Home Education A bath of reality

A bath of reality

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Guillem Sala has just published The penalty (Tusquets), a novel that accurately reflects the educational environments in which not a few inhabitants of the urban outskirts of Catalonia have to operate, and does so with a lucidity that we miss in the essays that are usually published, some affected by a apocalyptic vocation that does not lead to anything concrete, or others (the majority) affected by a floral and emotional ideology totally disconnected from reality.

Which is precisely what does not happen with Sala’s novel. His story, written with a language as studied as it is crude, breaks a series of stereotypes about teachers and students, and it was really very healthy that some fixed and totally tiresome ideas began to break down. Neither are teachers that subspecies described as Francoist or oppressive that forces young people to memorize data for an inhuman amount of hours each day, nor are they a collection of lazy, unfriendly, gray and mediocre officials who enjoy humiliating staff; neither are young people those semi-angelic creatures of light of official propaganda, nor are they the unleashed demons that others paint. Teachers and students are just people involved in a common root process: learning.

Much and bad is written about the mental health of students, it did not hurt to show the vulnerability of teachers. There is also a lot and fatal writing about how to promote equity in our centers. After all, education is not an exact science and sometimes things work out well, and sometimes not so well. The truth is that in the novel it is Professor Sandra who leads a disorderly and heterodox life, culminating in a tragedy.

Guillem Sala turns a lot of topics around: it is said ad nauseam that students are lazy; Well no, Sandra is the lazy number one teacher. Classrooms are places where interesting symbiosis take place. Neither the teachers are so different from the students, nor the students so evil, nor the teachers so oppressive and deaf. If absurd laws or walls of bureaucracy or excessive regulations do not get in the way of the rights of students and teachers, what ends up happening in the classes is highly creative and a reason for optimism for everyone who believes in the transformative role of the teaching.

This is well reflected in the story, as well as other details that come to deny the meaning of the ignorant laws that have been imposed on us. It has become popular that the good thing is not to do much, not to make an effort or be interested in cultural content, and to practice a version soft of education sanctioned by politicians and supposed social imperatives, but it turns out that the Izan, who is a dogs de Santa Coloma, a modern rogue, and not exactly an Einstein, distinguishes perfectly between a center in which they “teach things” from another “in which they only quarrel”.

And this happens because if the teachers were left to develop the content (those that our predominant ideology likes to expel so much to replace them with conformist alienation), the students would not only be more interested in learning, but would also receive less reproach, since It is in the places where nothing is learned, where the level is lowered the most, it is where more conflicts of coexistence occur.

It is not good for students to know things about the lives of teachers, but sometimes a frank attitude is a bridge to dismantle imaginary platforms, and if the teacher is human and contradictory (although it must always be fair) the tendency is that students respond with a corresponding and reciprocal humanity. In well-matched groups, despite laziness and endless schedules, it is possible to learn if one keeps the antennas in reality and not in the ghostly theories taught in some faculties.

These common spaces of common exploration are what Sala rescues from the usual ocean of clichés.

On The penalty There are no victimisms, but there are victims and victimizers: Hayat, the girl from the first year of ESO who receives sexual abuse from her partner, Izan, is the one who gets the worst of it. What is exposed is the enormous hypocrisy that presides over the shed as it is organized: designed only to keep up appearances. We might think that it is exaggerated. The issue is thorny, really taboo, but unfortunately, as with so many other issues, we cannot ignore it.

Teachers resist imparting sex education because they are afraid of being singled out or reported. This is a serious problem: fewer and fewer brave teachers dare to challenge the prevailing neo-Victorianism to inform their students of what a respectful, affective and necessary sexuality is in a democracy. Our society too often confuses sex education with the propaganda of promiscuity. Surely, calm information would be the exact opposite of reckless exhibitionism. Misunderstood social emotionalism does the rest, spawning the imaginary apocalypse that too much of the public has in mind.

A sample button: once, at a family reunion, a father raised his finger to tell physical education teachers that promoting showering after physical exercise was facilitating aggression by pedophiles. This is the level. Hysteria, estrangement from reality. Which causes teachers to flee from the subject like the plague, that it is really ungrateful to explain according to which subjects in an environment hostile to the school that confuses democratic rights with the most primitive ideological whims and brother-in-law catastrophism.

Perhaps populism is just that: deceptive verbal direct action, the appearance of democracy, and the substitution of reality for easy, totally uncritical ideologism and the mere appearance of modernity.

Something that this book does not sin, based on a really adequate economy of narrative resources, which has been written from a balanced and realistic perspective, almost cinematographic, without manipulation or drama.

As Guillem Sala shows, brutality and marginality are too deeply rooted in a Catalonia and a Spain that are returning to some of the worst dynamics of underdevelopment, due to a lack of public investment. Its miserable suburbs are the same as those of Paco Candel’s novels, or those of Pío Baroja. If society were less Cainite, if our labor market were less brutal, perhaps things would begin to improve in high schools and the average cultural level of the citizen could be raised. Instead, what we do is totally short-term: make up, hide our inequality by relying on fantastic utopias. It does not occur to anyone that a possible way out for everyone is the creation of qualified employment: we seem very comfortable in our third-regional country.

Machirula and psychopathic sexuality is one of those secular scourges that may be making a comeback, if they left. In this sense, I have seen things as a tutor that could depress even the most hardened, but the most elementary ethics prevents me from telling these true stories. Let’s stay with this verista account. No need to descend into sensationalism. Sala knows by heart the institutional and legal framework of the country, as well as its absences, limitations and desertions. Suffice it to point out that Guillem Sala’s story is real as life itself, and that one day we should begin to abandon modern fashions to seriously concern ourselves with the real youth that is to grow up in our royal neighborhoods.

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