Cubanization of Venezuelan schools
By Maria Elena Salinas.
September 30, 2007.
There have been plenty of signs that Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez is poised to take
over as the anti-imperialist leader of the
Americas, a position until now held unofficially
by ailing Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. It
is now evident that Chavez is no longer
trying to take baby steps toward an authoritarian
regime, but rather huge leaps, diving into
the socialist pool headfirst.
With the new school year this fall came
Chavez's latest bomb. He warned private
schools that they either introduce a new
curriculum developed by the Ministry of
Education that includes the new concepts
of "Bolivarian socialism" -- or,
as he likes to call it, "socialism
of the 21st century" -- or face being
If you don't know what socialism of the
21st century means, you are not alone. Everyone
else -- probably including members of Chavez's
inner circle -- is still trying to figure
it out. As far as how he wants to implement
his governing style in the country's education
system, there are hints of it on the Education
Ministry's Web site.
Bolivarian education is described as "developing
a creative potential, valuing work ethic
and active participation, consciousness
and solidarity with the social transformation
process." Those are the pillars of
the new system, according to Chavez.
But for the nongovernmental agency Education
Assembly, which claims to have had access
to a draft of the new education plan, the
document will attempt to indoctrinate the
new generation by, among other things, presenting
a new vision of Venezuela's history, one
that excludes or reinterprets what transpired
from 1830 to 1998, before Chavez came into
power, describing it as an era that created
an underdeveloped capitalist country.
Olga Ramos, head researcher and president
of Education Assembly, told the BBC in an
interview that the new curriculum will try
to justify in the students' eyes the revolutionary
changes in the country beginning in 1999.
She claims that when referring to world
history, the new curriculum only refers
to liberating revolutions as those that
were of a socialist or communist nature.
When referring to ideological movements,
textbooks will describe Marxism, Leninism
and Chavez's socialism of the 21st century,
and will refer to capitalism as the dominating
mechanisms of the "Empire."
Another document accessed by the media
shows that pre-med education will include
speeches by Fidel Castro as recommended
reading and will describe people like Argentine
revolutionary leader Che Guevara and the
head of Colombia's main rebel group FARC,
Manuel Marulanda, as being among Latin America's
most important thinkers.
Chavez's critics are accusing him of politicizing
education, but the Venezuelan president
defends his new plan, condemning the existing
education system as "repressive."
"The old education is a repressive
tool that promotes consumerism and hatred
for others," said Chavez in one of
his recent television programs. He added
that education based on capitalist ideology
has corrupted the values of the children.
In warning private schools of their imminent
closure should they not comply with the
new curriculum, Chavez claimed that even
though their existence is contemplated in
the new constitutional reform, they must
respect and adopt the new educational system.
"If necessary we will close schools,
intervene, nationalize them and assume responsibility
for those children," he claimed.
There was no such warning after the triumph
of the Cuban revolution in 1959. Within
a year and a half, Cuban private schools
had been nationalized and a new curriculum
had been set in place that linked the entire
history of the island to Fidel Castro's
insurrection against right-wing dictator
Fulgencio Batista. Cuban children were forced
to stand watch over symbols of the revolution
in apparent "solidarity with the social
transformation process." Small nuances
seem to be what marks the difference between
Cuban communism of the early '60s and Venezuelan
socialism of the 21st century.
Maria Elena Salinas is a syndicated
columnist. Reach her at www.mariaesalinas.com
Copyright © 2007 North Jersey Media