Seven problems may be object of a broad philosophical reflection in different cultural/social/economical/environmental/institutional present scenarios. Simply put, high income inequalities (for example in Brazil 70 % of the population earn a maximum of one thousand dollars a month); missing/disrupt human inner developments on ethical values, social attitudes, human behavior and conduct; growing urban violence; low attention, little concentration and cognitive development in many children/teenager public educational classrooms, fragile school structures and misunderstandings in strategic planning and managerial methods; nutritional very bad habits; environmental/ecological/deforestation disequilibrium at local levels and low marginal productivity/production diversification in agricultural systems for small holders and poor families.
This text is not the analysis of those problems but more on searching for some alternative experiments and projects to improve a social/educational multidimensional community action to be shared and integrated in pluralistic methodologies on social cohesion and cooperative participatory transformative creative education at local rural/urban communities in a direction to multiply possibilities/vectors that might help contribute to the development of abstract thinking and social productive action to alter those scenarios in a positive, though not a positivist way. This isn’t easy because we have to face complexity, relativism and obscurity in many uncontrolled variables. Life isn’t a laboratory.
Talented and non-talented very poor and poor children and teenagers (CY) and the ones in conflict with the law (CYY) need much more respect and care from our societies since they did not choose their places of birth. Ethical principles, freedom/discipline, cultural cognitive aspects of ontology are not to be taught (CY) and (CYY); they must be searched for as we challenge the construction of autonomy and group responsibilities and our efforts are to focus in a direction of multiculturalism, diversity and real human development for a correct life. Experiments for social cohesion inside public schools and local realities are to fight growing homicide rate among young people (aged 15-24) observed in the last decades in Brazil. It reflects some historical/institutional/cultural characteristics, social aspects, human behavior, cognitive complexities, very limited serious public policies, fragments of the past and present national reality in rural/urban pockets of spiritual and material misery which shows why we are among the six first countries in urban violence. Over 90% of homicides are male and most of them are black (Brazil SUS Data/Ministry of Health and Map of Violence, 2011). We can find universes not samples of (CY) all over many regions in the country who ought to have more consistent critical and creative educational public policies and projects so they could have opportunities to live their lives with dignity and contribute to a construction of more sustainable society. To face this challenge we must work together with Lapeade/UFRJ (Prof. Monica dos Santos outstanding research group in diversity and education) and try to answer five crucial questions as brought by Green (1999) where the first one is as consistent as the other four in “how to shape educational experiences as key tools and aspects of the ongoing growth of individuals, cultures, and societies” (p. 55). As a matter of fact Dewey had already proposed that “Society, as was said, is many associations not a single organization. Society means association; coming together in joint intercourse and action for the better realization of any form of experience which is augmented and confirmed by being shared” (p. 205). Somewhat clearer are his thoughts shown as “Society is the process of associating in such ways that experiences, ideas, emotions, values are transmitted and made common” (p. 207, emphases mine).
This text seeks to create new energies and summarize some paths traced by the author to experience again and enlarge some plural philosophical approaches as a possible test and multiplication of a project of non-formal educational practices in public schools in Rio de Janeiro and hopefully in the Bronx area, which has already been conducted in the amazon region in the past decades and in Minas Gerais; as well as in Petrópolis/Rio de Janeiro in the recent seventeen years (The Cacaio Project).
2. Linking Ideas, Symbols, Words, Feelings and Objectives
In Asia Mother Teresa worked hard on practical virtue ethics in her social actions. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in sacred words one of the two most famous speeches in American history (Hocman and others, 1982, p. 9). I also have a dream that the grandchildren of former slaves in Curimatã, Sertões do Quixeramobim, in the amazon region and in the slums of Rio de Janeiro one day will be able to develop themselves by themselves.
What are our objectives in this work? Wittgenstein (Tractatus) said that philosophy is the clarification of our thoughts and we can see pictures of reality. He also brought the idea that aspects of important simple things are hidden in front of our eyes but we cannot see them – “129. Os aspectos das coisas que consideramos ser…não nos chama a atenção” (1994, p. 75). What are the limits of our interventions when working with (CY) and (CYY)? Descartes understood we saw images of reality and in Spinoza ideas were formed through perception (passive mind) and conception (active mind) in different modes of the human mind. All we can see and comprehend about life are fragments of dynamic reality where the act of conceiving ideas and objectives means for our purpose here developments from inner complex spirits-brains-minds (SBM) through collective work hearing many voices simultaneously. This means that we must go deep in our thoughts and practical experience to direct efforts with more responsibility when dealing with children, young teenagers’ futures and sacred other forms of life and biodiversity.
“Life is an adventure” – used to say an old Woman in the hospital during the years of 1990/1/2/3. She could speak of her trips to almost two hundred countries during her substantial life reality. “We must live it until the last moment together helping develop (CY) from a community called Cidade de Deus (City of God, in Jacarepaguá, Rio de Janeiro) now”, she would say while knitting fifty six sweaters of wool for the winter of the year of 1993, as at the same time she had to swallow morphine for brain pain; but she did not stop her work until she died in November 11th, 1993 (this article is dedicated to that Woman). She could combine colors all the time she was producing those sweaters artistically in small sizes (ages eight to thirteen for boys and girls). Should we ask why we are to share these fragments of a reality and experiences in substantial (CY) lives? What for? Can we construct socially ethical responsibilities with other people, human communities and other kind of species? Should we be very careful with all kind of people and biodiversity everywhere, respect future generations and build more sustainable societies? Where does abstract thinking and language we use to communicate ideas come from? Briefly it is not possible here to answer these questions to our work objectives in conversations in the cognitive neurosciences where “mental things are understood as might coming from parts of the human brains” (“coisas mentais, na verdade as próprias mentes, são propriedades que afloram do cérebro”) as in a discussion presented by Chomski (2006) about works by Gallistel in The Cognitive Neurosciences (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) as well as in Damasio (2004), and neither understanding knowledge as a cultural process alone (Tomasello, 2003) nor in Cassirer (2001; 2005) probably hearing different voices in M. Bakhtin’s and P. Freire’s dialogical concepts. It is also impossible to continue this text before putting a hypothesis that words like knowledge, education, diversity and human development, are inserted in a symbolic framework where at least we can understand them as multidimensional processes that appear in a complex, we may call it, spirit-brain-mind (SBM). Human behavior, human conducts and beliefs are generated at least in the combination of and through organization of structured ideas (not rational ideas); intuition and feelings; will power; abstract thinking possibilities and choices with origin in (SBM). From Spinoza (2000) it is possible to learn that with emotion all we find are confused ideas about reality although he enters in contradiction about an outstanding and creative arquitect that can design and build a splendid temple (arts are not rational) while the “normal” ones build simple churches. In Kant we learn that the act of judgement is a key element to connect theory to practice although there is not enough space here to go deeper in this matter. As we design experiments although also intuitively and in almost controlled feelings to conceive ideas “a new kind of attention, practical rather than contemplative, has been drawn to Spinoza by Arne Naess “14. Interacting with things and understanding things cannot be separated” (in Deleuze, 1988, p. ii).
It is possible to find abstract ideas, symbolic government objectives for conventional education, systems, programs, words, sentences and suggestions that are well written in official plans and documents for basic education in Brazil (National Education Council Resolution/CP n. 1, 2006). Cultural-cognitive and didactic-pedagogic practices models though should not follow the logics of pure traditional curriculum structures for the generation of “human capital” for the market. Human beings are not things, objects, merchandise, nor pieces of machinery, and if it were not the case respect for diversity and the poor is a matter of pure ethical abstraction and real good philosophy.
This Cacaio Project is presented here as a humble experiment still under construction because of even greater concern in some locations with situations of almost chronic unemployment, widespread poverty, families and children with basic needs unmet, on different levels of domestic violence where they use drugs and alcohol everywhere in Brazil (Sapienza, 2005; Scivoleto, 2009, among others) and are influenced by a number of external stimuli in the culture of the television violent scenes, films, where predominant attitude toward passivity contradicts with images and inhibit the mobilization of real human development and interests towards creative thinking, more time for arts, research, local actions, human development, local and global culture (Calvente, The Cacaio Book, unpublished). It is not strange that conflicts in poor families show children and young teenagers been labeled by their own relatives as “he/she is good for nothing”, “he/she is very ignorant,” “no one can stand him/her”, “leaves everything after”, “what will you be when you grow up”, “that thing was born to be a nobody ” (personal observations in Petrópolis between 1997-2014; Marchesi, 2006). Some public and private organizations understand that the poor need just jobs in garbage companies, civil construction, restaurants, cleaning floors and bathrooms and alike, though are all most dignifying works poor (CY) and (CYY) should also have opportunities to enforce math, study philosophy, literature, history, physics, other areas and listen to different classical songs and arts in general.
Inside a multidimensional experiment planned by the author with (CY), (CYY) sent by the local Court of Justice, ten public schools, their principals, some teachers and local leaders in Cacaio methodologies could focus ethical values, environmental issues, martial arts, gardening as the author could participate not only as executive director and teacher, but as a privileged observer inside Educandário Princess Elizabeth Foundation of Court of Justice, Childhood and Youth, of the District of Petrópolis (Educandário) from the year of 2003 to 2007. It was also possible to put into practice different non-formal educational practices in a volunteer work inside the Educandário, local schools and develop daily educational work with more than two hundred (CYY), all of them selected by the local Judge and the Principals of schools of Serra da Estrela in Petropolis. The same typology of methodologies, pedagogical-didactic and educational practices also applied in the past years in some other public schools in Brazil was possible to be improved inside the Educandário to gradually open and consolidate afterwards a fruitful dialogue with (CYY) and thus stimulate abstract thinking and the production of small essays to amplify their abilities to interpret some questions on ethical values, environmental education, urban organic agriculture and human nutrition.
We have always have had conversations with (CY) and (CYY) that any flourishing discussion depends on learning first how to listen to others and assimilate the idea of another (SBM) in a state of attention, concentration and silence. Otherwise, in public basic schools in general inside classrooms we lose more than 36% (thirty-six percent) of the time with parallel, uninteresting conversations, mediocre, useless to the human development, inattention, unwelcome jokes and confusion where it is not possible to create a proper atmosphere for creative thinking; nor a team spirit for initiative, determination, learning, meta-cognitive developments and critical knowledge.
3. Theoretical Framework (Methodological References)
In some regions of the world there is also concern for the education of poor, young people (Tanton, 2010); it is also very clear in Cacaio philosophical ideal goal for in brazilian reality that “poverty is a visible and growing problem, even within the ultrawealthy United States of America. However, instead of making just, caring, and ultimately cost-saving national investments in education and creative experiments in economic development that might provide interlinked opportunities for economic, political, and social participation for residents of our poor, racially marginalized, and increasingly violent urban ghettos, we build prisons” (Green, 1999, p. 171). Deep radical democracy and transformative interventions are inserted in Green’s whole approach as some kind of one fundamental pillar to a “collaborative undertaking of many people in diverse locations and across generations, within which no one has enough time, energy, and gifts to contribute focally to all parts at once, although the best work in each area is done with an awareness of ongoing work in the other areas” (idem, p. 218). There is “the risk of becoming another percentage point in discouraging research on the growing contingent of young and underemployed people from public-resourced schools, located in poor neighborhoods (‘Half of african-American young are born in poverty’, Jesse Jackson, the New York Times, 31/12/96; 71% of 28,000 blacks of Oakland are in special education classes, the overall average is 1.8 on a system whose maximum score is 4, Courtland Milloy, Washington Post, 12/22/96) “(Bhabha, 2011, p. 64).
This work must be a specific effort and a multidimensional construction of educational methodologies and practices in a multidisciplinary way. “It is the nature of consciousness the fact that it no content can be deposited without that through this simple act, is also lodged a complex of other content” (Cassirer, 2001, p.48). The reinforcement of this non-traditional structure involves elements of the meaning of education as a social process itself in participating in intercultural/local/global diversity. How Benincá says “the human being is carrying capabilities, such as consciousness, which develop in relation to social contexts (…). People, through experience, build sense of things (…) is always a relationship of consciousness to another, ie, with the world (…) constructed in relation to the cultural everyday (… ) built through the process of reflection. “(in Dalbosco Casagranda and Muhl, 2008, p. 183/184/186).
Dewey’s reconstruction of philosophy (emphases mine) means organized ability in action (p. 80) where “The true ‘stuff’ of experience is recognized to be adaptive courses of action, habits, active functions, connections of doing and undergoing; sensori-motor co-ordinations. Experience carries principles of connection and organization within itself” (p. 91). The reproduction of human existence ontologically follows the dynamics of production structures, social action of men in different cultures, societies and historical contexts in time and space where concrete dialectic social relations in modes of production define people as objects of collective work in motion; and this economical process involves cultural cumulative knowledge (Tomasello, 2003) which requires an interpretation of substantial life itself, both globally and locally. Not only power and income concentration should receive attention of researchers and activists but approaches on how to avoid any kind of conflicts between nations as peace and global environmental governance are independently of any kind of religious beliefs something to be achieved as soon as possible. In essence we cannot move away from an integration of global and local perspectives. Theory and consistent actions are to be pursued to build pluralistic societies, autonomy and respect in diversity and multiculturalism for the development of stable human generations (Jonas, 2011; Scivoletto, 2009; Ghon, 2011; Kondziu, 2010; Goergen, 2010; Loureiro, 2007 and 2010; Souza and Cabral, 2009; Saviani, 1996; Epstein and Sheldon, 2006, Sapienza, 2005, Jonas, 2011, among others).
Trentin suggests the idea of “not giving up socializing intellectual development” (2010, p. 21) and transform the citizen “ruled ruler” (2010, p. 25), and “liberate subaltern”, “the simple, “marginalized”. “There is however, a place, a forum for civil society in which the encounter between the intellectual and the simple “(starting with children) is the everyday reality – the school (…) and thus waging a “political battle”, a true hegemonic struggle to deepen and broaden the “intelligentsia” of individuals” (Trentin, 2010, p. 25). The conceptual approach on environmental education can be presented in different ways as a discussion on “discipline-moralist – practice-changing environmentally inappropriate behavior (‘environmental training’); naive-immobilist – ‘contemplation of nature’; activist-sighted – transmission of technical and scientific knowledge about the environment”; or in a critical-transformative – political process of reflexive appropriation of knowledge, attitudes, values and behaviors that are aimed at building a sustainable society in the social and environmental dimensions (Loureiro, 2005; Saviani, 2005). Environmental problems have been pointed out on a larger scale from 1968 (Report of the Club of Rome); 1972 (the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment); 1977 (Conference Tbilizi) and 1992 (Rio de Janeiro). In the analysis of various thematic Goergen (2010) can be mentioned – “environmental education in local/global correlation; environmental education and curriculum; environmental education and culture; (…) Environmental education and economic pragmatism “(…)”critical multiculturalism and interface with the philosophy of education and the complexity in a polysemic universe”. A look at research projects open doors for methodological procedures – phenomenological, hermeneutic, (…), critical-dialectical, post-modern, (…), existential” (p.13). Goergen also discusses a series of transdisciplinary approaches that emphasizes equity, social justice, solidarity, “the dialogue as the fundamental condition of praxis” (ibidem, p.14). Furthering the discussion proposes that environmental education should take into consideration people’s awareness about themselves, the meaning of life (emphasis mine) in the context of their environment. “That’s what Adorno (1995, p.121) calls “turning toward the subject” (…) so our “object transcends environmental education” for education itself”(…) an ethical and aesthetic connotation that seeks the integral and balanced development of the potential of personality “(Flickinger, 2010, p.125)” (2010, p.18).
Malagododi argues that the choice of methodology in environmental education can not be built in passive mode or intuitively, “should be (re) constructed by the researcher at all times” (2011, p. 20th) and chooses the dialectic as a relevant benchmark for the perspective of critical environmental education and reinforces its position with the phrase Rene Barbier that ‘man is not born dialectic becomes dialectical’ (Gabel cited Barbier, 1985, p.23). ”
Other authors and research groups point to the need for a “reflective practice engaged (…), a paradigm shift driven by changing perceptions and values (emphasis added), capable of new readings and interpretations of environmental social reality (.. .) that opens paths to increase the potential of the school (my italics) mediating experiences of different places subject-actors in the construction of collective projects (emphasis mine) “(Jacobi, 2010, p. 85th). UFRJ found in the research group that defines “structural axis Marxist critical tradition in dialogue with authors of complexity theory (…) and promotes some activities that can be characterized as extension” (Loureiro, 2010, p. 96-97). The local political process can be driven and thus (re) build (re) mobilization of environmental councils who face multiple barriers to “contribute to dealing with local environmental issues, especially in terms of awareness of civil society forces, also through formal and non-formal EA in this process “(Souza and Novicki, 2010, p.131).
Many authors define non-formal education as a set of practical education for autonomy, a political attitude towards diversity, knowledge, popular mobilization, social movements, negotiations, dialogues and confrontations and are sources of innovation and knowledge-generating arrays interactive and collective actions as resistance to social exclusion processes and struggle for social inclusion and for different worlds (Ghon, 2011; Lafraya, 2006; Belle, 1982; Calvente and Machado, 1979; Calvente and Faver, 2010).
Our work over the past decades was directed to the amazon and nowadays in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro. Inserted in this population of marginalized periphery are many children and young people with cognitive complexities, family structures with basic material difficulties, and some walking/flying to the marginalization and conflict with the law. A project of non-formal educational practices to promote and disseminate ethical values, racial integration, environmental education and assembling organic gardens was carried out in more than ten public schools within the state public and municipal structures with a view to mobilizing those schools and communities located in the periphery.
Hypothesis A – complementary to the conventional standard of teaching, non-formal educational practices can enlarge the conditions of care and learning of (CY) and (CYY) when applied in an integrated way multidimensional addressing issues of fragments of local and global reality that we call THE CACAIO Project or the CACAIO way or The Cacaio Garden of Education.
Hypothesis B – (CY) and (CYY) talented or at social risk may exhibit much greater interest in studies when subjected to a Cacaio (set of processes of integrated educational activities) multidisciplinary simultaneously composed of the following dynamical cores – wheel values with speech of rapid and sequential ethical words and concepts; preparation and interpretation of texts on local issues and environmental issues; ecological walks; planting trees; design, organization, production and maintenance of organic gardens and composting systems; production of sculptures with bits and pieces of local junkyards engines; areas for sports and rest; practice of structures, ideas, phrases and words in the English language; teaching science and mathematics in the garden.
Hypothesis C – abstract thinking, initiative, autonomy, creativity and critical thinking can be developed with children and youth at social risk when they are stimulated within the Cacaio plays, poems, texts for pedagogical theater and environmental education campaigns involving issues of municipal reality.
Hypothesis D – it is easy to verify that practices of agro-ecology and environmental education can be enhanced by mobilizing the local public schools, operating at a very low relative cost, through educational activities set through the allocation of resources coupled to existing structures of schools mobilizing core studies and complementary programs and practices to traditional non-formal/formal education.
The plural theoretical perspectives of (SBM) organization, social interactionism, critical constructivism, participatory planning, all produce roots of knowledge that we can nurture to sustain conceptual trees to interpret the current complexity. Actually the ways, forms of pedagogical action for interpreting the complexity of the global and local realities, non-formal educational practices depend on a strong articulation, integration, social interaction, inside and outside schools.
Methodology for Basic Organization – the use of geometry of a polygon drawn on the ground and out of the classroom. At each vertex it a specific action is detailed. In the center of the polygon symbolizes the collective work a phrase – “cultivating the differences.” As the level of problems and priorities agreed with the principals, teachers, students and young people from schools and communities are chosen specific activities that are organized in the first phase of work.
“Planting a seed of hope, seedlings of lettuce, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, the silence of a particular day of blue sky in the colorful garden of the Educandário. A real dialogue, not a play – “Let’s tell the truth – teacher! – What happened to me and my brother! One day our mother killed our father, yes that is it… yes, with a knife, in the kitchen… you know, professor, he drank, too, beat, too, in our mother, and one day he tried to hit us; our mother did so with the knife…we, yes, teacher Atila, with you, we can talk about this…“L. (a child of 12 years, resident in the district of Petropolis Z) and walking down the Serra da Estrela, together with two-hundred (CY) and (CYY) escorted by officials from the Court of Justice, for an event of environmental education – “You know, professor Atila…yes, my mother threw me in a can (a basket) of garbage…yes, when I was a baby…grandma told me. Today, I live with grandma. She is very sick. Cancer. My parents died. They were both drug dealers in the city of S.”…
“J. and her neighbors yell a lot and disturb my studies…two older brothers keep asking their sister to bring more money home…she is a very young prostitute, eleven years old…I know I need silence as you say to write your texts…” If this ain’t philosophy what is philosophy?
The school is a fertile field for human development as well as the family structure. As in agricultural processes we can test new seeds for new educational practices and show that root structures and watering are the most important aspects of first days growing of the plants in vegetable gardens. With limited financial resources we can structure non-formal educational practices, strengthen concepts, curricula and expand exercises for productive abstract thinking on local realities. Our work was conducted in several public schools and we could always share experiences with principals, teachers, and students in great enthusiasm. The more open doors were those of the periphery, where we feel free and at ease, as opposed to the classical idea that there are problematic students. They (CY) and (CYY) are only flowers that could not blossom yet from obscurity created by heavy traditional conventional economic and social systems still not prepared to understand that may be four or five decades from now we might need to develop (SBM), human feelings, social cohesion and marginal communities much more than normal economics and productivity so far.
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