The Guiding Principles
If we want to search for the guiding principles of the Gimnasio Moderno, we would hardly find a closed formula. The Gimansio was named “Modern” because it always wanted to be in keeping with the mobility of times, reflecting in its philosophy, even in its physical spaces, the dynamic spirit of children and young people.
Instead, there are some common principles, which generation after generation have guided us over the years. Without them, we would stop being what we are…
“Educate, not only instruct”
This phrase, which has accompanied students from the Gimnasio for so many generations, appeared for the first time in an article by Agustín Nieto Caballero about the events of April 9, 1948, a date that for many is the beginning of violence in Colombia. Changing the country required people who not only preached but who actively lived the fundamentals they learned at school. As stated in our Chair of Peace document, in the Gimnasio Moderno we educate for peace, not because we provide new data to students, we educate for peace because we constantly care about the person and their relationships, their interests and their difficulties, for their talents and frustrations.
In the Gimnasio Moderno we educate for the comprehensive development of each student; the academic and the formative do not quarrel or oppose, both aspects are necessary for a happy life. Human excellence requires moral development as well as solid physical, emotional, and intellectual education. If people are educated while being informed, they leave school with sufficient criteria to critically assume what they live or receive from the media and can continue learning for the rest of their lives.
“The discipline of trust”
The Discipline of Trust, as understood by the founders, is a way of educating and relating to students, teachers and other members of the community through mutual trust, never fear. It starts from the idea that children and young people have rights and not only duties and, above all, the right to present their objections and that the sanctions imposed on them are fair and reasonable. It seeks to educate with reasons, so that students learn from their mistakes. Educate autonomous and critical people. The essence of the Discipline of Trust lies in the foundation of authority. In the Gimnasio Moderno, what legitimizes authority is not power or hierarchy, but reasonableness.
The Discipline of Trust seeks to create in the students habits of action, that is, that they understand for themselves the limits and consequences of their actions. In this sense, mistakes are an enormous source of learning that is reflected in the daily life of the school, because the student is a valid interlocutor: he talks to his teachers in a relationship of trust and mutual respect, to contribute to their learning process from their opinions and experiences (error is a source of learning in the Gimnasio Moderno: we say that what is bad is not making a mistake but not repairing it and not learning from it. You can learn a lot from any mistake). This exercise of autonomy translates into discussion groups organized by the students, in the existence of committees coordinated by themselves such as the Cultural and the Sports Committee, the Band, the magazines El Pichón and El Huevito in Primary, and El Aguilucho, the oldest uninterrupted edition school magazine in Colombia, where students express their thoughts and opinions without any censorship, just as they do through the microphones of Radio Gimnasio Moderno, the School’s Radio Project.
“What the teacher is, the school will be”
The good Gimnasio Moderno teacher inspires and educates through example, works as a team with other teachers to “make the difficult, easy”, as Professor Bein said. Listen and carefully observe each one of their students, accepting the possibilities or difficulties with joy. “Whoever does not harbor joy in his heart, should not become a teacher,” said Agustín Nieto Caballero. Essential to the educational process is the quality of teacher-student relationships, as well as the ability of teachers through classes and activities, readings or labs, field trips and discussions, to connect the interests of the students with the problems of their country and the world.
These great masters have been the heart of the Gimnasio Moderno: Tomás Rueda Vargas and Lleras Codazzi “Papá Rico”, Ernesto Bein, Henry Yerly and Arturo Camargo, Pompilio Iriarte and Guillermo Quiroga, Isabelita Holguín de Gómez, to name just a few. All of them were educated in the best universities in the country and abroad but, above all, they were educated in the Gimnasio Moderno, in experience, in a human context as unique as autonomous. Currently the school has a group of teachers of the best academic and human qualities. It is they who transmit to their students, through work and their own example, an ethic of life and personal effort, as well as the skills that we think will be fundamental to face the challenges of the 21st century. We believe with Agustín Nieto Caballero that the best teacher is the one who never stops being a student. For this reason, the Teachers School was created in 2013, where teachers are permanentlyreceiving education and exchanging successful experiences.
The Active School
The Gimnasio Moderno adopted this educational philosophy practically from its foundation, being the first school of its kind in Latin America. It was its way of responding to a “traditional school” or content transmission, articulating the teachings of Maria Montessori and Ovidio Decroly, John Dewey and Rabindranath Tagore, among others. A teaching tailored to the person was sought, that was as dynamic as children and adolescents. That is, to return to the child as the center of the school, to the student as manager of his own learning process and valid interlocutor of his teachers. The Active School educates in an environment of freedom and horizontal relationships in preparation for living and working in a democracy. This educational model, one of the most important pedagogical revolutions of the 20th century, has been behind the education of many of the minds that have changed the world of science and technology
Gimnasio Moderno students learn more easily through experience than through speech. Hence the importance of field trips, of the open spirit of its campus, of educating in an environment of joy, affection, brotherhood and happiness, which generates the emotional conditions for better learning and comprehensive development. Part of our challenge for the future is summarized in making daily education in school an example in accordance with the dynamics of children and adolescents.
Humanistic and scientific education
By humanist we understand a school that educates for democracy, which cares about the person behind each member of the community, their actions, their emotions and their relationships with others. Fellowship and friendship are essential in the Gimnasio Moderno. The leadership that we want to promote is that of people capable of generating empathy with their environment, contributing from particular qualities and working together with others in the transformation or care of their environments, with a critical and self-critical awareness. This reality is evidenced in the Gimnasio through a humane treatment between parents, teachers, students, managers and employees. There are no vertical relationships from scholarship or privilege, office or experience. So, the language of our students and alumni is clear and direct, they are not afraid of humor, much less the debate of opinions.
For this purpose, the school has always thought that academic education is essential. We cannot educate good people without clear criteria and without opinions enriched by careful reading and accurate and sustained evidence. A scientific and humanistic education is essential; it has even always been considered that the two are a priority and cannot be understood separately: the world needs precise analysis and observations, but also a more sensitive approach at the problems of the others. The method of scientific research and environmental awareness, the careful observation of phenomena, the skills in mathematics and the capacity for analysis, is essential to educate citizens with criteria and a critical spirit, who can be driving changes for societies, wherever that they are, The Active School is a perfect synthesis of this. We continue to think, with Dewey, that the best way for children to develop their emotions and knowledge is in environments that promote free research, observation and cooperative work, building bridges between knowledge and human beings.
The Gimnasio Moderno is a school inspired by the ideas of freedom and tolerance, typical of the liberal thought of the 18th century. The school promotes freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of worship, among others, always in an environment of respect for the other.
This post is also available in: Spanish