Gregorio Luri


"Music, mathematics and reading all provide a great education in attention"

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There's a sort of neurosis in young parents. It's not enough to do something well, they want to do things perfectly. They try to find that exact answer somewhere because, as we are wrapped up in a technological culture that claims that, for every problem, there is a specific, accurate, and precise solution, because we make that translation from the technological to the human. And, moreover, there are many educational resources that continuously bombard us with messages such as: “The 5 things you have to do for…” or “The 3 things you have to avoid to…” That is, in the current technological culture, we are surrounded by the belief that there are technical solutions for human problems, and that's not how things work. But things don't work like that, and the more you seek these answers, the more you feel like the world is full of answers that you can't find in your home. Basically, what you need to do is say: “It's okay, we didn't invent the family”. The Bible begins with the story of Adam and Eve, who have two children. Even without bad influences, or the Internet, or any of that, look how the two of them turned out. Basically, what I want say is that there is no educational substitute for common sense. And common sense is what must you develop, because the common sense that is necessary for your family is not the same common sense that is necessary for the family next door; and you must develop this common sense using your own experience, because there is no substitute for building from your own personal experience.

There's an urgent need to defend common sense. It is necessary to ask parents to believe in themselves, and to tell them that they will make mistakes, just as our parents made mistakes, and as our children will yet make mistakes; because that's what human life is, plus, there's always an element of uncertainty in a child, and it is precisely that trust we have that technical answers exist which conceals that perilous element of uncertainty from us. That is, those unsolicited dreams parents have at the foot of our child's cradle that, somehow, their future will help us overcome all our biographical frustrations, are thus doomed to fail, abysmally. And especially in those moments when we encourage our children to be independent, and it turns out that they are independent, and we end up putting our hands to our heads. I would say that, first, it is important for parents to accept that they will sometimes fail, and that it is impossible to control human variables, but in order to accept that, they must not just hand their responsibilities over to a specialist, which isn't to say that, when important problems come up, they cannot seek out support, but most of our daily problems are a part of human life.

"We encourage our children to be independent and when they are, we throw our hands up in the air"

Sometimes it is said that parents today, or families today, have given up. That is absolutely untrue. Never have parents worried so much for their children as they do now. What occurs— and this is a very interesting phenomenon that should be studied — is that, if we examine the level of family participation in preschool or in the first years of elementary school, it is massive; whereas the degree of parental participation in elections for the school board during middle school are around about 4% or 5%. This means to say that parents were initially very excited when their children first started school, and have gradually lost their excitement, leaving the responsibility for their children in the hands of teachers. Clearly, there is a delegation of responsibility, but this delegation of responsibility is accompanied by a growth in uncertainty with regard to the future. When I was in school, I finished my fourth year of high school and end of year exams because I knew that, when I finished my last year of high school and my exams, I would have work. And, in fact, in my parents' generation, everyone knew well that progress meant to work less than your parents while earning more. Today, when we look at our children or our grandchildren, can we honestly say that they will work less than us and gain more? Uncertainty with regard to the future has increased, and we need some anchors that offer us stability. It seems permissible to me to require a part of this stability, among other things, from schools, because, to summarize the difference between teachers and parents very briefly, we could put it like this: “The teachers are the professionals, the parents the enthusiasts”.

The debate over whether talents are natural or products of culture, that is, whether you are born with your talents, or they are developed over time, is difficult to resolve. A child's talent is not detected at birth, but rather, once the child has spent some time living among us. And, therefore, to say that talent is genetic… It is a very interesting debate in theory, but it takes us nowhere. What we can say is that to have a chance to develop talent, any talent, first there has to be attention span, the ability to concentrate on what you're doing; and persistence in developing that talent, because are many talents that are never perfected for want of concentration and persistence. We could say that our normal condition, our natural condition, is that of a mammal in the savanna that must be aware of all points on the horizon in case of a predator; and that our attention switches back and forth, continuously. In order to develop a talent, we must concentrate our gaze, pulling it away from the horizon and focusing it on a single point, and keep it there, and that is a skill that must be exercised, and practiced, and developed.

The new technologies are developing much faster than our ability to analyze their consequences, and add another element of uncertainty that we have to deal with. There is a need to compensate for uncertainties with basic knowledge, because no human being is capable of living or acting reasonably in an environment populated only by uncertainties. You need a firm grip to even be capable of gauging the importance of the elements of uncertainty. Then, with most of what is happening around us with regard to technology, it is a type of vast sea in which many things are mixed together. There are legitimate business interests that do not necessarily coincide with pedagogical interests. Companies associated with new technologies are made to appear as if they were NGOs; we welcome them as if they weren't companies, and they enter, sometimes easily, using the myth that new technologies are all going to be something like the new liberation technologies, and that they will solve all of our problems.

Gregorio Luri received his Bachelor's degree in Education Science and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Barcelona. He is now a teacher and writer, with more than published twenty works on philosophy and education. Luri defends common sense and error as a part of learning, and rejects magic teaching strategies. A nuanced return to origins.