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What happened to the culture of effort?


Published in

Navarra Newspaper, AltoAragón Newspaper

Gerardo Castillo

School of Education and Psychology. University of Navarra

In today's society, waiting is disappearing. Everything is wanted here and now. Everything must be immediate and, therefore, effortless. We are getting used to what is easy. The reform of the Spanish system educational in 2000 was intended to address this problem, invoking the "culture of effort". But the 2021 reform focused on favoring the automatic promotion of all students, including those who do not make an effort. In the name of "equality", it was stipulated that failing grades should not slow down the passage from one year to the next. This rule, more ideological than pedagogical, caused astonishment and disappointment among educators. The teacher's role and authority were devalued.

The words of Eugenio D'Ors in 1906 are still very relevant today: "Perhaps it is time to rehabilitate the value of effort, of pain, of the discipline of the will, linked, not to that which pleases, but to that which displaces".

In some areas of today's permissive society, effort is less and less valued, for example, in the work; instead, those who obtain results by saving effort are admired. The new model is the "smart one", a character who lives by cheating. This is a social problem, not just a school problem. It is frowned upon when someone voluntarily exceeds his or her work, among other reasons, because it shows up those who simply comply. There is hardly any more talk of the vocational work , of the love of a job well done and of work as a service . On the other hand, those who have managed to live without working, speculating or sitting sine die on a seat at congress are admired. The work would be a punishment, not a duty that also fulfills us as persons. In other historical epochs, those who "don't give a damn" were considered lazy.

 Some parents nowadays go to high school to complain about the excessive demands of teachers, especially in school grades; they act as defense lawyers for their children. The result of tolerance without limits is capricious, insecure and unwilling children, who are not capable of facing the problems of their lives; they lack training in facing difficulties on their own and have an aversion to effort.

At a time like the present, when there is so much talk of striving for excellence, this goal is out of context, because the context of excellence is demand and effort, as expressed in the Latin adage "per aspera ad astra" (the road to the stars is a hard road). Carlos Llano has written that in the pursuit of excellence, results count, but that is not the most important thing. What is truly important is the effort of the work well done to achieve those results.

Man stretches himself to reach that which is above him; he develops to make his own that which surpasses him; he strives to reach that which transcends him. Therefore, to justify the aversion to effort is to ignore man.

A current error is to place spontaneity before the reflexive and hard-working work . This danger was mentioned in his day by Eugenio D'Ors with these words: "For those who, subjected to the superstition of the spontaneous, have wanted to take to its logical extreme the methodology of the reasonable, the intuitive, the easy, the attractive, the interest without previous knowledge , they have had to confess, if they are sincere, their failure".

The Education of the effort is an aspect core topic of the Education of the will, which is forged in the overcoming of difficulties. But it is not enough to acquire willpower. It is also necessary to have a good will, related to human virtues such as patience, fortitude and perseverance.

It is highly advisable that parents and teachers present effort as something positive. For example, it is natural to make an effort; what is worthwhile is what it costs; life is a problem and struggle is the essential condition for success; the greatest satisfaction is a well-deserved rest.