from the 7 authors
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by Pierre VAN BERGEN
President of the European Association of Socialist Teachers
Former General Secretary of the Belgian Minister of Education
Promoter of the Renovated
Why this book and why today?
Why this " saga " where narrations, conversations, reflections, judgments and anathemas intermix, where, in spite of everything, hope subsists, even if, sometimes, it needs to be dug out, from being crouched under raillery and self-mockery?
Probably it's a matter of getting even. With others. But also with oneself. To affirm, to convince oneself that the meaning remains and that all can be rekindled and reborn one day.
Therefore, should this book be considered as one of those bottles shipwreck victims throw at sea with the hope that the message will be pick up and that its tracks will so be kept in the future and, who knows, that the adventure may have a continuation?
There is, probably, a bit of it in this astonishing endeavor - which, of course, could only have been collective.
However, beyond the "saga" related by the authors, this book tells us about an attempt, if not to seize power, at least to share it, in order to renovate the school from inside (and beyond, the educational system); because memos, new programs, and more or less sophisticated and applicable educational research could not manage - and have not yet managed - to adjust the school to the necessities of our time (past or present). Because, in essence, this is what it was all about for the protagonists, independently of any personal satisfaction provided by their enterprises - often risky or even daring. And it is the perception of this failure - fifty years later - that torment them and maybe explain this articulation.
Similar actions have taken place elsewhere. They are more numerous than one would think, but they didn't have, to my knowledge, the size nor the constancy of this one. The CPALI's action is therefore, in a way, an example of a phenomenon more general than one imagines. And that's why it deserves attention and reflection.
Why did para- or extra-curricular activities developed after World War II?
The progressive demystification of the power - of the state, of institutions, of parents, of the school and therefore of teachers - stranded the latter in an effort to block this phenomenon and retain their authority, or their ascendant or, merely, their influence on pupils, in order to fulfill their mission. Some found a counter-attack, without being clear perception of it - by merely building a new type of relation with pupils - built on understanding without resignation and on an accentuation of the educational aspects of their task (attention to personal problems, processed of emotional problems, relations in out-of-school situations, etc). The para- or extracurricular activities were, among other things, a means to assume, in a positive way, this transformation of the teacher - pupil relationship through a new image of the authority.
Parascolar activities had - could I write: have? - five essential objectives:
to encourage relations between peers; they are indispensable for the maturation (see Piaget - 1936! about this topic)
to make room in our schools for another educational method, allowing the pupil to be an "active" learner, actively participating to decisions regarding time use, activity choices, assuming responsibilities.
to steer away from the traditional activity organization format (the class, the timetable) and to be initiated to other ways of using space and time.
to widen the notion of "training" through organizing multiple types of activity where authority is changing and shared.
to provide pupils - as pupils, and in the setting of their school formation - with the possibility to exercise some "real life" activities and to have contacts with the "real" world.
Our society evolved to what it is - a contradictory, change oriented society - and therefore a divided and unsteady partner for the school and for the education system. How could we not wonder why we didn't conceive new, much needed structures allowing teaching and schools (each at their own responsibility level: the system at the theoretical level; the schools at practice level), to enter in negotiations with the society to define their mandate and to adapt to it as needed?
Defining objectives and modes of action abstractly is one thing; to implement them in the field is another one and it can only be done efficiently in synergism with the immediate surroundings (politic, economic, social) and of course (but is it so well understood?) with the pupils and their parents.
book may help us to become aware of the size of the problems for our societies
regarding this point and, from a critical reading, determine a course that would
allow us to find clear remedies and - who knows? maybe solutions.
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