Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Teacher Wears Prada

Elba Esther Gordillo Photo Credit:  Marcelo A. Salinas/MCT

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Education in Mexico is guaranteed as a constitutional right. According to law, it should be public, free of tuition and of bias. However, in reality, education in Mexico is a big business. 

From public school officials asking parents to pay fees (herehere and here) for different things when it is expressedily illegal to do so, to the former teacher's union leader arrested on charges of money laundering, education as it turns out, is not that free after all. The union leader was, until her arrest, the lifelong leader, who said on the day of her SNTE inaguration that "we shall not let our union be anyone's treasure chest, there will be no re-election". Yet when Elba Esther Gordillo was detained on charges of illicit activities and embezellment and  named one of Mexico's most corrupt officials, people just shrugged their shoulders. No one seemed that suprised. So whether it is public or private education, schools mean money. The treasure chest, as it turned out, was meant for Elba Esther Gordillo and her associates.

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Several years ago, we enrolled one of our children in a public school. While at the school, we were asked to pay a fee of $500 pesos (about $45.00 USD). Imagine how many families have paid these fees only to see Elba Esther Gordillo using some of the most expensive clothing. It is like a smack in the face. Which is why those with the money pay for private school while those who don't have the money, deal with the reality of corruption and economic inequalities in the public school system.

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Which brings me to an image has been making the rounds on social media lately comparing Finland's education system to that of the the US education system. As it turns out, when you compare education systems in both countries, the differences have everything to do with context. And contextualizing this Mexico only shows that the gap between the haves and have nots widens. It isn't fair that teachers and teacher unions take the blame when it comes to deficiencies in education but when people like Elba Esther Gordillo are allowed to stay in power, corruption becomes institutionalized. Which only really ruins it for everyone in the end. 

The teacher's union provided the perfect environment for breeding corruption. Let a person lead a powerful group of people for life and yes, you will get a monster. It was only a matter of time.

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