Saturday, April 30, 2011

Childhood Indoctrination: an Institutionalized Crime / Miriam Celaya

Childhood Indoctrination: an Institutionalized Crime / Miriam Celaya
Miriam Celaya, Translator: Norma Whiting

Readers, allow me to tell you a recent anecdote. Zamira, a close friend
whose son started attending Kindergarten just a few months ago, was very
alarmed when she received guidance from the director to teach her four
year old toddler who Fidel, Raúl and the "Five Heroes" are. Appalled,
Zamira flatly refused, to the amazement of the director, who did not
understand how a mother could refuse to comply with what was stipulated.
"You will make me look bad with the inspectors" insisted the teacher,
and to convince Zamira that it was not a personal whim, the good lady
(she really is) showed her the teaching agenda for three and four year
olds, a worthy rival of the Surrealist Manifesto, that – indeed — makes
clear that indoctrination is a goal of educators in order to instill
"patriotic values" in kids who only yesterday opened their innocent eyes
to the world, little people who will leave their place in line in
pursuit of a toy, candy or ice cream, who do not have the faintest idea
of ​​the meaning of the word homeland, and whose main ambition is to
play and romp. But Zamira would not budge an inch, "Look, ma'am, try to
have the inspectors ask another child and not mine, because I want him
to be a child, not a political laboratory mouse."

This was at a Kindergarten in the capital, but it also goes on
throughout the Island. All is needed is to visit any of these centers to
notice the presence of wall murals of leaders of the revolution, many
dead celebrities, the yacht Granma and even violent scenes of the
assault on the Moncada Barracks. A recurring image is that of the Sierra
Maestra guerrillas with guns raised and faces fierce with screaming
expressions, subliminally encouraging violence as part of the
revolutionary culture. A real crime.

The fact is neither an exception nor a novelty. The fierce
indoctrination to which children are subjected in Cuba since the early
years of their life is widely known, as it's endorsed in primary school
textbooks, including those textbooks with which students in first grade,
only six years of age, learn to read.

Unfortunately, almost no mother is as courageous as my friend Zamira. It
is common for parents to tolerate in silence the violence of the
doctrine and the implementation of methods, because "What the heck,
children do not know about that. Back at home we will make sure they
think about other things". And that's when a dramatic clash of values ​​
in which the children receive twice the impact of a controversial
discourse: Fidel Castro and the "Five Heroes" in the morning, in daycare
or at school, and Mickey Mouse, Donald and Spiderman on video in the
afternoon, upon returning home. No need to clarify which of the messages
is more attractive (and appropriate) for children. In fact, in private
life, all children want to be like Ben 10, like Superman or Zorro, never
like Ché. No one has ever seen a child in a private costume party
dressed as the legendary Argentine guerrilla fighter, as Camilo or as
Fidel Castro. These "heroes" do not belong in the children's repertoire,
but are only used to meet the requirements at the official venues.

But, simultaneously, without adults trying, they are planting in very
young children the hypocrisy of the double standard that the system has
fostered, the false belief in something that even they don't believe,
thus supporting a process that our friend Dagoberto Valdés has defined
as anthropologic damage, whose harmful effects will long survive the
regime that produced it.

For my part, I think that even protesting sectors in the country have
ignored for too long the relevant details of the rights of Cuban
children. We have prioritized our rights to freedom, democracy, to
participate fully in our own individual and collective destinies, but we
have neglected the most vulnerable sector of society: children. We
assume that, by giving our children our love and guaranteeing them food
and material wellbeing, we are doing our part. We are thus committing
the same error as our own parents: we are allowing the State to carry
out the sacred mission of educating our children morally and completely
instead of doing it ourselves, as we are able to and as we can freely
choose to. We thus prolong in our children the saga of slavery of
thought, of pretense, and of corruption of spirit of which we were
victims, and which we so condemn.

Children are born with the right to be educated, but it is a flagrant
violation of their rights and those of their families to plant an
ideological doctrine in their minds. It is an appalling distortion of
human nature and it should be denounced in the strongest terms, so that
we may finally banish the collective consciousness of violence,
submission, and lies that half a century of dictatorship has sown in Cubans.

Translated by Norma Whiting

April 27, 2011

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