jueves, 18 de abril de 2013

Education and the Impossible Rights

In a memorable performance, George Carlin criticized the U.S. Republican double standards, revealing the contradiction between the perennial opposition to abortion -spewing defense of natural rights- and the total abandonment once the baby was born. According to Carlin, it’s the politicians’ way of telling the newborn, “fuck you.” 

The caustic analysis of this comedian came to my mind on the same day that thousands of families took to the streets of several cities in Chile to once again express the (new) "right" to defend a profit –protected by our political class-. More than 100,000 people marched on April 11th in Santiago to stage the tragic comedy of trying to raise one’s voice to the "representatives" of the people in La Moneda (the Palace of the Chilean Government) and the Parliament. To these politicians, this likely resembled the sound of crickets chirping on a summer night. The voices, shouting, and songs on the street demanded a high quality public education for all that is free and secular, and integrates community participation. In 1980, the Dictatorship constitutionally denied the possibility of the emergence of a national public education. Meanwhile, the post-dictatorship governments perfected the mixed public-private educational model. The result: the development of a complex network of "holders" –owners of private schools subsidized by the Chilean State- strongly crossed within political parties, which based on their technocratic lobby have worked to maintain the privileges earned by the lucrative business of education.

It has been two years of massive street protests against Pinochet's educational heritage and fundamentalism. Political consensus remains as current as the early '90s, when the Orwellian machinery was operated to silence and rewrite the history and policy of the dictatorship. Despite their illegitimacy the authoritarian policies continued. Technocracy wandered, disguised as practical common sense. 

Some days ago, the former President and once again running candidate Michelle Bachelet demonstrated her "progressivism" to us, by declaring that she believed in free education. Yet the next day she censorship-freed herself to focalize the possibility of free education. Unfortunately, Bachelet’s imagination of possibilities ends at her cabinet, which consists of advisors exclusively from the areas of economics and industrial engineering. We shouldn’t expect more of the same augmented and corrected solutions that these politicians bring.

The Chilean citizens demand a State that ensures rights and ends social expropriation. The streets seem to be the last public bastion, and it is where the people protest because it is the only place where there hasn’t been an "evicted" democracy.

Bitterly, the right-wing Minister of Interior Rodrigo Hinzpeter complained yesterday of young people’s lack of consideration with regards to the developments that the government has made over the last two years. Yet to value the lowering of bank interest rates and the introduction of more standardized tests into the system cannot be read as anything more than technical devices used to enhance the understanding of education as a tradable good. This is far from what some call the "utopia of the streets."

Profit is the lifeblood of the Chilean political system. Its survival could not be explained except for the massive participation in commercial activities of private institutions that provide education, health and welfare. The former ruling party of the left opposition has done nothing but look for solutions within the parameters of corporations.

As protesters resorted to the ritual of street demonstrations, I returned to the mood of Carlin. Yesterday also through a radio microphone in Santiago, Senator Ena Von Baer held that abortion was not a women’s right.  As a result, one can conclude that the "unborn child" is something of a public matter subject to the protection of the State. Is it when these kids are no longer cared for by the state that they are mature enough to be thrown into the seemingly innocuous market forces? Under the logic of Von Baer’s argument we are led to believe that there is nothing better than giving birth to children in order to keep the finances in motion for the companies that profit from educational and health-the same shareholders that run the politicians who govern us.

By Jorge Inzunza H., Santiago, April 12, 2013

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