Muniz Sodre, titular professor of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, is a well learned person. But what is different about him is that he, as few others, thinks about what he knows. The fruit of his thinking is a just released, very notable, book: Reinventing education: diversity, decolonization and networks, (Reinventando la educación: diversidad, descolonización y redes, Vozes, 2012).
In that book, he tries to confront the challenges to pedagogy and education that derive from the different types of knowledge, from the new technologies and transformations advanced by capitalism. All of this begins with our social place: the Southern hemisphere, once colonized, that is undergoing an interesting process of neo-decolonization, and a confrontation with the weakened neo-Eurocentrism, now devastated by the crisis of the Euro.
Muniz Sodre analyzes different currents of pedagogy and education, from the Greek paideia to the world market of education, that represent a crass conception of utilitarian education, transforming education into an enterprise and a market, at the service of world domination.
He unmasks the mechanisms of economic and political power that hide behind expressions that are on everyone’s lips, such as, «a society of knowledge or of information». In other words, informational-cognitive-capitalism constitutes the new basis of capital accumulation. Everything has become capital: natural capital, human capital, cultural capital, intellectual capital, social capital, symbolic capital, religious capital… Capital and more capital. But underneath, there lurks a mono-culture of mechanical knowledge, expressed as the «economy of knowledge» at the service of the market.
Nowadays a type of education has been planned that seeks to create cadres to perform «symbolic-analytic services», cadres endowed with a high capability to invent, identify and solve problems. This education distributes knowledge in the same manner that a factory installs components in an assembly line.
In this way, education loses its formative character. It falls under the criticism of Hannah Arendt, who said: we can continue learning until the end of life without ever being educated. To educate implies learning to know and to do, but above all, learning to be, to coexist and to care. It implies building meaning into life, to know how to deal with the complex human condition and to define one’s self, facing the paths of history.
What aggravates all the process of education is the predominance of the only one way of thinking. Northamericans live on a myth and on «manifest destiny». They imagine that God reserved a destiny for them, of being the «new chosen people» to bring to the world their style, their ways of limitless production and consumption, their type of democracy and their free market values. In the name of this exceptionality, they intervene around the world, including with war, to guarantee their imperial hegemony all around the Earth. Nor has Europe yet renounced her arrogance. The 1999 Bologna Declaration, that gathered 29 ministers of education of all Europe, asserted that only she, Europe, could produce the universal knowledge, capable of offering the citizens the necessary capabilities to face the challenges of the new millennium. Previously, a supposed universality supported human rights and was even found in Christianity, with her pretensions of being the only true religion. Now, the vision is of a lesser scope; only Europe guarantees managerial efficiency, competence, abilities and skills that will bring about the globalization of business. The present financial economic crisis is opening this claim to ridicule. Most of the countries do not know how to get out of the crises they have created. They prefer to drive whole societies into unemployment and misery, in order to save the speculative, cruel and pitiless financial system.
In his book, Muniz Sodre presents these questions to the Brazilian reality, to show the challenges to our education that must be confronted in the coming years. The time has come to stand as a free and creative people and not like the mere echo of another’s voice. Sodre rescues the names of educators who imagined an education fitting to our potentialities, such as Joaquim Nabuco, Anisio Teixeira and particularly Paulo Freire. Darcy Ribeiro would speak with enthusiasm about the re-invention of Brazil, starting from the richness of the mestizaje (co-mingling) of the representatives of all the 60 peoples who came to our country.
This re-invented education should help us with decolonization, and overcoming the one-thought-only, learning from the diverse cultures and benefiting from the social networks. From this effort could be born among us the first buds of a different paradigm of civilization, also called biocentric civilization, that will have at its center, life, humanity and the Earth.