…and Who am I?
Born and raised in Mexico and living in California, I consider myself an undocumented citizen of the Americas. Watching the daily tally of McNamara’s genocidal “body count” during the war against the Vietnamese made me seek to understand the deep causes of what I perceived then to be a wanton act of violence against a poor nation. A nation that I saw was not very different from my native country. In my effort to understand the world I earned post-graduate degrees in Economics and Philosophy. The political murders of high ranking government officials and the brutal assault on Latin American democracy in Chile on September 11, 1973, convinced me that militarism, war, poverty, and racism were not isolated evils but rather symptoms of a social, political and economic order in need of a radical transformation. I became a teacher not because I believed that education alone could build a new, just and equitable social order, but because teaching can HELP bring about such a world. A better world, I believe, will come about only at the end of a long period of social and economic reconstruction.
A new specter haunts not only Europe but all continents—the specter of global corporatism. The new corporate managers seek to impose their despotic, contra-democratic rule, over the teaching profession, one of the last, autonomous, democratic, unionized professions. School principals are trained to become junior executives, forgetting that the title ‘Principal’ originally meant ‘Principal Teacher.’ Education has become synonymous with standardized testing. Spontaneity, personal creativity and originality are replaced by uniformity in thought and action. “No Child Left Behind”, “Race to the Top” and “Charter Schools” are the weapons employed by those “more interested in public money than in public education”.
Many have already begun the long walk towards a better world. Our first steps must seek to deepen and broaden democracy. Economic and social democracy must become the central focus of a new vision of education. A new vision which, I believe, will fuse work, study and play into a liberating and constructive experience for all, children and adults alike.
Why this blog, “School Politics and Society”? The best answer I can offer is this poem by Bertolt Brecht:
In my poetry a rhyme
Would seem almost insolent
There is a struggle within me
Between the beauty of the blooming apple tree
And the horror of a Hitler speech
But only the latter
Forces me to my desk.
The echo of the house-painter’s speeches resonates today in the corporate boardroom, the battle fields of perpetual war, and the silent and obedient classroom.