A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education)


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We talked about how people organize themselves for producing food and automobiles, how they participate in deciding where public resources are spent, and how they are involved in discussing the type of school they want for their children. Although this book is not written for barbers, it only makes sense if at some time it finds an echo in the lives of barbers, janitors, farmers, industry workers, the unemployed, among citizens who feel that this world can be a better place for all.

I hope this same pain is heard behind the words and between the lines of this book.

A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context : Danilo R. Streck :

Paradoxically, as we know, it is from this pain that so much active and contagious hope emerges. However, we should not move on to this hope too fast, without Introduction 7 allowing ourselves to feel and express indignation, in as much as we still have this capacity. In biblical images, for the great part of the Latin American population, as for much of what is known as the Third World, the great march of the Exodus has been substituted by the silent waiting imposed by the new Babylonian servitude.

But at the end of the deluge there will be a rainbow as a sign of a new covenant—the promise of a reinvented living together.

G. Antonio Espinoza

A time of vertiginous mutations produced by globalization, the society of consumption and the society of information. But also a time of stagnation, frozen in the impossibility of thinking social, radical transformation. Concerned that the linguistic factor might impede communication I proposed that, to initiate the reflection, each one of the participants write down some ideas about the theme based on their experiences. Upon opening the debate, various German students presented their annotations, stressing in their presentations positive aspects such as access to goods produced in other parts of the world, communication with people from other cultures and nations, and the possibility of travel.

Given the silence of the Brazilian group, I asked for the reason. I thought that maybe they had not understood the exercise itself. They said this was not the case and as they began to speak I realized that the reason for their silence was the difference in points of view. For them 10 New Social Contract in a Latin American Context globalization was associated with job instability and the maintenance of unequal relations between class and countries.

A young woman who was reading while drinking her coffee complained about the smoke. She said it would be good if it could be put out and maybe even removed from there. The young man, who was conversing with a female friend, at the table at the side, did not hide his irritation at the request and grudgingly crushed what was left of the cigarette with the point of his shoe.

He commented something to his friend, took his motorcycle helmet, and went away, but not without first casting an angry glance and showing the finger in a sign of contempt. The woman who was reading, if she saw anything, made as if it had nothing to do with her. Some time later, she looked at that cigarette butt as something that was definitely out of place. Important to say that she was an Anglo-American, blond student. He was an Arab type accompanied by maybe a Korean or Chinese girlfriend. Completing almost a triangle, in the other corner there was a couple of Latino students.

The incident, as mentioned earlier, took place at UCLA, where, as in the majority of the large universities of the First World, there is a large contingent of foreign students. These relatively common scenes contain important ingredients for comprehending what is going on in the world. Much of what is discussed about globalization and about the current conflicts is revealed in that classroom and around that cigarette butt. Facts such as these, from daily life, permit the comprehension that globalization is not something that happens out there, with others or with the economy.

I intend to use the relation between these facts and the theoretical discussions as an exercise in learning how to read the world, somewhat in the way that Paulo Freire taught: the world being opened up into themes and these becoming denser based on the experienced reality. Using the language of photography, this introductory essay seeks to capture some of the moments that represent important movements of the scenario in which education is developed today. I begin with a reflection about some of the overlapping themes in the discussion about globalization, covering the dimensions of politics, culture, and knowledge.

I then move on to the issue of gender, which is not easily understood within one or all of the prior discussions although it is present in them.


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The same goes for racial, class, and religious issues, Daily Life, Globalization, and Education 11 although these will just be mentioned in passing. Finally, I establish the relation between the cigarette butt and September 11, an emblematic date about which much has been said and written, and which, as all seems to indicate, will pass on to history books with very different meanings.

Three Faces of Globalization In the two scenes described earlier, each person or group had their projects, but suddenly they found themselves side by side or in front of another. Education, as we know, is always present in the disputes, simply because it always has to do with world projects and conceptions of the human being. Many articles and books about globalization begin with a warning that one is dealing with a complex, controversial, and slippery subject. The discovery that the earth turned into a world, that the globe is not just an astronomical figure, but the territory on which all are related and bound together, differentiated and antagonistic—this discovery surprises, enchants, and brings fear.

It represents a drastic rupture in the ways of being, feeling, acting, thinking, and imagining. A heuristic event of broad proportions, shaking not only convictions, but also the visions of the world. Confronted with this, a new definition or an option of one of the definitions does not help us much. In all of them, there is something lacking or something left over, as is prone to happen with themes in which there is much at stake. At this moment, it seems to be more productive to identify some thematic axes that present themselves as challenges for the elaboration of a position in relation to the theme.

The literature indicates that there are three broad axes that cross through the discussion, with differentiated emphases, depending on the context and on the interlocutors. They are complex thematic blocks involving always more than one element: the state and its relation with the market and with citizenship; culture and its link with the discussion of modernity and postmodernity; knowledge related with the new communication and information technologies.


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  • In this chapter we seek to elucidate some of the arguments around these issues to make up the background of the discussions on the new social contract. More precisely, we will present some of the issues that will accompany us in the discussion throughout the chapters of this book. State, Market, and Citizenship Globalization has to do with the comprehension of the role and size of the state, that is, with a geographic and political reference that deeply conditions our way of living and our subjectivities through public policies.

    Burbules and Torres call attention to the fact that the postmodern theories, with all their merit, have underestimated the strategic role of the state in the formulation and execution of the public policies when they attribute a supposed autonomy to the postmodern culture.

    Centre of Latin American Studies

    The strong financial crises that shook the world these last years, demanding the intervention of the state to save the economy from imminent collapse, seems to prove the thesis that its role must neither be underestimated nor overlooked. Daily Life, Globalization, and Education 13 This state, certainly, is suffering deep transformations, which, in their turn, are manifested in the exercise of citizenship.

    Capella suggests that for the first time after its emergence in modernity, the public power tied to the nation-state can no longer be defined in terms of simple sovereignty and legitimacy. They are two sectors that, although not autonomous, find their legitimatization in different spheres—in the private and public spheres, respectively. The legitimatization of the first happens through the discourse of efficaciousness, while the second seeks its legitimacy through the discourse and the defense of rights. Capella records that with globalization, the field of influence and decision of the citizen diminishes since the suprastatal agency escapes its control by being in the private field and through the discourse of efficaciousness.

    A consequence of this fundamental change in the political system is the increasing weakening of the culture of citizenship. The years or decades of union struggles for labor rights count for very little when a decision of the private sphere totally escapes their action and takes away the job itself.

    The role of the state in education is equally an object of concern and controversy and gains new contours. For example, Blackmore argues that there was a transference of control to the state of education issues due to its loss of control in the economy. One knows that much of this is beyond the actual decision of the states themselves. With education being included as a service within the agreements of the WTO World Trade Organization through the GATS General Agreement on Trade and Services , the traditional role of the national states in organizing an educational system according to their own development polity can become definitively compromised.

    Education will tend to be regulated like other services open to the law of supply and demand on the international level. In the English economist John Williamson of the Institute for International Economics, Washington DC, used the concept Washington consensus to summarize some points that seemed consensual to promote the development of Latin America. Within these can be highlighted the discipline of fiscal politics, the redirectioning of public spending to basic services, such as basic education, basic health care, and investments in infrastructure, broadening the tax base, and adopting moderate taxation, competitive commercial exchange taxes, liberalization of commerce from import restrictions, and legal security for property rights.

    If, in the economic area, as everything seems to indicate, this consensus is being overcome, in education it still exerts strong effects. It must also be said that a consensus always has its margins, its out sides and its contradictions that reveal its weaknesses and fallacies of which the following can be highlighted: The fallacy of the policies and techniques: The educational world has been caught up in a true fever of reforms and the discussions are largely dominated by the issue of policies.

    There are policies for literacy training, inclusion, basic education, higher education, research, and so on. There are and there should be policies for all sectors of life in society and no one doubts their importance as regulating and inductive elements. The problem is with the belief that it is sufficient to have an adequate policy for there to be a different education. The fallacy of quantity: Education on all levels is taken over by a syndrome of haste, of acceleration. To do more in less time, which, Daily Life, Globalization, and Education 15 in education, is translated into obtaining more information through optimizing the time of the teachers and using new technologies.

    Researchers

    Professional education is reduced to basic training; children and young people are submitted to marathons of classes and courses because of future needs. It is not about gaining time but losing it.

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    But let us not forget that this reading of words was just one moment in the reading of the world that was already in process and would continue after this. Besides this, it was an emergency program aimed at integrating into the reading world the enormous contingent of illiterate people. The first observation is that this responsibilization is disconnected from the conditions to effect insertion in society. We see how compensatory strategies such as the family grant or payment of a grant for students who pass can minimize the problem, but are far from providing a more definitive solution.

    The second is that competency cannot be seen as a merely personal attribute. There are individual interests, there is a greater or lesser effort on the part of one or the other, but there also are structural and conjunctural factors that promote or facilitate successes or failures and that are protected by the current consensus around the functioning and organization of society.

    The fallacy of inclusion: Inclusion has become the word of order, a part of the new pedagogical consensus. There are policies for the inclusion of blacks, the poor, deaf, women, young people, among others. There is an undeniable pragmatism derived from the conflicting interest games to which the governments will always attend selectively and partially. It is presupposed that the existing reality is the best possible for all. The fallacy of participation: Just like inclusion, participation has become a sort of panacea to resolve the problems of society and is part of the political agendas of the right and the left parties, as well as of the programs of national and international development agencies, with very distinct if not antagonistic political intentionalities.

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    Even in research and in teaching, participation and dialogue have gained a consensual place. For what reasons? One of the motives is a merely technical-instrumental one. There are indicators that participation increases the efficiency in carrying out the tasks, be it in industry or in the implementation of public policies. The call to participation has the added advantage of displacing the responsibility for failures onto whoever had the opportunity to participate and possibly did not correspond to the calling or made ill use of the opportunity that was given.

    There are also political motives, in the sense that today democracy is seen, almost consensually, as the most appropriate government system, although in a paradoxical way, this recognition is accompanied by a disbelief in the political institutions and a decrease in the effective exercise of citizenship. Even so there seems to be a tacit consensus that no power system or government can maintain itself for very long without some type of popular participation. It is an optimistic position, considering the real conditions of survival of many national states as agents of their social and educational policies, but who knows, maybe because of this, it is important to signal that to this decision-making territory, at this moment in history, are linked the hopes of many people who are left behind by the process or thrown to the margins of development.

    Placed before research in education is the challenge of comprehending the complex and changing relations within the state and between the states, these no longer understood as self-determining spaces but as part of a complex force field. For the young American woman, possibly from California, where the reaction to smoking is very strong, her space was being invaded by the smoke of a cigarette that had been thrown in an improper space.

    She had the right to not be bothered. For the young Arab man, throwing a cigarette butt on the ground did not perhaps have the same esthetic, moral, or health restrictions.

    A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education) A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education)
    A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education) A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education)
    A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education) A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education)
    A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education) A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education)
    A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education) A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education)
    A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education) A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education)
    A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education) A New Social Contract in a Latin American Education Context (Postcolonial Studies in Education)

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