Posts Tagged ‘education’

                                 FACEBOOK WRITINGS ON EDUCATION, 2016.



You must NEVER EVER create conditions for people to fail, specially for the best of people. You must only create conditions for SUCCESS. Otherwise, stand aside. This is ABSOLUTELY a MUST in the area of education.

Even creating conditions in which errors may occur is perfectly sensible; errors may lead to great SUCCESSES. What is totally insensible is to create conditions where errors are the direct path to failure.

Most education nowadays is of the second kind. A striking example is the “solemnity of plagiarism”. As if teaching a CODE were teaching/reaching a person.



Education is wholly based on either: a) sacrifice, or b) happiness (“eudamonia”). It cannot have it both ways.

Now, some think that learning sacrifice LEADS to happiness. We strongly think those who believe this are quite confused. We can show why. We can’t do it here, though!

In contrast, we believe these two educational roads never ever touch, and that road b) is rarely taken —hardly known— because road a) has great powers on its side. These powers are in high positions (political and entrepreneurial), and perhaps are even otherworldly!

In other words, we know so little of happiness (“eudaimonia”), it has become unrecognizable in our lives and in our education.

Nonetheless, everyone believes, almost blindly, that they ARE happy: preferably so, if less questioned about what their happiness means! Here, the education on happiness, road b), comes to an end.

(Note: “eudaimonia” is the word Aristotle uses for what we kind of understand as “happiness”)



Industrialized education does not teach to love learning and its many gentle, even fun, shared surprises.

Rather, industrialized learning —the learning of our time, and especially of our ginormous educational facilities– teaches the repetitive process of information sharing towards a marketable degree. It hardly teaches one to laugh. It is the most serious of the serious. It proudly speaks of “industry standards”.

And though, super serious, industrialized learning is intent on the unimportant: on the ritual of attendance, on the ritual of the exam, on the ritual of the levels and prerequisites, on the ritual of extremely minute objectives and goals, on the ritual of the attack on plagiarism, on the ritual of certification. Its seriousness is one based on mere formality. This kind of seriousness is empty.

Industrialized education sacrifices the potential inherent in our human encounters, those infrequent encounters sought by those of us who truly wish to learn to learn. This is unforgivable. For these encounters are far and between, these encounters are face to face —-many a time—- on a one-on-one basis. They are so rare, people generally cannot understand what is going on when they do happen. They are surprised by actually seeing and feeling for themselves the real nature of learning. They even get quite angry.

Moreover, industrialized education requires a weird notion of “teamwork”, one which means that being part of the “team” means adjusting to the unquestioned demands of these processes themselves! I mean, “don’t rock the boat, otherwise, it might sink!” This is why a proper metaphor for industrialized education is certainly the Titanic; the most industrial of things ever. They never thought they would sink. (more…)

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Reflections: TWOOK — “A Reflective Educational Experiment (in times of illness)”: (click below)

TWOOK — “A Reflective Educational Experiment (in times of illness)”, 1-6.  (pdf file)

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(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)

Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics




Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action as well as choice, is held to aim at some good. Hence people have nobly declared that the good is that at which all things aim. But there appears to be a certain difference among the ends: some ends are activities, others are certain works apart from the activities themselves, and in those cases in which there are certain ends apart from the actions, the works are naturally better than the activities.

Now, since there are many actions, arts and sciences, the ends too are many: of medicine, the end is health; of shipbuilding, a ship; of generalship, victory; of household management, wealth. And in all things of this sort that fall under some one capacity —for just as bridle making and such other arts as concern equestrian gear fall under horsemanship, while this art and every action related to warfare fall under generalship, so in the same manner, some arts fall under one capacity, others under another —–in all of them, the ends of the architectonic ones are more choiceworthy than all those that fall under them, for these latter are pursued for the sake of the former. And it makes no difference at all whether the ends of the actions are the activities themselves or something else apart from these, as in the sciences mentioned.” (NE, 1094a1-18; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)


1) Why does Aristotle begin his text by using such complicated, even technical, vocabulary (technē, methodos, praxis, proairesis, kalos, telos, energeia, ergon, dynamis, epistēmē..)? For surely this is not your everyday terminology, is it? I mean, one just needs to read the contrast between epistēmē and technē in Book VI to see the comprehension requirements of such a beginning, doesn’t one? Or, alternatively, one just needs to survey the complex commentaries which such a beginning has spawned in academia! But then, WHO precisely is Ar. addressing as his audience by proceeding thus? Does he wish to point to the fact that his audience must be prepared to engage a vocabulary that is not simply given in everyday experience? Will everyday experience have to somehow be “clarified” as we proceed along his path? So, wouldn’t Aristotle be seeking from the very start an audience friendly —or better, that could potentially become friendly—– to philosophical jargon, its complexities and its detailed characterizations? But, how can he guarantee this? And MUCH more importantly, doesn’t Ar. begin AS WELL by signalling to the fact that he will bow in his ethical investigations to what is “held to be” (dokein) the case? And surely “what is held to be” is precisely what thinks itself in no need whatsoever of investigation, isn’t it? So, isn´t the audience that hears Ar. comprised as well by those morally sound citizens whose opinions are seen to be noble (kalos) from the very beginning? And, aren’t the examples actually given in subsection 1 taken from the very everyday activities known to any educated citizen of the polis? For it would be odd to think that shipbuilding/war goes on in the Lyceum, wouldn’t it? Consequently, wouldn’t Ar. be pointing to the fact that this audience has a kind of dual nature? Aren’t we moved to understand that philosophers must confront a mixed kind of audience, namely, those who have been properly educated in moral things, and those —-much much fewer, one surmises—– who being properly educated in these noble things, have a underlying longing to understand whence such education? Thus, wouldn’t such an audience be conformed both by serious citizens as well as would be individuals keen in understanding the foundation of such moral education, and because GOOD, absolutely clear on the dangers of philosophy to practical life? (Warning made explicit in EE, 1216b39-1217a6)

2) But then again, why does Aristotle wish to point to the relationship between the noble and the good? Why exactly should this be THE beginning? What is it about the noble that gives it such weight that IT allows for the beginning of THE serious ethical inquiry? Who could be the audience such that the noble would be an object of admiration and desire? Who would actually be moved by such initial assumptions? All humans? Surely not. All the citizens? Perhaps only those ALREADY capable of hearing the noble? But then, what are THEY to learn? Or, is it would-be philosophers in the Lyceum? But aren’t they supposed to question “assumptions” such as this? And, crucially, what is the nature of this kind of relationship between the noble and the good that the means of communication by the philosopher is by way of rhetorical argumentation and the use of enthymeme (Rh, 1355a)? Why does rhetoric in the investigation of the ethical take precedence over the scientific and logically syllogistic? Is the enthymeme simply a truncated syllogism? Or is it the other way around, the truncated syllogism being that syllogism which is SIMPLY scientific? Don’t many modern discussion around the ethics suffer, precisely, from this illness of inversion? But then again, what if modernity has actually subverted such rhetorical skills? How then are we to prepare ourselves to be able to listen to such beginnings? Can we moderns, in fact, even listen to the noble in its true magnitude?

3) In what perhaps has to be one of the complex puzzles: Why does Aristotle introduce the issue of teleology from the start? “By nature” (physis); what does that exactly mean? Does it mean what it means for Montesquieu at the beginning of The Spirit of the Laws? Does it mean what it means for us post-Galileans? Don’t we obviously know that Aristotle deluded himself into thinking that the universe had an intrinsic teleology which can no longer be accounted for? Or rather, aren’t WE deluding ourselves into thinking we in fact understand Aristotle so that we have little or nothing to learn from him in terms of the understanding of the whole (in this regard Bolotin’s An Approach to Aristotle’s Physics: With Particular Attention to the Role of His Manner of Writing, is of the essence)? Is “nature” merely a concatenation of natural effects and causes following certain “natural” laws (see Hobbes, Leviathan, Part I, Chapter V. “Of Reason and Science”? Or rather, does it refer to a certain intelligibility of the whole? But then again, what in humans makes them capable of understanding such a whole? And how is the understanding of the whole made accessible SOLELY by way of an understanding of the ethical/political things? And if this were true, wouldn’t then the NE be THE entrance point par excellence?

4) And why the initial reference to choice? Is Aristotle prudently, gently, preparing some of us for a choice which involves getting to understand the noble and its dynamics? Why so? Because in the EE, Aristotle in contrast has NO qualms whatsoever about making it LOUD AND CLEAR to the reader that the question is, in fact, one of CHOICE (EE, 1214b6-13: “everyone who can live according to his own choice should adopt some goal for a the fine life … “) ? But then again, why is Ar. so reticent about being as LOUD in the NE? Is it because of his better understanding of the nature of the mixed audience attending his lectures? Isn’t part of the audience, the noble part, less akin to the loudness of philosophical inquiry? Wouldn’t that audience rarely —if ever—- visit the Lyceum where the activity of dialogical questioning is taken for granted? And, very importantly for students of Ar., wouldn’t this signal to the greater maturity present in the NE in contrast to the EE? Or put another way, wouldn’t the EE stand to Plato’s Republic, as the NE stands to the elder Plato’s Laws?

5) And, why does Aristotle seem to struggle with the hierarchical relation between different ends, those that are activities for their own sake, and those which have an end (a work) apart from the activities themselves? Why does he FIRST say that the those with works apart are naturally better (again, in what sense of “nature”?)? But then at the end of this very same Subsection 1, he goes on to, seemingly, contradict himself by saying that actually “it makes no difference at all whether the ends of the actions are the activities themselves or something else apart form these”? Didn’t he just a few lines before argue the exact opposite? Why exactly is Aristotle trying to “confuse” us? Is he trying to get us to see that the relation between ethical activity and its “products” is one that will be shown to be problematic? For shouldn’t one be ethical for the sake of the activity itself and not for any results stemming from these noble actions? Or put another way, what is the product of being ethical apart from being ethical? Wouldn’t that alone be the greatest pleasure? Is the product for another, or rather the product becoming oneself a certain kind of person? Or put another way, can the moral virtues be seen solely for their own sake, and not for any ulterior product which they may obtain? And we know, as well, that Ar. will go on to claim that eudaimonia, which is in fact THE end of our human activity, is in fact not a state but an ACTIVITY? So once again, Ar. seems to make us puzzle precisely as to which type of ends take precedence over the others. Or, rather, may there not be instances in which the activity undergone IS the “product”? Isn’t the relation between logos (speech) and ergon (deed) a bit like this? Because, following Ar. and the Socratic legacy, isn’t the core question HOW we should lead our lives? And, isn’t Ar. starting to signal, perhaps, that understanding is some such kind of activity?

6) And as regards the famous expression “hence people have nobly declared that the good is that at which all things aim”, why once again is Aristotle so reticent to distinguish between the “good simply” and the merely “apparent good”? For surely we may believe of our arts, inquiries, actions and choices that they may be directed towards the/our good, but be totally wrong about this! Evidently too many are not (drug trafficking, lock-picking, bullying, smoking, stealing, murdering, prostituting ….) Why is Aristotle so resistant about giving us any of the too well-known bad examples? Isn’t it, of course, because of the connection to the puzzles put forward in 2)? Or to provide an example, why would Ar. simply see with amazement —or better, disgust—- the fact that Colombian TV networks, and MANY citizens, find it unproblematic to produce a series on the life of Pablo Escobar? And what is it about our anti-Aristotelianism that allows such actions to generate HUGE ratings and economic benefits? And, beyond this, if “the good is that at which all things aim”, surely what this superior end is, must be further dealt with? For Ar. knows quite well —as he will let us CLEARLY know as he proceeds in Book I—- that there is a philosophical tradition stemming from “Plato” that seems to claim that THE Good, and most probably also those who claim to know IT, are “not even of this world”! Doesn’t Ar. know all-too-well Aristophanes Clouds?


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Educación,  interculturalidad y estudios del lenguaje.

(Breve ensayo para posible concurso académico.)

Aunque son múltiples los senderos que podemos seguir para intentar esclarecer, así sea tan sólo inicialmente, la complejísima relación entre educación, interculturalidad y los estudios de lenguaje, escogeré enfocarme en aquellos senderos que he recorrido en mi proceso de aprendizaje investigativo. Pero antes de entrar de lleno en ellos deseo enfatizar que, dada mi experiencia vital integral, resulta claro que cualquier investigación de la tríada educación-cultura-lenguaje se verá infinitamente enriquecida  —y cobrará un sentido de realidad y veracidad particulares—- si se ha tenido la fortuna y la dedicación para integrar en la vida propia los siguientes cuatro elementos que giran en torno a la temática del lenguaje,  y que inevitablemente van más allá de la simple experiencia académica.

Estos cuatros aspectos que considero claves para una real comprensión de las dinámicas lingüísticas son: 1) el hecho mismo de aprender varios idiomas, lo que nos enfrenta directamente con las dinámicas del aprendizaje y sus particularidades individuales (en mi caso, aprendizaje del inglés, francés y griego antiguo; para no mencionar los desarrollos artísticos paralelos), 2) vivir por largos periodos de tiempo en la cultura misma dentro de la cual el lenguaje cobra su dinámica vital en tanto ”forma de vida” (en mi caso, ciudadano colombo-canadiense con títulos en ambos países y largos periodos de vida en sus diversas culturas, la latina, la anglosajona y la francesa de Québec), 3) el haber podido realizar una multiplicidad de lecturas académicas correspondientes a la temática en cuestión (en mi caso, i) la concepción de la dinámica lingüística a partir de la obra de Charles Taylor, y ii) la concepción —altamente crítica de la filosofía tayloriana— de lo que es una educación liberal fundada en la filosofía política clásica a partir de la reinterpretación de la vida socrática realizada por Leo Strauss y su estudiante Thomas Pangle),  y  finalmente, 4) la posibilidad diaria de enseñar/traducir  el idioma que buscamos comprender en su real y cambiante complejidad (en mi caso, enseñanza del idioma inglés por más de una década, y traductor oficial tanto en Colombia como en Canadá).

A mi modo de ver, al poder incorporar estos cuatros elementos vitales y conceptuales, logramos tener mejores herramientas ——herramientas más humildes y autocríticas——- para intentar siquiera entrar a considerar el enigma que es el lenguaje humano y su relación con la educación. Sobretodo, con respecto a la educación en el sentido griego liberal de las cosas y su postura crítica frente a la dominante, constantemente aplaudida y siempre solicitada sobre-especialización; sobresegura sí, pero muchas veces irrelevante y vacua. Porque parece que cada vez sabemos más en detalle, pero de lo menos relevante. Y porque es claro que la comprensión del lenguaje es inevitablemente, particularmente, el camino privilegiado para la auto-comprensión.

Dados los anteriores elementos quisiera simplemente enfocar la líneas de investigación que de hecho he realizado con respecto al lenguaje hasta estos momentos (¡interrumpidos por la aparición de la enfermedad y su particular lenguaje!), lineamientos sobretodo fundamentados ——a la manera de Aristóteles—— en la idea de que el ser humano es un ser, en parte, por naturaleza político. Es lo político lo que abre, sin lugar a duda, y de manera privilegiada, la particular triada educación-interculturalidad-lenguaje. O como lo dice el programa mismo de su facultad: “lo anterior nace del convencimiento de que solo a través del lenguaje se ejercen los derechos civiles y sin su manejo adecuado el ciudadano estará siempre sometido a la exclusión. “

¿Qué ejemplos dinámicos de interculturalidad podríamos mencionar, hablando concretamente de las investigaciones ya realizadas? Al menos, y de manera muy sumaria, los siguientes cuatro: (more…)

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Santafé de Bogotá,

Diciembre 4 de 2002,


Padre Vicente Durán
Facultad de Filosofía


Estimado Padre Durán:
Por medio de la presente quisiera hacerle saber padre que he tomado la difícil decisión de no continuar el próximo semestre como profesor de planta en la Universidad Javeriana. ¿Qué decirle, padre, acerca de esta decisión? Muy acertadamente —pero tal vez por razones poco comprensivas de situaciones concretas—- se me ha resaltado la importancia de intentar ser más conciso y pulido en mis escritos. Trataré de serlo.
Sin duda interesa recalcar sobretodo el agradecimiento que le tengo a la Universidad Javeriana por darme la oportunidad, así fuese breve, de sentir el placer —-en medio de las dificultades físicas—- de enseñar temáticas que son de absoluta importancia para mí. Esta oportunidad ha transformado mi vida radicalmente. Eso se lo debo a ustedes y no hay cómo agradecerlo. Espero que con mi futura mejoría general pueda regresar a la actividad de la enseñanza. Pero sin duda la actividad de lectura filosófica puede “sin dificultad” continuar.
¿Por qué no continuar en la Javeriana? Las múltiples razones se las he dado a conocer personalmente tanto a Alfonso como a Fernando. A ambos les agradezco —y se los he hecho saber de una u otra manera—- muchas cosas, pero sobretodo el que ante una situación difícil por lo menos hayan hecho lo posible para que no se hiciera más difícil aún (como podría haber ocurrido). No quisiera imaginar cómo hubiese sido todo si no me hubiese ido más  o menos bien en las encuestas, y en las labores que cumplí. Pero en tanto que dichas razones las articulé claramente, incluso muchos meses atrás, no interesa pues  volver a recalcarlas, a re-sentirlas.
Tal vez sólo me permitiría recordar dos cosas. La una tiene que ver con palabras del propio rector de la Universidad, Padre Gerardo Remolina. En un artículo titulado ”Reflexiones sobre la formación integral“, indica él uno de los aspectos más importantes para ser profesor. Allí escribe:

“Es aquí donde se encuentra la semilla de la vocación del docente que se convierte en maestro; es decir, en alguien que sabe comunicar sus conocimientos con y por amor, con el corazón. Maestro es quien sabe llegar al corazón de su discípulo y contribuye así a  convertir en universal su saber.”

Entiendo sobretodo estas palabras en el sentido del eros socrático y/o en el sentido de ágape de Taylor; no en un sentido romántico simplista e ingenuo. La razón más importante para dejar la Javeriana, no es mi grave enfermedad per se  (pues sería bastante extraño que entre mejor me encontrara físicamente, pudiese “hacer” menos); radica, por el contrario, en que no estoy seguro de que estas palabras se tomen a veces con la seriedad que requieren por parte de algunos docentes. Pero entonces preguntaría usted, ¿hombre, Andrés, por qué no ayudar a cambiar esta situación? Lo hice como profesor de inglés, tal vez lo hice en cierta medida este año. Pero sin duda esta pregunta la haría una persona bastante sana. La respuesta es que, aunque pude volver a caminar luego de no poder hacerlo por mucho tiempo (¿alguien se imagina lo que es esto para un deportista consumado?¿Resulta incluso molesta la pregunta?), aunque pude bloquear muy intensos dolores continuos durante meses que permeaban mi corporeidad noche tras noche, aunque pude eliminar casi todas las grandes cantidades de drogas que tuve que tomar,  aunque tuve que vivir con las consecuencias de decisiones de alta complejidad y cuestionable racionalidad, aunque pude sobrevivir el suicidio de mi muy querido doctor Fernando, aunque pude comenzar el doctorado y obtener muy buenos resultados, aunque pude ganar la convocatoria y dar hasta la última gota de esfuerzo y aprender de la oportunidad al mismo tiempo, aunque pude casarme y hacerlo de manera hermosa; aunque todo esto es verdad, pues la verdad es que fuerzas pocas tengo. Y  esa  si que no era la idea.
En segundo lugar me permitiría recordar algunas palabras de Aristóteles. Sin duda hasta ahora comienzo mi esfuerzo por comprender más y más su ética; en gran medida gracias a las preguntas generadas por el profesor Thomas Pangle. Pero, aún así, me interesa recuperarlas. Hacia el final de la Ética Nicomáquea, en el libro X, se indica:

“además, la educación particular es superior a la pública, como en el caso del tratamiento médico: en general, al que tiene fiebre le conviene el reposo y la dieta, pero quizá alguien no le convenga, y el maestro de boxeo, sin duda, no propone el mismo modo de lucha a todos sus discípulos. Parece pues, que una mayor exactitud en el detalle se alcanza si cada persona es atenida privadamente, pues de esta manera cada uno encuentra mejor lo que le conviene” (Ética  Nicomáquea,  Libro X, 1180b7-14)”

Sin duda el caso de una persona que está en medio de una recuperación para nada asegurada, de una enfermedad crónica grave, implica cierto tipo de “educación particular” que va más allá de cuestiones estratégicas (ascensores, etc.). (Y sin embargo, pocos saben —–tal vez sólo mi esposa—– cuáles fueron las implicaciones de no haber dictado mi primera clase este semestre en un salón por confusiones estratégicas.) Desafortunadamente en el momento en que se requería de mayor comprensión por parte de algunos colegas, primó más el interés de justificar la decisión tomada en términos de recibir otro profesor de planta en el Departamento. No hubo falta de exposición verbal de la compleja situación vital por la que yo vivía (vivo), y sí en cambio cierta negligencia en términos de sabiduría práctica y paciencia. Por ejemplo, si algún elemento que puede disparar la artritis, es un cierto tipo de tensiones añadidas, llamémoslas “extracurriculares”,  a las que todos tenemos que vivir en el día a día. Tal vez ustedes se pueden dar el lujo de investigar si dichos elementos son subjetivos u objetivos; un enfermo no. Uno no se puede dar muchos lujos. Sin duda tal vez las palabras de Aristóteles representen la  encrucijada de la Universidad moderna; pero no puede jamás ser la encrucijada de la filosofía, y menos aún,  a nivel de doctorados.

Dado el preocupante futuro que percibo tendría en Colombia ––sobretodo en términos de seguridad médica—- he decidido viajar a Canadá que es como mi segunda patria. Espero poder continuar mi doctorado, pero ya estoy absolutamente consciente que para poder hacerlo primero debo  o recuperarme en punto cercano al 90-100% (o como Mockus pide, al 110%); o encontrar un espacio en el que pueda realizar ciertas actividades, siendo optimistas, al 70%. Pero si no pude en la Javeriana —-que hasta cierto punto en realidad trató de proveerme un espacio, y repito, por eso estoy inmensamente agradecido— pues no hay razón para ser demasiado optimistas en  ese  aspecto. Pero dejar de leer e investigar, nunca.

¡Creo haberme extendido una vez más en demasía! ¡Tal vez aprenda a ser más concreto con el correr de los años; confiando en que sean muchos más!

Padre, le deseo salud, la mejor de las suertes y felicidad; y, en verdad, le pido que en sus rezos me tenga presente. Recordaré su pregunta acerca de la relación entre el lenguaje y la verdad, e intentaré la búsqueda de posibles respuestas. Además, le entrego a Alfonso y a Fernando una copia de esta carta de despedida.

Profesor Andrés Melo Cousineau

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