Monday, November 29

Altamira, the revolutionary of public education



«The first national budget (when society does not yet know how to fulfill this goal by itself) is that of public education, with no spending, among all those of the State, that is more remunerative and fruitful, extending the benefits of its growth to all other orders of social life, on which it vigorously influences.

The opening speech of the course at the University of Oviedo offered by Rafael Altamira (Alicante, 1866-Mexico, 1951) on October 1, 1898, not only marked his commitment over the years at a pedagogical level, but also become a valid universal truth more than a century later.

Although it is not his best known and most recognized facet, the truth is that the historian and jurist, twice a Nobel candidate and members of the Court of Justice of The Hague, turned public education upside down and implemented some measures that were a real revolution during the performance of his position as general director of First Education, between 1911 and 1913.

His great-grandson, Ignacio Ramos Altamira, son of the recently deceased Pilar Altamira, has been the true instigator of the recovery of the figure of this intellectual, who has investigated this aspect and has taken him to paper for his doctoral thesis. Rafael Altamira y Crevea and their contribution to popular education and the Spanish public school is the title of this research, directed by José Miguel Santacreu and Rafael Sebastiá, who received Outstanding Cum Laude at the University of Alicante on July 29.

As a result of his book Ricardo Vilar i Negre and the Altamira school-garden in Alicante, Ramos assures that he was aware of his great-grandfather’s “contribution” to the development of public school. “From there I began to investigate and discovered that in those three years as general director of Primary Education, he made an enormous development in public education.”

Altamira, the revolutionary of public education


An abandoned school

Altamira found “an abandoned school”, in which the teachers “charged a pittance” and classrooms with “80 and 100 students” of different ages. What the historian and creator of the University Extension did “was a revolution.”

He increased salaries and promoted the training of teachers with pedagogical courses; implemented the doubling of classrooms to reduce the ratio and order students by age; it implemented policies of real gratuity; It invested in the purchase of school supplies and improved the hygienic conditions in the classrooms.

In addition, it launched the reform of the primary inspection and created the female inspection for girls’ schools; it promoted the creation of canteens, mutual societies and school colonies, as well as circulating libraries; I also change the name of municipal schools to national schools; it eliminated the annual exams for continuous evaluation and created open-air schools, such as the Paseíto Ramiro in Alicante, which was the first.

All these measures are what laid the foundations of modern public education. “He was super advanced; in reality they were the aspirations of the pedagogues of the time, but nothing was done, everything was left in congresses. Until Altamira arrived and put it into practice ».

Altamira, the revolutionary of public education


Rodolfo Llopis, in his footsteps

So important was the mark that he left that another Alicante, Rodolfo Llopis, also general director of First Education, in his case in the first biennium of the Second Republic, highlighted in the speech of the tribute that was paid to him at the Alicante School of Education in 1933, when passing through the ministry he had only followed the route indicated by the “great man of science” Rafael Altamira.

“What I show,” says Ignacio Ramos, who dedicated his thesis to his mother, “is the relationship between Altamira and Llopis, and how he followed in the footsteps of my great-grandfather, as he himself recognized.”

To carry out the thesis, Ramos immersed himself in the family archives, in addition to the Madrid Gazette, in the funds of the Student Residence, in the memoirs of the historian and also in the Altamira legacy deposited in the IES Jorge Juan de Alicante . “At an academic level he is known but at street level Unamuno, Azorín and other people are identified, but Altamira, who did thousands of things and in very different fields, is not recognized as much.” “As he went into exile,” he assures, “Franco’s regime was erased from the map. He refused to go back to Spain so I suppose no one started to get him back. Until my mother arrived ».


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