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Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza: The Educator

His life began on April 15, 1750; his father was Santiago Rodríguez de Mendoza, and his mother was María Josefa Collantes. He was baptized the same year in Convento de Nuestra Señora de Bethlen, a church in Chachapoyas city. He was a theologian, philosopher, politician, lawyer, and professor. He played an important role in Peruvian history because of his wisdom. It is important to highlight his participation in Mercurio Peruano (a biweekly and scientific newspaper considered fundamental in Peruvian Enlightenment) as part of his enrollment in Sociedad de Amantes del País (circle of intellectuals focused on discussing politics, art, and national topics). For the most part, Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza was a passionate educator.

By: Irina Quispe

For that reason, this article will review one of his essential contributions: educational reform. I used two sources to study this matter. First, the essay Saber y poder en el pensamiento republicano de Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza written by scholar Luis Alberto Arista Montoya. Second, the book Nueva Colección Documental de la Independencia del Perú: Vida y Obra de Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza Volume 1 published by Fondo Editorial del Congreso del Perú.

The young Toribio read modern European works in secret due to the ban imposed by the Spanish Inquisition. Time passed, and this historical figure expressed that academic changes established by Junta Superior de Aplicaciones allowed the development of liberal philosophy. According to him, students did not prefer to follow the Peripatetic tradition. He argued that it was not rational nor fair to oblige those young minds to talk about books they have not read. “Aristotelic systems have been, and always will be, the torture of the best wits,” he wrote. How are they to dive into opinions and anthologies which they hardly know? Is there any sense in picking out points of a body of doctrines while a professor prepares the lesson to be memorized and recited? Arista commented that Rodríguez de Mendoza was influenced by the English Enlightenment Age, in particular by the empiricist philosophy of Francis Bacon. As a result, his Informe para una Reforma Educativa was introduced on October 29, 1791, to Viceroy Gil de Taboada Lemos to point out the importance of teaching Physics and Mathematics at Real Convictorio de San Carlos. Additionally, he gave four reasons to change Oposiciones á Cátedras [Peripatetic model to show student’s knowledge] for his new method (or a better one):

  1. In-depth knowledge: His method allowed them to dive into holistic fields of philosophy instead of being restricted to metaphysical theories.

  2. Autonomy: Students were free to question and inquire rather than be slaves to the words and judgment of others.

  3. Express themselves: They could give their opinions based on what they have analyzed instead of showing a degree of specialization they did not acquire (complex readings to understand).

  4. Fluency: Students managed their ideas naturally because they chose the topic of their lecture: Logic, Metaphysics, Physics, or Moral philosophy.

Although he died on June 10, 1825, his ideas attempted to solve actual issues. The problem of memorization in the current Peruvian education model affects critical thinking and understanding, producing an inaccurate statement about students’ performance. Some feel stressed out and even foolish since they do not know why the Pythagorean theorem is applicable. Similarly, some are told the characteristics of the Latin American Boom without having examined any book. We should learn from history to update our system and allow learners to develop 21st-century skills.

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