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Clip — colegio luso internacional do porto — artur victoria thoughts about international education

CLIP — Colegio Luso Internacional Do Porto — Artur Victoria Thoughts About International Education

Our civilization differs markedly from its predecessor.

The civilization of the 19th century, which continued through the first half of the 20th, was essentially an urban civilization, founded on the characteristics of the city. The industrial revolution and the emergence of large business enterprises, when equated with the available technology, promoted the development of vast urban centers able to move people from home to the working place with great efficiency.

The situation today is quite different. The ability to communicate instantly makes possible, for the first time, the concept of a business where its objectives can be practically accomplished without the physical presence of large segments of manpower in the working place. In addition, the ever increasing knowledge of the most diverse peoples, the proliferation of informational services, and the all but elimination of distance as a barrier, have significantly reduced the proportions of our reality. Thus the world is like a village, a global village, where people live as neighbors, who know each other well, where doors are generally made for access, and survival depends upon mutual help.

These circumstances force the members of the community to accept each other. There are not many avenues for escape If acceptance is, however, the general norm, understanding is not so common. How often do we accept each other solely because there is no other way. And if the obvious and patent hate and discrimination may not be today as obvious and as patent, passivity and indifference are more and more frequently the refuge of our resignation. In this way, we see our neighborhoods and our streets, our stores and our factories, our schools and our social institutions invaded by foreign people, who look different, eat unusual things, are hard to understand, spoil our language, and who, on top of everything, pays, how often, our salaries, directly or indirectly. Thus, we begin to feel increasingly less like ourselves.

Some see a new form of colonialism in this invasion.

Others define this phenomenon as an irreversible process of advanced communication brought about by the technological revolution of the last decades. It is obvious, however, that small countries and regions with few resources see themselves overwhelmed by the cultural movements of the great centers. And amidst this inexorable and feared sorcery, structures that have endured millennia become watered down, along with many inherent qualities of the social genetics.

There are those who react to this conjuncture with a certain resigned realism, searching for their children a way of turning them into images of the foreigner, by sending them to schools where the curriculum, the teacher, and the language are those of the supposed invader. As the Americans say with all their candor and pragmatism: if you cannot beat them, join them! The typical, and we could say, natural reaction is, however, to scurry to the barricades, to decree the purity of the language and culture, and to punish severely any assault upon the established standards. These mechanisms of self-defense are manifested daily, and reflect the great anxiety fomented by the dizzy rhythm of today’s socio-political evolution.

This phenomenon and this anxiety, however, are not confined to the small regions and countries. Colossuses, like the United states, are experiencing similar disquietude and frustration. The «meat and potatoes» of American Puritanism, the «motherhood and apple-pie» of its patriotic creed, have been severely tested by the resurgence of European vitality and creative expression, and by the increasing and almost irresistible trade power of the countries of the Pacific basin. Neither economic power, nor a rush to be barricades can sustain this tide, we could say, this tsunami of change.

There seems to be no doubt, as Drucker said, that we are not prepared. The rules of the game have changed. The very game is so different that we often no longer have the ability to understand its objectives. The logical solution resides in the in-depth analysis and study of the new situations, in the conceptualization of new paradigms capable of explaining the emerging realities. Hence, the primacy of education as a way to beset fears and to illuminate the new paths to be tread.

An educational process capable of attaining these objectives must be founded on a vision of the world as a whole entity, on the equanimous acceptance of cultural and linguistic diversity, on the affirmation of the duly recognized value of the culture of each individual and group, on the conception of the human being and of the social aggregate as organisms in continuous development. This new concept of education has appeared in many forms, some more complete than others, such as multicultural and multilinguistic education, or as international education. International education, for many, may at first seem to be no more than a good language program, or for others it may consist in the acquisition of a thorough knowledge of geography; for some of us, Portuguese, international education may be the effort to maintain those virtues of cordiality and hospitality toward other people with which we like to associate ourselves.

International education may appear still to others as the search for knowledge about the world, the development of a good plan of contemporary studies. For some it may be like a great a Noah’s ark, where students from the most diverse backgrounds may be gathered to be taught history and geography, mathematics and physics, in all languages, or in a pre-determined lingua franca. It may be for others, to provide an adequate education to the ever increasing number of marginal students: the returned emigrant child incapable of functioning in Portuguese, the son or daughter of the businessman or business woman, eurobureaucrat, or foreign diplomat that establishes residence here. It may be still for others the concretization of the urbs, cosmopolitan and conscious of the variety and richness inherent in people from many lands.

All of these points of view, although partially valid, are not sufficient to resolve the problems, anxieties, and challenges which are repeatedly thrown on our path. The lack of preparedness characteristic of our tentative answer to the exigencies of today’s world is reflected in the fears and terrors mentioned , which so often provoke the emergence of the dark side of our frail humanity: dehumanizing racism, paralyzing complexes of superiority or of inferiority, purposeless chauvinism that lacerate the ephemeral temporality of our existence

The reacquisition of control over our reality includes a dynamic educational process that prepares men and women for a society where the hierarchies may be less and less hierarchies of power over, and more and more hierarchies of cooperation: where differences may cease to foster discrimination, but may become catalysts for development; where the concept of unity may not be an absolute synonym of uniformity. The metaphor of the global village appears, thus, to be quite appropriate.

A village is not characterized by persons — clones of each other. Rather, each villager, each member of the community, has a unique physiognomy, occupies a well defined place, possesses a personality that is simultaneously distinct and socially viable. The village, contrary to the city, collaborates more than competes, and its progress is generally the result of common effort. Are we saying that the world of the future will be the New Jerusalem, the civitas Dei, the utopian society revisited? Of course not.

What is certain is the fact that the world as we used to know it, is no more. In its place we have something different that, in the making of history, we have created. This act of creation, if authentic, apparently is not well understood.
And why?

The paradigmatic vision that, in the last three hundred years has served as the perceptional instrument of reality, is highly impersonal and mechanistic. The fundamental problem of the 17th century was characterized by the preoccupation with the notion of order, intellectual and social. The world was perceived as a complex of competing forces, thus requiring the establishment of order necessary to harmony and as the fomenter of progress. This paradigm, whose revealing metaphor is the notion of the machine, is called by Joanna Macy «patriarchal,» by Don Oliver «modernity,» and by Richard Katz «the scarcity paradigm.» It also includes the concept of singular cause — singular effect, with the result that all human relationships are perceived as occurring in a linear progression of cause and effect. This paradigm influenced not only the social sciences, but until very recently informed the methodology of modern sciences. Seth Kreisberg, in a brilliant analysis of

this Subject, says the following:

The view of reality as made up of separate and competing entities reinforces, or perhaps creates, the view that power means strong defenses, invulnerability, inflexibility, in short, domination. Power consists of separate entities struggling amongst one another for strength, control, superiority and their separate interests.

This concept of power, which has been called power-over. defined in the modern era by Hobbes and continued by Max Weber, Bertrand Russell and others, seems related to less developed forms of human relationships, and has served as moral justification for many acts of social and political aggression. In the mechanistic model any attempt to prevent disorder, or to restore order, is considered «good», since such effort is exerted to achieve the ultimate good of the community. The ultimate good of the community is not, however, the result of a consensus established by a dynamic society. In the mechanistic model, the ultimate good of society is a static and prescribed concept.

Our schools still function in accordance with this model. The educational process is conceived as a cluster of distinct elements: teachers who know and teach, students who know nothing and learn, administrators who know more than anybody else and control. The curriculum, prescribed and untouchable, is passed from the teacher to the student as a biblical testament to be dictated, received, and reproduced letter by letter, dot by dot. Any deviation from this norm is considered as a more or less subversive act, deserving of correction and punishment.

Teachers and students are thus considered as competing entities to be mediated by the curriculum. Reform in the traditional school thus means, above all, a curricular revision, or at most, a revision of the hierarchy.
The analysis of the relationships among the different entities is rarely conceived in horizontal terms: in this model the pyramid remains as the graphic image of those relationships.

The influence of the mechanistic model in international education is reflected in the notion that ethnic or multicultural studies can be reduced to the examination of exotic or minority cultures. The majority, or dominant, culture is rarely included in the same plane as the others, and the notion that it can be influenced by the minority or dependent cultures receives little or no consideration. We speak of the Portuguese influence in Africa and in Asia more frequently than we speak of the extent to which our culture was transformed by that association. similar parallels could be established for linguistic relations among peoples.

The man and the woman of today’s world have ever greater difficulty in understanding all the aspects of their reality in accordance with the precepts of the mechanistic model.

The easy access to information and the effort spent in mass education begot a popUlation qualified to understand their own interests more fully, and to be increasingly more conscious of their rights of participation in the decisions which may affect their lives.

If, on the one hand, the pressures exerted by a society aware of its multicultural or multilinguistic distinctions demand a fully international school, the enterprise of commerce, of industry, and of public administration exacts the formation of young people competent to function effectively in a world in continuous and vertiginous mutation. It is no longer sufficient to instruct students in the specific skills of the different professions, for the current technological revolution today reduces to obsolescence what yesterday was novelty. On the other hand, the office and the factory are undergoing profound alterations.

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