Teachers debate how to oppose ‘reform’

From the July-August 2019 issue of News & Letters

Editor’s note: Teachers in the Praxis study circle on the book México: represión, resistencia y rebeldía raised the future of teachers’ resistance in Mexico.

Mexico CitySilvia (Jalisco Teachers’ Movement): We weren’t able to defeat the “educational reform” in 2016, and this had consequences: firings, deaths, detentions. There had been great support from parents in Chiapas, but not in the rest of the country. You can’t make a conclusion about a movement based on what occurred in one state.

The mass media made us look like the only thing we were defending was our own position. We were attacking privatization, which endangered teachers’ labor so that education would be profitable for corporate executives, like the program “Schools at 100.”

Many teachers’ movements independent of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) began to surge in Jalisco, Coahuila, Quintana Roo and Veracruz, for example. In 2013, in Jalisco, 24,000 to 26,000 of us held an independent march. We’re beginning to establish connections with other states.

Graciela (CNTE, México state): Beyond the usual critique you could make of the CNTE, what needs to be recognized is its role in creating unity.

I had the opportunity to go to a community in Morelos with a project different than the State’s project of reproducing an education system that produces labor power for transnational companies. There is the germ of a totally different kind of education. The teachers don’t just let students eat the junk capitalism offers: They have gardens, raise chickens, and have a dining room for students. They want to fulfill their role as educator.

Besides resistance, we have to build something that is not imposed on us. That doesn’t say: “This is the plan, here are the instructions.” There are teachers who are not in agreement with certain matters related to the CNTE. However, in México state, we’ve come together in the Movement against Education Reform, comprised of various social organizations.

Claudia (teacher at College Preparatory Education Institute): Imagine that we’re in a collective where there is available every type of knowledge, ability, and tool that a human being requires to live among others. That is education. In our society based on exploitation, this philosophic question is resolved through class struggle.

One chapter of the book says: “Without an explicit vision of what type of new society we want to create…all our forms of struggle are going to find themselves facing a wall, an unbreachable limit.” You can affirm this after talking of the various pathways to oppose “education reform”: the protests, marches, occupations, etc.; the juridical (presenting a new reform proposal), and the educational, which is what we as teachers do.

We have a pedagogical plan. Yes, it is the curriculum, but each teacher carries it out. Some are fairly conservative, others search for an emancipatory education. The challenge is to make a pedagogical proposal as a collective force. That is part of what the colleagues in CNTE are presenting.

This chapter also notes that, once we returned to the classrooms in 2016, teachers asked, “What do we do now?” Some responded: “We don’t talk with the State: Resist, organize, make popular power.” But I get the impression that there was another pathway, which was to join with the project of President López Obrador. It would have to be seen how this would mature, where the reform is not cancelled but its spirit is conserved.

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