Author Archives: Ron Brenneman

About Ron Brenneman

Businessman, Educator and Writer, doing what I can from the mountainous north-east of El Salvador. Originally a Delaware farm boy, now with 30 years in the area.

Education for Self Determination

Education for Self Determination

Ron Brenneman

This reflection is by no means to be taken as a academic paper on the philosophy of education, too much has already been written on the subject for most of us to ever actually read. As to originality, who knows? A very wise man is quoted as saying “There is nothing new, under the sun” and that was over 3,000 years ago. Furthermore, I will delve headlong into the matter of the meaning of life which some may consider very unacademic. Also, this is not to be taken as an institutional policy or position, just me thinking out loud.

Independent of the geographical location and social economic circumstances we are born into, we can generally condense life itself into what we do, who we are and how we interact with those around us. Likewise, given the purported reason of preparing one for life, we can also divide education into three corresponding themes: labor skills, personal development and ones place in the world (commonly known as citizenship). Plato described this as “three stages of development of knowledge: knowledge of one’s own job, self-knowledge, and knowledge of the Idea of the Good.” ¹

Indeed, the journey through life is one of constant decision making within these three areas of self-development. The actions we take or do not take, coupled with our perception of our surroundings and circumstances, shape our awareness of reality, our understanding of ourselves and of the world. These decisions are an exercise of Free Will² which permits us  to control our own actions in the face of circumstances seemingly beyond our influence.

We could look at life as a sea complete with treacherous currents, tides and storms and where each of us find ourselves alone in a boat.³ We would have choices to make: hang on for dear life while the currents and wind batter us about, or learn to use the rudder, sails and compass, and then actually use the elements to navigate to our chosen destination. Once adept with sailing skills and having gained self-confidence and the courage to set a course, we are faced with another choice- that of taking the responsibility or not to assist those still floundering in the current.

The question of freedom is lodged firmly at the center of life itself. The offer of safe berth or of being towed behind a larger more experienced ship on the sea of life is always tempting and always carries a price. This is not to be taken as a judgement, rather as a suggestion to make clear headed decisions when trading freedom for safety. Free will is vulnerable to trickery and the slight of hand. Exercising free will does make us fully responsible for our decisions and nondecisions.

This quest for knowledge naturally leads us to ponder the meaning of life itself. We note that other manifestations of life around us, namely the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms do not question the meaning of life. On those levels the only meaning of life is life itself: natural cycles of birth, growth, reproduction and death. We as well, through our free will, may choose that route- a type of default life devoid of our active participation and lacking in any further profound meaning. On the other hand and with our limited skill and understanding, we may choose to work towards deepening our self-perception and self-understanding on the journey to become conscience of the meaning of our life.

We gaze at life through the smoky glass of our perception and make out vague images. As we deepen self-knowledge, those images will start to become clear.4

Our perception of reality itself undergoes constant change as new circumstances are created, either as a natural timeline or as a manner to keep things interesting. I am thankful to my parents for the support and upbringing they provided while I was young, but that world no longer exists. Had I limited my education to confront the challenges my parents faced, I would be wholly unprepared for the present. In that same sense, if we insist on preparing our children and students for the challenges of our current perceived reality, we become the primary obstacle for their full development of potential impact in their world and in their quest for self-knowledge.

Within this overall context, the challenge is to bring into perspective the concrete elements to be dealt with in designing education for self-determination. We will do so, within the structure of the three stages of knowledge as described by Plato and many others. I am compelled, as well, to note the correlation of these stages with the concepts of body, soul and spirit, as manifested in doing, being and consciousness.

Labor skills

In practical terms and in order to keep body and soul together, we must all occupy ourselves in some type of labor. Whether by choice, “accident” of birth or overwhelming external conditions, the options are endless and range from self-subsistence activity, unskilled and skilled labor to administrative, management and professional positions. Within these occupations, we find the further option of self-employment or entering into a contractual agreement as an employee.

Furthermore, we may deduce from history that many current occupations will disappear or be modified and that others yet unforeseen will open, even before our students are in the labor market. The question then is how to educate for labor skills given the wide range of options and types of employment and even more so, in light of the everchanging opportunities for employment.

We must accept that most educational programs are actually social conditioning, focused on creating good workers, consumers and citizens. This is not to be taken as an absolute criticism, rather as a candid observation. There are occupations that require very disciplined employees. As well, all production depends on consumption and we all benefit in an orderly society. We generally accept the “popular view common in East and West that businesses should indirectly control or even take over education to economically compete with other nations.”5 What is lacking however, is attention to models for self-employment and independence, along with the ability to naturally transit from one employment activity to another as options close and open.

I would contend that the current educational model of focusing on theory, through academic subjects, which are sometimes superficially applied (and more often not) through projects, leaves the student ill prepared for life and without the ability to abstract and further develop that knowledge. Indeed, many go through further training for particular jobs and the academics are completely forgotten in the process.

A simple change in direction and priorities would equip students with the ability to extrapolate from relatively simple projects out to any desired field of study and employment. With the project as a starting point, the academics become integrated as tools (no longer theory) to implement the project. As students develop the skills needed for the project, their interest will motivate an extrapolation in specific skills and the ability to adapt those skills to ever increasing complexity.

As a quick example, let’s take a greenhouse project and apply it to a school with students from kindergarten through high school. By involving students from the start and according to the capacity of each grade, we cover:

  • Engineering: Architectural design, energy and water systems, building costs, planning and scheduling, and construction.
  • Production: Agricultural production, investment return, programming of automated systems, investigation and lab work, pest and disease control, nutrition and organization.
  • Promotion: Graphic arts, audio-visual presentations, consumer education, advertising and public policy.
  • Marketing: Market studies and strategy, commercialization, financial management, administration and logistics.

Each of these activities can be extrapolated even further into specialized professional fields. The real challenge then becomes trying to keep up with the students.

It must be noted that this proposed change in education for labor skills has no ideological bend. It allows for the formation of good workers for the business sector, probably even much better qualified. At the same time, it provides training and support for independent labor and entrepreneurship, which has proven to be increasingly important for national economies.

Personal Development

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; Mastering yourself is true power.” -Lao Tzu6, Chinese Taoist Philosopher.

Who we are is much more important than what we do and yet little attention is given to this in education beyond games for leadership training and courses for problem-solving and creative thinking. The fact is that key elements in the makeup of who we are, namely character, temperament, intellect, will, emotions, responsibility, self-discipline and self-confidence must be developed internally and individually. They may be influenced or motivated to a degree from the exterior, but they cannot be taught.

Pre-urban societies managed to deal in part with this need for personal development through rites of passage as a condition to transit from childhood to full acceptance as an adult. A rite of passage tested courage, willpower, emotional maturity and survival skills, among others. We have done away with this ritual and replaced it with over-protection, lowered standards and have basically thrown ours hands in the air, “well, what can you do?” Forsaking this responsibility brings serious consequences, evident in our current society.

“Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” A very thought provoking quote by G. Michael Hopf7, in his work “Those Who Remain”, one which could actually lead us to view living in hard times as advantageous with regard to forming character.

The challenge then, in an educational program, becomes how to assist and motivate students in their building of character, of self-awareness and self-mastery. And how to do so without forcing hardship on those students. Indeed, we must not dismiss personal hardships which many students already face which need avenues and mechanisms to process and resolve.

Moving from rhetoric to action in assisting personal development is complex. Little has been done beyond the experimental stage within educational programs. Nevertheless it needs to be made a priority. A good starting point would be to incorporate empathy8, resiliency9, life skills and challenges into our program.

  • Empathy: The age old adage “Know thyself”10 later emphasised by Socrates, “the unexamined life is not worth living”11 remains central to personal development. As it is also true that “The eye can’t see itself, except by reflection in other surfaces.”12 the examination of others may enlighten our own self-knowledge. This is call not call for judgement of others as part of school curriculum (we have much too much of that already), rather the incorporation of empathy as a means to discover our own motives, reactions and feelings through others.
  • Resilience training must form a central placement in educational programs, with the purpose of motivating individual internal processes in stress management, thought awareness, learning from mistakes, choosing response and maintaining perspective.
  • Life skills: Self-confidence stems from independence, the ability to survive and thrive without help. Establishing a list of activities with student participation would be a great start. Perhaps the Scout merit system could be used as a guide, although the list could include public speaking, singing and theatre, activities which make most of us cringe with fear.
  • Challenges: Students should be motivated to create their own challenges, establishing goals and making a commitment to complete- a type of do-it-yourself rite of passage. Tests of physical/mental endurance, including fasting, should be encouraged.

Self-knowledge is a continuous process and not a stage which will be completed. The next stage of “knowledge of the idea of the Good” will naturally feedback into and expand self-awareness. We may leave a profession at any point in time, but who we are is a continuous work in process.

Knowledge of the Good, or ones place in the world.

The True, the Beautiful, the Good – through all the ages of man’s conscious evolution these words have expressed three great ideals: ideals which have instinctively been recognized as representing the sublime nature and lofty goal of all human endeavour.”13

The endeavour to reach these lofty ideals inspires the pursuit of the higher human values of peace, respect, equality, responsibility, integrity, loyalty, justice, honesty and love. This is where the who we are interacts with others (and with our own reflection in others). These values originate through inspiration and imagination which cannot be taught as such, rather they are authentic manifestations of our ideals.

The practice of these values create our ethics or code of behaviour which guides our interaction with others. Often values and ethics are viewed as limiting of our freedom which may be true to the extent there are imposed as rules and regulations by an outside force. When arrived at through inspiration and imagination, values actually free us even more so by removing our lower ego from the discussion. As this occurs, we do not lie or steal from others because we understand that we are only affecting ourselves, in the sense that we lose much more than we gain with each negative act.

We are obviously living through a period in which this third stage of knowledge is not a priority and the lack of authentic values and ethics has opened the way for extravagant political correctness as a poor substitute. Furthermore, and perhaps indirectly, the commercial approach of promoting “good global citizenship” by establishing universal objectives as benchmarks for access to international “development” funding, among other perks, while good intentioned, drastically cheapens those same values ostentatiously touted. These approaches twist values into regulation. When we create communal regulation bypassing the authentic individual process of building a code of conduct, we are only creating an enforcement problem.

Recognizing our current societal mentality that everything spiritual has religious connotations and as such has no place in education, the route we have open to develop the knowledge of the Ideal of Good is philosophy. Selected literature, iconic historical events, art and music which mirror relevant current dilemmas may be a good starting point. Individual reflection and Socratic debate would be the applied methodology.

Wrapping it up

It is notable that as we progress from the tangible to the sublime, from labor skills to ideals, we find a drastic reduction in available resources and experiences. In all likelihood, this may be given the increasing internal nature and personal responsibility required with each stage, although we need to be realistic regarding other interests at play.

This brings us back to the matter of freedom. The three stages of knowledge as proposed by Plato, and fleshed out here, have the potential of freeing us from ungratifying labor occupations, freeing us from greed and envy which turns us into debt slaves, and freeing us from our lower nature which allows us to be managed as sheep by those who may not have our best interest in mind. Education for self-determination requires attention and balanced focus on all three stages of development of knowledge: knowledge of one’s own job, self-knowledge, and knowledge of the Idea of the Good.

“Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility — these three forces are the very nerve of (true) education.” – Rudolf Steiner

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”—Frank Zappa14


 

  1. Myungioon Lee, Plato’s philosophy of education: Its implication for current education, https://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9517932/, 1
  2. Without trying to oversimplify the debate between Free Will and Determination, I will take the position that accepting determination (our actions being determined or pre-determined by forces beyond our control) is actually an exercise of free will.
  3. I cannot take credit for this analogy, but learned it so long ago that I cannot remember where it originated.
  4. My personal take on 1 Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” KJV
  5. Myungioon Lee, Plato’s philosophy of education: Its implication for current education, https://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9517932/, 1
  6. A semi-legendary figure, Laozi (or Lao Tzu) was usually portrayed as a 6th-century BC contemporary of Confucius, but some modern historians consider him to have lived during the Warring States period of the 4th century BC, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laozi
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._Michael_Hopf
  8. the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy
  9. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_thyself
  11. ibid
  12. http://nfs.sparknotes.com/juliuscaesar/page_12.html No Fear Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2, Page 3
  13. Truth Beauty and Goodness, A lecture by Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, January 19, 1923, https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/19230119p01.html
  14. Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, composer, activist and filmmaker. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Zappa
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Educación con un Objetivo

Application

Educación con un Objetivo

La educación es relevante en la medida que deja al estudiante equipado para la plena participación productiva y social de su entorno, capacitado para innovar dicho entorno y motivado para excursionar más allá de sus horizontes.

Necesitamos definir el objetivo de la educación, en cuanto si es para formar buenos estudiantes ó para mejorar la productividad y calidad de vida en el país. Mantenemos que el rendimiento académico es importante sólo en su aplicación al entorno y como soporte para la formación técnica eficiente y pertinente. El debate continuo sobre las bajas notas académicas en las pruebas estandarizadas tiene sentido solo en la medida que éstas pueden mejorar las capacidades laborales y sociales del estudiante.

El objetivo de los doce años de educación básica y media debería ser formar con capacidades personales y técnicas para la inserción laboral, autoempleo o especialización con estudios superiores. Y la oferta educativa debe responder a las condiciones de oportunidades reales presentes en el entorno del estudiante.

Para el entorno del norte de Morazán, la inserción laboral de un bachiller técnico tiene tres posibilidades: fortalecer la capacidad instalada de las asociaciones productivas, lograr uno de los limitados puestos en la industria turística, ó el autoempleo. La escasez actual de puestos de trabajo de comercio, manufacturero y procesamiento en el entorno nos lleva a establecer una prioridad en la formación técnica para el autoempleo.

Los enfoques técnicos más indicados para el norte de Morazán son en las áreas de Producción, Comunicaciones, Comercio e Ingeniería. Proponemos que todo estudiante debería pasar por un Bachiller Técnico Vocacional (BTV) de uno de éstas áreas aún y cuando decide por estudios superiores.

La base formativa de las áreas técnicas deben ser incorporados plenamente en el currículum académico, por medio de las competencias metas, las actividades de aplicaciones y los indicadores de logro. La educación básica debería incorporar elementos de los cuatro áreas ( Producción, Comunicaciones, Comercio e Ingeniería), dejando a cada estudiante, por decisión propia o capacidad nata, optar por desenvolverse en una área en particular. La educación media, con el BTV, llevará un nivel de especialización en una de éstas áreas que permite la inserción plena productiva y social.

Necesitamos superar la división entre educación y desarrollo. Actualmente, el sistema educativo se lava las manos con la graduación del estudiante, quedando con la responsabilidad de proveer y constar títulos y notas, no así dar seguimiento a la inserción productiva del estudiante. Una vez graduado, sin embargo hay una amplia gama de oferta de capacitaciones productivas y cursos formativos para adultos de organizaciones nacionales y internacionales.

El reto es incorporar los conceptos y las técnicas productivas en el currículum escolar para volver relevante a la educación básica y media. Así las capacitaciones posteriores tendrán el efecto de especialización sobre una base sólida de formación técnica y no de empezar de nuevo. Recordamos que los años escolares son el periodo de mayor capacidad de absorber, procesar información y aprendizaje en el ser humano. No se puede desperdiciar semejante oportunidad en una rutina irrelevante para el graduado en el mundo real.

Si los deseos fueran peces…

evening sky

Si los deseos fueron peces … o lo que desearía fueron los puntos de discusión en el debate sobre inmigración.

..traducido de If wishes were fishes para mis amigos y amigas, con mucho aprecio y respeto. Disculpan el espanglish, eh?

Si la construcción de una solución realmente fuera parte del debate actual sobre la inmigración, deberíamos estar considerando estrategias y acciones de largo plazo que disminuirían la presión para emigrar y atenuar el atolladero que solo sirve para avivar las llamas del conflicto político.

Como publiqué en julio de 2014 en Competencia Política, “La situación de los niños es, de hecho, muy real. Pero, ¿hemos tenido parte en la creación de la crisis porque nos negamos a responder a cualquier otro estímulo? “Parece estar claro que no hemos progresado en este aspecto.

Confieso mi vacilación para entrar en la riña sobre este tema en este momento, dado el tono emocional que ha alcanzado. Sin embargo, y en contra de todo buen juicio y consejo, me veo obligado a hablar sobre el tema de la inmigración, una vez más, y desde mi perspectiva particular. A modo de introducción, mi punto de vista proviene de vivir y trabajar durante los últimos 35 años en El Salvador, 22 de esos años en el norte de Morazán, un importante punto de origen para la migración ilegal a los Estados Unidos. Tengo amigos y ex empleados que han tomado esta ruta hacia el norte en busca de oportunidades y conozco niños que han pasado por las jaulas en la ruta para reunirse con sus padres.

Necesitamos urgentemente comenzar a buscar alternativas a la inmigración ilegal tradicional. El Programa de Guest Worker (Trabajadores Invitados) actual es un buen lugar para comenzar. ¿Por qué no estamos buscando cómo modificar ese programa para beneficio mutuo? Todos los que conozco, sin excepción, han ido a los EE UU con la idea de encontrar un empleo remunerado durante algunos años y regresar a casa. El programa actual está limitado en alcance y duración. A medida que mejore la economía de los EE UU y disminuya el desempleo, el mercado de trabajo tenderá a abrirse, con oportunidades en la construcción, manufactura y otros servicios (considero que el campo de atención para personas mayores es una oportunidad real). ¿No podríamos negociar mejores condiciones y luego preparar a técnicos capacitados para industrias específicas? El objetivo del Programa de Guest Worker es permitir la entrada de aquellos necesarios para la industria, pero con garantía que no se mantendrán indefinidamente. Tener un trabajo en esas condiciones y poder viajar libremente para ver a la familia en casa reduciría en gran medida tanto el estatus de inmigración ilegal como la consecuente fractura de las familias, lo que motiva el envío de menores no acompañados en el extremadamente peligroso viaje hacia el norte.

El otro punto central bastante obvio es revisar las condiciones en el país de origen, en este caso El Salvador, que provocan altos niveles de migración ilegal. La falta de oportunidad económica, la violencia de las pandillas y la extorsión se citan como factores principales para tomar la decisión de ir al norte. El reciente anuncio de Jeff Sessions, el Fiscal General de los Estados Unidos, de que la violencia doméstica y de pandillas generalmente no sería aceptada como fundamento para los casos de asilo básicamente ha cerrado la vía que ha sido la principal motivación más reciente para la migración. Esto devuelve la responsabilidad de esas condiciones directamente al gobierno salvadoreño.

Si bien las décadas de intervención externa en América Central han cobrado un alto precio en vidas, soberanía depuesta y corrupción institucionalizada, debemos superar la etapa de victimización que tiene un dominio absoluto en toda la región. Se podría argumentar que la “guerra fría” de los 80 realmente persiste, con diferente intensidad, tácticas y jugadores. La autodeterminación parece estar fuera de alcance, incluso a la luz de los programas de “desarrollo”. Parecería que la mayor aspiración permitida a El Salvador es convertirse en el vendedor callejero de artesanía en el mercado mundial.

Dentro de este contexto, realmente temo que el problema de la inmigración en la frontera sur de EE UU no sea más que un peón en el juego más grande. Debemos reconocer que esto se desarrolla en un contexto más amplio de lo que claramente es una guerra total entre el globalismo y el nacionalismo. Esto es una ocurrencia natural; el péndulo de la civilización oscila en una dirección y luego en la otra. El presidente Trump es una manifestación importante, pero no la única, de este cambio mundial en la dirección hacia el nacionalismo. El cambio es natural, pero no sin oposición, ya que muchas instituciones y órganos rectores se han fundado en principios globalistas y, por lo tanto, luchan por su propia existencia.

El otro factor que acompaña a este fenómeno es el cambio en los criterios con referencia a la aplicación de la ley. En general, la tendencia globalista parece inclinarse hacia una interpretación y aplicación más amplia y flexible de los criterios de la ley, mientras que el nacionalismo se apega más al “imperio de la ley”. Vemos esto jugando en la retórica pública estadounidense, durante la discusión sobre la marihuana, la investigación interno de Departamento de Justicia y ahora con el tema de la inmigración.

Uno esperaría que el concepto de “imperio de la ley” se corta en ambos sentidos en este cambio de posicionamiento global, ya que la última serie de intervenciones estadounidenses en Honduras (el golpe de 2009 y otras intromisiones electorales) ha contribuido directamente al problema de la inmigración ilegal.

Entonces, si los deseos fueran peces, estaríamos examinando la responsabilidad compartida entre las naciones, con reglas claras, pasando de la victimización a la autodeterminación, y trabajando para mejorar las condiciones socioeconómicas en El Salvador, así como en otros países centroamericanos.

Hay que elegir entre defender “cómo han sido las cosas siempre” o posicionarnos para prosperar bajo nuevas condiciones globales. Debemos ser proactivos y estar dispuestos a negociar. Sobre todo, debemos abandonar el juego de asignar culpa que nos atrapa en una espiral descendente sin fin, incluso cuando tenemos toda la convicción de la verdad.

La frontera que más me llama la atención es el río Torola. Las familias se rompen a diario cuando un padre o madre deja el norte de Morazán para buscar oportunidades de trabajo en otro lugar. Los jóvenes huyen cuando su nombre aparece en una lista de exterminio, tal vez con razón, tal vez no. Las dificultades económicas ocurren cuando las personas pagan un sobreprecio de hasta 15 veces más de lo que usted y yo pagamos por un boleto de avión para hacer el viaje. No todos logran sobrevivir el viaje. La mayoría de las mujeres pagan extra con sus cuerpos y su dignidad. Una vez allá, viven en las sombras, sin derechos ni estatus legal. Lo siento, pero esa es la realidad de cómo opera la inmigración ilegal. ¡Esa no es la solución por más que se retuerza a la imaginación!

Si los deseos fueran peces … estaríamos construyendo soluciones.

Ron Brenneman

If wishes were fishes…

IMG_0235

If wishes were fishes.. Or what I wish were the talking points in the immigration debate.

If building a solution is actually to be part of the current debate on immigration, we should be looking at long term strategies and actions that would diminish the pressure to migrate and lessen the quagmire that only serves to stoke the flames of political conflict.

As I posted in July 2014 in Politically Competent, “The “plight of the children” is in fact very real. But have we had a part in creating the crisis because we refuse to respond to any other stimulus?” It would seem to be clear that we have not progressed in this respect.

I do confess my hesitancy to enter in the fray on this issue at this time, given the emotional pitch it has reached. Nevertheless, and against all better judgement and council, I am compelled to speak to the immigration issue, once again, and from my particular perspective. By way of introduction, my point of view comes from living and working during the past 35 years in El Salvador, 22 of those years in northern Morázan, a major point of origin for illegal migration to the USA. I have friends and former employees who have taken the route north in search of opportunity and I know children who have gone through the cages on route to reunite with their parents.

We sorely need to start looking at alternatives to traditional illegal immigration. The current Guest Worker Program is a good place to start. Why are we not looking how to modify that program for mutual benefit? Everyone I know, without an exception, has gone to the USA with the idea of finding gainful employment for a few years and to return home. The current program is limited in scope and in duration. As the US economy improves and unemployment drops, the job market will tend to open up, with opportunity in construction, manufacturing and other services (I see the senior care field as a real opportunity). Could we not negotiate better conditions and then actually prepare trained technicians for specific industries? The objective of the Guest Worker Program is to allow for the entry of those needed for industry but to guarantee they will not being staying on indefinitely. To hold a job under those conditions and to be able to travel freely to see family at home would greatly reduce both illegal immigration status and the ensuing fracturing of families which motivates the sending of unaccompanied minors on the extremely dangerous journey north.

The other rather obvious pivotal point is looking at the conditions in the home country, in this case El Salvador, that provoke high levels of illegal migration. Lack of economic opportunity, gang violence and extorsion are cited as major factors in making the decision to go north. The recent announcement by Jeff Sessions, the US General Attorney, that domestic and gang violence would generally not be accepted as grounds for asylum cases has basically closed down the avenue that recently has been the most recent major motivation for migration. This returns the responsibility of those conditions squarely back on the Salvadoran government.

While decades of outside intervention in Central America have taken a heavy toll in lives, deposed sovereignty and institutionalized corruption, we must get past the victimization stage which has a stranglehold on the entire region. It could be argued that the “cold war” of the 80s actually lingers on, with different intensity, tactics and players. Self determination seems out of reach, even in the light of “development” programs. It would appear that the highest aspiration allowed of El Salvador is to become the artesian street vendor in the world market.

Within this context, actually I fear the immigration issue at the US southern border may be no more than a pawn in the larger game. We must recognize that this is playing out in a broader context of what is clearly an all out battle between globalism and nationalism. This is a natural occurrence; the pendulum of civilization swings in one direction and then the other. President Trump is a major, but not the only, manifestation of this world wide change in direction towards nationalism. The change is natural but not unopposed, as many institutions and governing bodies have been founded on globalist principles and thus are fighting for their very existence.

The other factor accompanying this phenomena is the change in criteria with reference to application of law. In general, the globalist tendency seems to lean towards a broader interpretation and application of criteria of law, while nationalism holds more to “rule of law”. We see this playing out in the public rhetoric, during the discussion regarding marijuana, the DOJ investigation and now with immigration.

One would hope that the “rule of law” concept cuts both ways in this changing global positioning, as the latest series of US interventions in Honduras (the 2009 coup and other election meddling) have directly contributed to the illegal immigration problem.

So, if wishes were fishes, we would be looking at dual responsibility between nations, with clear rules, getting past victimization into self determination, and working towards improving social economic conditions in El Salvador, as well as other Central American countries.

The choice must be made between making a stand for “how things have always been” or positioning ourselves to prosper under new global conditions. We must be proactive and be willing to negotiate. Above all, we must abandon the blame game which traps us into a never-ending downward spiral, even when we hold the conviction of truth.

The border that has my attention is the Torola River. Families are broken on a daily basis as a parent leaves northern Morazán to find work opportunity elsewhere. Young people flee as their name shows up on an extermination list, perhaps by reason, perhaps not. Economic hardship occurs as people pay up to 15 times what you and I pay for a plane ticket to make the trip. Not all make it through alive. Most women pay extra with their bodies and dignity. Once there, they live in the shadows, without rights or legal status. Sorry, but that is the reality of how illegal immigration operates. That is no solution by any stretch of the imagination!

If wishes were fishes… we would be building solutions.

Ron Brenneman

 

Relevant education

Planting

traslated from Educación pertinente

Relevant education. Exactly what do we mean by relevant education? Whenever a new phrase is used to describe some new process, there is a danger of falling into the assumption that we all handle the same interpretation, moreso when it becomes a fashionable term.

So that we are on the same page on the subject, we should define it. For us, the Perkin Educational Opportunities Foundation, relevant education is defined by the concepts of Adaptation, Transformation and Insertion.

Adaptation refers to situational awareness, of being conscience of our position in the economic, social and cultural processes of our environment and the relationship and connection or influence with the broader environment, including global trends. Then, once aware, to equip ourselves in the best manner to face and even thrive in those conditions.

Transformation involves starting with what we have at hand, what we know, with our experiences and practices, and then based on those, and with the needs and opportunities of our environment, to build new practices and processes to improve our surroundings. We can not confuse transformation with transplantation. The transplant of methodology and practices implies maintaining dependence on external forces. Transformation develops from strengthening our own roots.

Insertion into the labor market and full participation in the transformational processes are required in order for an educational program to qualify as relevant. Access to real employment and self-employment options and access to specialization training for this purpose are the only evidence of the relevance of an educational program.

Education is relevant to the extent that the student is equipped, not only with academic and technical skills, but with the skills of adaptation, the power of transformation and with full integration into the socio-economic and cultural development of their environment.

-Ron Brenneman

Educación pertinente

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Exactamente qué queremos decir con eso de educación pertinente? Siempre cuando una frase nueva se utiliza para describir algún proceso nuevo, podemos caer en la suposición que todos manejamos la misma interpretación, más cuando se convierte en un término de moda.

Para que estemos en la misma página sobre el tema, mejor lo definimos. Para nosotros, la Fundación Perquín para el Fomento de Oportunidades Educativas, la educación pertinente se define con los conceptos de Adaptación, Transformación e Inserción.

Adaptación se refiere a la conciencia situacional, de ubicarnos en los procesos económicos, sociales y culturales de nuestro entorno y su relación y conexión o influencia del entorno más amplio, incluyendo las tendencias a nivel global. Eso, para luego equiparnos de la mejor forma para enfrentar y hasta prosperar en dichas condiciones.

Transformación implica iniciar con lo que tenemos a la mano, lo que conocemos, la experiencia y la práctica nuestra, y luego en base a ello, y a partir de las necesidades y oportunidades de nuestro entorno, ir construyendo nuevas prácticas y procesos para mejorar éste entorno más cercano. No podemos confundir transformación por trasplantación. El trasplante de metodología y prácticas implica mantener dependencia de fuerzas externas. La transformación sale desarrollándose de las raíces propias nuestras.

La Inserción laboral y participación plena en los procesos de transformación son requeridos para poder calificar de pertinente a la educación propuesta o programada. Acceso a opciones reales de empleo y autoempleo y acceso a formación en especializaciones para tal fin son las únicas pruebas de la pertinencia de un programa educativo.

La educación es pertinente en la medida que el estudiante es equipado, no solo de capacidades académicas y técnicas, sino con las competencias de adaptación, el poder de transformación y con la plena inserción en el desarrollo socioeconómico y cultural de su entorno.

-Ron Brenneman

Cause and effect- the migration problem

North Morazan

The north of Morazán, in the mountainous north-east of El Salvador is hands down the most beautiful place in the world. Yet it has one of the highest rates of migration in the country of young people seeking opportunity elsewhere. Many are in the USA, most with no legal status to be there.

Why, you would ask, would anyone in their right mind leave the most beautiful place in the world and leave family and children behind to live in the shadows in a foreign land where they are not fully welcome.

Leaving politics aside, where all positions may be justified, let us take a look at cause and effect. The north of Morazán was a free fire zone during the Salvadoran civil war, causing 100% displacement of the civilian population and complete destruction of productive infrastructure. As a volunteer during the 80s in the Colomoncagua refugee camp, across the border in Honduras, I watched the daily bombing runs of Dragonfly jets over Morazán, part of the one million dollars a day in USA military aid to El Salvador. This period marked the beginning of the migration problem, which continues today given the failure of post-war reconstruction in providing economic opportunity.

Regarding President Trump’s remark that the USA should only accept the best, I would argue that we need them here. Our brightest and best went to war in the late 70s and most were killed or maimed. They continue to leave today in search of a means to care for their families. We need to create conditions that allow the brightest and best to stay here and build Morazán into its full potential.

Morazán was not destroyed in one day. It took a decade of pounding and a lot of resources to do it. It will take some time, resources and determination to reach our goal of prosperity.

Amún Shéa is focused on assisting the creation of that reality in which  the brightest and best may prosper and thrive here at home and migration is no longer the only option. It is no magic formula and offers no quick political solution. It is an arduous task, one step at a time, one student at a time, often seemingly against the current.

Public policy is important, but if you would like to join us on the groundwork, building change from this remote territory, we would more than welcome you.

Thank you
Ron Brenneman