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Colección: La Educación
Número: (119) III
Año: 1994

5. Are your references to Socrates, the French Revolution, Romano Guardini, Flores d’Arcais and Paulo Freire an indication that we need to re-read and re-think the classical authors?
I taught in the United States for 11 years, and I must tell you that most of my students felt that the more recent a book, the better; the older, the worse. I could never understand this philosophy, so I tried for 11 years to convince them that the true substance of a science is in the classical texts. If you study philosophy, you must study the classical philosophical texts. If you only read the philosophical publications of the last two years, you will never, never understand what philosophy means. If you study the history of art or musicology, you must understand the classical works in painting and in music. It is no different with education; you can not only study the most recent books about socialization, linguistical codes, frustration and aggression and so on and not read the basic texts, the classics, the fundamentals. I therefore teach my students and assistants the classical texts, and I tell them that they can use the same texts until they die. The Republic, by Plato, De Magistro, which talks about the teacher, by Augustine; and Didáctica Magna by Comenius are the classical, basic texts, and the basic ideas remain the same. I try to explain it to my students this way: when you construct a house you may use many different materials—glass, stone and wood. Newer materials have been developed—such as cement or plastic—but nobody constructs their house out of plastic. They all use the wood, stone and glass—the old materials. The same is true with our ideas. The history of education from Plato to the present is composed of no more than five or six ideas. Every architect constructs a new house with five or six materials, and every great thinker and every great theoretician in education constructs a new theory using the same materials. When you study education, you must understand these five or six fundamental ideas and forget everything else.
Another question that might arise in this context is in regard to the classical texts of this century. Should we only read educational texts from many centuries ago? No, but it is a difficult question, and I have been discussing it with many of my colleagues. The great Polish philosopher Bogdan Suchodolski sustained that the last classical book written on education was John Dewey’s Democracy and Education. I don’t agree with him because that book was written very early in this century, sometime around 1915 or 1916. Let me mention at least three or four books that have been published since then that I believe are classical texts. I think Miguel de Unamuno’s Amor y pedagogía is one of the most provocative texts ever written about education or the science of education. He said that you cannot have science without love and you cannot love without science, but you cannot identify science and love so there is a permanent conflict in education—the conflict between loving a child and doing scientific observation and research. Guardini wrote a simple book on the fundamentals of human formation—I am not sure of the English translation of the title—in which he shows a similar conflict between the idea of education as realizing an image of oneself that is already within oneself and proving one’s possibilities in new situations and risking defeat. That is a very realistic and modern concept. Paulo Freire’s concept of consciousness is not a new idea, but it is one of the most interesting concepts of this century. He maintains that our thinking is not as autonomous as we would like it to be, and that our economic-social situation is not determining but influencing our thinking. Freire says that we must become conscious of our possibilities before we can begin to act on them—like lightning before thunder, consciousness before action.