Note: This distinctive and rather idiosyncratic
paper by a Brazilian activist educator offers an opportunity to recognize an
innovative program that combines aesthetic education with social amelioration. Working
with disadvantaged children from the favelas, Sr. Calvente joins gardening
activities with environmental education and engages the students with the arts
as an integral part of a process he considers to be aesthetic overall.
Economic inequalities, institutional awkwardness, cultural
underdevelopment, social exclusion, a fast rate of environmental, ecological,
and biodiversity degradation have all been at the root of historic social
injustice and structural poverty in Brazil for centuries. Human development and emancipation in this
context should be approached as a set of non-formal educational practices
to promote better learning and dignity. These would become potent means for reducing
material poverty and selfish individual behavior, and for improving holistic modes
of education and culture. Non-traditional
educational practices can have an important influence in state-run schools, as
well as in private schools, by enhancing resilience and furthering social
cohesion. Schools, teachers, children,
and youth should be led to develop and challenge themselves using abstract,
critical, and creative thinking in developing broader experiments and forms for
constructing more sustainable societies. It is time to add a multidimensional approach to
educational programs that will stress quality in experience using didactic
methods starting in kindergarten and continuing to high school and beyond.
aesthetic critical thinking, aesthetic engagement, the Cacaio Project, human
development, local community and environment, local sustainability, non-formal
Brazil has many problems, both institutional
and cultural, that require broad philosophical reflection. Briefly put, these problems include great
income inequality; distorted ethical values
that encourage selfish attitudes; negative human behavior; growing urban violence. These problems have resulted in fragile public
school structures; with classrooms in which many children and teenagers have low
attention, impaired concentration and cognitive development in unhealthy
nutritional habits. These educational
problems are coupled with an environmental and ecological imbalance that is
caused by deforestation and by minimal diversification in agricultural systems.
paper intends to arouse philosophical reflection and stimulate discussion
around innovative ways to improve the non-formal educational practices developed
in The Cacaio Project. The aim of the project is to develop experiments,
projects, and social actions that can improve community education and encourage
ethical and cultural development. By
sharing and integrating cooperative, participatory, transformational and, hopefully,
creative education in public schools, the Cacaio Project endeavors to encourage
these communities to take multiple initiatives that can contribute to new thinking
and, ultimately, will alter the social, economic, and environmental patterns
throughout some regions in Brazil. In
order to achieve this we have to face complexity, fragmentation, and obscurity
in many uncontrolled educational settings.
Talented and untalented poor
children and teenagers, we shall call them 'children' and 'youth' here, did not
choose the social environment in which they were born, and they need much more
attention, respect, and care from our societies. Ethical principles, basic educational
guidance, flexibility, discipline, and social and cultural practices, as well
as formal school curricula, should not be imposed and taught rigidly. These children and youth need to be able to
search for knowledge on their own as we challenge them to value and develop
group autonomy and personal responsibility.
The non-formal educational
experiments described below should complement traditional curricula in an
effort to reduce chronic poverty, fight ignorance, violence, and the growing
homicide rate among young people (aged 15-24). These conditions are symptoms of the problems
mentioned at the beginning of this essay. While the rate of homicide in many countries
is less than one or two per one hundred thousand people,
among young people in Brazil there are twenty to more than sixty killings per
one hundred thousand inhabitants throughout the country. These statistics are extraordinarily higher in
slums. It would be safe to assume that a large
proportion of the children and youth living within these slums, whether talented
or not, will come into conflict with the law.
It is necessary to search for and
defeat the causes of cultural disintegration rather than put our faith in a
free market solution or in a 'natural' historical process of human development.
If we can add feasible and consistent
non-formal didactic methods and educational practices that start in
kindergarten and employ them through high school, we would reduce the human
suffering and enable the financial and social costs to be invested in human
development. Unconventional, creative
educational programs should be a priority for public and private policies. They would ultimately cost less than building
prisons, hiring thousands of policemen, judges, attorneys, and administrators,
and would reduce the emotional suffering and losses to human families.
educational practices. The Cacaio
Project: its origin, basic structure,
methodologies, and activities
From 1975 to
1984 the author was employed at CNPq, the National Research Council-Humid
Tropics Program for the Amazon region.
During that time, it was possible to study and observe the peasant
economy in Rondônia (Amazon region), where the author examined, experienced,
and understood aspects of land reform colonization projects, fragments of economical
agricultural production processes, the conduct of ‘rent-seeking’ private cattle
farmers and ranchers, Keynesian governmental regional “development” programs, and
the rate of deforestation,
and he witnessed the loss of biodiversity and the perpetration of substantial
development projects were not structured well by the military government, and
international organizations lacked comprehension of these realities. The scientific community was already studying
possible climate changes and their potential relation to ecological and social
aspects of the Amazon tropical forest. In May of 1979 the author shared these
critical problems with senators, government officials, professionals, and local
Brazilian universities, and also with Johns Hopkins University, Brookings
Institute, and the World Bank staff.
After returning to Brazil from Washington D.C., the author, for
political reasons, was not able to continue to hold his professional position
coordinating Amazon research at CNPq and even had to discontinue his own
research plan. Unfortunately, the author
could not speak about or disseminate his research conclusions on Amazon
deforestation and peasant life and economy. It was possible in those times to work with
peasants in agriculture, participate in the education of children and youth in
the Amazon, and build simple, one-classroom schools there
where we could take peasants, their children, and youth to swim in the
We combined these activities
with discussions on agriculture, economics, and ecology, analyzed the high rate
of human migration and the colonization process, and observed biodiversity
through the interconnected existence in time of fauna and flora. There were always moments to look for silence
in the forest and think about a different school, itself, made of the local
After 1984 the
author spent several years working on seven small and medium-sized farms in
Brazil where he observed their agricultural production processes. These farms produced commodities such as
corn, beans, coffee, girolanda and guzolanda dairy cows, Mangalarga horses, granite
blocks for construction, and beef cattle, and used both non-organic and organic
production processes. It was also
possible to find some time to read a few books on philosophy, in silence, in
the dawn. Beginning in 1997, while teaching in a local
university, the author decided to implement an environmental education project
in a few state-run schools using his own limited financial resources and
volunteering his time. The projects
started in the urban and rural communities of Petrópolis, R.J., a city near Rio
de Janeiro (the state capitol) with three hundred thousand inhabitants, ten
thousand families at social and environmental risk, and one hundred forty
state-run schools. The approach of these
projects could be explained as a mixture of the philosophy of experience in
deep democracy. It was influenced by the
work of Paulo Freire, John Dewey and by Martin Luther King's inclusive
political will and activities in fighting prejudice and racism. A combination of prudence, respect, courage, responsibility,
interdisciplinarity, softness, and equilibrium became the basic structure to
open horizons to multidimensional and pluralistic views on ethics and
Calvente, the author's younger brother and a professional diver and fisherman, would
always repeat a true story from hunting octopus and lobster. A man of very few words, he said that we were
good divers forty years ago when first starting to dive. Then, after twenty years of experience, we
could really dive, almost like a fish, and catch more octopus and lobster. But now, after a lifetime of experience, when
he dives deeper, he notices different aspects of sea life he never saw before. He feels that he is no longer a fisherman or an
exemplar of a fisherman, as he had thought before, but thinks of himself now as
more like the water. The author has taken this story as a metaphor to talk with
our children and youth about Cacaio’s pluralistic views and educational abstract
design thinking 'methods.' Maybe Cacaio education
can experience and benefit from the silence of underwater reality and build an
aesthetic engagement theory from it. Such
narratives as this are not often used by Cartesian-oriented scientists and maybe
Cacaio goes in the same direction as Einstein’s insight on education when he
school should always have as its aim that the young man leave it as a
harmonious personality, not as a specialist….I want to oppose the idea that the
school has to teach directly that special knowledge and those accomplishments
which one has to use later directly in life…the development of general ability
for independent thinking and judgement should always be placed foremost; not
the acquisition of special knowledge.
From 1997 to
2014, Cacaio was implemented in more than twenty state-run schools in
Petrópolis in an attempt to activate those communities. In Cacaio, there are many opportunities to
gather suggestions from children and youth and for building methodologies with
experimental groups. I want to present
and describe here some of the educational practices and activities that were utilized,
but not all of which realized their full potential. Cacaio proceeds by organizing different
educational activities that are “enriched by de-centering the teacher and even
the classroom in order to bring active student-centered, community-based service
learning into the educational process.” The teacher becomes a privileged participant
and asks questions to let children and youth develop solutions or find answers
by themselves in situations that emulate real life demands.
Because of length limitations, I shall summarize the Cacaio Project, or the Cacaio Way, or The
Cacaio Garden of Education (CGE) as a model of human development that
reconstructs part of traditional educational methodology. Cacaio proceeds by gathering children and
youth on a plot of land that is at least two hundred and fifty square meters in
size, and giving them ninety minutes to complete a previously defined activity
that is democratically evaluated and practiced among the participants.
At the first meeting a polygon is drawn on the
ground. The center of the polygon
symbolizes the collective work with a phrase that reflects the group’s
personality: "cultivating our
differences." At each vertex of
the polygon the participants work to create and design a specific symbol and
the educational action that it represents. The participants are themselves the
vectors and, as if at a round table, they sit and talk. Principals, teachers,
and students work together to decide on the level of the problems and determine priorities. Specific activities are organized in the
first phase of work and then other possibilities are designed and structured in
circles of ethical values. Group
members stand in a circle and each participant presents ethical words and
concepts orally in a rapid and sequential manner. The polysemous meanings are discussed in the
group. There is reading and
interpretation of written texts on ethical values that have been identified in
previous discussions and linked to local political, social, economic, and
environmental issues and subjects. Each
participant is required to produce at least one carefully-written essay every
week on a different theme, while also observing paintings on the Internet (by
Goya, Monet, John Constable, Djanira da Motta e Silva and others) for
inspiration. At the outset, many fourteen year-old boys and girls could not
write even one paragraph with three coherent sentences.
Designing and constructing organic
vegetable, herb, and flower gardens and, where possible, planting fruit trees
around the garden for future consumption. The students organize and share the
responsibility for watering, fertilizing, and other chores. Discussions take
place about unhealthy food, chemicals, human nutritional needs and natural
vitamin and mineral sources. Discussions also occur on soil structure,
preservation, conservation of water resources, and geographical spaces. The
mathematical dimensions of large-scale farming, food production, and fertilizer
production are revealed. Discussions
also take place on marketing possibilities, selling products with the help of
graduate students from biology and business administration. This has been done
differently and in many local communities.
and constructing a small arboretum close to the vegetable garden, when
possible, that houses a botanical garden
with native trees and palm trees from different countries. Projects are
developed to plant native trees in local public and private areas to restore
destroyed soils along rivers and mountain regions. Until now we could only plant native trees
along rivers, near and inside some schools, and in some private areas.
carpentry and mechanical work using wood, small motors, and electronic
equipment. In addition to developing manual work projects and, when possible,
conducting classes in design with the help of a local graduate student. This
has not yet been implemented.
the help of a local engineering graduate student, obtaining or creating solar
energy devices to provide less expensive hot water for the local kitchen and
bathroom. “Green roof” design
possibilities could be explored using vegetables and flowers found in tropical
countries, but none has been constructed yet.
iron sculptures symbolizing human life production processes using bits and pieces
of engines from local junkyards around a water fountain and the vegetable
garden. This has not been done yet.
around the garden silently to encourage abstract, creative thinking (SBM) development
and rest. At many times, silence can be better than using words in finding new ideas,
objectives or adapting old ones to new situations.
Cacaio plays, poems, texts for pedagogical theater and other environmental
education programs involving issues of local and global reality. For example,
children and youth are challenged to think about Amazon deforestation. Presently, the equivalent of about 700,000
soccer fields is cut down every year equivalent to
almost 500,000 hectares of tropical humid forests.
with parents, children, and youth from other public schools and universities to
organize environmental tours, “ecological walking,” and observing June 5th,
Brazil's version of Earth Day, when we celebrate the environment.
seminars and brainstorming sessions to discuss practical actions the community
can take to battle local environmental problems. For example, it is not widely
understood that mass extinction processes are going on, in addition to
pollution. For example, in 1985 there were four hundred costero dolphins
(Sotalia guianensis) in Guanabara Bay, but today there only thirty-eight
remain. Although billions of dollars
have been spent in recent decades to overcome pollution,
these dolphins live with 18,400 liters of domestic organic matter dropped every
second into their habitat. Biological and chemical pollution, along with noise
from huge ships, are the main factors for the extinction taking place today.
Octopus, lobster, and fish are also at risk. Three decades ago, divers could
catch about ten or fifteen kilograms of lobster hunting from five a.m. to four
p.m. Nowadays it is difficult to obtain
one kilogram (Alexandre Calvente own experience in the last forty years
organization of human development is summarized in Figure 1 below. Non-formal
educational activities are evaluated and decided by different schools and
communities according to their preferences. This is a dynamic process where
participants can feel responsible for their choices.
Figure 1: Cacaio Polygon. Designed
by the author, July 17, 2015.
and methodologies of Cacaio were influenced by a multidimensional experiment that
took place from 2003 to 2007 at the Educandário Princess Isabel Foundation of
the Court of Justice, Childhood and Youth, of the District of Petrópolis (Educandário). The experiment was designed by the author
with the participation of the local Court of Justice, public leaders, and the
principals and teachers of ten public schools.
It was possible to structure and put into practice on a volunteer basis different
non-formal educational practices inside the Educandário
and to develop daily educational programs with more than two hundred children
and youth, all of them chosen by the local Judge and the Principals of schools
of Serra da Estrela in Petropolis. In successive years the author could extend
his work to more schools and local communities and, at the same time, visit
schools in Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Minas Gerais, different regions in Brazil,
as well as working in a small farm in Secretário, R.J.,and teaching in the
economics and mechanical and electrical engineering, departments at the local
At least two dialogues took
place during those times between the author and some children at social risk in
Brazil. The first when a teenager and his younger brother said, "Professor!
Please listen to us! Our mother killed our father with a knife. Let
us tell and show you how it happened! What
can we do with our lives now?" The
second dialogue occurred when a twelve year old girl, while planting a
vegetable garden, said "My parents threw me in a garbage basket. They are
dead now. My grandmother is taking care of me today, but she has cancer and I
do not know what to do when she dies." To respond similar questions I answered we
should go on working together in vegetable gardens, planting flowers, discussing
and writing on interdisciplinarity, moral values, environment, climate change,
poetry, paintings, and healthy food. And could also sit down together in
I believe that knowledge exists in two forms--lifeless, stored in books, and alive, in
the consciousness of people. The second form of existence is the essential one;
the first, indispensable as it may be, occupies only an inferior position.
important now to evaluate the Cacaio Garden of Education, to examine its
methods and objectives, to experiment with new educational activities, to improve
and test its modes, methods, and practices in Brazil and possibly in two other
3. Theoretical framework
In a Cacaio
Garden of Education, students can be challenged with discussions of aesthetic judgment
and the aesthetics of engagement. Arnold Berleant’s “cooptation of sensibility” can
be used in a way to help students comprehend commercial and political
corruption of our sensible experience.
Students should become aware of the decimation of ecological
biodiversity and at the same time it is important to motivate children and
youth to look for possible experiments on ways that will contribute to solving
autopoieic approaches and complexity are all concepts that emphasize social,
economic, ecological, institutional, relationships on a finite planet where
people still believe in unlimited growth. Such 'holistic' (integrated)
approaches have been presented by many philosophers and scientists, such as Ilyia
Prigogine, Fritjof Capra, Humberto Maturana, Silvio Varela, Edgar Morin, among others. All
attempt to find a methodology where facts are complex and uncertain, values are
in dispute, stakes are high, and decisions urgent. In this approach there must be an “extended
peer community” consisting of all those affected by an issue who are prepared
to enter into dialogue on it. These parties bring their realities into the
discussion, including local knowledge and social structures.
can be demonstrated to children and youth through a theoretical and practical discussion
of economics, ecology, school curricula, community work, agricultural
practices, soil ecology, along with other subjects and experiences in flexible
research projects of local sustainable development. Kant maintained that between theory and practice
there is a term connecting them called the act of judgment.
Whatever basis of knowledge, when working in synergy for local communities
autonomy, empowerment and resilience, different modes, systems, or ways of
being have to be put into practice, experimented, followed by human specific and
defined methods of interventions. Such a critical examination will lead to a
growing awareness of the problems and the conception of a different world that
is sustainable, more adapted and shaped to the reality that finds children and
youth at social and environmental risk.
Not only should Cacaio education be developed where domestic violence,
chronic unemployment, structural poverty, and crime leave children and youth with
no alternative; it should also be developed as well in private schools, where rich
students often need as much careful attention.
of the world share a concern for the education of their poor and young people. Our
American neighbors show a deep awareness of the problem:
[P]overty is a visible and growing problem, even within the ultrawealthy
United States of America. However, instead of making just, caring, and
ultimately cost-saving national investments in education, and creative
experiments in economic development that might provide interlinked
opportunities for economic, political, and social participation for residents
of our poor, racially marginalized, and increasingly violent urban ghettos, we
democracy and transformative interventions are integrated in Green’s approach
as a fundamental pillar of a
collaborative undertaking of many people in diverse locations and across
generations, within which no one has enough time, energy, and gifts to
contribute focally to all parts at once, although the best work in each area is
done with an awareness of ongoing work in the other areas.
questioning and pragmatic approaches must work together methodologically to
the risk of becoming another percentage point in discouraging research
on the growing contingent of young and underemployed people from
public-resourced schools located in poor neighborhoods.
In this effort,
a multidimensional construction of a set of non-formal educational
methodologies and practices can contribute to integrating elements that might
intervene in people’s behavior, conduct, and social attitudes. To reinforce
this practical, non-traditional educational structure involves understanding life
as a social process itself by people participating who embody intercultural,
local, global diversity. As Eli Benincá
[T]he human being carries capabilities, such as consciousness, which
develop in relation to social contexts...., Through experience people build a
sense of things...[that] is always a relationship of consciousness to another,
i.e., with the world...constructed in relation to the cultural everyday...[and]
built through the process of reflection.
life go together in John Dewey’s Reconstruction
[of] Philosophy (my emphasis) and mean organized ability in action,
[t]he true ‘stuff’ of experience is recognized to be adaptive courses of
action, habits, active functions, connections of doing and undergoing, sensory-motor
co-ordinations. Experience carries principles of connection and organization
reproduction of human existence historically has been governed by the dynamics
of cultural developments through collective work, where material production,
property, power, and wealth are concentrated in the hands of a minority economic
group; although this social and economic process involved cumulative cultural knowledge. With the global environmental challenge we
face today, we cannot resist integrating global and local social perspectives in
which the actions of private corporations are expected to be socially responsible.
This can only be achieved through global environmental governance and practices,
the development of appropriate technology, and consistency over generations of
the technical destruction of our forests and global ecological systems beginning
with the Industrial Revolution and following through the twentieth century, we
should reflect on the idea of Theodor Adorno that "the problem does not
come from the rationality of our world but from the irrational way rationality
As a matter of fact Dewey had
Society, as was said, is many
associations, not a single organization. Society means association; coming
together in joint intercourse and action for the better realization of any form
of experience which is augmented and confirmed by being shared….Society is the
process of associating in such ways that experiences, ideas, emotions, values
are transmitted and made common.
This can be
emphasized and connected to Dewey's experimental organization and educational
concepts and modes integrated in vivid life realities. Although this requires crucial choices,
designing education and its objectives must be moved less by a confrontation
between science and art and much more through the multidimensional assimilation
of them. That is why Ernst Cassirer wrote somewhere that abstract thinking can
be developed through (in) arts (my
Anisio Teixeira, Paulo Freire, and Darci Ribeiro, our greatest educators,
dreamers, and doers in Brazil; and relies heavily on Dewey’s guiding idea that
Poetry, art, religion are precious things….We are weak today in ideal
matters because intelligence is divorced from aspiration….When philosophy shall
have co-operated with the course of events and made clear and coherent the
meaning of the daily detail, science and
emotion will interpenetrate, practice and imagination will embrace. Poetry
and religious feeling will be the unforced flowers of life. (my emphasis).
This is a time
to feel out new possibilities in the ethics of development
and make new choices for non-formal educational experiences in order to construct
real peace between neighbors, to repeat words of respect for diversity,
multiculturalism, intercultural learning, and to preserve our natural
wealth. We must ethically guarantee development
as freedom to our grandchildren and future generations.
science ought to be ethical and interpreted in multidimensional aspects. If we
bring concepts of ontology, axiology, and metaphysics together, children and
youth can get a broader education to face local and global reality, which is
diversified in its nature. The elements of institutional, cultural, economic,
social, and historical reality are connected; they do not live alone in the
dark, completely neutral and independent of each other.
I believe, indeed, that overemphasis on the purely intellectual
attitude, often directed solely to the practical and factual in our education,
has led directly to the impairment of ethical values. I am not thinking so much
of the dangers with which technical progress has directly confronted mankind,
as of the stifling of mutual human considerations by a 'matter-of-fact' habit
of thought which has come to lie like a killing frost upon human relations.
Without 'ethical culture’ there is no salvation for humanity.
Today we realize that reality is a biological, ecological, economic, and
social net. Everything is connected. The world has become smaller. Education
should be freed from the fragmentation of disciplines and children should be
challenged to more independence and autonomy to face global climate change,
social injustice, and economic inequalities at the local level.
and then Archesilaus used to make their pupils speak first; they spoke
afterwards. ‘Obest plerumque est discere volunt authoritas eorum qui docent.’
For those who want to learn, the obstacle can often be the authority of those
But all this
can only be done how an unknown reader suggested previously, by having “classrooms in the woods, where we can not
only engage in scientific study but also compose a poem, read Thoreau, dance
around a tree, learn the history associated with the woods."
reflection is needed in the philosophy of education, separating the previous
idea of interaction inside a reality previously understood because approaches
must be plural and broader in nature. There are many research activities,
findings, and contributions that have been lonely processes of abstract
thinking, where individuals dedicate themselves in silence and attention inside
studies and laboratories.
If knowing were habitually conceived of as active and
operative, after the analogy of experiment guided by hypothesis, or of
invention guided by imagination of some possibility, it is not too much to say
that the first effect would be to emancipate philosophy from all the
epistemological puzzles which now perplex it.
can the Cacaio Garden of Education amplify creative thinking, not only to
interpret the world but also to contribute to changing it? Can Cacaio be improved
to challenge children and local communities to face present world problems such
as global climate change?
Locke argued that what is needed is not just
extension, revision, or inclusion of new curricular elements, but
transformation of methods of thinking and teaching.
we go through Cacaio Garden experiments, new methods of thinking can blossom in
a symbolic farm. We are not thinking in
abstractions but in concrete ways, already designing them. Part of its theory
can come from a fragment of Monet's bridge over his pond of water lilies and John
Constable's Hay Wain in Suffolk. Abstract,
critical, and creative thinking should be its form, where children and youth should
feel the tranquility and possibilities that may be hidden inside their will
power, spirits, souls, brains, and minds.
4. Aesthetic engagement
Berleant did not only introduce me to new approaches in aesthetics to improve
my own comprehension of integrated education. One of his suggestions led me to
start reading a few insightful articles from the CA Symposium on aesthetic
engagement (vol.11, 2013). I saw similar direct personal experience in Madalina
Diaconu's article about the 'wind.' My
father left me a letter saying I should write metaphors to children and youth,
and that whenever I wanted to speak to him, I should find a quiet place in
nature. I felt my father's voice on the top of the mountains at Simpatia farm looking
for another dialogue on silence. To grasp that moment I have learned that
plants, flowers, fruits grow in silence; the sun and the moon shine in silence;
boats often run fast in silence; I sleep in silence; I always build a fence of
barbed wire in silence; real love between a man and a woman is best in silence;
a poet, a painter, a musician, a farmer many times get inspiration and work in
silence; the only way Mother Teresa
prays is in silence; the best conversation between parents and children is in
silence; cows are better milked in the dawn, in silence; the best way to work
in crafts is in silence; a letter to a friend is written in silence; a book is
evaluated in silence; you drink tea and practice martial arts in silence; a
garden is conceived in silence. If I ever find ways to attain abstract,
creative thinking, I shall find it in the soul of a drop of water on a leaf on
a native tree (the Ipê Amarelo) and in the sublime silence of our poor and rich
vulnerable children's eyes. Philosophy isn't just the clarification of our
thoughts; it is also silence. Ideas can come to our spirit-brain-minds in
silence. A garden of hope is where
everyone would learn about the wind. Metaphors and philosophy of experience could
be written in the soil and tried with them, the peasant children, who grow the
food we eat, everyday, in silence. A very good friend of mine, a professor in
Huskwarna, Sweden (Claes Helsten), has learned with his old teacher that we
should grow older to become naive, innocent, humble or simple. I am trying to
understand this in a dialogue with our common friends, the winds of New York, Vrangö,
Petrópolis, Águas Lindas, Queimados and Cacoal, and in silence.
Project is based on methodological pluralism. It has been designed to amplify
abstract, critical, and creative thinking through metacognition. Teachers and
youth can always experiment with interdisciplinarity at the local level, using
a mixture of exercises in mathematics, geography, science, biology, social
sciences, ecology, limnology, design, environmental education, vegetable
gardens, and agro-ecology. Silence, attention, and concentration should be practiced together. Educational
activities can be done in a garden of education, where simultaneous classrooms
are organized with groups of fifteen students. Plays about life phenomena,
human relations, behavior, modes of conduct, beliefs, concrete local
environmental problems, individual and group creation of metaphors, poetry, paintings,
arts, music, carpentry, recycled iron sculptures, small water fountains, near vegetable
gardens and an arboretum can motivate students to write essays and express
themselves. Education and education for sustainable development should be
education in aesthetic engagement to promote moral development, ethics, and
dignity; for real social transformation, autonomy and empowerment; and for
The next step
for Cacaio could be as a hypothesis to be tested, designed, and structured in several
different regions of Brazil and elsewhere. There its dynamics and methods,
centered in non-formal education and schools, could take form in social
innovation, public policies, programs or projects to develop family units of
ecological agriculture, and local parks for biodiversity, protection of water
resources for environmental services to urban people. Reflection in aesthetics, aesthetic engagement,
philosophy of education, anthropology of education, and ecological economics,
all might bring ideas to open different horizons to our youth. Experience,
beauty, social interaction, equilibrium, responsibility, harmony, respect are
like seeds in sensible cognition.
Atila T. Calvente is a Brazilian farmer and PhD candidate in a research
program on strategies, development and sustainability, at the Institute of
Economics at IE-PEPED-UFRJ (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). The Cacaio Garden of
Education could become the basis for a research project to be multiplied, if
accepted by the academic community, in which the author would integrate
contemporary aesthetics to philosophy of education, ecological economics and
agricultural local sustainable development.
He has had previous experience in the Amazon region as former
coordinator at the Brazilian National Research Council - CNPq.
Published on November 17, 2015.
 Marcelo Medeiros, Pedro Souza, Fabio
Castro, "The top of income distribution in Brazil, studies of
IPEA," (Renata Agostini, Folha de São Paulo Newspaper, september, 23th,
2014). About 5% of the population had 40% of total income in 2006; and 44% of
total income, in 2012. At least 30 million are very poor, at social and environmental
risk. More than 100 million have low income, most people have no more than US$
600,00 a month. At the same time Brazil has one of the highest GNP in the
 Almost every day people are shot in
slums, the police struggle with criminals, and children and adults are killed
by stray bullets.
 'Cacaio' is a backpack but, as a metaphor, poor peasants in
the Amazon jungle call it much more than that.
I am developing the concept (and the Cacaio Project) to be the name of a
book I have been writing in the last thirty-five years. This essay
presents its cenral ideas.
'Cacaio' means many things but
basically it refers to the process by which peasants sometimes have to walk
more than four days into the jungle and invade public land. They build a hut,
start cutting trees and prepare to burn the forest, and then they plant. Cacaio is a set of things,
usually rice, beans, oil, salt, sugar, coffee, salted meat, one knife, some
tools to work with, a blanket to sleep in, and other articles
for camping together with four relatives.
After fifteen or twenty days working in the jungle, the peasants have to
walk back to an urban location to work on a daily salary for large farmers in
order to buy another Cacaio. Sometimes they first have to take their
relatives to the hospital to be treated for malaria fever. Cacaio is the economic
means for the reproduction of human life, itself, in a process of colonizing
the Amazon jungle as a land reform project.
 Brazil, Brazilian Department of
Public Health Information, Map of Violence, 2011.
 World Bank Data: Population, 2012.
 Brazil, Ministry of Health and Map of Violence,
 Brazil, National Institute of Spatial Research, INPE.
Kaiten Nukariya, The Religion of the
Samurai, (Tokyo: Kei-O-Jiku University, Luzac&Company, 1973), p. 67.
"A Zen master, having seen a Confucionist burning his books thinking that
they were a hindrance to his spiritual growth, observed: 'You had better burn
your books in mind and heart, but not the books in black and white.'" The
author has worked in seven different farms in Brazil in different climates and
local cultural settings, and has found in so many books, in academic circles a
link to many different approaches to "acts of judgment" from theory
to practice, as Kant examined them, to life itself. The account presented in
this essay might help show how interdisciplinarity and silence join in actions,
emphasizing John Dewey's philosophy of experience and aesthetic engagement.
Girolanda and Guzolanda
dairy cows are half-blooded, the result of breeding Holand bulls with Gir and
Guzerá Indian cows. They are more adapted to a tropical climate, are fed more
naturally, are more rustic, have fewer diseases, require less drugs and
chemicals and, although productive, are easier to manage and more economical in
the local Brazilian cultural environment.
Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions (1954),
p. 62. https://lambfollower.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/albert-einstein-on-generalizable-knowledge-and-critical-thinking/.
should be emphasized in the Cacaio that there is a search for new seeds that
are happy to grow in tropical soils and that can still adapt to autumn leaves
in the existing eighty per cent of Amazon tropical forest, since the Mata
Atlântica Forest has been reduced to less than seven per cent of its original
size. The philosopher Spinoza was probably partly correct when he wrote
somewhere that with emotion all we have is a confused idea of reality. The same
happens when we plant beans in February after a rainy day. Small farmers feel
differently about reality and are always happy to put seeds in the soil even if
it does not rain enough, because of changes in the global and local climate.
Xiangzhan, "Aesthetic Engagement, Ecosophy C, and Ecological Appreciation," Contemporary
Aesthetics, vol.11 (2013). He shares a classic in Taoism, "Travelling with Huizi over a bridge on the Hao River,
Zhuangzi, Zhuangzi said, 'The fish are swimming at
ease. This is how fish enjoy themselves.' Huizi said, 'You are not
a fish. How do you know the fish are enjoying themselves?' Zhuangzi said, 'You are not me. How do you know I don't know about fish?'
Western world values, as in Aristotle's idea of eudaimonia, it is possible to
look for equilibrium in other cultures. "Dukka," for example, is an obstacle, an iron door in our
lives, but it can also be seen as a 'ladder.'
There are possibilities for discussing poetry and metaphors with
children that do not need much happiness through their verses and symbols. Maybe they are looking for equilibrium and silence
in their spirits, whatever that may seem like.
 Judith M. Green, Deep
Democracy: Community, Diversity and Transformation (Rowman &
Littlefield, 1999), p. 129.
 Symbols, the
soul of drops of water, rivers, seeds, roots, plants, animals, social cohesion,
and modes of human conduct probably may be more consistent, grow, and develop
if (re)constructed in silence.
 Laboratory of Aquatic Mammals and Oceanography, UERJ,
Arnold Berleant, "The Co-optation of Sensibility and the Subversion of
Beauty," keynote address at international conference on "Challenges
at the Intersection of American and European Philosophy," Fordham
University, February, 2014. Published in Slovenian and English in Filozofski
vestnik XXXVI/1, 2015 (Lljubljana) special issue on everyday
aesthetics. Forthcoming in Philosophy Today. This was the occasion when the author met
Arnold Berleant in dignity, speaking with each other about ethics and social
Neusa Massoni,"Ilya Progogine: uma contribuição à filosofia da
ciência," Revista Brasileira de
Ensino de Física, vol.30, N.2, (2008). "To Prigogine, the choices, the
possibilities, uncertainty, are at the same time one property (uma propriedade) of the universe and of
human existence....The landmark (a marca)
of our times is a science where being (ser) and instability come to evolution
and transformation" (p.7). Fritjof Capra, Alfabetização Ecológica, (Cultrix, 2005); Fritjof Capra, "A
teia da vida (the web of life)," (Cultrix, 2007); Humberto Maturana and
Francisco Varela, "A árvore do Conhecimento," Psy II, (1995); Edgar
Morin, "O método," volume 4 (Sulina, 2011). Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz, "A New
Scientific Methodology for Global Environmental Issues" in Ecological Economics: The Science and
Management of Sustainability, ed. Robert Costanza (New York: Columbia).
Luca Tacconi published a book on
ecological economics where he wrote, "Positivist philosophy has dominated
scientific research throughout most of the twentieth century. Positivism has
been discredited within the philosophy of science but this has only had limited
impact on research practices in the social and natural sciences. Economists
have called for the adoption of positivism in economics, however economic
researchers have noted that this application has not taken place and, because
of the limitations inherent in positivism, it is unlikely that it will take
place. Ecological economists should learn from the methodological failures of
economics and look for alternatives. Since the 1970s, several alternative
paradigms to positivism have emerged. Post-normal science and constructivism
are critically considered and their significance for the discipline of
ecological economics is addressed in this paper. I propose a modification of
the paradigmatic basis of constructivism and suggest that the revised
constructivist paradigm should be seriously considered for adoption by
ecological economists. I also point out that there are complementarities
between post-normal and constructivist methodologies that deserve further
exploration. This could enrich the methodological base of ecological
[accessed Jul 13, 2015].
Peter May, Economia e Meio Ambiente,
(Campus, 2010); Peter May and Valeria da Vinha, "Adaptação às mudanças
climáticas no Brasil: o papel do investimento privado," Estudos Avançados, 26, 74, (2012);
Valeria da Vinha, "Polanyi e a Nova Sociologia Econômica: uma aplicação
contemporânea do conceito de enraizamento social (social embeddedness)."
Revista Econômica. V. 3. nº 2. Dezembro de 2001 (impresso em setembro de 2003).
I have learned much from the classes of Peter May and Valeria da Vinha5 at
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, UFRJ-PEPED (dialogues at Presidente
Vargas, CPDA; Flamengo; LEC-UFRRJ in Seropédica; and at Praia Vermelha, Urca,
Rio de Janeiro, January-November, 2015).
 Immanuel Kant, Mary J.
Gregor & Allen W. Wood, "On the Common Saying: That may be true in
theory, but it is of no use in practice" in, Immanuel Kant: Practical Philosophy, ed. Mary J. Gregor (Cambridge
University Press, 1996). Published originally in the Berlinische Monatsschrift in 1793. Ludwig Wittgenstein also asked
if we can learn knowledge from men by experience. He wrote that what we learn
is not a technique but how to make correct judgements (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Investigações Filosóficas (Vozes, 2012),
p. 293). Professor Ana Primavesi, a very
wise eighty year-old Professor of Soil Ecology and farmer in Brazil, has taught
me that dignity and kindness are the most practical actions when organizing
vegetable gardens, that is, how to plant in a way that the roots are structured
in the soil from their very first contact with it.
 Riyana Miranti, Justine McNamara, Robert Tanton &
Ann Harding, "Poverty at the Local Level: National and Small Area Poverty
Estimates by Family Type for Australia in 2006," Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy, 4,3 (August 2011), 145-171.
Judith Green, Deep Democracy. Community, Diversity and
Transformation (Rowman &
Littlefield, 1999), p. 171.
 Jesse Jackson,
“Half of African-American Young are Born in Poverty,” The New York Times (31/12/96), 64. 71% of 28,000 blacks of Oakland
are in special education classes, the overall average is 1.8 on a system whose
maximum score is 4, Courtland Milloy, Washington
Post, 12/22/96 (BHABHA, 2011).
 Eli Benincá in
Claudio Dalbosco, Edison Casagrande & Eldon Mühl, Philosophy and Pedagogy, (Authors Associates, 2008), pp. 183, 184,
186. My own translation.
 John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy (Beacon
Press, Boston, 1948), p. 80.
 Michael Tomasello, Origens Culturais do Conhecimento Humano (The Cultural
Origins of Human Cognition) (Martins Fontes, 2003).
 Hans Jonas, The Principle Responsibility
(Counterpoint, PUC-Rio, 2011).
 My translation
from the Portuguese - "o mal não deriva da racionalização do nosso mundo,
mas da irracionalidade com que a racionalidade atua." Antonio Soares Zuin, Bruno
Pucci, Newton Oliveira Adorno, O poder
educativo do pensamento crítico (Vozes, 2001), p. 53.
 Dewey, p. 205, p. 207, my emphasis.
pp. 212-213; my emphasis.
 Denis Goulet, Ethica del Desarrollo (Ethics of Development), (Madrid,
 Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (São Paulo,
Companhia das Letras, 1999). Cacaio starts many times by reflecting with
children in a discussion of the word 'oxymoron.' For example, this might concern the possible
different meanings of the concept of sustainable development, itself. This is
followed by writing essays on the intergenerational ethical conflict as
described by Hans Jonas (O princípio
responsabilidade, Contraponto, PUC-Rio, 2011). In the original, Das Prinzip Verantwortung: Versuch einer
ethic für die Technologische Zivilisation (The Principle of Responsibility), 1979.
A great thank you for the comments of the anonymous reviewer
for Contemporary Aesthetics for his
or her remarks. I hope I can meet the
reader some day to share ideas I have published in a few papers. I would start by talking about a sentence I
have once read in a book, "Para o estudante Zen uma erva daninha é um
tesouro" "To a Zen student
weeds are treasures." (My translation) Shunryu Suzuki, Mente Zen, Menta de Principiante (Palas, Athenas, 2002), p.
118. See Atila Calvente, "On
Non-formal Educational Practices for Children at Social Risk," presented
at the 8th World Congress on Environmental Education, Gothenburg
University, Sweden, June 30, 2015. Atila T. Calvente and Leonardo Faver,
"Public Policy, Preservation and Development of the Agricultural
Sector: An Experience in Petrópolis -
RJ" in Rachel Prado, Ana Pauletta Turetta, Aluisio Andrade, Management and Conservation of Soil and
Water in the Context of Environmental Changes (EMBRAPA, 2010). Atila T. Calvente, "The Cacaio Project:
Non-formal Educational Practices for Children in Public Schools," International Society for the Study of
Behavioural Development, 38, 2 (November 2014). http://www.issbd.org/ContentDisplay.aspx?src=previousBulletins
(University Press: 137-152, 1991).
Madalina Diaconu, "Grasping the
Wind? Aesthetic Participation, between Cognition and Immersion," Contemporary Aesthetics, volume 11
Mother Teresa, No Greater Love, ed. Becky Benenate
& Joseph Durepos (New York: MJF
While writing this paper some months ago I could not then relate the
following recent experience. I had lunch with my best elementary school
teacher, Goyandira, after more than four decades during which I had not seen
her. When she saw me after so many years, she remained in silence, irrigating
her beautiful green eyes with pure water in the same way we do in vegetable
gardens. And then she answered my
question, "I would like to know the secret of life and how to educate
vulnerable children." She cried and
in silence stayed looking at me. After a while she said, "Leveza e suavidade." I shall try to
translate this into the English language as "lightness and mildness."
That was her last class. Two days later Goyandira died.
I owe much more than I can express to the peasants, farmers, children,
teachers and principals in state-run schools in Brazil; and to Leonardo C.
Faver, who helped me in Petrópolis; to everyone in the local Court of Justice
and to Judge Alexandre T. de Souza, who let me develop environmental
educational practices and work in a vegetable garden with youth in conflict
with the law at The Fundação Educandário Princesa Isabel do Juizado da Infância
e da Juventude de Petrópolis. I am
indebted to Professor Arnold Berleant, who contributed so much with his
knowledge and wisdom to open my spirit to aesthetics. Also, thanks so much to
Professor Berleant for revising this manuscript and to Lynnie Ramsdell Lyman
for her editing. Professors Peter May, Valeria da Vinha, Renata La Rovere,
Goyandyra, Maria Ines Delorme and students from UFRJ-IE-PEPED, Liandra
Caldasso, Ricardo Barros, Naila Takahashi, Nina Lys, Adriana Bocaiuva, Juliana
Durão, Eduardo Zopelari, Sergio Braga have motivated me in new ways to
integrate ecological economics and philosophy of education. Professors Mônica
P. dos Santos, Mylene Santiago, Sandra Melo and all the participants of LaPEADE-U.F.R.J.
have suggested ideas for the original text, although any misunderstandings in
this paper are entirely of my responsibility. Professor Judith Green, Dr.
Phillip Dorstewitz, and Dr. Rebecca Farinas kindly contributed so much wisdom to
my passionate approaches to improve my writing on education, and I am indebted
to many scholars from Europe and the USA at the Fordham University conference in
February 2015. Professors Roberta Dreon
and Joseph Margolis, so gentle with me, made important philosophical comments
about Cacaio. I have learned a lot from Professors Lauro Campos, Warwick Kerr,
Paulo Vanzolini, J.G. Tundisi, Eneas Salati, Joaquim de Andrade, Charles Curt
Mueller, Darci Ribeiro and Cristovam Buarque from the University of São Paulo
and the University of Brasilia. I gladly acknowledge my debts to Michelle
Xavier, Vanessa Lindenblatt and Lenise P. Severino da Silva. They have helped
me in many ways to improve communicating my work in marginalized communities.