18 de Enero de 2019
Portal Educativo de las Américas
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La Educación
Número: (114) I
Año: 1993

12. Would you say, then, that perhaps education doesn’t replace these traditional values or bonds. It is simply grafted onto them. Is this what you mean?

Society doesn’t fully make the shift from one set of bonds to another. For example, the state is largely the repository of nonkinship forms of social organization. The state and its bureaucracy are the major champions of the rights of the individual. Its concern and its laws are the repository of the new forms of nonkinship organization that are emerging in the world. In many instances, the state and civil society are in conflict because of this, and the school is caught up in this conflict. Policies developed to guide the schools are really a trade off representing contested issues and conflicts among value systems. Various groups in conflict are dominant at one moment and subordinate at another. As a result, the school is very much caught up in controversy. Now, let me come back to the Caribbean and schooling. One weakness for the Caribbean that can also be seen as a strength—and this is true for all of the Americas—is that we are all people who have been uprooted from our ancestral culture and relocated into this New World. Therefore, most of the Caribbean islands have no indigenous people; very few are left. Our populations are made up Old World people who have been transplanted and therefore cut off from the culture of antiquity. In these societies it is easier to coexist if we maintain the focus on our common humanity. We have less of the cultural baggage of the past to carry. At the same time, we experience the absence of the safe world into which we can retreat, with habitualized ways of acting and speaking. And the lack of such a cultural refuge can be a problem because it can be a great emotional strain.  

In my view, then, the challenge is whether the school is going to remain a part of the mechanism by which we maintain the bonds of civil society, or if it will be deleted from this mechanism. When I say civil or civilized society, I am speaking of these very different groups competing for power, position, and wealth in society, in the absence of traditional bonds. If the large majority of people in a given society are marginalized, and only a few can prosper, the wealthy few can protect themselves by military means, and the vast majority will be left in a hopeless and marginal condition. Under such circumstances, one can believe that civilized society will break down due to violence and terror.

However, if education can be part of the mechanism by which people gain access to opportunity, then there is hope that social structures can remain legitimate.