Tensions to be overcome – ETNU Part 3 (Jacques Delors)

To this end, we have to confront, the better to overcome them,
the main tensions that, although they are not new, will be
c e n t ral to the problems of the twenty-first century, namely:
• The tension between the global and the local: people need gradually
to become world citizens without losing their roots and while
continuing to play an active part in the life of their nation and their
local community.
• The tension between the universal and the individual: culture is steadily being globalized, but as yet only partially. We cannot ignore
the promises of globalization nor its risks, not the least of which is the
risk of forgetting the unique character of individual human beings; it is
for them to choose their own future and achieve their full potential
within the carefully tended wealth of their traditions and their own
c u l t u res which, unless we are careful, can be endangered by
contemporary developments.
• The tension between tradition and modernity, which is part of the same
problem: how is it possible to adapt to change without turning one’s back
on the past, how can autonomy be acquired in complementarity with the
free development of others and how can scientific progress be assimilated?
This is the spirit in which the challenges of the new information
technologies must be met.
• The tension between long-term and short-term considerations: this has
always existed but today it is sustained by the predominance of the
ephemeral and the instantaneous, in a world where an over-abundance of
transient information and emotions continually keeps the spotlight on
immediate problems. Public opinion cries out for quick answers and ready
solutions, whereas many problems call for a patient, concerted, negotiated
strategy of reform. This is precisely the case where education policies are
• The tension between, on the one hand, the need for competition, and on
the other, the concern for equality of opportunity: this is a classic issue,
which has been facing both economic and social policy-makers and
educational policy-makers since the beginning of the century. Solutions
have sometimes been proposed but they have never stood the test of time.
To d a y, the Commission ventures to claim that the pre s s u res of
competition have caused many of those in positions of authority to lose
sight of their mission, which is to give each human being the means to
take full advantage of every opportunity. This has led us, within the
terms of reference of the report, to rethink and update the concept of
lifelong education so as to reconcile three forces: competition, which
provides incentives; co-operation, which gives strength; and solidarity,
which unites.
• The tension between the extraordinary expansion of knowledge and
human beings’ capacity to assimilate it: the Commission was unable to
resist the temptation to add some new subjects for study, such as selfknowledge,
ways to ensure physical and psychological well-being or
ways to an improved understanding of the natural environment and to
preserving it better. Since there is already increasing pressure on
curricula, any clear-sighted reform strategy must involve making choices,
providing always that the essential features of a basic education that
teaches pupils how to improve their lives through knowledge, through
experiment and through the development of their own personal cultures
are preserved.
• Lastly – another perennial factor – the tension between the spiritual and
the material: often without realizing it, the world has a longing, often
unexpressed, for an ideal and for values that we shall term ‘moral’. It is thus
education’s noble task to encourage each and every one, acting in
accordance with their traditions and convictions and paying full respect to
pluralism, to lift their minds and spirits to the plane of the universal and, in
some measure, to transcend themselves. It is no exaggeration on the
Commission’s part to say that the survival of humanity depends thereon.


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