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Colloquium on Utopia and Dystopia

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Scene from 1984 (Michael Anderson, 1956), based on George Orwell’s homonymous novel

Novels that portray dystopian realities are some of the most popular works of fiction, with newcomers such as “The Hunger Games” or the “Divergent” series, and even timeless legends such as George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”. However, how much longer will it be until these novels cease being fiction and turn into reality?

Obviously, Orwell’s predictions of the world in “1984” thankfully didn’t happen. That said, very much like in his magnum opus, we in the 21st century are in a constant state of war, be it for its commercial value or to keep citizens brainwashed. We wage war for its benefits.

The second point I would like to make is how desensitized our society has become towards violence. It isn’t strange to see gruesome images of violence in newspapers, on the lunchtime news reports or on the internet.

Thirdly, speaking of news, it has basically become gossip. We are distanced from real, important events and issues with foolish, mindless entertainment, such as in “Fahrenheit 451” or “Brave New World”, where the saying “ignorance is bliss”, really come to life.

Yes, we still have our freedoms and our constitutions in most developed countries. But, for how long? How long until we are run like mindless slaves? I think these dystopian fantasies are closer to being our reality than we’d like to think.

Francisco S.

Where do you live? No, I wasn’t asking the exact place, I pretended to make you think of the kind of society in which you are living. Is it perfect? Of course not. Utopia is just a hypothetical term used to describe a place where everything goes as well as it could, but that is just an idealized world, an impossible objective.

The reality is that humans are dissatisfied by nature. We always try to get our objectives, and when we get them we establish new, harder ones. This means we act according to our instinct in some way. In a utopian world, everyone would be happy, and no one would have more power than others, because that’d mean inequality. However, humans as we are, everyone would have new objectives to reach, and their effort to grow would provoke an unequal society again.

Besides, if everyone was equal, some people would take advantage of their strength to get the power, creating a kind of tyrannical or totalitarian government, very far from utopia.

We could say, as a summary, that utopia is impossible to get not only because we are far from that perfect objective, but also because of human nature.

Pepe G.

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2048, the near future

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Cut from Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017). Overview of the city

It’s 2048. You get out of your fully electric Honda Ion and plug it into a charging station at the edge of the sidewalk. Walking into your apartment complex, your automated clerk/receptionist gives you a package and, from the corner of your eye, you catch a glimpse of a holographic screen with the news: crime is down by 70% since the last four years. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?  Well, if we play our cards right, in 30 years we may have much, much more than this.

With the current advances we are making, completely green cities are already in existence. It means it is only a matter of time, maybe a decade or two, before everything is powered by new, renewable and green energy. On top of that, electric cars will probably dominate the roads and maybe even the skies. Mixed with the amount of research, development and innovation going into technology, robotic assistants, limbs and other technologies will also be ready in a not-so-distant future.

But technology isn’t the only thing that matters. Yes, we will probably cure cancer in thirty years, but what about the tumors that plague our society and politics? I feel that in a few decades, a new generation will be in power. A generation that only believes in going forward in any possible way. In thirty years, with luck and hard work, we could solve issues such as poverty, world hunger, racism, sexism and corruption, ensuring a clean, diverse and safe society. We could develop a fair voting system, ensure fair legislations and maybe politicians will learn to compromise so as to keep everything moving.

This sounds like a fantasy, too good to be true. The fact is it’s not. It’s perfectly plausible. However, if we don’t play our cards right, if we let corruption, hatred and war gnaw on our system, we might be in a completely opposite scenario: one where the human race has been decimated by its own kind and where the few survivors won’t survive the nuclear fallout.

Francisco S.

Colloquium on Multilingualism

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Multilingualism is the use of more than one language, either by an individual speaker or by a community of speakers. Nowadays multilingualism is conquering educational programs and there is a debate whether this is correct or, on the contrary, monolingual education is better. In my opinion, learning more than one language has more advantages than disadvantages.

It is a well-known fact that in our world it is necessary to be multilingual if you don´t want to be left behind. An example of this is when you want to get a job because, as everyone knows, employers prefer to hire people that can use more than one language.

When we go to school we learn a lot of subjects, we enlighten ourselves. Therefore, there isn´t a better way to know about a culture (literature, art,…) than having direct access to it. That means that, for example, you are going to understand Vladimir Nabokov´s literary style if you read his “Lolita” in its original language than if you read a translation.

Let us now move to an important concept: ‘split personality.’ As BBC explains in an article, ‘split personality’ is the quality that lets multilingual people travel to a country or place depending on the language that they are using. Let us suppose that someone asks you what is your favorite food in English. In this situation you are going to think about a food you like but at the time, you are going to relate this food with England. ‘Split personality’ is a complex skill but the fact is that it reveals that there are a lot of cognitive qualities associated to multilingualism that are just starting to be discovered and that we should start developing when we go to school.

From what has been said, it can be seen that multilingual educational programs, if they let students have enough hours of every subject, is becoming a social phenomenon governed by the needs of globalization and cultural opening, and I´m in favour of them.

Aitana V.

What can you do nowadays if you can only speak one language? Very few things out of your country. Languages are a very important aspect of our daily lives, they are necessary to travel and they can bring advantages to find more jobs.

It’s true that bilingual and multilingual education plans have less hours to work other subjects, and that the kids will have a larger amount of work because they have more subjects to study. But apart from this, all’s advantages.

One of them is that students develop better communication skills. They can talk with people from different countries with no problem and they will have the opportunity to meet new people that they wouldn’t have met if they hadn’t learnt the language. Also, there are studies that show that the brains of people who know more than one language are fitter and have skills to block the disturbing noises to get the information they want.

Knowing many languages can give you access to jobs where languages are necessary and give you opportunities to travel to new places and even live abroad and learn different cultures and lifestyles.

All of this makes us think that multilingual education must be mandatory. It’s very important to take advantage of the age of the kids because while they are younger, learning languages is easier and faster.

Eider V.

 Hallo gehachte leezer. That is a sentence in Dutch which means ‘hello dear reader. ‘ Something most people are not capable of understanding. The reason for that: lack of multilingualism, a problem caused by education centers unwilling to teach many languages because of the time it would take out of other subjects such as Maths or History.  That leads to controversy among people who defend the idea of monolingualism and those who don´t, but I will explain why an equilibrium between both is the solution.

 Firstly, it´s a common thought that learning more languages at school will decrease the students’ performance in other subjects. However, if a student is willing to take that risk, it shouldn’t be fair for an educational institution to deny them the right to learn that. What they should be doing is figuring out a way to achieve that goal with the minimum cost of performance, because that would widen the students´ opportunities in, for example, applying for a university or traveling around the world.

 Another reason why multilingualism should be limited and monolingualism avoided is to contribute to the relations with other countries. For example, certain economical sectors wouldn´t be available due to low language proficiency, which has been the case in many Asian countries. The main concern about exploiting these possibilities is education, which reinforces the point that mixing both ideas is necessary.

 Lastly, it´s needless to say that learning new languages leads to a more profound base of cultural knowledge thanks to reading varied literature and/or travelling. Therefore, to become a more knowledgeable person in general, multilingualism is an option which should be taken into account.

 In summary, in order to give more opportunities to students while minimalizing the risks, educational centers should try to find a balance between monolinguistic programs and multilinguistic ones.

Jordi L.

The Butterfly Effect

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The Butterfly Effect (2004), starring Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart

It has been said that the flutter of the wings of a butterfly can provoke a typhoon half the world away. So, minor changes can lead to a snowball effect and create whole new situations, and that´s why, if given the opportunity, I wouldn’t change my past.

Firstly, if you changed something in your past because something in the present troubles you, there´s almost no probability that you´d create a new perfect situation, because this change would trigger something you might want to change again, or it could just lead you to skip an important event in your life such as finding your significant other half or getting something you wanted.

So, there´s only one prediction we can make about life: it is unpredictable and we should try and see the beauty of this chaos instead of wanting to control it.

María M. A.

Learning through memorization

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‘Forgetting curve’. Hermann Ebbinghaus (German psychologist, 1850-1909)

Throughout my grandmother’s childhood, learning was seen as a process of memorization, indeed she learned by heart every chapter of Mio Cid’s epic poem. However, a new era has arrived: globalization and internationalization have given value to learners that are always open to new information and opinions and can easily adapt to any situation. However, the big question is: to what extent is learning through memorization a valid method in this day and age?

To begin with, learning this way presents what could be seen as an advantage. Every student is given the same material and no difference can be found. This is understood by some as a positive aspect since everyone has equal treatment.

Be that as it may, this method is outdated and condemned by many educational offices and boards. The main reason is that it doesn’t stimulate any of the basic skills that learning should entail: curiosity, creativity and critical thinking to name but a few. Moreover, learning through memorization is based on the conception that intelligence is the ability to absorb knowledge. Nevertheless, intelligence is an addition of originality and perceptive observation as well as an organized and structured way of thinking.

In light of the above, the unpredictable and always-changing nature of life make learning through memorization an obsolete pedagogic method since it is necessary to give the student freedom of expression and the chance to investigate the world.

Alberto A.

You have probably been in the middle of an exam, head between your hands, trying to recall that vast amount of information that you tried to memorize the night before. I’ll tell you why you can’t recall it: because memorization does not work.

Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t have advantages: it can get you out of a pickle if you forgot to study the week before an exam, if you don’t go blank in the middle of it. Because that’s basically the only advantage memorization has. It’s a process that, if done incorrectly –like most people do-, never holds information in your brain for extended periods of time, so you may not even be able to recall things and blackouts happen more often than not.

The thing is, memorizing works at times, but it sure isn’t the most effective way, especially since people often do it wrong and try to cram everything in one night because they haven’t bothered to review from day one. Memorizing and studying take a lot of time. Learning in general does. However, there are better ways to learn, such as mental image mapping.

Paco S.

 

Don Juan, el eterno galán

P1240166P1240169Resulta irónico ver lo poco que hemos cambiado desde el siglo XIX. Entonces, los hombres también alardeaban de todas las mujeres que habían conocido y de su habilidad para causar problemas. “Don Juan tenorio” es una obra teatral escrita por Zorrilla y que habla sobre las terribles consecuencias de la apuesta que Hace don Juan Tenorio.

Los personajes son un reflejo de los cánones barrocos como la gama virtuosa y de alto linaje (doña Inés) o el padre ejemplar (Gonzalo). No obstante, Zorrilla coge el personaje del galán y lo transforma espléndidamente. Don Juan Tenorio es este caballero, sin embargo, se esconde bajo su reputación de diablo tanto que no llega a aceptar un amor por doña Inés hasta el final de la obra.

La segunda parte demuestra una gran inventiva escenográfica: las esculturas que cobran vida pero que luego se desvanecen rápidamente son recursos innovadores que le dan al teatro carácter no solo literario sino también visual.

En conclusión, la obra gira entorno al personaje de Don Juan y lo increíble de las situaciones que vive. No obstante, el final de la obra parece ligeramente fallido ya que se arregla todo gracias a la intervención de doña Inés, un tipo de “deus ex machina” cuyo amor femenino es tan virtuoso que rescata con su gracia al protagonista de la novela.

Alberto A.

“FASCINACIÓN POR LAS PLANTAS”

El pasado 16 de mayo, el neuro-biólogo José Pío Beltrán realizó una conferencia llamada “Fascinación por las plantas”, nombre tomado para conmemorar el día internacional de las plantas, dirigida a los alumnos de 4º de ESO y de 1º de Bachillerato,.

Beltrán es el  Presidente del Comité de Bioética del CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas), y ha sido el vicepresidente de esta misma Agencia Estatal. El centro de investigación español es la 3ª mayor institución científica europea, engloba al 6% de los científicos del país y genera el 20% de los avances científicos en España.

A lo largo de la conferencia se explicó el papel fundamental que tienen las plantas en nuestra vida. Las plantas liberan el oxígeno que respiramos y crecen gracias a su capacidad para convertir la luz en la energía química contenida en los azucares que sintetizan al fijar el dióxido de carbono de la atmósfera. Las plantas contribuyen a la mitigación del efecto invernadero. Tanto las personas como los animales dependen de las plantas para alimentarse. De las plantas obtenemos entre otros bienes, tejidos, colorantes y moléculas activas con propiedades medicinales. La investigación del mundo de las plantas dio lugar al nacimiento de dos disciplinas científicas: la genética (parte de la biología que estudia los genes y los mecanismos que regulan la transmisión de los caracteres hereditarios) y la virología (parte de la microbiología que estudia los virus).

Durante la conferencia se presentaron los logros de científicos como los de Charles Darwin, Melvin Calvin, descubridor de la fotosíntesis, o Gregor Mendel, considerado el padre de la genética. Se presentaron también los principales sistemas experimentales para estudiar las plantas como tabaco, guisante, rosas, trigo, arroz o maíz.

                                                                                                                               María P. y Pepe G.