One of the highlights of this year’s International Book Fair (FIL) of Guadalajara, Mexico was the presentation of a book co-authored by Fred van Leeuwen, Education International (EI) General Secretary Emeritus, and Susan Hopgood, EI President.
The book, “On Education and Democracy: 25 lessons from the Teaching Profession”, was presented at the Fair by the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE).
The book “will be a driver to boost one of the most important values in the world: democracy”, said Alfonso Cepeda Salas, secretary general of the SNTE, the teacher organisation that published the book in Mexico. “I am sure that teachers will have a very good guide to consolidate democracy in the daily life of the school community and thus extend it to the whole society,” he said.
Fight for democracy
In his address, van Leeuwen stressed that democracy goes beyond free elections in a country; it has to do with everything people do and decide and how they live. “Our book is an invitation for all educators to commit to fight for democracy, for the public education system,” he said.
The book contains the experiences of teachers from all over the world and their unions, drawn from the past 70 years. Among the 25 lessons are: educating for democracy, stimulating critical thinking, protecting education for the common good, promoting gender equality, diversity and inclusion, making schools safe spaces, and pride in the teaching profession.
“In the book, we ask the question: Are our systems and our schools still a place for democracy or, gradually, are they moving towards markets, shaping future consumers instead of shaping future citizens?” commented van Leeuwen.
He stressed that democracy has three main enemies: violence, poverty, and corruption. “Education is the key to solving many of these issues but, in turn, faces a serious problem: lack of investment.”
The author emphasised that technology is a useful tool, but it will not solve the challenges facing education. “Teaching is a human activity and must remain so.”
Pass on values
Finally, van Leeuwen suggested the SNTE produce a similar publication, drawing on the experience of Mexican educators, whose dedication and vocation, he pointed out, has much to contribute to teaching.
In his intervention at the Escuela Normal, van Leeuwen spoke extensively with teachers and students about the role of educators in the development of democracy. “The teaching profession is the only one that has the ability to transmit values to the new generations, to fight in each country against violence, against corruption, against poverty; they are demons that we can fight and that represent risks for democracy”.
These presentations were also attended by leaders of local branches of the SNTE and members of the union’s governing bodies.