Saturday, February 4, 2012

35,000 teachers march in Mexico City

Teachers in Oaxaca, mostly "dissidents" in that they are opposed to the national teacher union SNTE and instead belong to the rival CNTE, have a bad fame for spending very little of their work hours in the classroom and instead out on the road protesting or operating for electoral purposes.

Now they've been joined by other, mostly CNTE-affiliated teachers, from Chiapas, Guerrero, and Michoacán and other states in a huge 35,000-strong protest in Mexico City.

Some of their demands are just: Democratization of the ultra-corrupt SNTE teacher union led by Elba Esther Gordillo. They also have legitimate concerns over the overhaul of ISSTE, changing the terms for retirement pensions and health care to public workers, though this was passed more than four years ago and was arguably needed to avoid complete bankruptcy of the system.

Yet what is their major demand? They refuse to be subject to any tests of their qualifications whatsoever, as proposed in the Alianza por la Calidad de la Educación.  No comprehensive entrance exams, no tests later on to see if they are actually qualified to teach Mexico's children and youth, which Mexico's poor educational ratings suggest they may not be.

Is this really a fair and just cause, worth leaving hundreds of thousands of children without school, for as long as the strike last, and shutting down Mexico City in the process?

Strange days in Mexican politics

Some very unexpected pronouncements in Mexican politics the past days:

* Former president Vicente Fox lauds social programs pioneered by AMLO when he was Mexico City mayor, such as the monthly stipends for the elderly.  Fox, who ignominiously sought to bar AMLO from the 2006 contest, and on numerous times joined the dirty and often illegal media campaign against him. 

* Liberal intellectual Enrique Krauze, who coined the term "Tropical Messiah" and wrote a scathing essay in the high-brow Letras Libres magazine that likely greatly damaged AMLO ahead of the 2006 election, in a TV program with Sergio Aguayo deemed  AMLO a "clean man" untainted by corruption and  - the kicker - that he would even consider voting for him!

Strange days, indeed.