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LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT - September 2010

The contradictions of the XXI century

Some analysts believe that the new century brought as an edition seal a phenomenon that filters all the circumstances of people's lives. This phenomenon is speed.
Speed in the scientific and technological advances that help us understand the major threats facing the planet. Speed in communication, which permits much more accelerated exchanges than ever before and diversity in the graphical languages used to promote an early understanding of the message we want to send.
This speed has also impacted the development of new generations that are early exposed to new technologies and learn much faster to use them than those, like us, who have been born in the last century. The media can now understand facts and phenomena that our generation took several decades.
That speed has also extended the lives of people and has also permitted a number of countries to have more experienced people, but less able to perform fundamental basic tasks that require strength and agility and foster better living conditions. Therefore, these countries have ushered in massive migrations.
Next to this display of advantages, there are other labels that we must recognize: contradiction, imbalance and inequity.
As the digital culture progresses and develops, a growing gap between the population groups that have acquired and already use the new and increasingly sophisticated technologies, and the population groups that don’t have a phone nearby to call the doctor.
 
We know more about climate change, temperature inversion, but the planet decertifies and thousands of people suffer or disappear because of storms as it was the case in Pakistan, or in Veracruz with Hurricane Karl, or in Oaxaca, Mexico.
 
Plants and animals species disappear. In many countries plenty of infants and young children die because of diarrhea, dysentery and pneumonia.
 
This deterioration of life on the planet accelerates conflict for survival and the struggle for basic necessities, which were previously accessible to all and is transformed now into privileges, as in drinking water.
 
Moreover, other contradictions arise on the planet. Digital languages are brandished as symbols of diversity and flexibility, while many governments employ authoritarian and infamous attitudes, not hesitating to discriminate and persecute some parts of the population. See the case of gipsy’s, and more generally, “traveling entertainers” and foreigners in France or the Guatemalan people crossing the Mexican border to go to follow the American dream, the “landless” persecuted and killed in Brazil, the besiege suffered by the population of San Juan Copala in Mexico, the Palestinians expelled from their own territory, the “Mapuche” of Chile fighting for independence, Mexican immigrants in Texas and many other examples around the world.
 
We still see the accumulation of wealth in the hands of few people and at the same time poverty is rooted, and military expenditures and control mechanisms is increasing in a society that guarantees less security of its children who can no longer go to the park, or walk down the street to buy bread because cities have become areas of high violence.
 
How can we explain that in this digital and  computerized, society, there is about 900 million illiterates, millions of children without access to school, millions of children and young people leaving school or academic failure, because the educational systems, curricula and textbooks don’t respond to the needs of present generations?
 
How is it that in the information society, school systems are not adapted to the needs of present generations and that the authorities do not recognize the importance of education and the urgency to transform their school systems?
 
 
The gradual privatization of public schools in many of our countries shows how the state gradually gives up its obligation to educate new generations and reduces progressively the percentage of GDP for education.
 
In many countries, inequality reaches peaks when comparing the life of families in rural areas and those in urban areas. The majority of landless peasants migrate to cities and slums spread constantly. In these areas, there are few decent works for adults, but there are a lot of exploitation and child labor that makes small family contributions, obtained from the destruction of childhood and submission to the worst humiliation.
The hegemony of great powers of North America and Europe seeks to impose models not only for the control of the economy, but also to standardize culture, production and consumption in a world that emphasizes values of individualism, consumerism and competition. Community models and cooperation are undermined and neglected, discredited as a way of life from the past and have no place in the modern era.
 
 
The construction of responses
 
Given these realities, it is clear that governments need to devise new solutions. One can also wonder if the school has a role to play in the construction of social meaning.
During the RIDEF of Nantes we have seen, through concrete actions and some deep thoughts, paths that can provide new ways to cope with the contradictions we live as a society.
 
In Nantes we testified a cooperative society concerned to promote learning in both everyday actions and in workshops, roundtables, field trips or assemblies. It is worth noting that the society that emerged on July the 20th and was dissolved on the 29th, comprised of voluntary, conscious and committed teachers who went to a special event called RIDEF, which is not mandatory, which gives no score to improve their wages, which gives no degree and does neither promote individualism, consumerism  nor profit.
 
These ridefiens lived in a community space and showed new forms of relationships and learning processes that probably are not the same as those experienced by participants in their country, their schools or even in their classes.
If this is possible in each RIDEF, how to ensure that this can also become reality in our daily life?
 
This cooperative society was formed by many young people that decided to ally to this way of life and learning. They were able to find answers, often denied in the globalized world and hegemonic in their daily lives. For many of them it was an example of the possibility of a different life outside the RIDEF and that they could fight for it.
 
 
We could hear denunciations of political destruction of public schools, of the state control to delegitimize the educational role of teachers and also injunction to comply with national and international tests in defiance of the knowledge and more formative approaches. It is possible to think crosscurrent; the testimonies of some of our colleagues have shown us the path.
We know that some of them are going to participate in the World Forum of Education, the meeting on the rights of children, projects for children in cities, to pronounce the IILatin American Pronouncement, to the democratic meetings and mobilizations in defense of rights.
 
The struggle for education in developing critical thinking, respect for human rights, the rights of children and youth, nourishes our vision and commitment, and we demand a coherent permanent exercise to face the  violations we daily see,  in various ways, some subtle and others more obvious.
Reflections on the Rights of the Child, the vigilance against xenophobia, the need to open the FIMEEM to critical thinking of the XXI century, such as the Earth Charter, the World Declaration on Education for All, New Latin American pronunciation, the creation the philosophical space that can permit interaction with other actors who live in their daily life as an alternative society, as our ridefiens society, should lead us to further reflection on how our Charter becomes a crucible of dialogues and further negotiations, because the world has made great progress, but also left behind many ways to act, to understand the complexity of the world.
 
We cannot maintain our self comfort, while at the same time, in our country, cities, and even, unfortunately, often, in our schools and classrooms, the fundamental rights are violated. It is necessary to promote an  education that respects children and youth as individuals, to promote their culture, which recognizes differences in terms of living conditions, health, disability, learning styles, social and economic status, tastes, aptitude and family situation.
 
It is necessary that in each RIDEF we leave more confident and convinced of the need to rethink our work to strengthen our practical cooperation, critical examination of our attitudes, deepen our arguments to continue to make the school the best location for the development of intelligence, creativity, respect for differences and multiculturalism.
It is necessary, not only to discuss, but also to live with our belief and to defend that education:
  • Is a fundamental right, waived and that it’s our responsibility to attend it.
  • involves experiences, active participation in social life and a constant exercise of democracy.
  • should be coordinated with social and political life of the people to have a real impact on people's lives.
  • involves integration, social inclusion, solidarity and cooperation.
  • should promote the development of personalities and self criticism.
  • must restructure its ongoing educational models of action.
 
To return to our everyday reality, it is important to ask what the DIDEF left us, what we have learned, what we scored, what are the thoughts and words we have appropriated, which actions or examples of others have made us rectify our own route, what do we take to our classrooms, colleagues or families.
It will be then able to say that Freinet’s pedagogy is an answer to new challenges facing the planet ...
 Teresita Garduño Rubio.
September 2010