The International Democratic Education Conference is inaugurated in Caguas, Puerto Rico
The educational ideas that the now deceased mayor William Miranda Marín had started implementing in the city of Caguas, were a constant presence during the inauguration of the XXth International Education Conference (IDEC 2012) at the city’s Fine Arts Center.
The organizers of IDEC, academic leaders and members of the third sector in education from Puerto Rico and the Mayor of Caguas, William Miranda Torres, welcomed 800 participants from 25 countries around the world. Gathered at the inauguration were educators from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Haiti, India, Japan, Mexico, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
Ana Yris Guzmán, vice-principal of Nuestra Escuela, one of the event’s organizing institutions, carried out an invocation and welcomed the participants, who then enjoyed a brief indigenous presentation to honor American ancestors.
“We are proud to be the first Spanish-speaking city to host this event”, Mayor Miranda Torres said as he espoused the ideas upon which work in the City of Caguas are based: “Education, self-management, sustainable development and criollo pride”. He declared that Caguas undertook the twentieth edition of IDEC because they support the efforts for high-quality and pertinent democratic education.
“I am proud to honor the idea of my father, William Miranda Marín, about democratic governance: to govern with the people instead of for the people…” he stated. “In his words, we frequently forget that education is everyone’s responsibility, that the patriotic duty of educating the people is not the sole responsibility of a Department of Education. That is the call of this conference: to embrace our peoples’ education. We must understand that education is much more than the school. It is the opportunity of enjoying a more humane country with a better quality of education.”
Natalia Rosado, a university student and leader of the Youth Forum, and grade-school student Yalena Medina Torregrosa also welcomed the participants on behalf of the youth.
In his welcome address, Justo Méndez Arámburu, director and founder of Nuestra Escuela, honored the beginning of this project by remembering how one day, in the middle of a period of profound sadness because of the premature death of his daughter Ana Mercedes, he had a dream. “In that dream, Ana Mercedes tells me: ‘daddy, let’s make a school: Our School (Nuestra Escuela). She named it… But how are we going to make a school, Ana Mercedes?” Justo told her in the dream. “Let yourself go”, she replied.
Justo was left asking himself: how am I going to build a school? “When I told Ana Yris: ‘look at what Ana Mercedes says, for us to make a school’. She replied: ‘then let’s make it’”. It had been the first time that his wife had seen a sparkle in his eyes since Ana Mercedes’ passing. It was for that reason that she did not hesitate to encourage him to undertake the project.
The next speaker was Lourdes Aponte, President of the Alliance for Alternative Education in Puerto Rico that gathers ASPIRA, Sor Isolina Ferré Centers, Nuestra Escuela, Nacer Project and P.E.C.E.S., also remembered William Miranda Marín’s initiatives. “With a global vision, he believed in the new school, in the education of citizens and its link with a country’s social and economic development”.
Aponte concluded the event speaking about alternative education’s achievements in Puerto Rico. “We are not teaching, because teaching on its own can be insufficient. We are inserting ourselves in the process of forming individuals that can: be open to change; have initiatives and are responsible for their actions; have the abilities to choose and self-direct; develop critical thinking; acquire knowledge to identify solutions to the challenges that life presents; face problems with intelligence. Individuals that have the capacity to work and live in society”.