Navarra and Buades: two vital voices in today’s education sector

We sometimes get the impression that in many ways, teaching is not evolving but is adrift, and that we are still far behind. These two books speak with knowledge, with realism and from the front lines about the current state of education in our country without sliding into defeatism.

In the 17th century, Dutch artist Jan Steen painted paintings with the school as a theme. Looking at the scenes, it is easy to see the clear desire to critically present daily life in a school of the time. We see children writing, sleeping and playing; we see teachers who teach patiently and others who seem to be overwhelmed; we see some unruly classes and we also see a teacher about to hit a naughty boy on the hand. These are paintings that speak of another age but teach that the education of future generations has fortunately always been a subject of discussion and debate.

Nearly 400 years have passed since then. We have entered the 21st century and we are experiencing a technological revolution that is changing almost everything and quickly. Everything changes, the world and how we live, but sometimes it seems that teaching is too much like it was four centuries ago, and in many ways it is adrift. That is why it is good to read authors such as Buades and Navarra, who speak with knowledge and realism about the current state of education in our country from the front lines. And I emphasise “front lines”, because all too often, they have had to push ideas and projects created by minds too far removed from our everyday lives.

In this sense, Devaluación continua [Continuous Devaluation], by Andreu Navarra, and Educar, per a què? [Why Educate?], by Joan Buades, offer two complementary viewpoints, and some coinciding points, especially when examining school in a current context in which everything seems to end (modernity, history, ideologies and revolutions) in the words of the thinker Marina Garcés, who the two authors cite repeatedly. Both Buades and Navarra criticise teaching as a product that must be profitable, reject the excessive bureaucratisation in which teachers are now immersed, speak of the demotivation they sometimes suffer and distance themselves from the growing demands for class to be more like a playground than a place for learning.

As Navarra states at the beginning of his essay, he outlines the book as a presentation of those uncomfortable problems that seem to not exist but need a solution. Faced with this “awkward” reality, with real examples and following the arguments of such people as the pedagogue Gregorio Luri and the Swedish Hispanist Inger Enkvist, an expert on the consequences of applying the latest innovations in the educational world, he offers up a vehement defence of memory, learning and content, but not so much one of skills, responsibility and respect. Yet above all, what Navarra champions is the well done work of the enthusiastic teacher who knows and smiles, who is positive and who gives his students confidence to drive on.

Buades’ essay is much more ideological, but he also keeps his feet on the ground. He claims that in the face of our changing world and the serious problems that the attributes to neoliberal creep (dropping out of school, social inequality, the demotivation of teachers, the lack of democratisation at schools), a new approach is needed to make school a place that can successfully “pump oxygen” into new social paradigms. He advocates an approach that values our language and culture and that instils in students ideas of diversity, cooperation, solidarity and interculturality. He calls for teaching that really defends women and works for climate security. Furthermore, with the help of Vandana Shiva, an Indian eco-feminist, he also argues passionately for biocentrism, the defence of the entire planet and all the species living on it.

Devaluación continua and Educar, per a què?: two innovative, contemporary and necessary perspectives that criticise the current world of education, just as Steen did, but that also call out for a world that upholds teaching as one of the strongest pillars.

Educar, per a què?, Joan Buades 
— Més Llibres, 136 pages  —
Barcelona, 2019

Devaluación continua, Andreu Navarra
— Tusquets, 288 pages —
Barcelona, 2019

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