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Back to 03_01_2018_OPINION_EyP_Gerardo Castillo Ceballos

Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

Let's educate for life today?

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 12:48:00 +0000 Published in AltoAragón Newspaper, 24-12-17

Currently, the educational research is much more interested in the question of the means than in that of the ends. We are witnessing a spectacular development of technology at the service of the Education (television, video, software, Internet, audiovisual media, teaching machines, computer-based learning, etc.), which does not correspond to the research on the purpose of the Education.

 On the other hand, the exaggerated reliance of many educators on technological means contributes to the "forgetting" of the ends, which in turn often leads to a loss of direction educational. "If you do not know where your ship is heading, no wind will be favorable to you" (Seneca).

What is the purpose of the Education? For many illustrious pedagogues of history, it is to "prepare for life". Two examples:

John Dewey (1859-1952): "The purpose of Education is to prepare for life through relevant experiences of social life".

Víctor García-Hoz (1911-1998) "The purpose of Education is to develop in students the ability to direct their own lives, to make their freedom effective staff".

Many companies nowadays value in their employees the maturity staff and the quality of "being a person", as much or more than the good knowledge of their official document or profession.

Improvement staff is not achieved when "preparing for life" is reduced to students accumulating information. This reductionism has been one of the consequences of behaviorist theories of learning.

 Behaviorism considers the teacher as the protagonist of the process of teaching-learning, and student as a blank slate to be filled with the knowledge transmitted by the teacher. In this way, the learner's mental processes are not encouraged; moreover, the assessment of performance is limited to measuring the observable results of his or her behavior.

Although behaviorism is currently a paradigm professor in decline, it is still present in many schools. It is closely related to the utilitarian conception of existence.

Parents and teachers with a utilitarian mentality demand that every child or student always obtain brilliant grades and that he/she be the first in his/her class. In addition, they tell them to dedicate themselves only to study and to do so even in their leisure time. They impose on their children an excess of extracurricular activities as a guarantee that they will have a future in a very changing society:

"-Dad: on Monday I have English, on Tuesday computer science, on Wednesday piano, on Thursday report workshop and on Friday class Chinese. Will I be able to go out on the street with the skates one day?

-Don't be childish, my son."

In defense of the utilitarian parents, it must be said that preparation for professional life is currently more demanding than in previous times. The high rate of youth unemployment forces the candidates for a work space to fill in the training received in the degree program with an added training ( work practices in vacations, courses of training work, etc.).

 This problem is also due to the considerable gap between the demands of the new organizations and the preparation provided by schools and universities. Any offer on work requires a minimum of work experience; extensive computer skills, proficiency in a second language language; several emotional intelligence skills, such as self-motivation, initiative, decision making, creativity and work in a team. 

I suggest that the student acquires these skills on his own throughout his degree program, without postponing it to the end, since in this second case his training would be accelerated and therefore of poor quality.

Seneca criticized the rhetoricians of his time, because they limited themselves to teaching adolescents and young people to dispute, without any interest in learning and discovering some truth. He added that it was preferable to teach them to live (to develop the will oriented to the good, to learn to work and to live together). He invited young people to live according to virtue.

The Cordovan philosopher advised five means to prepare adolescents and young people for an honest life: 1- good examples ("the road is long with precepts, but short and effective with examples"); 2- reducing the needs of the body to the minimum required by nature (temperance and sobriety); 3- order in one's life: "it is a grave evil for the body and often for the soul to turn day into night and night into day"; 4- good friendships; 5- the training character by means of exigency.