"Desde mi punto de vista –y esto puede ser algo profético y paradójico a la vez– Estados Unidos está mucho peor que América Latina. Porque Estados Unidos tiene una solución, pero en mi opinión, es una mala solución, tanto para ellos como para el mundo en general. En cambio, en América Latina no hay soluciones, sólo problemas; pero por más doloroso que sea, es mejor tener problemas que tener una mala solución para el futuro de la historia."

Ignácio Ellacuría

O que iremos fazer hoje, Cérebro?

domingo, 16 de dezembro de 2007

O anti-comunismo vive

Os anti-comunistas da República Tcheca pensam que os professores não são suficientemente anti-comunistas e passeiam pelas escolas contando os horrores do comunismo. Só uma pergunta, há tempos felizes na história dos tchecos? No fundo contar a história dos tchecos é só contar a história de por quem eles foram dominados. Se os tchecos não acabarem logo com essas tchequices deles, vou acabar odiando os tchecos sem nunca ter visto, além do anti-comunismo miliatnte não desiste do escudo anti-míssil norte-americano. E pensar que eu gostei quando Vaclav Havel subiu ao poder.

Is communism too cool for school?

By Megan Cruz and Billy O'Hare / prague daily monitor / prague wanderer / Published 14 December 2007

This story is part of an occasional series of articles from the Prague Wanderer, a webzine created by New York University students in Prague. Learn more about the Prague Wanderer here.

When Jiří Stránský speaks to students at Czech high schools, he says he is like a typical grandfather recalling his youth. But his stories are not about mushroom picking as a child or his first teenage kiss.

Stránský, now 76, spent seven years of his youth in prison. He tells students that communist police beat him nearly to death for information he did not have, and imprisoned him for a crime he did not commit. He was accused of being a spy who had committed high treason.

Such was the climate for dissidents before the Velvet Revolution ended communist control 18 years ago in former Czechoslovakia. For students born after 1989, communism is vague and exists only in textbooks.

Stránský's stories bring the history to life.

But what Stránský talks about is not part of any curriculum. His visits, and those of other dissidents, are not routine. And first-hand accounts such as Stránský's are still new to the classroom.

Discussions like those Stránský has had with Czech teenagers have happened every November since 2005, sponsored by the non-governmental organization People in Need (PIN). PIN's "Stories of Injustice" was created because the organization believes Czech history lessons about communism are inadequate or completely left out.

"We are sure that the education after World War II about the communist regime is very, very bad," said Filip Šebek,, a spokesperson for People in Need. "What we know from some teachers of history is that they don't have enough time to teach everything so they are fine with stopping after World War II."

Jaroslav Pinkas has taught high school history in Prague for eight years, and said he discusses communism in his classes.

"It's part of the official learning program," he said. "In four years of studying, for one half year they talk about communism."

But, he said that the time available for lessons on modern history varies great.

"That's why we do extra programs," he said. Pinkas' history class saw "Stories of Injustice" late this November.

The Ministry of Education contends that the curriculum it administers and the textbooks it provides give sufficient mention to this part of Czech history. The problem, it says, is teachers are reluctant to discuss a topic so sensitive and so recent.

Only 18 years ago, many teachers were communists, and most did nothing to stop the the oppressive government ran the country.

"The teachers are still affected," said Kateřina Bohmová, the head of communications for the ministry. "Some of them were even a part of communism. For them it's hard to teach or say it was wrong, because they were living in an era when communism was good."

Though the majority of the teachers were not members of the Communist party, said Stránský, many or all of them showed tacit support for government policies.

"They still had to cooperate to make a living," he said.

People in Need wants to make it easier to show students what life was like during the four decades of communism.

Through lectures from dissidents, films, and hands-on activities, Šebek says students can "learn in a more familiar way."

The presentations aim to illustrate life behind the iron curtain. Horror stories of hangings and forced labor put faces and personalities to the victims students read about in books.

This November, about 590 primary and secondary schools participated in "Stories of Injustice," according to Karel Strachota, the program's director. There are about 5,100 schools in the Czech Republic.

Strachota said he does not know of any similar programs in other post communist countries, though People in Need has tried to expand to Slovakia, but was unsuccessful because they could not find a local partner.

In the Czech Republic, the program is working against almost two decades of lessons without adequate discussion of events before the Velvet Revolution. People in Need believes this part of Czech history, however unpleasant, cannot be ignored.

Teaching what life was like under communism can be tricky, because still today, there are plenty of people who feel that it was not as bad as it is portrayed by the few who openly opposed the authoritarian regime.

At least in Czechoslovakia, imprisonment and beatings were rare for the few thousand dissenters who dared to raise their voices.

Still, the grim, often mundane life in pre-1989 Czechoslovakia is important for pupils to understand, said Stránský.

"[They] lived in fear," he said of the general population. "Yes, they could go to theaters and cinemas and pubs and concerts but they had to behave under the direction of the regime."

Šebek believes students do not understand the climate of communism in the Czech Republic.

"People tell them that it wasn't too bad," he said. "That's bullshit. It was really fucking bad."

So far, Czech students have responded well to the program.

Two students from Pinkas' class took a break from hanging up new curtain fixtures to discuss the impact of "Stories of Injustice."

"It was really strong, emotional," said 17-year-old Zuzana Michová. "You hear it all the time. For the first time we could talk to somebody who witnessed [imprisonment]."

Megan Cruz is in her third year at New York University, studying journalism and sociology. Billy O'Hare is in his third year at NYU, studying politics and journalism.


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