July 24, 2021

Instructions to feel | Society

Instructions to feel | Society

"Leaving aside the motives, let's stick to the right way to cry, meaning a cry that does not enter the scandal, or that insults the smile with its parallel and awkward resemblance." Thus begins a famous text by Julio Cortázar, entitled "Instructions to cry". In the section Instructions of his book Cronopios and fame stories, we also find "Instructions for climbing a ladder" or "Instructions for winding a clock", all of them micro-stories in which the reader is surprised by offering mechanical and very detailed techniques to perform banal, insignificant, involuntary or unconscious actions. The inadequacy between the language used and the reality of the objective pursued is a source of irony, and creates a peculiar sense of humor. Cortázar, lover of the game, uses this simple but intelligent resource to draw attention to what we do without realizing it, to show how ridiculous or funny it can be to try to describe or teach it.

Unfortunately, it seems that our world is losing the inclination to irony, and that literality is on the way to becoming the worst enemy of thought. In many children's books, textbooks and educational programs, the so-called Emotional education. The children are presented with a series of basic emotions (which are six, seven or eight according to the chosen classification), accompanied by suggestive drawings or emoticons, and it is explained in which situations one feels happy or sad, with fear or disgust, what is anger for, or what to do when one is angry (with suggestions as useful for a four year old as "counting to ten "," Breathe slowly "or" think of something else "). Proliferate children's books in which their protagonists, troubled by so much emotion without a name, find happiness by classifying them in colorful boats (and here there are no surprises, rage is red, blue sadness and yellow joy).

The most curious of all is that those who write these manuals and implement such educational programs lack the slightest hint of irony. Instead of playing, they take themselves very seriously. For what they teach children (this compendium of abstract words that must be recognized according to their schematic facial expressions) is based on first level scientific studies, and there is no doubt that thanks to this they will become aware of their emotions and will arrive to be successful people: small experts in theory of mind, social skills and empathy. Well, oddly enough, children are taught empathy with exercises in which they must explain what happens to a character after exposure of an artificial and flat, in which no one would stop to think spontaneously because he has no no interest The exercise ends with strange questions like: "How do you know what happens to the character if you can not see him?": I'm still trying to find out what kind of response is expected for such a question.

The bad call Emotional education can not be part of the normative academic programs

Certain currents of psychology and pedagogy produce manuals with "Instructions to feel", and try to convince us that a theoretical and simplified explanation about what sadness is followed by a greater capacity to live with it. I suppose with the hope that after having stripped the words of their symbolic charge, their ambivalences, their obscurities; Having turned them into mere denotative meanings, the minds of children will become just as flat and away from the contradictions that make us suffer. The most disturbing is to think that this can be achieved: that, since language structures thought, emptying the language of its connotations and its figurative senses, it also ends up diminishing the capacity for symbolization and its multiple metaphors.

We have changed the symbol for allegory. The symbol was always the essential element of children's literature, since the symbols speak to the child's unconscious. Gianni Rodari, writer and teacher, wrote in his already classical Fantasy grammar, about the fears that some stories may provoke in certain children: "If the child feels the anguished fear of those who can not defend themselves, it is necessary to recognize that the fear was already in him, before the wolf of the story appeared: I was inside him, in some depth of conflict. The wolf is the symptom that reveals fear, not its cause… " I am interested here in the word "reveal", which means discovering what is ignored or secret and, if we stick to the same form of the word, recapping it (re-veiling). The symbols, like the Little Red Riding Hood wolf or the Cinderella dress, help to reveal emotions: they make them emerge, manifest themselves, but they do not explain or theorize about them. They appeal to the complexity of the inner world. Emotions, in the education of children, need our attention and our listening, not that we dissect them. The ability to imagine is necessary for that. There is no other door. The children's game, the expression through imagination or drawing, the sincere reaction of a child to a story that offers significant symbols for him, our attention, as parents or educators, the way he speaks, or his face in A particular moment is the only way to help him become aware of what he feels. There are no shortcuts, nor scientifically proven formulas to create emotionally healthy or happy children.

Unfortunately, it seems that our world is losing the inclination to irony

Sometimes it is necessary to recognize that one walks in darkness. The school offers children, first of all, experiences. The bad call Emotional education it can not be part of the normative academic programs, but it is born from what is lived. Of the relationship between each teacher and his students, always unclassifiable; of friendships among children; of the stories that terrify or move them; of the satisfaction of having made a drawing that expresses something they did not know; of theater workshops in which children discover their body and voice; also of the practice of sport; of music, of dance; first of all, the pleasure, concentration and excitement of the game. Our educational system enthusiastically incorporates the new contents of Emotional education at the same time that it practically suppresses artistic teachings, it turns reading into a mechanical exercise from ever younger ages and drastically reduces children's free play time. Let's get out of this great deception. And let us begin to suspect a little of the experts who, far from any irony, promise "scientifically proven" solutions to educate. Let's look a little more at what the children teach us.

Elisa Martín Ortega is a professor of literature at the Faculty of Education of the Autonomous University of Madrid


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