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La Educación
Número: (114) I
Año: 1993


Ontological justification. The underlying concept of the human being is that of one who is continuously “being” and “doing” with the distinctive, specifically human features of: liberty, responsibility, commitment and transcendence (self-transcendence). The person/being is recognized as a dynamic unit and center, endowed with spirit, values and existential autonomy. This being is “free” with respect to the surrounding world, and “open” to the world, which can be expanded without limits to include the “world” of existing things. Human beings can fully comprehend and possess themselves. There is a space and time specific to each one. However, people are the only beings who can leave a particular “center,” abstract themselves, and “delink” themselves from the world of time and space. They can rise above themselves and convert all things, including themselves, into a source of knowledge. People establish a basis for all their actions and lend unity to their various intentions. This implies reflection, maturity and the capacity to choose. As a person, every human being is a unique entity with his/her own value; each person is a “bearer” of values, some of whom act alone, and others in association with other people.

Anthropological justification. The anthropological justification of this approach lies in Frankl’s concept of the desire for meaning as the engine of human existence and the basis of “logotherapy.” For Viktor Frankl, the “search for the meaning of life” is the acceptance of the human capacity to transcend personal difficulties and discover the appropriate, enlightening truth. People are guided individually by their conscience,1 by their ethical instinct. For Frankl, people are not just biology and psyche, as Freud postulated, but basically spirit, a personally and specifically human dimension that should not be interpreted in the religious sense. It is mankind’s noetic2 dimension that leads people to raise such issues as liberty, responsibility, a sense of values, the search for the meaning of life, and religiosity. Conscience and responsibility constitute the two fundamental components of human existence. In this respect, the basic anthropological formula could be expressed as follows: to be a human being is to have a conscience and to be responsible. Frankl spoke of existential frustration or the “existential void.”3 However, this in itself does not constitute anything pathological, although we are dealing with a new form of neurosis, which Frankl dubs “noogenic neurosis” and considers more a matter of spiritual poverty due to a lack of fulfillment in life rather than a psychic disorder. The resulting axiology is characterized by three categories of values: creative, experiential and attitudinal.

Psychological justification. The aging process is recognized as universal, constant, irregular, asynchronous and essentially individual. Old age is conceived as just another stage in the process of human development, in contrast to the concept of a state of, or stage in, general deterioration, as another crisis in the human life cycle, resulting from interactions among environmental, social, biological, and psychological factors. Human time is perceived as a process and an awareness that people acquire in their original effort to achieve humanization of self, as an individual voyage through one’s own generation. Age takes on a dynamically positive meaning as progress towards something original and new: the “meaning” or “task” of each stage in life. Thus, experience has an eminently positive and humanizing value, and human time has value in itself.

Sociological justification. In old age, people experience a series of difficult and/or new situations to which they must adapt. There is a need to become aware of deep-rooted myths and prejudices about old age, usually associated with disease, deterioration, disability, and incapacities, and contrast it with a concept of human development in which that stage of life is considered in its particular positive aspects that can perfectly well be developed and acquired. In the improvement of the quality of life,4 understood to mean more years spent more enjoyably, emphasis is placed on health and life as values that are not exclusively biological, but psychological, social, and spiritual as well. Work, on the other hand, is considered a personal and social value.

Pedagogical justification. The main purpose of education is to follow this ongoing process (fulfillment through gradual integration as human beings), so that it can unfold in the best possible social and historical conditions and according to each person’s actual capacities. Education, which continuously strives for human fulfillment that is never fully achieved, will consist in learning how to live as complete persons (at each stage) but “incomplete” in their total being. To accept that humans are “incomplete” implies a need for “lifelong” or continuing education. This is not a requirement imposed by society, but a demand of human nature, which makes it impossible to determine a model for the “mature” person, an “ideal” of maturity as the “state” that each person must attain in order to be educated (adaptive education). The degree of maturity, regardless of chronological age, is the development or fulfillment that a person achieves throughout each stage in life, a veritable personal conquest (unique and nontransferable), which depends both on age (human time) and on the potential inherent in their individual “philogenetic heredity” and on social and historical conditioning. Education is not a process of maturing in terms of growth, but one of “commission” or “omission” of certain “developmental tasks” or problems typical of life at certain ages. According to Frankl’s view of anthropology, a sound educational objective is to: “lead people to what they can achieve independently, to their most authentic tasks, and discover the meaning—no longer anonymous, but rather singular and unique—of their lives.”