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June 1, 2013


We in this country pride ourselves in being in the forefront of needed reform of our institutions to, ostensibly, meet the challenges of tomorrow. We today have spokesmen (and spokeswomen) all over television and OPED pieces by the ton incessantly telling us what must be done with education if we are to compete in the tough globalization environment tomorrow.  Jeb Bush (one of the stalking horses for privatization of education’s huge pot of money) is one. There are others, notably conservative think tanks, who trash current educational practice twenty five hours a day in a softening process leading, they hope, to a corporate takeover of education. They are globalizing the technique, as will be seen.

 We are told that we must follow a corporate model in the education of our young, that we don’t know how to do it, and that our only hope is to cede our public responsibility to educate our children to the superior corporate model, citing the test scores in Singapore and China in math and science when contrasted with ours as evidence of our failure to do the job. Those who don’t know how to run their own businesses and needed us to bail them out recently are now telling us to entrust the education of our young to their tender mercies and superior corporate models.

The same people are comparing our system with that of Singapore, where children are brutally drilled day in and day out in the niceties of math and science, rendering their regurgitated responses on tests as automatons, not people. Our would be corporate masters and their stalking and Trojan horse attempts (see charter schools et al.) have scant interest in the education of America’s young; they see it as a business, just one more big pile of government money they need to corral, and TEST-DRIVEN scores from vastly different societies and peoples are employed to make their point. It does not make their point – not at all. There are so many variables involved between and among such educational systems as to render any results claimed to be definitive a huge if disastrous joke.

Nonetheless, the disease is spreading. Elba Esther Gordillo, former president of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), was arrested with the election of the new Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto, who ordered her arrest for embezzlement. Few in Mexico believe that that was the reason for her arrest. Her removal from office closely followed the approval by the Mexican Congress of an education reform program that (as one writer put it) “is despised by most of the country’s teachers.” Another leader in the union stated that the president “is totally wrong if he believes that he can silence the voices of 500,000 teachers by decree,” adding that they would not “abandon the defense of public education.” Mexican teachers backed that up with a two-day national strike. The head of a southern state’s union (the state of Oaxaca) said that teachers would not permit a law to take effect that attacks public education and the rights of teachers.

So what is it that has agitated Mexico’s teachers? It’s the same old story imported from north of the border. The governing party’s (PRI’s) proposal is straight out of the playbook of Jeb Bush and Wall Street – it would tie Mexican teachers’ jobs to standardized tests and remove the voice of the union in hiring. The opinion editor of the Mexico City La Jornada, Hernandez Navarro, notes that by far the biggest and most influential corporate education “reform” lobby is supported by wealthy corporations and people, including Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world (per Forbes).

David Bacon in the April 1, 2013 edition of The Nation, points out that There is “a network of large corporations and banks (that) extends throughout Latin America, financed and guided in part from the United States, pushing the same formula: standardized tests, linking teachers’ jobs and pay to test results, and bending the curriculum to employers’ needs while eliminating social criticism.” He further points out that “The medicine doesn’t go down easily, however. In both countries, grass roots opposition – from parents and teachers – has been rising. In Seattle, teachers at Garfield High have refused to give the tests. In Michoacan, in central Mexico, sixteen teachers went to jail because they also refused.”

Hernandez Navarro, opinion editor, points out the similarity of the Mexican proposal to No Child Left Behind. He says that schools by themselves can’t overcome the divides of socioeconomic inequality, adding that the reports by Mexicanos Primero (the “reform” think tank supported by the rich and corporate class) “invents a crisis in order to make up myths about educational disaster and present Mexican teachers as privileged and irresponsible.”

Everyone north and south of the border is getting in on the act. Coca Cola and Ford have built model schools in Mexico which push the corporate model and hold seminars for changes in curriculum and teaching standards. The impending corporate takeover is alive and well; trashing of the current system continues without letup; socioeconomic conditions are ignored in assessing teachers’ skills. There is even a proposal submitted that Mexican normal schools (teacher training colleges) be placed on probation pending necessary reforms while at the same time opening the door to private ones.

I will discuss these greedy atrocities in process on both sides of the border in more detail in Part II. There may be hope in Oaxaca. Stay tuned. GERALD  E


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