Frei Betto at Pedagogy 2007 in Havana
"I dream that some day history will be taught using the example of Cubas collaboration with the poorest countries," said Frei Betto.
Betto stressed the need to bring education into context, which he said involves linking the school and the community, like chemistry, which shouldnt be learned in the laboratories, but in the community, starting with the women who mix colors in their weavings, he suggested.
"Todays world faces the danger of continuing to believe in the myth of neutrality," Betto said when referring to educational systems in states that "privatize rights and are managed according to the interests of the ruling class, which has no interest in raising the educational level of the general population."
Betto criticized the effects of neoliberalism and its attempts to make a business out of teaching and to keep humanity in the dark. "The defenders of that doctrine discovered that culture goes against their interests because it brings with it discernment, critical thinking, and the ability to make comparisons."
"The neoliberals have used television as a tool, making use of its hypnotic power that puts entertainment ahead of spreading culture. According to UNESCO, in Latin America young people spend an average of four hours in school and double that in front of the television."
"Neoliberalism has created mechanisms to subvert the historical conscience, since whoever loses it is left without motivation to struggle, without projects or hopes. We need to awake a sense of history in people, so they can evaluate the past, have a critical conscience of the present and built a better future.
>"Under the neoliberal model, schools are mere reproducers of the system, training centers for labor. They are not used to educate human beings. They neither foment participation nor are they political centers, as they should be: to educate and foster happy, creative, and supportive citizens."
Betto emphasized that teaching should be liberating. "More than ever we need to create methods that form a critical conscience, preserve environmental and spiritual wealth and promote altruism. The egotistical ideology of capitalism is much simpler; the job of cultivating love takes time."
The Brazilian dedicated his presentation to Fidel Castro, whom he called an exemplary student of Jose Marti. He reaffirmed the role of education in the forging of new men and women, convinced that they would be the children of Ernesto Che Guevara and Mother Theresa of Calcutta.
On Wednesday, the board of directors of the Cuban Teachers Association, a branch of the Latin American and Caribbean Teachers Association, gave honorary membership to Frei Betto and other prestigious Latin American educators including Pedro Pontual, Raul Leis and Carlos Nunez.
During the third day of Pedagogy 2007, the multimedia CD Fidel: Ethics and Human Values, made for his 80th birthday, was presented by Nancy Chacon.
Other special presentations were made by Cuban Minister of Culture Abel Prieto; Francisco Huerta, executive secretary of the Andres Bello Agreement, and Luis Abreu, general secretary of the islands National Union of Education, Science and Sports Workers.