So, You Think Educational Reform is Crazy Here, huh?

mexican protest 6By Bill Henk – Sometimes you don’t realize how good you have it until  you see how bad it is elsewhere.  Chalk it up to human nature.

What in the world am I talking about?

This Sunday I came across a “sensational” education news item that most readers of the our major city newspaper, including other education addicts, probably missed.  It didn’t appear where this kind of stuff typically resides.  I had looked through all of those sections and found nothing but the usual Milwaukee education reading fare.

This little “gem” came to my attention almost by mistake.  It wasn’t exactly hidden, seeing as how it appeared at the very  top of a page.  But normally I blow throw this section faster than every other one I bother to examine at all. I just happened to notice the word ‘education’ in the title, then I saw the word ‘fight,’ then ‘teachers.’

A little voice in my head said, “Yoo hoo, Dr. Education Dean, you might want to read this one.”  So I did,  And am I ever glad.  Well, sort of.

You see,  this education story appeared in the WORLD section, one that too many of us Americans tend to blow off.  That’s somewhere else.  Couldn’t matter much.  Doesn’t affect me.

It told of hostile protests by Mexican teachers that made the march on Madison by Wisconsin educators a few years back look positively tame.  We’re talking REAL violence here, folks.

I read the story, which had been imported from the New York Times under the title, Teachers fight Mexico Education Reforms, almost in disbelief.

The teachers had mobilized to the point that they essentially shut down Mexico City.  They were protesting educational reforms, presumably policies similar to those we now have in Wisconsin that have signiicantly upped the stakes for teacher evaluations.  Apparently the teachers felt that their job security was being threatened,  That sure sounds familiar.

In part, the reforms were aimed at establishing mechanisms to fire poorly performing teachers.  That sounds familiar, too.

But here’s the difference.  The reforms were “aimed at stopping the common practice of buying and selling teaching jobs.”  The article went on to say,

Teachers buy, sell or inherit positions as though they were family heirlooms.  Removing poorly performing teachers is virtually impossible, even over allegations of sexual or substance abuse.”  

Even if these assertions aren’t true, it’s hard to contest the government’s motivation:  Mexico ranks last in achievement among the countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  By almost every report, Mexican schools are typically awful.

In fairness, the teachers are claiming that their motivations are different, for instance, preserving the culture.  You’ll have to decide for yourself.

In any case, the story evoked mixed reactions for me.  Owing to human nature I thought, “Hey, maybe educational reform in the good old USA and Wisconsin and Milwaukee isn’t so contentious after all.” 

But on the other hand, my heart went out to the Mexican school children, regardless of who is right or wrong in this publicly staged battle.

At this point, I’m wisely and fittingly going to surrender the telling of the story to the original article itself along with three others that provide somewhat different coverage.   The accompanying photos below not only help to tell the story, but clicking on each one will take you to a different account of the same sad tale that is unfolding to our south.

How this saga ultimately ends figures to be fascinating.  Look for the conclusion in the WORLD section, OK?

Mexican protest 1



Mexican protest 3

mexican protest 4

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