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

Authority and obedience are out of fashion

Sun, 15 Sep 2019 11:02:00 +0000 Published in El Diario Montañés, Diario de Navarra, Las Provincias

Today's teachers and psychologists devote much of their time to preventing and solving behavioral problems in students. Never have there been so many cases of children and adolescents with chronic disobedience, indiscipline, school maladjustment, transgressive and defiant rebellion, in the family home and in the classroom. Never have so many manuals on behavior modification been published. What is happening?

In my opinion, the main root of this status is a new crisis of authority linked to another crisis of obedience. These two values are not in fashion because authority is often confused with authoritarianism, obedience with submission and freedom with individualism.

For some, both authority and obedience would be a limitation of freedom, initiative and creativity; for others they would be a submission to the will of others, with loss of one's own personality. People who obey would be submissive: they would be submitted, surrendered and subjugated by others.

Prejudices and manipulation against authority and obedience have led many parents today to lower their standards with their children and to allow behaviors that were not tolerated before. This contributes to the fact that the anti-value "disobedience" is being "sold" as a meritorious "rebelliousness".

To obey is to accept, abide by and comply with the will of a legitimate authority. Obedience is a human virtue that is acquired with persevering effort. The problem is not authority in itself, since in that case it would not be possible to educate; the most worrying thing is that some parents and teachers have a complex about exercising authority, opting for permissiveness educational. Permissive parents do not establish rules and limits of behavior, so that children interpret that anything goes. They also choose not to correct "so that there will be peace in the family..."

Some advertisers know that in today's society effort is not valued, so they use as a "hook" to succeed without working. It is the return of the picaresque.

A real example: text from a advertisement of a language academy: "Every time you start to study you don't learn anything, do you? The method fails, you don't fail. We have created a different and effective system that will allow you to learn English without studying".

The words of Eugenio D'Ors are very relevant today: "In Education and in learning, it is necessary to avoid the superstition of the spontaneous, which implies a repugnance towards fatiguing methods of learning". Faced with the slogans of learning without fatigue, educators should propose others. For example, "the natural thing is to make an effort; what is worthwhile is what it costs; life is trouble, and struggle is the main condition of success; the greatest satisfaction is a well-deserved rest" (Immanuel Kant).

Today it is urgent to explain that comprehensive authority that is exercised not for purposes of control and domination, but of service, is not only compatible with freedom, but favors it. This is already evident in the etymological meaning of the term "authority". As we know, it comes from the Latin "auctoritas", which derives from the verb augere, which means to sustain, to increase, to elevate the possibilities of another.

The most important thing in the exercise of authority is not the techniques and resources, but that the educator deserves credibility before the students. It is the prestige authority, acquired by the way of being and working, and by the coherence between what is demanded to others and what is demanded to oneself.

There is a style of authority that establishes norms and limits without falling into authoritarianism; it is typical of educators who make firm demands, but in a persuasive and dialoguing manner, within a relationship of trust, respect and mutual cooperation. Demands become a stimulus for the learner's self-demand and, with it, for autonomous behavior. It is a participative and assertive style that fosters freedom manager, creativity and the development of habits, both of obedience and of order and self-discipline. In addition, it is a necessary condition for the learner to walk towards excellence staff.

For Carlos Llano, professor at the UP of Mexico, excellence is not a state in which one finds oneself, but a dynamic status of continuous improvement. It does not reside in big things, but in many small things that belong to the usual work . It consists of the continuous increase in the quality of one's own actions. In order to achieve excellence, results count, but that is not the most important thing, since excellence can only be reached through exigency, as expressed in the Latin adage: "per aspera ad astra (the road to the stars is arduous)".