What would happen if we reimagined our education system, integrating emotional intelligence and interculturality into the curriculum? Antonio Gutiérrez dared to take up this quest with Celei Regenerative Education, a company offering unique study abroad programs focused on education for regenerative cultures.
Celei’s programs foster critical thinking through experiential learning, creating an innovative approach to education that challenges conventional systems. In our conversation, we explore the significant gap in our current education system and how it neglects essential skills such as emotional intelligence, interculturality, service learning, and community building. Antonio passionately explains how Celei nurtures these skills, leveraging the unique opportunity presented by studying abroad to push students out of their comfort zones and broaden their worldviews.
(0:00:20) – Regenerative Education and Fostering Critical Skills
Antonio promotes experiential learning, emotional intelligence, interculturality, service learning, and community building to foster a more conscious education.
(0:19:24) – Emotional Disruption in Social Programs
Antonio emphasizes compassionate self-reflection, storytelling, individual contributions, and systemic problems.
(0:35:55) – Emotional Education in Regenerative Education
Antonio focuses on emotional education, Craft Program, Art of Silence for Social Transformation Program, meditation, Eastern philosophy, and yoga.
(0:50:46) – Possibilities and Challenges of Change
Antonio reflects on the impact of his program in Cuba, exploring complexities of our world and how to create a more equitable future.
(1:01:44) – Expressing Gratitude and Call to Action
Antonio reflects on emotional education, its impact, and his journey connecting with communities worldwide.
0:00:20 – Anna
Welcome to Creative Praxis. I’m Anna Griffith, an assistant professor in the School of Creative Arts at the University of the Fraser Valley.
0:00:27 – Kyla
And I am Kyla Mitchell-Marquis, an undergraduate honor psychology student focusing on gender and sexuality at the University of the Fraser Valley and our research assistant for the podcast.
0:00:37 – Anna
This morning I’m speaking from traditional and contemporary Stó:lō territory and this morning the place that I’m in is exceptionally beautiful. As I drove in, I could see layers of mountains that were really striking as the sun was rising, and on my walk into the office, the sense of spring were so lovely and the air is just so clean that I had to stop and take a few more deep breaths. I’m feeling very grateful to be able to work here on Indigenous territory and I’m really feeling the power that places hold. Our guest today is also someone who works hard to share and inspire specific places with others.
0:01:16 – Kyla
Antonio Gutierrez is a lifelong learner. He has extensive intercultural training and has traveled and developed connections in Africa, america, europe and Southeast Asia. He firmly believes in experiential learning and critical thinking for a more conscious education and during the last 10 years he has performed in many fields at Selle Regenerative Education as a program coordinator, orientator, sociocultural educator and leader for study travel programs with world learning, Berkeley, America, Europe in New York and several international schools in India.
0:01:45 – Anna
Antonio has acted as content creator, program designer and in public relations. He has carried out several government-funded marketing agendas in India and the United States. He holds a degree in biology from the University of Granada but believes his multi-disciplinary skills were developed through temporal work or internships at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Environmental Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico, Amazonico in Ecuador, as well as the Scone Equine Hospital and Natura 2000 in Cape Verde. Welcome, Antonio, and thank you so much for joining us today.
0:02:20 – Antonio
Hello Ana, hello Kyla. It’s a big pleasure, a real pleasure, to be here with you this afternoon for us in Spain, and let me just tell you how inspiring the introduction was. I could actually see the mountains and the forest. I can’t wait to visit this part of Canada.
0:02:40 – Kyla
Yes, we’d love to have you To begin. Can you define how you understand the term regenerative education and then talk about your specific focus on education for regenerative cultures?
0:02:52 – Antonio
Oh, it’s an easy one to begin with, right, thank you.
So I think regenerative education, at least for us, is just the way of understanding education to rebuild and regenerate some of our cultures.
It is clear to us, at least from our Spanish view, that we are living 12 years, 16 years, even up to 18 years of education, and that there are a lot of things that just have been left aside, things that, considering the look of the world today, should be considered crucial or absolutely prioritized in our education systems. I’m talking about working on our emotional location. I’m talking about community building. I’m talking about service learning, which, in Spain, is still basically non-existent. I’m talking about understanding the ecological situation the world is facing and understanding the social justice issues that underline underneath this situation. And I believe, at least for us, and this is why we are touching this subject in our school, that we have been lacking in a realistic world view during a lot of our years of education. So I think education for regenerative cultures is education that tries to put the focus on some of these topics that are so important today and have been missing in our normal education, or for more education.
0:04:37 – Anna
Maybe when I’m hearing you speak, the word decolonizing is coming to mind, and partly because I am feeling so grateful to be where I am today on Indigenous territory, and a lot of what you’re describing about emotional intelligence skills within that foster community, these are things that have existed within Indigenous ways of knowing and being around the world, and it is in this formalized education system that I think has developed through colonization that we have inherited that. It really is just missing, as you said and so I love that you are that your school is really focusing on this as really critical skills that we need now but will also need in the future as we’re trying to emerge globally into a new way of being, and so, as we think about these skills that we need now and for the future things you just talked about like emotional intelligence, interculturality, which I think is really interesting, and the sense of community that maybe happens at a local level but also at a global level Can you talk a little bit more about how your programs actually foster these skills in students?
0:05:57 – Antonio
Okay, yes, well, first, absolutely about the colonizing education. I think one of the critical successes, let’s say, of this new world culture that we have been establishing, especially now with technology, where it kind of homogenizes all this, is establishing the, the homogeneous criteria of success and of how things should be or how things should be done. Definitely, most of what we are speaking about today has been here before, either in Spain, cuba, morocco or some other places of the world, where we have picked up a few things that we wanted our students to know. So, yeah, absolutely, I think that trying to break this good and bad cultural concept is one of our most complicated challenges, I’d say. And how do we foster some of these lessons? Well, to be honest, we basically take advantage of a very unique timing, I think, in students’ education which is studying abroad. Don’t get me wrong. I think we have an amazing team and we bring a great approach to the, to the experiential activities that we do in the academic seminars. But we are also taking advantage of students being out away from their comfort zone. It is a time where, passively, they are seeing that there is more to life and to world and to reality from what they have been told back home in the news, mass media, social media. So we get them out of their comfort zone. They are already wide eyed. They’re a lot more permeable to to see and understand new ways of thinking. You will ease of understanding reality, new truths, because they are seen every day outside as they walk from their accommodation to the school and as they do the activities and as they see everything working around them and we try to direct their gaze, their look, to the, the details or the lessons that we see that are right out there.
Apart from that, of course, we have been designing programs that focus on this sort of topics. We are looking closely at difficult issues of social justice and we’re looking at ecosystem restoration and we’re looking at emotional education. And then there’s something that I think that is key and that in the evaluations we get from our students seem to be always present, which is that apparently Thelé doesn’t only speak about the topics that we want to. We want them to to have or to learn. It’s they say we live.
Some of these topics and a lot of the things that we are trying to foster here are things that our students are seeing when we relate among ourselves. They see I don’t know. They see the way we treat each other like family, the way we are open, the way we have learned to be vulnerable and strong in our vulnerability. They see men hugging and kissing each other and and and listening actively to women and understanding that that that they are going to bring things to the table that we have been educated to to negate, and we have blockades that won’t allow us to see this easy solution that we would look at other cultures or other people, people that have 10 times less education, that we have education, meaning formal education, but they have lived different realities than we have and we and we revere that and we and we try to put value continuously to that other knowledge, to that other ways of understanding, because these other types of wisdom and they see this in our own team, when we work, when we, when we are with them, and students, at least from our experience, are hungry for this sort of education.
They’re hungry to, to learn truths and to not be kept in this privilege bubble, or security bubble, if you will. And they, they do value these things From our perspective. They do, they create, they actively tell you that you have been become a source of inspiration to them and that they want to explore more and that they want to go further and they want to see new truths. So I think this is how we foster some of these education ideas that we are trying to work on, which sometimes are pretty hard to to deal with, because you have to deconstruct yourself to be able to learn some of these new things, new, old things.
0:11:19 – Kyla
Yes, what comes to mind with that is like with students is they don’t know what they don’t know.
And I think when we like I mean my conception of some study abroad programs is is more like simply engaging with a tradition, but you expand it in such a way where it’s like tradition in this very interpersonal, like family setting or this, what we described as well, like men hugging each other, like the signs of affection, and it goes in these small minutia, details.
That’s not, yeah, not just standard traditions, and I think that that is really inspiring, because maybe some students don’t have that model at home and in in these ways to express different types of emotional intelligence. I think that, like it’s something that I wouldn’t even conceptualize as an idea of ever generating cultures at all, so I think that’s really incredible. So your programs you kind of touched on it, but I would, I was hoping you can expand a bit more. So your programs for university students and professionals are highly experiential and applied. Can you talk a bit more? You mentioned earlier, but can you talk a bit more about the migration in Spain and Morocco a case for social justice program and the ecological restoration program you run in Cuba.
0:12:35 – Antonio
Absolutely Well. These are two programs that have come out of my own personal experience as an activist, as a traveler. I inherited the school. My parents built it on 1982 and right after my mom retired, she well, I had a lot of doubts if I wanted to keep on going with this work because we had always been focused on quality and now it’s all about quantity, it’s all about money, it’s all about a lot of things that we just simply can’t compete there. So I took quite some time off and I traveled through Latin America and I did some activist work in Morocco and a lot of the truths that I faced there and a lot of the realities and a lot of especially the people and the way of living, understanding how migrant survives in Morocco or how someone with complete lack of resources is trying to restore a coral reef in Cuba, a lot of these experiences opened my eyes and transformed the way I thought about myself, about the world, about what I should be doing, and these two programs are trying to emulate those experiences, and so I think the Morocco, spain and Morocco the migration program we have is probably our most powerful program, difficult for students, and we basically run down through, starting from the government version on what’s going on between Africa and Europe, which is media version of what’s going on in this difficult crisis, and we start talking to NGOs and academics, and then association collectives, activists, and we go down to Morocco and we speak to Moroccan people that are helping out understanding their own country and what the country itself is doing as the policemen of Europe.
And then we talk to migrant associations and we talk to some of those migrants themselves and it is very eye-opening for our students to see how the version shifts across the different realities of people that are somehow influenced or have our different voices inside of this crisis. This helps us to break down a little bit what we were talking before this homogenous culture, homogenous version of the world, of story but also to help them understand just how messed up our system is. I mean, how messed up some other people need to be for us to live the way we live, and this is difficult. This is very difficult for students to find out, to integrate. It was very difficult for me. I remember suffering a lot as I came back to Granada the first time. I was discovering this because I knew I had it was not my fault, but somehow it was my responsibility and that I was one more piece that was being used to perpetuate something that when you see one with your own eyes, when it is the person who’s living it, with the emotion in their voice and in their gaze who are telling you this, it’s impossible not to understand just how ridiculously unfair things are.
So this is Spain and Morocco. There is an academic seminar and there are a lot of visits, a lot of interviews and a lot of sharing with very different background people. That will give you a pretty complete overview of what a very complex crisis. I mean, it’s not like there is an easy way out to this or an easy solution, but it will let you understand how it works. And this is, I think, especially important to understand now, also in the farther western part of the world, in the North American part of the world, because it’s happening the same now in the border between Mexico and the US. It’s been sold a great opportunity the money wise, professional wise to get up to the States or to Canada, but you are being told that you cannot do it and that there is a border there. So the whole of Latin America is living a similar situation as the African community trying to reach European soil.
On the other hand, the ecological restoration program is probably our most practical one and easiest, let’s say at least emotional.
It’s a beautiful, beautiful program which is mainly takes place in a little island south of the main island of Cuba, and half of this island called the Youth Island, isla de la Juventud.
It’s a natural reservoir. There’s only one little human community in there, which is Cocodrilo, and in Cocodrilo is that we would be staying, and Cocodrilo is located in such a unique ecological spot. That allows you, with only 10 to 15 kilometers difference, it allows you to help out in the tropical forest and there will be different workshops there with amphibians and reptiles and birds. But we would be there cleaning invasive species in the tropical forest. We would also be in a beach called Reincón del Guanal, where sea turtles come through to nest, and we would stay there for a few nights and mark the turtles, protect the nest and try to help out in the protection of these endangered species. And then we would learn to dive and help out a Cuban biologist that has come up with a pretty ingenious way of restoring the coral reef underwater. So we would literally plant the coral underwater in an attempt to stop the death of the reef, which is advanced and fast.
0:19:24 – Anna
It’s incredible the kind of programs that you offer and, like I know, you’ve just described maybe the most challenging and rewarding and disruptive program in the best kind of way I mean that word in the best kind of way where you take students through this experience to radically shift how they perceive the world, and then also this very applied program of ecological restoration and but what strikes me is that underneath both you are really unsettling people’s ability, just as you said, to live this kind of Existence where you don’t really think too much about how you got there, you just reap the benefits of luck and privilege, potentially.
And so I’m wondering how you, how you hold space for, for this incredible upheaval that happens you mentioned, like earlier, but also when you’re speaking about the really hard truths that the, the migration program, really confronts students with. But even in, like, recognizing the, what we’re doing to the planet within the ecological program, how I’m just curious about how you actually hold space for students and I’m like I’m literally holding my arms out because it feels like it’s such, it’s such important work and it’s but it’s so emotionally charged. So do you? Can you just talk a little bit about how you hold space?
0:20:54 – Antonio
Yes, absolutely, and and I think it’s a very good question Well, reflection and debate is always a key part of our program. Together with the orientation and closing, they make probably the most important learning opportunities, because just being able to internalize and understand what it is that is going on, that you are seeing and understanding, sometimes it’s very challenging, like you say, in Morocco I’ve had people literally break down and say, like how have I been so blind and I feel so powerless and I feel cheated, and I feel you know this is natural. Like I said, for me it was an extremely hard experience to find out all this because, again, I was also a privileged kid and I also listened to the news in Spain and to what the newspapers were saying, and this had nothing to do with reality. So this is where the emotional education comes in. You know, sometimes you are acting almost as a psychologist, at least a facilitator in this sense, and it is important to have this, this compassionate look on on yourself, first, to be able to apply it on others and to apply it to what it is that you are, that you are doing. So we do a lot of other of debriefing, a lot of recapping during the program a lot of reflection because it is absolutely necessary and also it is about helping them ease this.
This things inside right Truth is like saying it is not your fault. There’s a big difference between you have some responsibility here and you can contribute to this. It is very different from understanding as this is my fault and you need to change things. It is very important that we all understand that we are one among a billion people. We’re not, I mean, most of us are not. Maybe one of our students one day will be, and then we would be so happy to have contributed to this and I think that we can do a gandy or a Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela could be, but possibly the most probable thing, especially now with how communication and how fast pace the world is what we can do is contribute, put our own little grain of sand to this, and this is something very important to work with students, otherwise they do become very overwhelmed.
And you? It is easy because we do storytelling, we tell them with our own experience. We might have 1000 students a year if we’re lucky, because we come from a pandemic where we have almost had to shut down the school. But now you talk to some of them and some of them are not going to listen. Some of others are. Some are going to build their own social projects. Others are just going to treat their their colleagues better at work or say I love you to their families and friends and, like this, little things are making a difference.
It is important to them to bring this conversations back home, but understand that responsibility doesn’t mean burden. I mean we should act on this because you go to bed and you feel better about yourself, also finding this, you know this selfish reason to do to do this sort of work right? Yes, it is. It is very important to have spaces in which you sit down and you can feel comfortable, to break down, and this can only happen if if they see you again as a vulnerable human being. This is why orientations and this first few days of reflections are so important, because it’s when you show yourself as an imperfect human being who has lived the same experiences that they are living now and who has struggled with them and who has cried with them and and has hated their own culture and surroundings and has negated their friends because they thought you know your things are first world problems, but at the end of the day, you do need to learn to live in your own reality.
And it is not our fault that we were born, were born. But we, being born there, we do have a great privilege and we could help things out and make a difference, even if it’s a tiny one.
0:25:47 – Anna
And so I’m hearing that you like this is one of the ways that it sounds like you live your values, which the students in the reflections can see, and so you offer this really beautiful modeling of how to wrestle with ideas of reciprocity, about responsibility, and it seems like there’s a real emphasis on process, like processing, the gradual understanding and the kind of unraveling that can happen for people, again said, in the best possible way.
I think it’s really important that we need to go through these experiences, stewarded by people that have also gone through them and can help to provide us a container, and I really like what you’re saying about having responsibility to contribute rather than just seeing it as it’s all my fault, how can I go on and how can the world be in this state?
And also also what I hear is this kind of kind of oscillating between this focus on our individual contributions that we can make verse and also, at the same time, recognizing the systemic problems and how deeply seated they are, that are, that are structural, that also need to change. But I as an individual can’t necessarily do that and it’s all making me think a lot about this idea of regeneration and if we think of ourselves as the soil that we are restoring, regenerating and we all contribute, as you said, like it might just be treating our colleagues a little bit with a bit more compassion, understanding the that what we get from social media and Netflix is maybe not the truth that we, the only truth that we can buy into. I think you have a lot of nuance that you offered us in that answer. So thank you, and I’m just curious how you see the kind of overlaps between social justice and environmental justice, or what your students have have shared and what you’ve learned from them about the ways that they overlap.
0:27:49 – Antonio
So, in my opinion and actually we will be doing in a week another post podcast that I’ll be hosting with Kenny interview, an incredible woman and his colleague from South Africa there is not one thing without the other. It is easy and again, it’s not easy because the system is not made for you to be caring about the environment, but still it is easy in our Western society to be thinking about recycling and consuming less plastic and trying to eat organically, and this is something that you cannot. Go to India and start talking to them. Or Cuba, sometimes, not even some of the areas in Morocco is just it’s not there. When people are fighting for their daily existence, when they’re fighting just to put a photo plate, plate of food on the table, you cannot ask them about this, this notions that they cannot see and touch. It just won’t be there. It just won’t be able to compete with the fact that they have three kids and they need to to raise them and that they’re struggling for their kids to not live what they lived.
So understanding the complexity of the climate crisis is not only getting to know the numbers which, by the way, are hard to cry for because of the urgency, because of the degradation because of the lack of leadership and lack of direction that we have, but it is also an understanding that we need to decrease. It’s not about for me to get my students to Cuba, which is an incredible example for this, because everything is natural, organic. You go there and your whole digestive system thanks you, and even even though they do not have that much variety, but you cannot think about the pure Cuban that needs to grow and improve to be like us. No, I mean it’s. It’s true they might need to improve, because some of them are not eating three times a day, but the truth is that their way of living is much more close to sustainable in a global scale than our way of living. The fact is that there is 8000 million or 8 billion, depending on the place of the earth you’re in of us living the world right now, and we cannot want a world that can sustain us and everyone living like us. If you want the social justice, you need to understand that it’s through decreasing in our sides of the world so some other sides of the world can increase and improve. And this is this is this is a hard truth to face. It is a very hard truth because comfort calls. I mean, I come back to Granada and I I I set back almost automatically. I have to be so careful to not set back to to habits that are are not positive for me, and I can feel it as soon as I am out in the world, traveling or are or living in Cuba, where I have a sort of a second home, or that as soon as I come back, comfort is awesome and the fact that we can eat the way we eat and and move and relate, and all this.
There are lots of things that we have done Well and done great in in the Western world, but there there’s there’s always another side to the corner to these coins. Eastern philosophy has been speaking about this forever yin and yang. You do not get the white without the black, and the truth is that our suicide rates are skyrocketing, depression rates let’s not even get about that so many new illnesses and cancers and because we’re eating at mass production that looks more on the way the tomato looks, at the way they taste, this that you cannot plant the tomato seed and get a tomato. So we need to become aware of all this, this negative aspects of the, the life we have chosen in, because what we have been told in TV is never going to allow us to see this, and no one likes finding out that we have been lied to. This is, of course, no one likes it, especially when we haven’t been taught emotional education. We do not know how to deal with this sort of things. So these are all.
I think hard truths, and social justice and climate justice are both are both the same coin, again. I mean, there’s not one without the other. You have a huge population of developing world that see the same television that we see and want the same things that we want, and the only way of doing this is migrating or starting businesses replicating a lot of the truths that they learn from the Western world that are simply not true. And the fact is that, like I said before, you do not get a billion top predators of the fruit chain to live on our world today the way the Western hemisphere does. It just can’t happen. The world would last 10 years maybe, maybe even less.
So, yes, I guess that we do have to to understand the complexity of this and and and put it in the in the upfront. I think that this is one of the roles of education, and especially higher education institutions, like universities. It is not something, it’s not a bandage that you can put, because what what’s going on is an internal, a massive internal bleeding. This sort of topics need to come all the way up to our priority lists and not like something else that you put, like the green tag you put in in your, in your McDonald burgers, because this is the new thing and I think this is a very difficult and it is a systemic change. That is difficult and, considering how much social justice is involved, there are a lot of pressures against this happening. That would probably not allow a lot of us to continue doing the work that we do if we cost much noise.
0:34:44 – Kyla
Yes, what comes to mind I’m talking back on what you said about how comfort calls and it’s hard not to fall into old habits and you, you could be shown these truths.
You can like be immersed in these cultures or talk to these people and see these connections happen, but, yeah, and it can so easily just go back into your old life and and and forget. Essentially, and what comes to mind earlier when you said about we have been lied to in so many ways and the fact that the internet is riddled with misinformation, we’re being presented a certain image of different cultures and different countries. What comes to mind for me is, sometimes I just feel like I’m, like I’m flung into space and I don’t, I don’t know where to land and I feel so disrupted. And I I’m curious about, I’m curious about your, your craft, mindfulness and emotional intelligence program, because you ask students to experience a sense of self that is present and grounded and contemplative, and I feel like that is really, I think, the answer to what you’re, what you were talking about previously. So can you talk more about why you think this is an important element for regenerative cultures?
0:35:55 – Antonio
Yes, like I said, emotional education like most of the other topics that we touch, they always appear transparsely in all of our programs, this one in particular. I think it’s absolutely key. And again it comes a little bit of personal experience. I have been struggling with my own head for most of my adult life and this wouldn’t allow me to have the excess energy to be doing any sort of altruistic work. So I do believe that learning to deal with our frustration, learning to deal with failure, learning to deal with heartbreak and and conflict and and negotiation, and being able to to find middle ground and lose part of what you want in order to get something that allows all of us to win it’s an extremely important skill sets that I don’t think that we have. We have been listening too much, we haven’t been focusing at all in our formal education. So this is why I think this stands at the at the core of everything that we do, because there is no, there’s no possibility of doing the migration program if you do not work a little bit at this emotional education with students. So the craft program is a program that we do in collaboration with with an awesome human being called Pilar Posadas. She’s a chair in the University of Granada and she came up with this craft course and the craft apart from you know the art of being and the touch to craftsmanship and to what Michelangelo should used to say that the statues underneath the rock. You just need to take out the things that are. They shouldn’t be there, right? It stands for consciousness, respiration, in Spanish, so breathing, attention, felicidad, which would be bliss and transcendence, and it is.
It is an introductory course, it’s about 30 hours and it is an introduction to a lot of these things that we are touching on here. So, for people that haven’t had access to this sort of of experiences, to this sort of of thinking patterns before, you’re talking about meditation, you’re talking about a lot of Eastern philosophy, you’re talking about yoga, you’re talking a lot of practices that would take care of you, which is something that we are not taught to do. I mean, you need to, you need to fulfill in school or buy in school, and then you need to find a great job so you can get a great salary, so you can pay for your car, your house, your kids, university, etc. Etc. Etc. So in this program, we simply give them the first touch of what it could be when you take care of yourself and and, of course, if they, if they like it, if this is something that will be much more helpful to some than to other people, but it is something that it has been extremely well received, especially by teachers in our programs, because it’s something that they understand, that they can take back to their own classes and use as resources and start touching much earlier than university students or teachers.
You start touching when you have 12 year old kids and you don’t know what’s going on in the class, or or they don’t know what’s going on inside of their heads. And again, it is. It is a long journey. It is a one that I struggle myself with a lot, trying to find the places and the timings inside such a busy and and and and accelerated life to just stop, like Anna was saying today at the beginning of the program just stop and take five deep breaths or take 10 minutes, with your eyes closed, breathing and and feeling and just try to bring your stress levels down.
This is something that it’s it is difficult to do in a lot of our our lives nowadays, but it is critical, I think, and it is extremely helpful for for people both personally and professionally. So we try to give them this introductory idea of of where to begin with.
0:40:52 – Anna
Yeah, those are remarkable tools, as you said, they can be shared, they’re ancient, they’re easy and simple maybe not easy to practice, speaking from experience but I like the ability for people to share them out because they are really foundational things that can help us in any situation, but especially and this is circling back to what you were talking about earlier in the overlaps between social justice and ecological justice. As we are facing these really hard to just wrestle with ideas that we can’t all live the way we live in the global north. We cannot continue it and we can’t actually aspire to that. We have this moment where we have to radically shift and it strikes me that some of these practices that you’re fostering in the craft program can help us do that. We can then see the richest thing that we can have is the ability to breathe and to stay present in a moment, to actually have connection, to be vulnerable and know that we won’t be annihilated.
That’s richness, not just consumption, which is what we’re taught and socialized toward, but you’re also really drawing our attention to this idea of craftsmanship with the acronym CRAFT, which is so beautiful, and, as we’re thinking about regenerative education, I’m thinking about the ways that each of us has this unique something to contribute to the world that’s specific to us and our situation that we emerge in, and so I’m really curious about how you might see the idea of creativity and the idea of creativity within regeneration, because it sounds like you’re getting to that a little bit in all of the programs that you’re doing, but especially in craft, as you’re thinking about craftsmanship.
0:42:59 – Antonio
Absolutely. I mean, I think, creativity at least. Again, I’m not going to speak about every school, but I am going to speak about my own experience. Creativity was just something that you’re born with. It’s incredible the games that kids make up and how they can spend five hours playing with the fewest or even no resources at all. That creativity is there and we learn to forget. Like with so many other things in our cultures right now, we learn to not give them the right value they deserve, just like with a sense of community or with emotional intelligence. And we have created also a program that focuses a lot on this, which is the Art of Silence for Social Transformation Program. It is a program that analyzes a little bit, first the role of art in all of Spanish social change movements, but also explores the possibilities of art in future change, how it can sensibilize people that are not there yet how can it translate truths that will not be able to be heard in other ways, and how it can rally people together.
This is something that’s so beautiful in the programs. I mean, personally, I am not the most artistic person. I think I was very well educated for that. I stopped drawing. I do love music and I do music and sing, but I did lose a lot of that.
But it is very beautiful because, like me, there are always people in our groups and you can see the fear the first day they are painting a wall or doing the flamenco, dancing or photography or whatever, and you can see the fear and the look to the sides and the self-awareness. And this disappears in 15 minutes. When you’re doing art, you’re just letting yourself go. The silence just comes. It’s a comfortable silence too, and everyone is just creating, building and, to answer your question, creativity it’s a must. It’s a must because we have become so linear in our approaches and in our situation, in our study development or study programs, that most of the answers to how can we make it in a new world, what things need to change, how can they be done different A lot of them have to be just created from scratch, because it is true that there is a lot to recuperate. There is so much in our past that was already there. So much wisdom, so much. But it’s also true that with technology, everything changes. I remember the first time my mom said to me you know, I feel completely obsolete and I don’t know when this has happened. It has happened in less than 10 years but I was an ecological person and now my skills did not translate in the world. Now I can’t go out and be able to achieve what I could achieve two years ago. So it is true that a lot of the rules have changed and we need to be creative on our way of approaching things. And it’s also, I think, an art program, because in the world today, you need to be brave to think that you can live with art, and I do feel we need that point of bravery.
I do not know how many conversations I have had with my team, because things in business are done this way and we’re a private school, I mean, we are educators and we are very clear on having a much bigger ultimate goal than just living. But we need to live out of our work, otherwise we need to go find something else, because economy is not just the money, it’s the play, the rent, and this we need to cover because we live it in the reality we live, and we have had so many discussions of no, no, but things in business are done this way. Okay, I know, I know, but we need to try new things. We can’t be talking about regenerative cultures and we can’t be talking about regenerative education, and we can’t be talking about all this big, heavy, difficult things and pretend to do business as usual. Otherwise, people will come. Students are smart, they come and they see if you are trying to live your own ideals or you are just taking advantage of those ideals that are becoming a fashion in order to sell. So you need to take risks, and there’s, I mean last one we discussed is to put an example was transparency.
So should people in the school know how much everyone else is making? And this is something that would be unthinkable in many of the business of the world. But if we are talking about treating each other as family, taking care of each other, being able to communicate, to solve problems and to use communication and emotional education in order to be able to work together and not just be a hierarchical structure, then maybe we do have. We do need to be ready to have those uncomfortable conversations. Why are you making more? Why is he making more? Why is okay? This is why, and this is what it is, and everyone is here knowing what’s going on. This was just an example. Sorry, maybe I deviated a little bit from the original question, but yes, I do think that it is important to foster creativity, because we will need to be creative to solve a lot of the challenges that are coming and we need to be able to work on that creativity.
0:49:43 – Kyla
Yes, what I’m hearing from you is that you talked earlier about hard truths and even you just said like there’s this fear in leaning into creativity. But I think what you’re trying to say is that you have to overcome fear through art and creativity and in trying to handle these hard truths and even what you said about earlier in your programs going to Morocco and such it can be so easy. And then when we come back home, coming back into our day-to-day routines, it can be easy to be despondent and then lose sight of humanity, lose sight of our global humanity, individual humanities. And we had spoken to Catherine Cole, who works with the UNESCO chair on reorienting education towards sustainability, and she was wondering if it’s possible to develop global compassion. And I’m curious about your thoughts on this, since developing global awareness, empathy and compassion seems to be a focus for you.
0:50:43 – Antonio
So I think there are two answers. I would have to say, for me there are two answers to this question. Is it possible? Absolutely. I think if humans have proven something is that we can make anything possible. We have achieved unthinkable things in at least an evolutionary, ridiculous amount of, or span of time. I mean the things that human beings have been able to do in the last 200 years. It would have been more than science fiction 250 years ago, and this is becoming shorter and shorter. So is it possible? Like I do believe that humans are capable of the best and of the worst? However, is it possible in today’s world? I don’t know. I mean, I’m sorry to say this, but even though I am working in the lines that I’m working, there are times where I am overcome with helplessness because, you hear how beautiful projects are just simply taken down by mass communication media, by pure lies.
How people end up in prison. How we do unspeakable things and sell them as freedom operations. How Putin is such a crazy man and such a tyrant. But when the US invaded Iraq, it was to try to restabilize the world order. So I think it is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I think it’s absolutely possible, but I think it requires taking a hard look at who we are, redefining, what we are being sold as being top of the world, as humans, as individuals, as societies, as cultures, and understanding that part of being human and part of that humanity is being imperfect is taking or putting value in that imperfection, because that imperfection is what’s allowed us to grow and to create new things and to build incredible feeds.
But, on the other hand, not being perfect means that you are making mistakes, and we are making so many mistakes, and I think that it is gonna be extremely difficult. Because, first, the time is not with us. I mean the ecological threat, the technological threat, the how do you? Would you say there’s a violence or the war threats. I mean when rivers start drying, and this is happening already in Spain, I don’t even talk about Africa. What do you think? People are just gonna die in their home times, and I mean in their home towns, quietly. No, people are gonna move, people are gonna riot, people are gonna get violent. Because we can be civic as long as you’re not seeing your kid die in your house, then there’s no reasoning with this. So I think we are facing very, very unstable times. I think we are facing a clearly, or a system that has proven to be ineffective, that has proven that it’s flaws. It’s proven that it is coming to an end of an era in that sense.
So I think it is difficult, because we do need the help of people who are just not interested in things changes, because they are not the top of the world. They are the top of the top of the world and the game and the reality they live and the culture they have been fostering. It is about growth. It is about not looking at the people that they have to step on to get there, but getting there. That is success Making more money, having better jobs, having bigger houses and bigger cars, and more and more and more and more.
So will these people go down quietly? Definitely not. Will these people help out quietly? Definitely not. So is it possible? Yeah, I assume it is. It is hard, though. I mean I would love to see what a president like Trump would look like if he had spent a year in Uganda living with a family from Uganda, the way they live, and then come back to his own reality, where he is supposed to be a successful business man and he’s supposed to make lots of money with his negotiations and where he’s supposed to uphold the American standards or whatever. I would like to know if this would have been the same speech after one year spent with a family in Uganda.
So yeah, and I think study abroad can play a big role, even though it is also part of the problem, because we are using tons of planes and contributing to pollution a lot and having huge carbon footprints. Hopefully, one day, universities will take a strong step in this and say no, no, no. Okay, we need to have two weeks experience, or two months, okay. This means we need to take three months out of class because we need to do this trip by train or by boat or. But even though it can be done, I’m not sure if we can actually get there. Because it needs. It needs. As an example, it needs your television, your everyday television, telling you this is important. We need to start giving and we need to start rethinking how many cars and maybe we should not have Netflix at home and this is something that’s not gonna happen because the system has a way of perpetuating itself.
0:57:18 – Anna
I agree with you, and it’s so hard to want and to be able to see a different future, to see all of these possibilities bubbling up at a time when these big systems that have structured us for so long are cracking. We can see that it’s failing, we can see that it’s unsustainable, but as you say it’s. Will we ever? Will we be able to change fast enough? I don’t know. I think we’re doing it. It sounds like you were really doing the best you can and you’re fostering these really amazing experiences for people, and those ripples will continue outward. And so, given all of this, our, my friend, a question to you is what gives you hope in the work that you do? What gives you hope?
0:58:08 – Antonio
There are a lot of things that gives me hope. First, that we have an incredible generation ahead of us that come with a lot of problems due to our role and the way the world that we have left them, the education that we are giving them, but at the same time, that they are smart and they are well informed and they are capable of so much. So they give me hope. And then, like you were just saying, those ripples. Those ripples give me hope.
Not a week ago, I was in Cuba with a group, my first group in Cuba. I was so excited because since I arrived there, I knew how much Cuba had to show us and to teach us Westerners and I wanted to work there. And I remember I started picking up trash in the, in the, in the beach, and the teacher, what there was lead in the program, the faculty led teacher. She saw me and started picking up trash with me. In the span of five minutes the whole group was picking up trash. But right before our few bags were filled, you started seeing the Cuban taxi drivers who were the ones who had left that few little by little, they would come and start picking up trash with that.
Not a single word was said. And the whole experience it was maybe 20 minutes of of an activity and no one said a single word. And and when we finished because we had no more space to carry, the beach was very, very, very, very, very, very, very dirty, very full with beer cans. When we finished, I went to the driver who started picking up trash with that and I said thank you, thank you a lot, because we’re going to be here once and maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll be here three times or four times a year, if we have groups that are willing to do this and and this is meaningless If it doesn’t stay somehow with the people here. And it shocked me a lot because the driver literally started shouting no, no, no, no, no, thank you, you are the ones who are coming here and are cleaning our place and this is our livelihood and it is. And you were so inspiring. And he started just you know shouting, so everyone would hear this sort of things.
Give me hope. I think education is like planting seeds you never know when they can grow, but you didn’t ever know what they can achieve once they germinate. So I do think that hope can come like this. It can come through community action. It can come through little actions here and there that start making a difference and start inspiring others, because in the bottom of our hearts we all know that something is just not working right. Like this is there’s something wrong with the way we are living this denaturalized lives? So if we give students and youngsters the glimpse into what it could be, they will find their way there, and there’s no telling what they’ll be able to achieve.
1:01:44 – Anna
That’s a beautiful note to end on, Antonio. Thank you so much for this really incredible conversation. I’ve gone through so many different emotions during it, so thank you very much for sharing your time and your wisdom with us.
You can find our guests’ contact information and any resources they mentioned in the show notes for the episode. If you want to stay connected with us or learn more about our work, visit my website, annagriffith.ca. There you’ll find additional resources and ways to contact us directly. We would love to hear from you, so if you have any feedback, suggestions or topics you’d like us to explore in future episodes, don’t hesitate to reach out. The Creative Praxis podcast is produced by me, Anna Griffith with support from Kyla Mitchell-Marquis. Sound editing is done by Brendon George, with music from Wattaboy on Pixabay.
Transcribed by https://podium.page