Humberto Maturana: "discrimination is founded on a theory that justifies denying each other"

Humberto Maturana: "discrimination is founded on a theory that justifies denying each other"

Biologist, about to turn 90, is still very active. Just participate in the V Congress of education, which sought to analyze the origin of learning and how to learn the students of the 21st century. The national prize of Sciences 1994 believed that new technologies have not changed the mode of learning, but the living space. Also follows giving great importance to the teacher as key player in education and greets the advent of the feminist wave.

The biologist Humberto Maturana (Santiago, 1928), about to turn 90, still very active. Just participate in the V Congress of education, the one organized by Seminarium certification, which sought to analyze the origin of learning and how to learn the students of the 21st century.

There he participated together with the Spanish experts César Coll and Carles Monereo, the three as references worldwide of constructivism in education, with great impact on the audience.

The national prize of Sciences 1994 believed that new technologies have not changed the mode of learning, but the living space. Also follows giving great importance to the teacher as key player in education and greets the advent of the feminist wave.

New technologies

-How do affect this new technology in the classroom?
-Mode of learning has not changed, but the living space. Children are transformed into coexistence with adults or older which coexist. The technology is an accessory, an instrument, is not a fundamental thing. To the extent that we become dependent on it, forget the fundamental, which is something that depends on us.

-What is mean with that has changed life?
-If you look at a family in a restaurant, there are adults with children, and out of be eating, are all with the phone: father, mother, children, children. Before they would be talking, playing, doing something together, but if you are with the cell phone... The cell phone is an instrument, but if it is stuck in the middle of the conversation, away. Why change the coexistence with the children.

-Does the omnipresence of the phone seem negative?
-Instruments are positive or negative according to how we use them. The cell phone is not a negative or positive thing in itself, depends on how use you it. The hammer can be a weapon to hurt or an instrument to do woodworking.

-And what positive use can give to the cell in education, for example?
-What me worry about education are the first ten years. In those ten years, the child will learning the world that is emerging with the elderly live with them. Children want adults to whom respect, that inspire, and are going to transform with elders who live together, seeming or differing, depending on their feelings. Then, if the cell separates it from the encounter, it takes time to be with them, the disposition to meet what they ask me, then it is negative. But if I use it to phone or make any operation distance, it is positive.


-You say that the first ten years in education are fundamental. Today there are many people who choose to not send the children to school and prefer to educate them at home. Does the school seem important as space of socialization and learning?
-The school is an extension of the home space. The school arises when there are experiences that children have and tasks that attend don't have at home or in the home directly, say. But, in our human history, the school is not primary, but it is home. Then, as it is an extension of the home that brings wider spaces of experience that the children have in our home, is valuable, it is important. But will depend on how I, Professor, drive or what do with that as school. I generate a cozy space requirement? What should I do? What aspects of living wider I doomed in teaching?

-Do you have any school that seems ideal model?
-For me, there are two possibilities. One is that the school becomes a reflective, inviting space in which the interaction between the teacher and the children are invited to reflect, to be, to discuss broader topics that in the home, therefore, learn also this practice of manual action ecological or whatever it was, of understanding. Other schools may be, call them so, doctrine. There, I think that this is more valuable to the other, then teach a religion, a doctrine. They can also be subjects special, for example, agriculture or technology. Ultimately, the heart is what is the relationship of teachers with children.

-Apart from the kind of school that we have.
- Teachers will give character to this school. Not like that are the doctrine, which generate spaces any fundamentalists, because they restrict the reflection.

-Waldorf schools are pretty dogmatic. They would fit within the doctrine?
-Don't know. I know them both to say that they are provided or which class. But any school system that turns into a dogmatic field is negative, because it restricts the reflection makes it to you in a way that not given freedom and responsibility reflective.

-You studied at the Manuel de Salas, how does today, in hindsight, the education they got there?
-I was well there. We could talk with the teachers, ask questions... I have no complaints. I don't know how is the Manuel de Salas now. At that time I felt it was a cosy space for me.

Education today in Chile

-Do you think that schools today in Chile have that feature? You've seen the evolution of education in Chile over the past fifty years, what kind of education have today? What are we teaching?
-Don't know, but I realize of the complaints. Students take to the streets and say they want quality education. What are you asking for? They are asking for an education that opens space for feeling good and interested to be there. When asked the nonprofit end, what is the profit? It is a misappropriation, always. You have a salary, works, okay. But if you have an institution, and some of the money that should be for the institution gets it to Pocket, it is wrong. That would be the profit. Money is energy. We need energy for all that we do.

-Profit would be to subtract money that is for the school.
-Accurately, and use it in its own benefit.

- But it is something that is very common today in Chile, at every level.
-Unfortunately, Yes. But you asked me for education in Chile. Chile has experienced several extreme situations, with displacements of people and thought, in and out of the country. Where the University reform, there were people that did not like and they went. When was elected Allende, there were people who didn't want that and went. With the military Government, there were people who went. And, however, the country not collapsed. Do you mean that? I had enough to get out of these difficulties. That is, that education was not so bad. There was creativity, knowledge, which allowed the country to follow. We didn't get to be teachers or doctors from abroad, it wasn't anything like that.

By this I mean that our education, at least until 1970, was not so bad. What happens is that it changes orientation. One before studying because I was going to work in the country and was going to return what they had received. After the orientation was towards the market. They are no longer prepared to be citizens, but to participate in the market. It is a completely different psychological attitude. And as we prepare for market, we also wasted education, with an emphasis on the private. And here comes the problem of profit.

I'm not saying that before there is that, surely had it, but to one lesser extent. For example, I remember that, when I was studying medicine, in 1951, the first year students met to declare our political identity. He had of all parties: conservative, Socialist, Liberal, independent. At some point, after having listened, we ask ourselves what we wanted. And all, in one way or another, we answer that we wanted to return to the country that had received him, except one, I wanted to be a doctor and practice the profession with responsibility. Or the same thing, but in a different way. But if you had asked teens to late 70 what was their orientation or what wanted education, it was prepared to compete in the market. It is radically different: 'Let's be worried of success'. In my opinion, the task of education is to expand the space of experience and sense of autonomy and responsibility as citizens, with respect for the differences.

-What sort of person are we if we educate in the new spirit of the market?
-That we are in a world of ambition, of denial, non-collaboration.

-You said that collaboration is the key to progress, not the competition.
-I think that competition is negative, because it means that I want to be better than the other. And if I want to be better than the other, I actually want to deny to the other through what I do. But at the same time I refuse myself, because, instead of be I the reference, it is the other. I think that negative, because me does not integrate to a space of integration, in the preparation of a country in the partnership.

-Do you have any ideal country in this sense?
-I don't know if there is a country that is not centered on the theme of the competition, profit, achievement. But that there is no country does not mean that we can not choose that country. If you asked a child before the age of ten, he prefers to collaborate. The theme of the competition starts. Now, that educational systems are necessary, they do, because the world has a great complexity. Before we were talking about technology. One must know how to operate this instrument, because we are going to use, but with a reflective understanding, allow the children give count that they choose. If I use it, it is my responsibility what to do with it, and if I don't use it, also.

The classroom, unchanged in a century

-Although in the last century we have had a tremendous technological transformation, the classroom remains the same since the 19th century: the teacher at the front and back, students listening to. This model still existing? Why not has changed?
-If you have not changed, I think it's because teachers do not have been formed in a different educational practice. But what is at stake is to realize that, if I am master and have twenty children in front of me, it is my responsibility to create an interesting space. How do I do it? It will depend on how I I trained as a teacher and what things I think I have to hand to do so. If I use the be ahead, with children back, as an authoritarian system of the 19th century, does not work. But if I use it as an opportunity to talk and invite reflection to my students, or the action, it's OK. The master has the responsibility, wanting it or is not, to the front or in the middle. The issue is what are the resources and the attitude that I am operating.

-The role of the teacher today, when children are most stimulated that twenty or thirty years ago is not more difficult?
-Do more stimulated in what sense?

-That they have more stimuli and are distracted more easily.
-Is that it depends on how do I. For certain subject, children can consult Google or a number of other things. What is my role? Invite reflection. How to use the knowledge that have? We talked about the importance of the information. We can collect information, libraries, in digital systems. But that is not the important thing in this area. What do I do with this information? My theme as a teacher is talking with them to form a space in which we reflect on the information. If, for example, Google says such a thing about something, my task is to invite reflection. What are you telling me this? How do I understand it? How do we talked about this data? But if I as a teacher do I charge that my task is to expand the reflective space - because the information is not valid in itself, but it depends on what I do with it-, I am not going to be indispensable.

-But what does a teacher having class with 40 students and some come without breakfast or sleeping? How one works there?
-I'm not in that situation to tell him how to work. But if I have children who are tired, hungry, how I I deal with that you rest, that satisfy hunger? I can not deny them, I have to admit that. If one is drowsy, sleep a little while we talked such or such thing. It doesn't matter, because when they wake up they will participate. If I tell them that they sleep a little while, it creates a dimension of autonomy that is environmentally friendly. Depends on what they agree, what themes I have. But I have to respect my students. My best collaborators are my students. That is my task. If I treat them simply as small pockets of knowledge, it is not. If I don't know more than them, either. I need to know much more to be able to reflect. What happens is that the children are bored. And why? Because nothing is happening there that involve them.

-There is an appeal to them.
-Once, makes time already, more than twenty years, was doing some classes in the pedagogical and a teacher said to me: "is very interesting what you say, but I am a Spanish teacher and grammar is a little inspiring thing that children are not interested. How do do it? "." I told him: "While you think that grammar is not inspiring, isn't it". They spend four weeks and tells me: "it changed my life, now the children are interested in grammar!".

The feminist wave

-I wanted to ask him about the feminist movement. For example, what there are schools with only men or only women? How does that affect education? Does it seem anachronistic, right?
-When I arrived at the Manuel de Salas, the College was an anomaly, because it was mixed. And it was magnificent. The problem is how to talk to students. We cannot deny that man and woman have a relationship that has to do with sex, with the mode of preferences in different things, and that's respectable. And I have to accept that and talk about it with respect. And that means a willingness to reflect on all the things, to answer all questions, children will grow up in that mutual respect, respecting the differences. Why do we have these differences? Because we have a culture that discriminates, it is patriarchal, misogynist. Women are treated like something of lesser quality. We not only have to respect the differences, but are they reconcile in the live.

Once I participated in a feminist meeting - this was 15 years ago - and women complained against the men. I asked to speak and said he wanted to talk as a biologist, and that we could fully resolve the problem that they were developing the female partonogenesis, a reproduction without resorting to a male gamete. With that they were going to disappear men, women only produce. And I asked them if that not seemed a good solution. I heard a cry: not.

Does that mean that? That solution is not the Elimination of one sex or the other, but harmony. And harmony requires respect. But if we are raised thinking that there is a difference in value, with discrimination in wages and others, you can not. My mother contributed to the founding of the MEMCH (moving Pro-emancipacion the women of Chile) and always said that he wanted to equal opportunities. Can't one win more than another for the same work, or a preferential access under the genre. Humans are all different, have different genetic, different stories... the issue is not equality, but the harmony in the coexistence of mutual respect. Discrimination is founded on a theory that justifies not loving to each other, deny the other. Take a look at any situation of discrimination and difference, and they'll reply with a theory that justifies it.