Vol. LXXVI (2018) - No. 269 Conservadores e izquierdistas frente a la educación [Conservatives and leftists regarding education].

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Sarramona, J. (2017).


Use of dialogue has always been a virtue that should be applied in all areas of life and encouraged in education. Dialogue involves listening and debating, it entails a sincere search for the truth with others, since «the truth is very scattered, nobody has an exclusive claim to it, instead, it can be discovered through frank dialogue with those who think differently». ,

The quotation in the previous paragraph is from the prologue to the work that is the object of this review, written by Jaume Sarramona. This phrase perfectly summarises what the work in question imagines and claims; it presents the arguments that are put forth by two characters from the groups that we usually, and somewhat simplistically, describe as conservatives and leftists. Indeed, the author’s unquestionably didactic aim uses these two characters to present arguments that are, very often, used to support the positions put forward by these two groups regarding educational topics. ,

Anyone acquainted with the long academic career of the now emeritus professor Jaume Sarramona will be aware of the clarity of his expression, of his ideological balance which does not prevent him from adopting a position when he deems it appropriate, positions that are, however, always backed by arguments that take into account the thinking of the other, even anticipating his or her possible approaches. It is to be appreciated that, although he strongly upholds his convictions, this does not stop him from always taking other people’s perspectives very much into account; and so, if this is part of what we call empathy, in Sarramona’s works we find a good dose of this aptitude that is so valuable. ,

If we focus on this publication, Conservadores e izquierdistas frente a la educación, it is apparent that there is an effort to collate the arguments used by the two debating characters, to whom the author has chosen not to give names or genders so that the reader can decide on them. Both characters, while clearly representing their particular groups, are restrained and always respectful, within the bounds of the resoluteness with which they uphold their ideas, even though they sometimes express a healthy irony, always in the framework of a dem‑ ocratic society where diverse opinions coexist. The author’s efforts not to lean clearly towards one position or the other must be recognised, although expert readers can work out where his sympathies lie, especially if they are familiar with his other works. Here, however, his aim is for it to be the readers who will strengthen their convictions or fi arguments for modulating them; in other words, readers will refl on ideas and challenge them until they decide what theirs are. ,

The book is a very enjoyable read, never losing the rigour of its language and arguments, given that the topics are analysed in their many facets. The read‑ er’s attention is easily held, at least until the end of the chapter being read. The work is structured around nine chapters, each covering a topic that is well suited to debate from contrasting ideological and pedagogical perspectives: the school as an institution, coeducation, rewards and punishments, evaluation, educating immigrant students, school management, research in social sciences, professionalism in teaching, etc. All of them are covered in-depth while at the same time encouraging readers –who approach it without rigid prejudices– to find arguments that, undoubtedly, lead them to reflect or, possibly, disturb some preconceptions. The firmest personal convictions must be subjected to debate to test them; this is vital, because, otherwise, they would be more like prejudices that would say little about the individual’s capacity for reflection. Jaume Sarramona aims to provide this option for comparison, testing things that might seem most obvious but that turn out not to be. ,

Few authors would dare to write a work that not only presents their own opinions, but also the opposing ones. There is a long pedagogical tradition of dialogue between teacher and student, but this dialogue is usually just a technique for leading someone who does not know along a path that has previously been identified as desirable; this type of dialogue is undoubtedly valid and attractive, it develops the student’s capacity to reflect and the teacher’s dialectic skills; this is the Socratic model. And the fact is we generally feel strong when we silence possible objections born from a conviction and prior reflection. We tend to reinforce our beliefs and opinions, to take refuge with people who think the same as us, and to silence –even internally– those who disagree. The university world, and also other educational levels, provides examples of this intellectual sectarianism, inimical to the essence of open intellectualism that desires progress in the search for the truth. Sarramona does not use this type of dialogue, but instead an open confrontation of developed and mature ideas that openly contrast, mutually testing each other. This is the great virtue of the work that interests us. ,

To complete this brief review, what better than to reproduce the final paragraphs of the book’s epilogue? These summarise its aim perfectly (pp. 168-169): ,

– You ask whether my views have changed after listening to your arguments. You have not said that you have done so after listening to mine. I would say that I have obviously not gone over to your side, but I would just as sincerely say that you have made me think, and in future I will modify some of my ideas. I think this opportu‑ nity for a frank and clear dialogue has been very enlightening and has given us both a chance to find out about the arguments of the people we face in the opposing trenches. ,

– Just as sincerely as you, I must confess that for me it has also been a supremely enriching experience to be able to debate ideas and arguments with you frankly and at length. We are certainly not two radicals with extreme positions that make dialogue impossible and this is precisely why we have done this process. I will also bear your arguments in mind in my own deliberations. It could not be any different as we are people who, while maintaining our respective ideas, are able to think them through and listen to other options. ,

– Perhaps we can repeat this ex‑ perience another time and perhaps then we can say how our respective positions have shifted. ,

– Perhaps. ,,

José Antonio Jordán

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