A dialogue in which one begins by asking the other “Where do you want us to shoot?” and the other says “in many places, but we start wherever you want” is a real dialogue. And that is what María Benjumea and Ana Simoneta Rubido, along with Juan Zafra, starred in the third session of the First Intergenerational Meeting for the Future.
In just an exchange of glances between the three it was revealed that the topics to be discussed were going to be almost all of them. Because if you talk about education, you end up discussing employment, you cannot ignore unemployment, the well-known precariousness appears and along with it entrepreneurship and its relationship with the business fabric, and a wide etcetera of issues that could seem typical of the young people of this 21st century, but that María Benjumea immediately took charge of clarifying that they are the usual debates and that they arise from the usual concerns. “I am a startapera 67 years old ”–he presented credentials–“ and the concerns I had when I was Ana’s age were the same, especially how to alleviate the disconnect between the training received in the educational system and what you then need in ‘the site a where are you going'”.
What is not so clear is whether, when María was 20 years old, there were entities such as Talent for the Future capable of involving more than 1,000 young people to understand what concerns them and help identify proposals and scenarios for the future.
However, if something becomes clear during the conversation, it is that before and now we start from the same conception: any society – and they say society, not the educational system – has to have the aim of educating the person in an integral way (contents, attitudes, skills…), for which you have to work with the entire community. It is true that the role of teachers is special, but the challenge belongs to everyone. María Benjumea, from experience, adds a not inconsiderable fact, speed: “This has always been a pending issue, but now it is more challenging because the times are much faster. Our greatest preparation is to have the ability to continue adapting to change in order to permanently recycle ”.
Education understood as experimentation and information
In today’s terminology, Ana and the young people of Talent for the Future call this “human development potential”, that which allows a person to be in the best possible conditions to face the transformations that they have to live, which in the Current societies, as we know, are multiple and very fast.
Throughout the conversation, more than a few personal anecdotes and biographical data emerge –something that is more strange to happen in dialogues between men–, and Ana introduces a fundamental element: “I have been lucky enough to come to Madrid and enter a environment of associations, Erasmus, travel, innovation, etc., but not everyone has these opportunities ”. Ana says of herself that she is one of those who answers yes to everything that is proposed to her and that is very enriching, but she is aware that this attitude is not unanimous in society as a whole. Hence, he considers it important to work from school. A school understood as a space for experimentation and, most importantly, “a place to fail”.
Or, as María says, a place that helps to discover skills. She lived it like this: “I was the youngest of ten siblings, the closest to me, very handsome and extremely smart, light years away from me, because I didn’t have any of the usual skills. However, over time I discovered that I had others. It is essential to recognize that everyone has different abilities and to empower them with a clear message that we can do it. Skill development is what will allow you to grow. Education in capital letters are the messages we receive and the willingness to start doing, because that’s where you see that you can actually do. “
As the dialogue progresses, the points of contact between two women who are separated by exactly forty years emerge. If Ana (27) speaks of education as that space for experimentation and error, María (67) agrees with her and broadens the focus: “Education is not the place where you train, but the information we receive. All this educates us ”. If all that information – which is like saying the whole of society, because what is society but a space for communication – is educating us, in effect, we need a place to experiment, fail and learn. And that site, as Ana recalls, is broad: “The change in education is not only formal training. Sometimes it is a talk, an inspiration, a project or an experience ”.
Create knowledge or find a job?
“We separate university and vocational training on the one hand and basic education on the other”, clarifies Ana. Regarding the latter, her concern is “to think about how to turn educational centers into learning spaces with new methodologies, with teachers and the autonomy of students. centers as key elements. “We are facing the challenges of the XXI century with educational systems of the XIX”, sentence Ana.
The role of the university is not so clear, however. Ana voices the doubt that haunts both families and students when choosing a career. Although it is assumed that the scientific-technical professions are associated with a specific training, what about the social sciences, which are much more versatile in possible professional opportunities? Which immediately leads to the underlying question: Does the University aim to train for employment or is it a space to research, create knowledge and propose comprehensive training, beyond professional derivatives?
María Benjumea did not hesitate to answer these doubts about the essences of university education, because they are not new today. “The experience of having gone through the university is key, especially in those universities where you meet very diverse people, and much more if they are global centers, where you meet a diversity of cultures, approaches … That is the most important part ”.
For Maria the key is a question of attitude. Learn permanently. Going from the culture of “how I have studied this, I have the right to work on this” to a scenario in permanent change that requires adaptation and therefore continuous training. “Young people – adds María Benjumea – must be aware of what companies are looking for and that in many cases they cannot find”. This, according to her, is because the messages we receive are not correct, and we demand a lot but we commit little, because deep down, according to her, we live in affluent societies where a culture of demand has been created, but not so much of the effort.
With a totally provocative spirit, he asks a question: if in the year 2011, in the midst of the crisis, the data on youth unemployment that the official figures gave – around 52 percent – had been true, wouldn’t there have been a revolution? It did not take long for the comment from the public to arrive: “There was. It was the 15M. But in a democratic and effectively well-off society, that revolution was peaceful and it got where it did ”.
The debate on the credibility of the youth unemployment figures served to refresh the session, ask some other fundamental questions and end up agreeing that indeed, the level of well-being achieved by Western societies has, on occasions, been able to have that accommodative factor of wait for someone, somewhere, to solve something. Nothing could be further from the spirit of this conversation.
Author Bio: Cristina Monge is a Sociology Professor. Governance researcher for ecological transition at the University of Zaragoza