person to practice my profession. This teaching must be done through behavior.
We have another matter, and it is about examples, especially in the case of proceries and heroes. You have to be an achievable example, not an idealized example. Examples of sacralization must be stripped. Without falling into vulgar deacralizations that discredit examples, heroes, without being meddling in their private lives, you have to reveal them, but without disrespect. Because you also can’t have such a good figure, so good, so perfect, wonderful and divine, because in the end it becomes unattainable. That excessive sacralization is harmful, because then I can’t be like those figures and, in fact, I don’t want to be like them either. Because if my example is working all the time, depending on a just cause, and you don’t have time for a day to dance or have a drink, to pay a visit or to take care of your family, then you’re not a human being, I can’t go on or reach that example. This element is also part of the scholastic, that divinizing human figures, giving them an impossible perfection, that is not effective. You have to humanize them, you have to show those values as human beings, achievable, possible. That makes them bigger. You have to understand that examples have a life, a value, but they also make mistakes, because that’s part of their lives.
The other element to consider is that society is a great school, for better or worse. I can teach you in my classroom, not the perfect society that does not exist, but the values of our roots, of our culture, what it means and can represent the Cuban being. But then you get to an establishment and for the employee you’re Mommy or Daddy, but the foreigner is sir. Then my teaching is devalued by reality. When you can’t buy anything with your salary and the one who comes from outside can buy everything or when you face the inequalities that exist, generated for the reasons we all know and that we won’t analyze now, all of that injures the elementary requirement to strengthen your national status. Thus, your examples run out of handles.
The fact that you want to leave the country and do not want to stay to develop it, regardless of the aggressions and everything else that exists, which is real, you have to analyze it. But not only from the campaign and the propaganda, but in the set of bad things that could be improved and solved.
The effort is everyone’s, the teacher is not solely responsible. There’s the television, the radio, the other teaching disciplines, the home. When the big house that is society is not going well, the school is not well, nor is the house well and the future is not going well. The teacher may not be the best, but if you shout, disrespect, steal, those are bad examples that are also imposed and reproduced and that in the end are not the school’s fault.

Roads to be done
The solution is complex, has multiple answers, but has answers. We can’t give up those answers. We must know what our great evils are and face them. You have to call them by name with the honesty and fortitude they deserve. We must go to the causes that cause these great evils to exist and develop. We need to be aware of the serious problems that our society has today. So there is not a single solution, we must look for multiple alternatives and, above all, establish an ongoing dialogue with that society that suffers and suffers.
That society is precisely what can propose the solution of its problems. More of this national dialogue is needed. Mechanisms exist, we must not invent anything new, to achieve that dialogue. There are spaces, but they are not used. It is in that town that the solutions are, because you sometimes hear criteria, with a sharpness and a certain level that is incredible, and they come out just as much of a baker, of a worker. Among all of us we have to come up with the solutions. That would be a big first step to a real democratization of our social project.

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