Sunday, March 18, 2012

Teacher March Madness

The past days, teachers have been causing complete mayhem in Mexico City, shutting down main thoroughfares and causing economic losses in the tens of millions - the thousands of police having to safeguard the process, the lost hours of productive for people not getting to work, the loss to business forced to shut along the protest routes, etc. In Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and other states, hundreds of thousands of school children were not able to go to class.

This time the protest is not organized by the national SNTE, but by a dissident teacher union, CNTE, founded in 1979. But sad to say, they resort to exactly the same practices so many are fed up with from SNTE.

What is it that they want?

1) They want a "plaza" or a teaching position, for life - for life. That is, they want to be appointed, and not ever have to bother about looking for another job. This is especially perturbing, as they also
2)  Oppose any evaluation of their skills or lack thereof. They don't want any exam, review, skills test at all, to determine whether they are fit for teaching.

But they still want a job for life. They are also protesting that the national SNTE has negotiated, finally, with the federal government what appears to be at least the beginning of a very rudimentary evaluation of their fit for the teaching profession. SNTE has in general opposed this since its foundation in the 1940s.

Meanwhile, and related, Michoacán, bus companies halted all services, following the "commandeering" of dozens of buses - that is, teachers and teacher students simply stole several buses for their own use. After days of conflict, and following an ultimatum from Governor Fausto Vallejo Figueroa, teacher students finally released "22 passenger buses, four trucks of perishable goods and eight drivers who remained detained for six days," which led finally to the reopening of the Morelia main bus station.

In a related development, former secretary of health José Ángel Córdova Villalobos, just appointed, and surprisingly, secretary of education, insisted that the national tests, negotiated with SNTE, will proceed. Córdova for his part referred to embattled SNTE head Elba Esther Gordillo as "a great leader." Really?

His predecessor, Alonso Lujambio, presently fighting for his life in a battle with cancer, was, it must be said, completely subservient to SNTE, barely admonishing it for outrageous illegal acts such as distributing taxpayer-funded teaching materials that also called for a vote for its PANAL party and for children to hand over personal information as well as that of their parents. I hope Córdova will show some more backbone.

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