Chilean Parent’s Letter to a Teacher Shows why a Change in Mentality, not just the System, is Needed
A letter from a parent to a schoolteacher from October 15, 2012, has been making waves in the news and on the internet in Chile. It sounds identical to the ignorant remarks thrown at educators in the U.S. as they have fought for basic rights like unions, as well as pushed back against policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which practically institute teacher culpability without providing nearly enough resources to combat the economic and social problems that–gasp–educators can’t fix by themselves.
Chile, not surprisingly, faces very similar issues. While students, teachers, and supporters have taken to the streets en masse to call out the government on the failure of the neoliberal educational system, as this letter shows, sometimes, parents still expect teachers to take on full responsibility for their child’s education, rather than sharing that task. This is my translation:
Mr. Professor: (Hmm, couldn’t remember the teacher’s name?)
I do not have time to go talk to you at the school. If my son has bad behavior, it is on your time, in your class, in your classroom.
I cannot leave my office to talk to you every time that it occurs to you. The problems with my son’s grades are because you don’t understand him at all. It is you who has to review his notebooks, his homework, and his books. This is your job. You are the educator. Do the work.
Of course we are going to talk, but when I have the time.
The letter was shared on Facebook by Diccionario Señas Chile, and it has been shared over 5,400 times and had almost 1,000 comments that take both sides. Many of them support the teacher, while others claim that teachers are “lazy.”
To me, this letter indicates another aspect of looking at education as a business deal vs. looking at it as an opportunity to create a better society. This father refused to leave his office to participate in his child’s education, both because that would have taken him away from work (money, or the opportunity to make it), and because he sees his child’s education as a business transaction, rather than social right that needs to be constantly bolstered by family, community, government, and society. Education, to him, was a service provided in exchange for money, rather than part of his resposibility as a Chilean, and global, citizen.
That mentality is what neoliberalism did to education in Chile, in addition to reproducing vast economic inequality. Hopefully, if Chile reforms its educational system, mentalities will also change over time. And then, maybe the U.S. can look to Chile as an example for educational reform.
Friday evening, Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and head of UN Women, announced that she would be returning to her home country for “personal reasons” after Holy Week. As Chile’s Presidential elections loom, most speculate she will soon announce her intention to run for another term as president. (The constitution prohibits consecutive terms.)
Yet it while the U.S. media has noted the agitation that Chilean politians on both the left and right are experiencing in the face of Bachelt’s silence regarding her plans, it seems that for the most part, they have not quite captured the frustration that many Chilean citizens feel in terms of her prolonged absence and now, return, just in time to run for president.
Personally, I still have much to study regarding the issues and do not wish to take a stand at this time. But I find it interesting that, overwhelmingly, the Chilean media, as well as my various social circles here in Santiago–which range from academics, to lefities, to leftist-sympathizers (some who rarely vote), to more center-right folks–have emphasized Bachelet’s absence more than her return to Chile. They wonder how someone who went to the U.S. for a few years can just jump back onto the political scene to save the day, as it were.
I think a better argument to make would be to point out her support of political repression against Mapuches–which the right has perpetuated (and started, perhaps, but that fight really goes back to colonial times). She undoubtedly made great strides in many areas, including women’s rights–but of course, those are just cosas de mujeres (women’s things). But no one doubts her political power–she left office with over an approval rating of around 80%, making her a powerful opponent, candidate, or friend. But whatever Chileans think about Bachelet, they are surely anticipating some sort of announcement from her, either in support of a presidential candidate or her own intentions to run.
In a huge step forward for LGBT rights in the Americas, Mexico’s Supreme Court has ordered the country’s 31 states to recognize same-sex marriages. The capital, Mexico City, currently performs marriages for same-sex couples, and as of March, married gay couples can adopt children. Other marriage rights include applying for joint bank loans, inheriting wealth, and receiving a spouse’s insurance coverage.
Although the states are not required by law to perform same-sex marriages, this is a step in the right direction for LGBT rights in Mexico, and hopefully other countries in Latin America—and the United States of America—will follow.
It is unfortunate that the states are not required to recognize the adoption clause, as this could easily result in problems for the adopted children of gay married couples living outside the capital. Hopefully this will soon change.
Yesterday, Movilh (the Chilean Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation) denounced before the National Intelligence Agency (ANI) that a group of “neo-Nazi sympathizers” in Chile are receiving paramilitary training and attempted to damage some Jewish tombs. Photos of the activities, as well as a video of the paramilitary training, were provided to Movilh anonymously.
Although Movilh has traditionally promoted the rights of those marginalized for their sexuality, the organization had denounced neo-Nazi groups to National Intelligence in December 2011 for spreading homophobic, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic propaganda. When one also considers that Daniel Zamudio was murdered by a group of men that included at least one neo-Nazi and that neo-Nazism has since become almost synonymous with homophobia in Chile, as well as the fact that the Anti-Discrimination Law was finally passed after Zamudio’s death (and due to Movilh’s persistence over many years), it seems logical that an anonymous source seeking a powerful voice to denounce neo-Nazi activities would choose Chile’s most influential LGBT rights organization rather than a Jewish organization or collaboration of synagogues.
Sácales los brazos para que no se pueda arrastrar, sácale los ojos para que no pueda ver. (Take away their arms so they can’t crawl; take away their eyes so they can’t see.)
The anonymous source told Movilh that they had a list of first and last names of the people in the photos and video, and that they knew that this particular group, which sympathizes with the neo-Nazis, operates in Chile. Yet since they have not been able to tie this particular group of people to a larger collective, they declined to provide Movilh with the list of names.
Movilh has fought against neo-Nazism in Chile in the past, and its presence in Chile has been studied, if scarcely. One would assume that a highly credible and visible organization like Movilh would not make a denouncement based on what could likely be bogus information. Assuming it is all true, then, let’s hope Movilh’s actions convince National Intelligence to take action.