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Cuba e-news #254 - Response to Venezuelan educational policies

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  • Gary Bacon
    Greetings, Aw yes, one of the joys of being part of an on-line community--people do take the time to respond. The responses that I get to the e-news range from
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2001

      Aw yes, one of the joys of being part of an on-line community--people do
      take the time to respond. The responses that I get to the e-news range from
      encouragement, to friendly inquiries, to in depth replies, to great leads
      to other stories or issues. Today was one of those fun-response days. I
      feel that I have made some real friend over the past year via the
      e-newsletter. In a way, the kind of information sharing on the web is like
      the over-the-back-fence conversations that were characteristic of my
      growing up in Montana. Or the five minute
      hand-shakes-while-passing-the-time-of-day that I encountered while walking
      on the rural roads (foot paths) of Kenya, the times that I took my students
      to Africa in the early 90s.

      I have included a few such responses today.... Jane always makes my day
      when she responds (whether it be with her scholarship or her personal
      touch). I thoroughly appreciate Doris's unyielding passion. And Larry
      always hits the nail on the head with his erudite letters to Congresspeople
      and journalist.

      Here are some responses to yesterday's e-newsletter regarding Venezuelan
      President Hugo Chavez's new educational policies. Incidentally, for those
      of you whom are maintaining a library of Cuba e-news articles, I
      mis-numbered yesterday's issue. It should have been numbered "e-news #253."


      A Healthy Way to Start the Day

      Gary -- I burst out laughing when I got to your line about having to get
      some sleep so you could extol the virtues of capitalism the following
      morning to your students! That was good for my mood after reading the
      morning newspapers! abrazos -- Jane

      Hi Gary --
      Hooray for your observations and how right you are. One observation you
      might throw out to your students is, "Capitalism doesn't work!" Except, of
      course, for a few, but for the rest of us, it is an exploiting system (and
      WE are the majority). Why do we have economic depressions, or rumors of
      depressions. Why do we have to suffer through the ups and downs of the
      stock market? Why do we have massive layoffs of workers periodically, while
      at the same time more restrictions and cuts to unemployment insurance? Why
      do we have slums and people living on the streets? Why are there millions
      of people unable to afford medical treatment for their families?
      Well, you get the idea. My husband and I are retired teachers and lived
      through the McCarthy period of loyalty oaths etc. Freedom of speech?
      Freedom to Teach? I congratulate you on what you are doing to enlighten
      your students and am in awe that you are able to take your students to a
      "communist" country and let them see for themselves that they are not ogres.
      We appreciate our efforts in sending us the Cuba Newsletter to keep us
      -- Salud, Doris

      Larry Shoobs Letter #1 to the Journalist

      Pdte. Hugo Chavez' Education Policies
      Dear Mr. Tamayo -
      I typically find your articles to be refreshingly fact-based and
      balanced more toward telling the truth than towing to CANF party line.
      Thus, I was really disappointed to see that in your article on Venezuelan
      President Hugo Chavez' attempts to reform and restructure his country's
      educational system, you have sunk to Liz Balmasedian depths of murky
      illogic, sly innuendo, and half-truth.
      First of all, I would assume you would realize that any educational
      system -- state, religious or secular/private -- has at its core some sort
      of ideology which in turn, influences and informs all curriculum, and, for
      the operational viability of said school system, adherence to that ideology
      is expected not only of teachers, but of parents and students as well.
      Thus, one rarely finds Muslim children enrolled in Christian Evangelical
      academies, and I dare say that Francisco Aruca's children would not be
      welcome at the local Lincoln Marti School. Further, I suppose you have
      never heard of Junior ROTC programs which begin recruiting at the ninth
      grade level throughout the U.S.?
      Even today most public school systems in the US require their teachers,
      administrators and NON-academic staff to sign an oath of allegiance to the
      U.S. Constitution and to avow that they are not members of or affiliated
      with any group that seeks to overthrow the US government. And my views on
      fertility and family planning pretty much assure that no Catholic school
      would ever hire me -- a regular communicant, even though I would be
      teaching such un-topical subjects as Latin and Medieval and Renaissance
      History/Art History/Literature. Are you with me?
      More to the point: There is probably a very simple reason as to why
      President Chavez is interested in Cuba's educational system, and it has
      less to do with promulgating ideology than it has to do with simple
      logistics. Just compare Venezuela's literacy rate with Cuba's. (UNESCO can
      provide you with these statistics, there is a point at which I refuse to do
      someone's homework for them - the hallmark of a good teacher, I might add!)
      Now ask yourself, what better way to achieve Cuba's near universal literacy
      rate than by emulating the system and methodologies which helped make this
      achievement a reality. Viola!
      Exito! No commie plot. No VeneVision t.v. audiences filled with youth in
      pionero scarves. Liliana can still chat it up with Don Francisco on Sabado
      Gigante, and you can still applaud her without fear of meeting Mr.
      Millian's fate.
      Rest assured, Mr. Tamayo, Fidel is NOT lurking under every bed, despite
      Luisa Yanez' and Vanessa Bauza's lurid fantasies.

      Larry Shoobs Letter #2 to the Journalist

      I rest my case ....
      Dear Mr. Tamayo:
      Apropos of my first message to you, I have highlighted below an excerpt
      from Supreme-Court appointed President Bush's "State of the Nation" speech
      last night:
      "Values are important, so we've tripled funding for character
      education to teach our children not only reading and writing, but right
      from wrong. We've increased funding to train and recruit teachers,
      because we know a good education starts with a good teacher."
      Question: what do you suppose Mr. Bush means by right from wrong? And
      what values is Mr. Bush referring to? And wouldn't you agree that Mr. Bush'
      values and sense of right/wrong are highly subjective, and that, as the
      appointed President of the US, Mr. Bush will push for his values and sense
      of right and wrong to be infused into educational curriculum?
      I can only hope that you will write a column taking Mr. Bush to task for
      daring to infect education in the US with such ideological concerns.
      PS - Speaking of education as indoctrination, guess what: The Jesuits
      like to say "Give us boy till age six, and he's ours for life."

      * ================= * ================= * ================= *
      For a comprehensive treatment of the US Foreign Policy in the Americas
      with a Focus on Cuba, see The Learning Community Web site at:

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      Gary Bacon

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