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La Educación
Número: (114) I
Año: 1993

11. What would you say are the major social problems that affect the Caribbean, and what is the place of education in addressing those problems?

To my mind, there is a great social transformation that is taking place in human society. I think that over the last 200 years or so western scholarship has been preoccupied with explaining human society in terms of economics. Change is explained in terms of the changing modes of production, from agriculture to industry, to the information age. There is a whole intellectual tradition that has developed using these paradigms of modes of production and industrial organization and so forth. Then there is the other tradition, which recently has been more discredited. In this paradigm, there is conflict over the ownership and control of the means of production. Both are competing paradigms which see production and labor as essential concepts.

But I challenge these ideas. I challenge them because I think that the changes we now see are far more profound. Indeed, society is changing largely because of ecological, demographic, and technological factors. A world with 5 billion or more people is fundamentally different, if only in sheer numbers, than it would have been in antiquity. But the world is also fundamentally different because of the technology we have today. And ecologically, the relationship between technology and demography is also changed fundamentally. Now, for example, you can predict earthquakes and protect yourself from the vagaries of the elements. When you begin to look at these three factors from that perspective, you can see that human society evolved in response to the circumstances of antiquity.

We have changed from a society based on genealogy, blood relationships, and ethnic communities to a society based on other kinds of nonkinship relationships. So you have new elements arising outside of the societies of the past, which were based on the tribe, the clan, the extended family, the lineage. In the New World, we sometimes erase all bloodlines. You have the new modern forms of the church, the party, the school, the military. These are all aggregations: the nation, the city. They are powerful identities, developed independently of blood lineages; they command a loyalty that takes precedence over the particular family in which you were born. Therefore, these things take on a new meaning in society. This is one basic shift in which the school is very much a part.

You have also the nature of government itself, government based on the descent of a particular line of people with the right to rule from generation to generation. We now have government by consent; there is some consent between the governed and the rulers. We have moved from a society in which the fundamental unit of social organization was the collective, in the form of the family, to a society based upon individuals, in which the individual is a unit of social organization. We have moved from a society based on the “right skin” people, so to speak, to a society based on the rights of people. Now envision that kind of fundamental shift in society. You have old patterns breaking down, literally coming apart, and you have the new forms not being fully understood for what they really are. In fact, it was this shift that created a school. The school was only necessary because particular lineages could not be depended upon to produce citizens and nationalists with a shared solidarity and identity and bonds. So you need the institution of the school to bring people of different lines and cultures together into an ethnic plurality with a common bond. From that point of view, therefore, the school and the church, which were once interchangeable as institutions, and the corporation are new entities in society.

And I think this fundamental shift is still in a state of flux because the nation is created on the assumption that it will bring material progress and advance the well-being of individuals. However, that promise has not been fulfilled. Nations have come apart and old cleavages, ethnic cleavages of the past, have now begun to show themselves in the whole pattern of what has taken place in Eastern Europe. This is even beginning to show itself in Western Europe with the decline of the economy, as wealth does not materialize, and people are beginning to retreat to all of these various allegiances. It is the same thing that happens when fundamentalist religions become a rallying point; people have not experienced the progress that they had envisioned. So the thing can go back and forth, there is no linear relationship in the change.